An Interview with Philosophy Professor and Admissions Officer Floris van der Burg

By THOMAS SFORZOLINI

Although all of us have already been accepted to UCU, it is still interesting to know what exactly the admissions officers saw in us that gave us the opportunity to study here in the first place. With a current acceptance of about one in four and an ever-growing application pool, I was curious to know the criteria the admissions officers base their decisions on. Luckily, I was able to interview one of the head admissions officers, Floris van der Burg.

The first topic we discussed was grades. Grades are obviously important since they are evidence of a student’s past performances and the best indicator of future achievement.

However, although “bad grades are a bad sign, and good grades are a good sign, neither guarantee success or disaster in the future”. Floris also mentioned that the admissions office takes a more holistic approach by considering a student’s whole application, especially their academic motivation for attending UCU, rather than setting academic cut-offs.

For example, someone who has one particular interest, especially if it is not even offered, such as business or engineering, is not a good fit for a liberal arts and science environment. He also discussed how it’s essential that students ought to be keen to live at a residential college since it is not for everyone: “Every year we have students who choose to leave UCU because it’s not for them, which begs the inquiry whether we ask the right questions for the essay and during the interviewing process. We see this as a personal defeat since we want all our applicants to be absolutely sure that this is the right fit for them.”

Overall, what I got out of this discussion is that academic breadth and interest to live in a compact residential liberal arts and science college are perhaps just as important as grades.

I then asked him about whether UCU admissions takes their applicants extracurricular activities into consideration. He said that even though admissions does not expect their applicants to have been involved in an extraordinary amount of clubs or activities during high school, “it is always a good thing to know that a student will be more than consumers and an active contributor of the campus sphere. Someone who was very active outside the classroom in high school is more likely to carry on that trend at UCU.”

Floris specifically mentioned how he always likes it when students performed community service activities during their spare time as it shows signs of them being a responsible person in a society at a young age. Also, what distinguishes a candidate from others is whether he or she set up an activity or organization on his/her own time since it shows initiative that will likely be continued during university.

“We also have a reputation of being a wealthy campus, but I also knew plenty of students who work over twenty hours a week simply to be able afford to study here.”

Perhaps the most intriguing part of the interview was when we discussed the continuous debate of whether our campus is actually diverse and whether or not UCU looks to create greater diversity.

“That is certainly a question we, the admissions office, ask as well, and the first question that should be asked is what type of diversity are we referring to. Our campus has a lot of national diversity but then again it is also predominantly white. We also have a reputation of being a wealthy campus, but I also knew plenty of students who work over twenty hours a week simply to be able afford to study here,” Floris stated.

In terms of improving, for example, socioeconomic diversity, admissions are looking into ways of having more people apply from more diverse backgrounds, although they are not sure how to do that. They are continuously working on trying to build up the scholarship fund so that students from disadvantaged families can come and study here. Also, admissions has made campaigns throughout the Netherlands in the past and plans on rebooting that tactic to perhaps bring a larger variety of people to campus, such as more Dutch students with immigration backgrounds.

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