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How I Got Into a UK University

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Accessing higher education as an international student. 

After dropping out of my higher education course in the Netherlands, I had decided to follow my heart and study English literature. However, being a Dutch girl with Dutch high school qualifications, getting into an English university was easier said than done. 

The first problem was the difference in academic systems. The Netherlands has a completely different school system from England. To simplify it, in England, you attend high school for five years, then you can continue to go to college for two years to get your A-levels. From there, you can get into university.

The Netherlands, however, has a far more complicated system. Basically there are different “levels” of high school, depending on how well you do academically. You either go there for four years, five years or six years. The higher level, the more years, the more “opportunities” for a career.

Access to Higher Education

Since my schooling system didn't have A-levels, the English admissions departments looked at my diploma to determine if I had the Dutch equivalent of A-levels. Unfortunately, the five-year high school course that I had completed was not enough. They recommended that I get my A-levels at an English college, which would take two years. 

After a lot of online research, I came across the “Access to Higher Education” (HE) diploma, which is a course designed for mature students who want to get back into education but never received their A-levels. Anyone over 19 can apply and gain a diploma in one year, instead of two. As I was turning 19, this seemed like the perfect alternative to spending two years getting my A-levels.

However, things didn't quite go to plan. I applied to over 10 different colleges, most of which that didn't reply or who told me that they didn't think a non-native English speaker could keep up with the fast pace of the course. In the end, only one college decided to give me a chance; Stockport College.

That first year in England was very intense. Because the access course was only year instead of two, I had to be working on three assignments at any point in the year. It was hard work, but I managed to finish the course with one distinction and two merits. 

After securing my HE diploma, I finally received an unconditional offer from my dream course at Manchester Metropolitan University; English and Creative Writing. The application was fairly easy and college helped me a lot with completing my application.

Tips for Applying to UK Universities

For those of you who are interested in doing an entire undergraduate degree in England, please don’t be scared off by my story. If you want to study at university in England, first I’d advise you to determine what course you want to do and at which university you’d like to study. After that you can contact the university and see what their requirements are for foreign students. Most universities are very excited to have foreign students and are able to find most countries' equivalents to A-levels.

Applying for English universities is possible via UCAS.com, which is an easy and straightforward website. Even if your grades or qualifications do not meet the criteria, do not fear. There are always other options, like the Access to HE course I did. There’s always the option to get something equivalent to A-levels in your home country before moving to England for university. There's also the foundation year at English universities; a pre-university year that prepares you for your three years at university.

I’m now in my second year and I think that having followed the access to HE course has had an amazing impact on the way I preform at university. It helped me to prepare well for university and also eased me into studying in my second language! It’s been quite an adventure to get where I am today, but I’m very happy to be here.

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Published in Study Abroad Blogs
Nele van Hout

Nele (Nayla) van Hout is a Dutch student who decided to study a full-time degree in overseas. She now lives in Manchester where she studies English and Creative Writing at Manchester Metropolitan University, England, UK.

Website: www.thenavigatio.com

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