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Beyond the Numbers: Why University Rankings Shouldn’t Be Your Only Guide in Choosing a University

Let’s be honest! You want to study in THE best university, receive THE best education, and have THE best career afterwards. That’s why you’ve probably looked at university ranking tables to help you inform your choice. While useful, there are a number of limitations with global ranking tables, and they only paint part of the picture. This is what you should know about them and which other ways you should consider to make your choice of university:

But let’s first dive into why you shouldn’t consider only rankings when making your university choice.

#1. University ranking may not address all your academic interests

The rankings are often based on a narrow set of criteria such as research output and international reputation. Of course, these criteria are important; however, they don’t tell the whole story. Your choice of university should resonate with your personal and academic interests, the subject you want to study, the ideal location to live, and many more. Choosing a University based on university rankings alone may not address all your educational needs.

#2. Universities rankings are not uniform entities

Different universities perform well in different fields. This means that a high globally ranked university does not necessarily represent each program and faculty. For example, if you’re passionate about Chemistry, a university which specializes in this area may be better for you than the one with a general top ranking. Subject Rankings can be more informative for students looking for specialized programs.

#3. Highly ranked does mean best fit 

Last but not least, the general university rankings lack personalization as they don’t take into account your unique needs, career goals, or personal preferences. They don’t consider factors such as campus culture, extracurricular activities, etc., which are crucial in shaping your ideal student experience. Consider campus culture, quality of teaching, and career opportunities that align with your personal and academic goals.

Finding your ideal university: from reputation to true fit

Now that you are convinced that general rankings are not the most important factor for choosing your university, let’s see what you should look for when making this crucial decision.

Program and course offerings: Identify universities that excel in your area of interest. And carefully consider the program. The same program might have different flavors in different universities. For example, can you take elective courses? Does the assessment include real life projects? Make sure that the university provides programs that match your aspirations.

Location and Campus Environment: Think about the climate, culture, and lifestyle of the location. Do you prefer a bustling city or a serene campus setting? Also consider campus facilities like libraries, labs, sports facilities, and so on.

Student life: Are you involved in sport clubs in high school and you want to continue practicing? Or are you more interested in student organizations? Research the opportunities for involvement outside the classroom and to what extent they satisfy your interests.

Diversity and inclusion: Consider the diversity and inclusion efforts of the university. A diverse campus can provide a more enriching and inclusive educational experience, making it important in your University Selection Criteria.

Budget and Finances: Evaluate the cost of education, including tuition, accommodation, and other living expenses. Does the university and cost of living match your budget?


At The Discov, we help you compare your top university options based on your unique profile, including your academic, student life, budget and diversity preferences. Just select your preferences and receive a free interactive report with your top university matches, including a virtual tour of what life will look like at each matched university.

Kalina Ivanova

Kalina Ivanova

Kalina studied in The Netherlands and is now Educational Consultant at The Discov

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In the previous blog post you found some useful tips on how to choose your major without regretting it. Today you will learn how to apply successfully for a Dutch university. Before you panic, let me tell you that applying for university in the Netherlands is quite easy. Keep reading to find out how!

Documents you need to apply to university

There are several standard documents which apply for all universities in the Netherlands, both research and applied sciences.

Let’s take a closer look at each one:

1. Diploma

This is typically your highest level of educational achievement, such as a high school diploma or an undergraduate degree, depending on the level of study you are applying for (e.g., Bachelor’s or Master’s program)

2. Transcript of your grades

It is very important for your transcript to be translated in English by a sworn translator with a stamp and a signature. 

3. English Language Certificate 

You can choose between IELTS, Cambridge or TOEFL. For more information regarding the score, you can consult with us.

4. Motivational letter

This is a crucial element of your application. It is your opportunity to set yourself apart from the rest by explaining why you are the best candidate, what motivates you to choose this particular university and why you believe you are a great fit for the program. Explain what your goals are and how this program aligns with them.

5. Curriculum Vitae

Your CV should provide an overview of your academic and professional background. You should include your personal information and educational history. Mention also any relevant work experience such as internships or projects you have worked on. Highlight responsibilities, skills gained, and accomplishments. Feel free to add any extracurricular activities you have participated that demonstrate your valuable qualities.

6. Letter of Recommendation
Some universities may require a letter of recommendation. Ask a teacher or any relevant person who has a great understanding of your abilities. This information helps universities assess your suitability for the program

Applying to university in the Netherlands

After you have gathered all the documents, it is time to start the application process. For all public universities in the Netherlands, the first step is to register in Studielink. This is the centralized platform where you will manage your applications to universities in the Netherlands.. For private universities, you can apply directly on the university website. 

If you’re applying to Studielink, here are the steps you need to take: 

1. Fill in your personal information such as name, address, and contact information. Make sure the information is accurate and up to date.

2. Choose your program(s): search for the program you wish to apply for and select it. Studielink will guide you through the process.

3. Upload your documents and ensure that all your documents are in the proper format and meet the university’s specifications. If you do not have your transcripts and English certificate, you can upload them later but make sure you do so. 

4. Some universities may charge an application fee, so be prepared to make the necessary payments during the application process. 

5. Submit Your Application: double-check your application for accuracy and completeness. Then, submit it through Studielink.

6. Confirmation: After submitting your application, you will receive a confirmation email from Studielink. Keep an eye on your email for updates from the university as well.

7. Wait for a Response: Universities will review your application and contact you with the results. This may take some time, so be patient.

8. Acceptance and Enrollment: First you will receive a conditional acceptance letter. In order to ensure your spot, follow the instructions provided by the university to confirm your acceptance and complete the enrolment process.

Need help with the application process? Contact us! Our team of digital study counsellors have plenty of experience in submitting a winning application. Good luck!

Choosing a major is one of the most important steps in anyone’s academic journey. It can be quite overwhelming and stressful to choose what possibly might determine the rest of your professional career. A wrong decision can have a huge impact, so here are some useful tips on how to choose the your major without regretting it.

#1 Self-reflection

It is important to reflect on your interests, passions, and strengths. You can think about the subjects which sparked your curiosity back in school or even the one which you did not enjoy at all. Try to answer the following questions:

  • What are you interested in? You’ll be more likely to be successful in a field that you’re passionate about.
  • What are my strengths and weaknesses?
  • What kind of career do I want to pursue?
  • Do you want to help people, work with new technologies, run a business?

Take a sheet and write everything down. By visualizing, you will be able to more easily decide which field may be right for you. 

#2 Research

Now that you have the base, you can start with a deeper research. Consider the current industry trends: which fields are growing? What does the future look like? See which careers fall into the field of your interest and explore their career prospects. Many university websites devote a section on this per program.

Also, it’s important to consider if you want to study something broad or very specific. When you study something broad, you have more options to specialize later on. On the other hand, specialized courses might offer more clear career paths. 

#3 Talk to an expert

Try to connect to an expert in this particular career field. One way to find and connect with professionals in the field is through LinkedIn Search. They can explain to you in more detail about what a certain profession looks like  its prospects, and what you should consider for your studies.

Next to that, you can also talk to your school counsellor or academic advisor, professors, alumni, or even join some university open days and workshops .

#4 Connect to current students

In addition to connecting to a professional, connecting to current students can give you important information as they already went through the path of choosing their major. In this way, they may help you further with the decision. Many universities offer an opportunity to chat with students via their website.

#5 Do an internship

Hands-on experience is the best experience! To see whether you like a particular career, you can always apply for an internship and see if the tasks and responsibilities appeal to you. In this way the choice of your academic path may be easier. 

Take your time to decide what you want to study. Take into account what excites you and where you see yourself in future.  Inform yourself and seek any information which may be helpful. In this way you will be able to make the right decision.

Once you know what you want to study, find your dream university through our online student – university matchmaker:

With over 33,000 students in over 50 programs, among which 5 international bachelor’s programs and 2 international master’s, Avans University of Applied Sciences is one of the largest University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands. For 11 consecutive years, students have rated it as the best large University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands (Keuzegids HBO, 2023). Here is why you should consider studying at Avans:

#1. Small scale and personal approach

What makes Avans special is the small scale environment and personal guidance during your studies. You work in small groups on real-life projects. This unique combination creates a dynamic learning atmosphere, ensuring that you do not only gain knowledge but also develop professional skills that will benefit you throughout your academic journey and future career.

#2. International community 

Avans University has a vibrant multicultural student community. This is an amazing opportunity to connect with people from all over the world and to get to know other cultures while learning together. Studying at Avans will not only allow you to enhance your intercultural competence but also prepare you for the globalized professional field.

#3. City of Breda and ‘s-Hertogenbosch

Breda and ‘s-Hertogenbosch are the international campus cities of Avans. With a rich history and a vibrant atmosphere, these charming cities are located in the southern part of the Netherlands. As a student you will never feel bored; From museums to live events and concerts to plenty of restaurants, bars and nightclubs. The province is also home to Brainport, one of Europe’s leading technology hubs which provides excellent career opportunities after your graduation.

#4. Partner universities and internship opportunities

Do you want to do your exchange in the US? Or maybe you want to go to Brazil? How about Japan? At Avans you can choose from over 250 partner universities in more than 50 countries, offering you a wide range of exciting international opportunities to enhance your academic and personal experience. Next to that, there are also plenty of internship opportunities at international companies you can pursue during your studies.

Try our online matchmaker to find out how the university fits your preferences!

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