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Currently I am a student in the Netherlands following a bachelor program in computer science. I am currently considering applying for a master's program in the United States. It is hard to asses my chances, because of the large difference between the systems in the Netherlands and the United States.

There are a few factors which probably affect my chances.

  • I cannot directly compare my grades with grades used in the United States. In the Netherlands we use a 1-10 absolute grading system. I currently have a grade average of 8.0, only had 7s, 8s and 9s.
  • One thing I noticed is that in the United States a bachelor program is not naturally followed by a master's program, unlike in the Netherlands where this is the default.
  • The duration of a bachelor program in the Netherlands is three instead of four years.
  • Currently I do not plan on applying for a Ph.D position.

Do these factors significantly effect chances to be admitted to a master's program in the United States and how do I asses my chance to get accepted?

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I don't think that there's a huge enough discrepancy between the technical content of the European three-year bachelor's and the four-year American bachelor's to make that a big concern.

However, where you may run into problems is that your GPA might not be considered competitive for a top program, if it's only in the 8.0's out of 10. (It might get translated to a 3.3 or so, which would be problematic.) What will make up for this is some statement that you're near the top of your CS cohort, and good letters of recommendation will also help.

Where you'll also need to do some research is on whether the departments you want to apply to offer terminal master's programs; if not, it will make it a little more difficult, as the expectation would be that if you are admitted to the master's program, you will then continue on to the PhD program thereafter. (At such schools, a stipend is typically offered during the master's phase of the program; at schools that offer a terminal master's, the funding sources for the master's degree-only candidates is usually quite distinct, if it is available at all.)

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    That was my concern because my average is actually high for the program, but is not translatable to a GPA. Most students have around 7.0 on average and 6 is the minimum acceptable grade. Actually according to this article om Wikipedia en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Academic_grading_in_the_Netherlands an 8 would be equal to an A, I doubt however that institutions will accept this conversion. – Joost Mar 18 '12 at 18:37
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    As I said, there are a few ways to get around this: a transcript that shows your relative positioning within the cohort, or statements in your letters of recommendation talking about your performance (showing that you are near the top of your class). As someone who reviews applications, I know that I'm willing to give a pass to low grades if one of the referees tells me that's the standard at the university the applicant attends. – aeismail Mar 18 '12 at 19:14
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    Although OP asked about the US specifically, I thought I'd pitch in a Canadian comment. In Canada it is much more common to have research-based and funded Masters programs in CS and related fields (without the expectation that you will continue on to PhD in the same institution). – Artem Kaznatcheev Mar 18 '12 at 20:06
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    In my own department, we compare GPAs with other applicants from the same school. Over several decades, we've built up a reasonable (but imperfect) mapping from raw GPAs to "normalized" GPAs. In particular, we recognize 8.0 from the Netherlands as reasonably high. We also look more carefully at recommendation letters to help us calibrate grades from unfamiliar schools. – JeffE Mar 18 '12 at 20:29
  • @JeffE: I thought that might be the case, but since I didn't have direct knowledge, I didn't want to state something as fact without stronger evidence. But thanks for the confirmation of my expectations! (Over here, we do admissions on a much more localized basis, so the previous school approach doesn't work as well.) – aeismail Mar 18 '12 at 20:40

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