Student experience - Elise - University College

Bachelor: University College Maastricht
Master: Earth and Environment

You can get into your master of preference with a university college background and you can successfully catch up with your, perhaps more specialised, co-students.

After graduating from Maastricht University College (UCM), I started anew in Wageningen for my master in Earth & Environment, with a specialisation in earth system science. I was curious if the stories were true. Which stories? Well, university college students will probably be very familiar with the following questions:

“Will my preferred master programme accept me with this interdisciplinary, but nevertheless extremely broad educational background?”


“Even if they do, how will I be able to perform successfully alongside students who are much more experienced in this field of study?”

In UCM, these dreadful questions were always tactically handled by the alumni office. They would proudly show us the charts and numbers of where their alumni ended up: great universities, their master of preference, boastful careers, and (most of all) extremely steep and successful learning curves during the first semester of the master. But to what extent would I fit in that picture?

I’ve always known that I wanted to study environmental systems and to understand Earth’s processes. Nevertheless, the reason I chose to go to a university college for my bachelor was because my interests were all over the place: from psychology to philosophy to chemistry. Having to constrain my field of study would be difficult for me. Luckily I found master programmes at Wageningen University (WU) that allowed for a great deal of flexibility in courses. I could even pick courses from other study programmes.

Even though WU offers pre-masters to smoothen the transition, I was not obliged to do one. For a while, I highly questioned this decision when being confronted with the large discrepancies in my knowledge and that of my peers. But this also meant that the predicted steep learning curves were true, and I quickly caught up with the others. Similar to university colleges, the interaction between students and teachers is very close. Teachers respond quickly, give support when asked for, and know their students individually. And let’s not forget the heaven-sent help from the study advisors.

My main message here is that, yes, the stories are true: you CAN get into your master of preference with a university college background and you CAN successfully catch up with your, perhaps more specialised, co-students. I believe that this is true because, besides enough motivation, the way of learning is more important than the content of what you learned. And from the way I know university colleges, I think they train their students extremely well in this aspect. Of course I can only speak from my own experience. I am now working on my MSc thesis for which I’ll be cooperating with a university abroad. I also feel confident that I have acquired both the theoretical and practical skills to pursue a career either in consultancy or academia (I haven’t decided yet). So, should you transfer from UC(M) to WU, you can be sure that your transition will be made as smooth as possible.