Dutch grades-what's my GPA?

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Discus: College Admissions: March 2004 Archive: Dutch grades-what's my GPA?
By Dutch (Dutch) on Wednesday, February 25, 2004 - 09:08 am: Edit

Hi there,

I'm an American that has lived in the Netherlands for the past 14 years (I'm 15)In the Netherlands, you can choose from 6 levels of high school. I chose the most difficult/highest one (about 10% of all dutch students graduate at that level), and receive on an average a 7.8 (scale 1-10, where 10=perfect/best) I rank about 4th in my class. Can anyone tell me what my GPA would be?


By Xiggi (Xiggi) on Wednesday, February 25, 2004 - 10:57 am: Edit

You will need a lot of help with converting your GPA into an acceptable US GPA. I am afraid that, without specific adjustments, your scores might translate into a C average GPA. As you can gather on this board, many students here earn A's even in the most rigorous classes. However, the system does allow for adjustments for Honor and AP classes and the classes and exams are developed in a way that students that earn perfect scores. In some countries that is simply impossible, and that may be your case.

I would recommend that you contact the school linker below and see how they would recompute your grades, if you would transfer to their school. This would give you the prefect scale. You could also ask them directly how to do it. I'm sure they would help you.

Mr. Paul De Minico, Superintendent
The American School of The Hague
Rijkstraatweg 200
2241 BX Wassenaar, The Netherlands
Tel. 31-70-512-1060
Fax 31-70-511-2400

link{,http://www.ash.nl,. AS, The Hague}

By Dutch (Dutch) on Wednesday, February 25, 2004 - 11:24 am: Edit

You're right: It is impossible to achieve straight A's here! If you graduate with an 8.0 average (which would be a B, right?)at this level, you're considered a genius. By the time I graduate, I will have taken 6 languages (including Latin&Greek) 6 years of Math/Algebra, Geography, History, Physics, Science, Classic Culture (that's greek mythology and stuff like that) and about 10 other subjects. In the Netherlands, Extracurriculars are not important at all, so except my academic grades, I won't have much to show for. I think I'm gonna take your advice, and contact Mr. Paul De Minico.
I am not totally sure yet if I will go to college in the US, since the education in the Netherlands is considered better then American education (in general, of course) And total costs are like $2,000 a year. What's your advice on this situation?

By Xiggi (Xiggi) on Wednesday, February 25, 2004 - 01:09 pm: Edit


I cannot comment on the difference between universities in Holland and in the US. I believe that you will find that your local universities are better than most US colleges but will also trail a good number of elite american schools. After all, there are more than 4,000 colleges in the US and the range of education is very broad.

Money wise, it would be hard to beat the cost at most Western European schools. You could always consider spending a few years in the Netherlands and analyze the situation on a yearly basis. I also believe that you will find that the biggest difference in depth and quality between Europe and in the US will be found at the graduate level. In other words, it may be a good idea to save your pennies for graduate schools. That must be music to the ears of your parents!

By Jamimom (Jamimom) on Wednesday, February 25, 2004 - 01:40 pm: Edit

I grew up overseas and many of my friends continued in European schools. I cannot comment on quality; there is much more variance here and it all depends on which schools you can get into here. Cost is a whole different story. Do your parents have state residency anywhere? If not, private tuition is outrageous here.

What US schools tend to have over the European schools is the "babysitting services", as I tell my mom type friends. In Europe, the universities take care of your academic needs and the responsibilities pretty much end there. Nothing like our dorms, student unions, activities for kids and families, sporting events, concerts. Some of the US school remind me of Disney World. Plus many of the kids come from far enough away that there is much diversity, especially amoung the nationally ranked schools.
My sister in law is from Europe and studied here on a Fullbright for her masters and then continued with a MBA for Harvard. Though she and my brother are here in the US, they want to return to Europe to educate their children. They prefer the less competitive educational system there and do feel that it is overall much better. And when I say less competitive, I don't mean that it is less difficult academically. Here, there is competition at every level from getting into a top nursery program in some areas to gifted programs, to AP programs, you name it. That does not exist to this degree in Europe.
I grew up in Europe, but do not care to go back except to visit. Though I went through a dual system there, both US and German, I chose to come to the US for college. I never regretted the choice. My horizons widened enormously. I was an American like you, but had spent 13 years, my entire schooling , overseas. My brothers too made the same choice though one returned and has a European graduate degree. Do talk to you parents about the choice and if you can visit a US campus, do take the opportunity. There is quite a difference.
I am looking into taking a Western European student in for next year--a relative. With some trepidation, as my track record with teen male is rocky (for me, not the males). My sister in law's family wants to send their kids here for a year abroad.
Good luck to you.

By Massdad (Massdad) on Wednesday, February 25, 2004 - 08:01 pm: Edit

Dutch, Xiggi,

One of the reasons schools use test scores and class rank is to address situations like unusual grading systems. One of the nearby high school, Newton North, has a 7 point scale, if I recall correctly, and the Ivy admissions bible includes special processing instructions.

At any rate, the wrong thing to do is to try to convert a different scale into a 4 point scale, unless it is specifically required. In most cases it will not be. Most colleges and scholarship services will use a workaround.

By Dutch (Dutch) on Thursday, February 26, 2004 - 12:45 pm: Edit

Thanks for taking the time to respond!

Xiggi: I have thought about going to the US for Graduate studies. I would have more time to save my money and I won't be living abroad so soon so long. My parents support that option more... My mom is a citizen of Virginia, and most of my family lives in that area. I would like to stay on the east coast, but I don't want to restrict myself to virginia's colleges and universities only.

Jamimom: You said "My horizons were widened enormously". In what way? Is it really worth it?
I'm kinda making pro/con lists in my head, trying to decide. See, I know it'd probably be much easier to study in Europe, and much cheaper too. But I'd learn so much by going to the US and living there! I want to live there anyway, when I'm older (I think). Is it worth it? And why don't you care to go back? What are the biggest differences between US/Europe?

Massdad, you're probably right. I think I won't try to convert my grades-they probably would turn out lower. Do you know if there's a website or something with the Ivy bible Rules for European grades?

Thanks again for taking the time to respond, I really appreciate it!

By Jamimom (Jamimom) on Thursday, February 26, 2004 - 01:08 pm: Edit

I had spent my entire school life in Germany. I lived in a tiny German "dorf" and the Americans I knew were either children of military personel there or children of ex-pats. Though I knew Americans, I really did not know the culture. I ended up going to an American University which is a unique institution in the world of higher learning. I lived in a dorm on a campus with kids from all over the US and really all over the world. An American undergraduate experience is part babysitting and part half-way house and part Disney World. It is not like going to a German university at all where most of the kids go to the closest Uni and commute. Life does not change quite so much from the transition out of highschool.

Whether it is worth it or not, is a personal opinion. I have been back to Europe to visit and have to come to the conclusion that I love the conveniences and cushy life in the US more. I love American houses, American shopping, the individual life. When I go ski, I love the resorts that are so friendly to slow moving skiers like me and that pamper tourists. Europe is just much more pragmatic. Things are cheaper and more available, and I can spend my energy doing things I prefer doing rather than basic routine things that take so much time over there.

Now my brother intends to raise his kids in Europe and they are trying to find jobs there so that they can do this.

The US grad schools are more like the European colleges in compostion. You don't get the dorms and the social life is not laid out as much. It is serious business. I think it is easier to meet more people as a undergraduate because of the way the US undergraduate lives are structured (or not structured, I should say) By going as a grad student, it would be less of a transition for you but you miss this unique american college experience. Talk to your parents. Perhaps they can better explain what I am saying. Perhaps you can visit a school and compare it to the uni you are considering. The school in Va are excellent and are not as expensive as many states so you have a good option there. Vist UVa and Wm & Mary, if you can, as well as James Madison.

By Dutch (Dutch) on Thursday, February 26, 2004 - 01:55 pm: Edit

I think that the american college experience is one I don't want to miss. Someone once said that famous politicians never have anything in common-except that they are risktakers. Now I don't want to be a politician, but to achieve something, I think I'll have to take some risks-or else my life will be pretty predictable.

I've been to the US quite often, and I've noticed that, like you (Jamimom), it's just the american everyday life that I like. The dutch have a tendency to complain, live in small houses, are very introverted, and well, I like to american society better. They're more open and social.

I'm not an international student, since I have a US-passport. However, does it make my chances of admission better or worse considering the fact that I have lived in the Netherlands for almost all my life?

I think I already said that Extracurriculars aren't important in Europe. I play tennis, have a job, achieved the International Award for Young People, go on missions trips, but that's about it.Does that make it impossible to get into schools like Ivy Leagues?I think so...

By Massdad (Massdad) on Thursday, February 26, 2004 - 04:10 pm: Edit

Dutch, there are just too many exceptions to the GPA norms for a school to plan in advance how to address each exception, so I'd not worry about the GPA issue.

You should think about the following:

- Does your current school have any track record with any top schools? If they've sent applications in before, that's a plus. If they've had kids accepted who actually attended, that's even better. Your GC will know.

- Does your GC think you are competitive in the applicant pool? Do they even know the situation? If not, you then have a bigger challenge. If yes, then you need to get a sense of how much your GC will fight to help your cause.

- For unusual applicants in a pool, in your case a novel grading scale, the adcom may put more weight on other factors in making a decision. You need to consider carefully how you package your EC's, make sure the correct test scores are there etc. For instance, if there is any way you could take an AP exam (or better, several), high scores would be a good validation of your educational background. Signup deadlines are near (maybe even passed?) so move on this if you have not.

By Dutch (Dutch) on Friday, February 27, 2004 - 07:30 am: Edit

I do not know if it has any track record with top schools-I´ll inquire.

I do not know which major I´ll choose, but it´ll probably be something in the languages/communication/journalism/direction. Possibly Law School. For EC´s, my mom told me it´d look good if I worked at the library, especially for the directions I´m interested in. I was put on the waiting list of the library a year ago, and soon I´ll reach the top, so I can work there!

At my school, there isn´t a GC. There aren´t people that help you with your choice. Well, there is one man, that you talk to once a year about what major you´re interested in, but that´s it. I will probably need to do a lot on my own, but he´d probably write a reccomendation letter if I asked.

When I graduate (I´m not a senior yet) I will have a list of my exact, final scores for about 25 subjects. Will those do? Or is it really necessary to take the SAT/ACT/AP ? I´ve noticed that those are important, but what are they exactly? For instance, what is an AP exam?

I know that there are several subjects that you have to take at an university, no matter what your major is. I know I´m far ahead on American students in subjects like French, German, European History, Biology, Latin and some other subjects. Is it possible that I don´t need to take these subjects at a US college/university if can prove that I have already taken them?

Thanks again for taking the time to respond!

By Massdad (Massdad) on Friday, February 27, 2004 - 09:26 am: Edit


I hate to be alarmist, but you really need to get on top of this whole process, and quickly. Otherwise, you may be making some bad choices. These boards are useful but no substitute for serious homework on your side. I'd start with a serious reading of a few of the books in the section "College Admissions Books" on this site. Start with "A is for Admissions."

Now for specifics:

Your challenge is to help and admissions committe understand your background, including the quality of the school, your course load and so forth. They will not do this for you, and from your description, it sounds like your school has no track record with US colleges, so you cannot rely on their prior knowledge.

The SAT tests will probably be the most important part of your file, far more important than for a US applicant, because the SAT scores will be the only good way to compare you to US based students. A US college may not have any way to evaluate your exam scores.

Regarding the AP exams, you mention that you are far ahead of US students in a number of subjects. If so, the only way you can really prove this is by exam. Colleges may allow you to take placement exams once you matriculate, but there is a better way, the AP exams. The College Board has excellent information on their web site. I suggest you check there immediately. If you took the exams this May and scored well, that would be the best way possible to "show your stuff". Otherwise, I'd plan to take them in a year.

Finally, I do not know your finacial situation, but you may be one of the rare kids who could actually benefit from an independent college advisor. You may want to check out the resources at College Confidential, for instance.

By Thedad (Thedad) on Friday, February 27, 2004 - 11:56 am: Edit

Good advice from MassDad. I would take it.

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