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Smartest kid in the classroom?

Smartest kid in the classroom?

For the last time: top 3% certificate

If you receive a top 3% certificate, what kind of student are you? One without a social life, always studying in the attic? 460 Maastricht University students will be awarded a top 3% certificate and the accompanying grant equalling the tuition fees for the previous academic year. The grant is to be discontinued due to government cuts.


Finnish Erika Lindholm, third-year student of European Law School (English track), is receiving the grant for the first time.

- Were you always the smartest kid in the classroom?  “I wouldn’t consider myself to be the best, I always was a bit nerdy. I did okay, but it depended on the subject. I was better at mathematics, for example, than languages.”

- Did anyone ever predict you’d be one of the best at UM? “My parents always encouraged me to work hard, but they also understood that I failed sometimes. I received a necklace in the form of an owl at high school graduation; a gift from the teachers, and it represents independence, taking opportunities. But this was not about being the smartest.”

- What’s your greatest strength? “Using colours helps me to learn; marking lines with different colours to get a certain system in a text. I still do that, except if I’m being lazy. And using a nice colour helps me to learn quicker. It’s also beneficial to discuss some topics with friends.”

- Social life, what’s that? “I think that having a social life – having a coffee break, going to the gym or being active in student organisations – is very important. I need that balance between social life and study. I think it makes you even more motivated to learn.”

- Future plans: “I’m in Hamburg now for my exchange. I’m not completely sure what master’s I’ll do and where, but probably in Finland in order to try to get civil effect there so I can practice as a lawyer for example.”


Belgian Marco Wirtz, graduate of European Law School (regular track), is receiving the grant for the fourth time. “I didn’t come to Maastricht to get that top 3% grant, but after winning it the first time, I thought, well, let’s try for the second time, and the third and fourth.”

- Were you always the smartest kid in the classroom? “One of the smartest. Learning comes easily to me. Recently I was thinking about the top 3% system and the criticisms people have of it – it would stimulate learning but not your social capacities. And I understand that point of view. But the people I know who’ve received the grant are not the type to study excessively; just like me, learning comes easily to them.”

- Did anyone ever predict you’d be one of the best at UM? “Not really. At high school I was thinking of going to a special sports school in my third year, because I was very good at golf. But before I made up my mind, my teachers said it wouldn’t be the best choice because my grades were very good. I could do so much more, they said.”

- What’s your greatest strength? “I understand quite quickly what is meant, what the key points are.”

- Social life, what’s that? “I’ve never had a student room. I always drove to university, so that’s not advantageous for student life. But on the weekends I also went out with friends, so I wasn’t always studying.”

- Future plans: “I’m doing law at the University of Hasselt for a year to get civil effect in Belgium.”


Russian Polina Putrik, graduate of the master’s in Public Health at the Faculty of Health, Medicine and Life Sciences, is receiving the grant for the first time.

- Were you always the smartest kid in the classroom?  “I’ve always been a good student, but I’m convinced that if you like what you’re learning, if you enjoy it and are motivated, good grades come by themselves. I don’t think about IQ in addition to this top 3%.”

- Did anyone ever predict you’d be one of the best at UM? “Everyone around me, family and friends – except me, really – have faith that I can manage. I’m always thinking: ‘I don’t know, we’ll see’.”

- What’s your greatest strength? “Motivation and discipline. I want to get things done, to do my best, to be not lazy. I won’t stop halfway.”

- Social life, what’s that?  “Social life helps you to achieve a good working spirit. I’ve travelled a lot, I did a French course, I take part in sports.”

- Future plans: “Maybe I’ll stay in Maastricht to do my PhD. I’m not sure yet.”




Wendy Degens



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