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Yes, this is a WHAT ARE MY CHANCES thread (sort of)


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I decided to start this thread because I am having a hard time explaining my academic background in my applications for universities abroad and I need some help.



Here is the thing, I am from a country that does not place restrictions or entry requirements on graduate programs. The reason is that, before the Ba/Ma –structure, bachelor and master were considered one degree. As a result, a graduate degree is not a luxury but companies (almost always) expect applicants to have it. So I guess that is nice. However, the downside of our education system is that we are practically pushed already in high school to make choices that will restrict us in picking an undergrad degree. For me, I chose the natural sciences because that is what everyone around me did as well. Not having much clue what to do after, I continued with them during my undergrad, and the result is a BSc in biomedical sciences. However, I did not like the career prospects at all (basically, laboratory or doctor), and I have been working extremely hard ever since to push my academic career towards the social sciences. My undergrad GPA is low (2.45), largely due to lack of motivation and feeling of loss of identity :). I have done plenty of internships and extra courses, not to increase my chances but for myself to find out what I really want with my life. So, after a couple of internships I finally found an awesome MSc in Global Health, for which I was accepted because I was extremely motivated. Btw, this also shows in my GPA (3.9). During the program I was excited and frustrated at the same time, because we were looking at interesting case studies in development, but only from the health paradigm. It made me want to work in development in general and not just in health development. But I don't want to be held back by ‘specialist’ MSc when I look for jobs, and this is the reason why I want to do a second master degree in international development. And, because a 2nd degree is not subsidized by my government anymore, it is cheaper to do this abroad.

But I am really overwhelmed by all the grade restrictions and scores that required. Grades have never been that important, the emphasis was always on motivation. So although I consider myself a good student and my country's university system considers me a good student, I feel some sort of mistranslation when I look at programs abroad, especially in the UK.

  • My grades are mistranslated, because our grade system cannot be linearly converted with the UK or US system. Our grade system goes from 1 to 10, but 9 and 10 are practically never given due to the Calvinistic notion that “nobody is perfect but God”. Therefore, an 8 can already be considered a 4.0 but, I have found that this is often misunderstood. Also, although a 2,45 seems low, a 6,5 (which my grade actually is) is actually considered quite reasonable.
  • Also, I noticed that the curriculum I took during my undergraduate degree is not necessarily the same as the curriculum of a biomed undergrad in the UK. Our undergraduate programs are already quite specialized and they teach us many skills (writing an article, project proposal, grant proposal, statistics, research methods, etc) that in the UK aren't really dealth with until graduate level. This is also misunderstood.
  • The fact that our undergrad degrees are so specialized also makes it very hard to switch. The fact that I did switch from an undergrad in natural sciences to an social science/anthropologic-based graduate degree is the result of very hard work on my part. and something that I am quite proud of. However I don't know how to make this clear.

Basically, I wrote this to vent, but also to ask for advice. I feel like I am unjustly considered a weak applicant just because of these cultural differences and I don’t know how to make clear that I am actually a strong applicant and more than capable of finishing their program with success. I could ofcourse write this in a motivation letter but I am worried that would make a) the letter way too long considering I would also have to include my actual motivation, and b ) I am worried it would seem like I am just making a bunch of excuses. Also, if they make the first cut based on grades alone I am screwed regardless of my motivation letter.

Maybe I am being overly pessimistic, maybe not. But I would be very interested in your views, especially if you offer possible solutions :)








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Biomed isn't my field so can't really comment upon the differences between UK programs and yours in terms of content, but UK undergrad degrees are generally more specialised than US ones. They also work on a system where 70% is considered as ~4.0 in the US system, with a 65 being a decent mark (enough to be considered for most graduate degrees). So I'm therefore kinda surprised you singled out the UK as being the most different.

If 6.5 is considered quite reasonable I'd wonder if you could maybe use a different conversion? http://www.foreigncredits.com/Resources/GPA-Calculator/Netherlands, first link I found, gives 3.0 by just plugging your 6.5 into it.

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