In addition to your application forms and personal statements, universities will want to see several documents from your current educational institution, such as grade transcripts and recommendation letters. Collecting these documents will take time, and it is your responsibility to ensure that the American university has received everything on time.

Recommendation letters

Most universities will ask for three recommendation letters. These have to be written by professor who is familiar with you as a student, as well as your academic skills. If you are applying for an MBA or another program that values work experience, you may have to ask a (previous) employer to write your letter, instead of a professor. All letters can be sent directly to the institution you’re applying to. Many universities allow for online submissions. Always remember to ask your professors or employers to hang on to their letter for a while so they can submit their letter to several different institutions, if needed.

These recommendation letters are an important aspect of your application. Always make sure that the people writing the letters know you well enough to write an informative letter about you. All recommendation letters need to contain information about your analytical insights, your intellectual capacities, your creativity, and your ability to do independent research.



The grade transcript is an official overview of all your classes and the results you obtained in higher education. The institution through which you received your results needs to authenticate the document by adding an official stamp and signature. Educational institutions in America will use this document to evaluate your academic background to see whether it is sufficient for the program in which you wish to enroll.


Tips for making a transcript

Always check whether your institution offers English language grade transcripts. If not, you will have to translate the Dutch version. Usually you can do this yourself. You won’t need a sworn translator. However, you will need to ask your institution to authenticate your translation, and you should always to include the original Dutch transcript with your translation.

When translating your grade transcript, you can copy the Dutch studiepuntensystem and attach a description of the Dutch grading system. The publication Education System of the Netherlands on the Nuffic website can help you with that. Nuffic also offers an English language description of the Dutch grading system in comparison with those from the US and UK. You can find more information about the grading system in America  below.

Here you can download an example of an American grade transcript.


The American grading system

The American grading system cannot be directly converted into the Dutch system. The US does not use a general set of rules to which all grades have to adhere. This means that the value of the grades depends on the institution through which you received your grade. Receiving an A at a top university is very different from an A received at a less highly ranked university. Similarly, Dutch grades cannot be converted directly into the American system. You will need to submit your original Dutch grades so the university can convert them. If the university does not offer this conversion service, you will have to use a credential evaluation service to get your grades converted.



The United States uses credits to measure the amount of time spent working towards a course. Universities use semester credits, quarter credits, semester hours, quarter hours, semester units, or quarter units. You will need a certain amount of credits, units, or hours in order to receive your degree. The specific amounts of units you will need will differ depending on the university. You can find out how many credits you will receive for each class in the student guide.

Did you know…
  • One credit usually stands for one contact hour. If a course offers three credits, you can safely assume that you will spend three hours a week in the classroom for this particular course during the semester, trimester or quarter. Every contact hour also calls for preparation time. During your Bachelor’s this will be an average of two hours for each contact hour. During your graduate studies, the amount of preparation time per contact hour will be higher.
  • If your course involves a lab, the credits are calculated as follows: two to three hours of lab time per credit.
  • Institutions that use semester credits usually expect you to obtain 60 credits for your Associate’s degree, 120 credits for a Bachelor’s degree, 30 to 60 for a Master’s degree and 60 to 180 for a PhD.


The United States uses the letters A, B, C, D, and F instead of a scale from 1 to 10. The following overview can give you an idea of what exactly these letters mean. Percentages may vary between institutions.


Grade     Term                    % Correct answers

A               Excellent                 91% of meer

B               Good                        82% tot 90%

C               Fair/Average          75% tot 81%

D               Poor                        69% tot 74%

F                Failing                    68% of minder


Usually this means that a professor will give the top two or three students an A, even if they only answered 70% of questions correctly. The professor will assume that the test was too complicated and will grade on a curve.

Your final grade will consist of your test results, as well as your class participation, essays, homework, and attendance.



The letters A, B, C, and D are eventually converted into numbers in order to calculate your grade point average.


A – 4 points

B – 3 points

C – 2 points

D – 1 point

F no value (0 points).


If you received an A for a three-credit course, you will receive 12 grade-points. Every semester, trimester or quarter you add all your grade-points and divide them by your total amount of credits to calculate your grade-point average.



Course                                             Grade                      Value                  Credits                     Grade-points


Chemistry                                         A                              4                                 3                                            12


Algebra                                             C                               2                                 4                                            8


English                                              B                               3                                 3                                            9


Lab                                                     D                               1                                  2                                            2


History                                               A                               4                                 3                                            12

                                                                                   —                                           —

                                                                                   15                                          43


Grade-point average: total amount of grade-points / totaal credits = 43/15 = 2.87

After the second semester, you receive a cumulative grade-point average: the total of all grade-points of all semesters divided by the total amount of credits received.

In order to continue your studies as an undergraduate student, you will need to retain a cumulative grade-point average of at least 2. If your average drops below 2, you will receive a warning and continue your studies on probation. If your average consists of A’s and B’s only, you receive honors and might get an award.

As a graduate student, your cumulative grade-point average cannot drop below 3. While a C is considered an average grade for an undergraduate student, it will be seen as a failing grade during your graduate studies. If you receive a C in two consecutive semesters and your cumulative grade-point average approaches a 2, you will be advised to discontinue your studies.