Anita Ratheb, Uni application guidance

Uni Application Support for UK and The Netherlands

GUEST WRITER: Anita Ratheb works with Grade 12 students in Greece, Cyprus and South Africa who want to apply to universities in the UK or The Netherlands.

In this article Anita talks about:

  1. What got her started in offering university application support services.
  2. Uni application challenges Grade 12 students face.
  3. Why the personal statement really matters.


I started my business after offering to help a friend from Mitilini. She knew what she wanted to study but had no idea how to apply to UK universities, and local Advisers were charging a fortune.

Admittedly, the parents were more anxious than the student because they did not understand the process. On the other hand, the student thought she had chosen her cities and universities well after sound research. But knowing her well, I recommended she apply and visit one I had chosen for her. 10 minutes into the open day and I could see in her eyes that this was where she would end up.

This inspired me to start helping other students and families and make this experience fun and reassuring, rather than daunting. I wanted them to be certain they are making the best decision and they are well informed. I begin with getting to know my students well, so that I can really see what drives them and what they are really passionate about. Then, by teaching them about what work they can do after university, we start a process of elimination.


Deciding on a course and choosing universities is no doubt an anxious time for both students and parents, for a number of reasons:

  1. Students either know what they want to study (or think they do), have a rough idea, or have no clue.
  2. Then there are questions like “Which University is best for me?” “Which country?” “Will I get the grades?” Thankfully, there are ways to figure this out, and this is where a good Adviser comes in. As a student or parent, it is very difficult to know where to start.
  3. If students are fortunate to attend a private school, they will get some career advice. The application process is pretty straightforward. However, having read some personal statements of students who are in private schools, I often wonder if any advice has been given in areas that matter most. The Personal Statement has to keep the Admissions Administrator intrigued! 
  4. As for students from public schools, they will certainly need an Adviser for the whole process. Mostly because they feel overwhelmed with choice in the UK (and don’t know how UCAS works), and it is hard to understand the not-so-user-friendly Dutch process.

Then there is the question of timing:

  1. When should one start? I advise at the beginning of Year 12 (Grade 11 in South Africa).
  2. Why? There are certain steps that must be taken early to build a solid Personal
    Statement or Motivational letter. You have to know how to stand out. Even though
    you have not decided on a course, there are certain things that can boost your chances of success later. Especially following Brexit. The Netherlands has been flooded with applications. In my opinion, places are far and few for many courses. This makes it even more important to make sure you stand out. Good news: no Panhellenic exams needed or Pancyprian (countries I mostly work with) in The Netherlands, but many students don’t know this! Anxiety levels drop 50% with this information. 

And then there is the question of what universities to apply to.

  1. Although The Netherlands has many pros, it is not for all students. This is where I come in. I help the family understand everything.
  2. It is not just about getting a place. It is about which course and at which university each student is best suited for, in the countries they can afford.

For me it is all about seeing a student happy and relaxed. For this to happen, the parents need to understand that their child will go to university, and the student needs to feel he/she has made a good choice.


With the right advice, guidance and support, I have helped many students and their families enjoy this lovely chapter, stress free. It is possible.

Here are some examples from my work.

Case study/scenario 1

I worked with this amazing girl in Cyprus who truly had no clue what she wanted to study, but was a top student. We worked together for quite a bit narrowing down interests. I explained what these jobs entail, not on paper, but in real life! I also went through modules with her on various courses and it turned out she didn’t like physics as much as her parents hoped she did, but really liked chemistry and biology. I guided her on how to apply to universities in The Netherlands, and she chose a course which she loved because it was exceptionally flexible (she could choose modules as she went along to tailor her degree as she discovered her interests at university). She is starting at Maastricht University in September 2022. She turned down offers from TUE (Chemical Engineering) and Radboud and Groningen (Chemistry). Needless to say, her parents put all their trust in me and feel that this was the easiest process ever. They couldn’t be happier, because The Netherlands is also something they can afford.

Case study/scenario 2

This was a first for me. I got a call one day from a father whose son failed most of his courses at a Greek university (the university changed his course once he got in and it was far too mathematical for him, so he gave up). At 21, he decided that he should move to the UK and his father asked me if there was any hope of getting into university here. I really do believe in second chances, as students are young and can make mistakes. I did my utmost best to find him a course he loved-in London so he does not have accommodation costs – and with the grades he had. However, I decided we should also reach for the stars, and after working with him and advising/guiding him every step of the way, he got a place at Brunel University (which wants 17.5 and he got in with 15!). I also translated all the academic transcripts for him and am currently guiding him through the student finance process. The father still calls me and thanks me.

Case study/scenario 3

I was asked to comment on a Personal Statement/motivational letters by a parent whose child attended a private school in Greece. All were approved, with delight, from the school. My first thought was that there are some Unis in the UK that look at the grades 95% and yes he will get an offer or two. However, for The Netherlands, the motivational letters were very weak. 

I explained to the parent what was missing, how it could be improved, and what MUST be taken out at all costs, as it is exactly what will make an Admissions Officer put it last in the pile! In the UK, you apply to 5 universities and each one must think that you are writing it for them! That requires drafting and redrafting and there are some tactics to use to get this right. With the right advice, support and guidance, the student now has offers for Business in The Netherlands and the UK (Exeter, Durham, University of Amsterdam to name but a few).


I know students in the UK who had top grades and they only got 1 or two offers from universities they had as 4th and 5th choices. Their schools were too busy dealing with Covid-19 related issues to advise students and guide them through the process. Parents can help a bit, but they are not experts. 


Anita Ratheb

Anita Ratheb has been a teacher for 26 years. She has lived in 3 different countries and taught children from all backgrounds in 4 education systems (South Africa, British, International and Greek). She comes from a multi-cultural background; her mother is Greek and her father is an Italian raised in Brazil. She was born and bred in South Africa where she graduated with a BA (Education) degree. She currently lives in Cambridge UK with her husband and son (her daughter is at university). She works part-time as a supply teacher teaching children from ages 4-16, all subjects, and as a Greek-English (and English to Greek) translator. This flexibility allows her to help children apply to university by matching them with universities and towns, making the process less stressful.