How to Apply to an International University in France in 2020

The lovely and sophisticated France attracts around 300,000 international students from both EU and non-EU countries every year. One of the main reasons behind the popularity of France is that universities have much lower tuition fees when compared to other European countries.

If you also dream of studying at colleges and universities in France, you are probably curious to know more about the application process at French universities.

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Popular degree subjects you can study in France

There are plenty of disciplines you can pick from, which allow you to study in French or English. Here are just a few of the most popular options to consider:

French universities to consider for your studies

Here are some top French universities you should consider for your study abroad adventure:

How to apply

  1. For some universities, you can apply directly on their website.
  2. Carefully check entry requirements: standardised tests, such as the GRE, GMAT, or LSAT are required for some undergraduate and graduate courses.
  3. Apply to at least three different institutions in order to increase your chances of being admitted.
  4. Non-EU/EEA students will be required to pass the compulsory Preliminary Admission ("demande d’admission préalable" - DAP). Apply for DAP at the Culture and Cooperation Service of the French embassy in your home country.

Exemptions from DAP

  • Children of diplomats posted in France and who themselves currently live in France
  • Candidates coming from a partner university with a cooperation agreement (special procedures apply)
  • Students with a scholarship from the French government, or a French organisation
  • Candidates holding a French, International, European, French-German, French-Italian or a French-Spanish baccalaureate

Where to apply for a French university programme

The application procedure is actually different depending on your nationality.

  1.  European Union (EU) and European Economic Area (EEA) students can apply directly to the university, under the same conditions as French students.
  2. Non-EU/EEA students should apply through an online application system, formerly know as CEF and currently called the 'Studying in France procedure'. Through this system, you may also apply for your visa online and track the progress of your application.
  3. If you are already living in Europe but you don’t have European citizenship, you will have to apply through the French embassy or consulate in the European country where you are residing.

Apply to a degree in France

Application at technological universities, grandes écoles, and other specialised schools

  • Apply through an online system for preliminary admission at Parcoursup, which starting from 2018 replaces the Admission Post-Bac (APB) platform.
  • Applicants are selected based on the results obtained at very competitive entrance examinations, which take place at the end of a two-year preparation programme called "Classes préparatoires aux grandes écoles" (CPGE - Preparatory classes for Grandes Écoles).
  • You will also have a personal interview.

Language requirements for universities in France

Most degrees are taught in French, but you will find numerous study programmes taught in English, particularly at Master's and PhD levels. Academic institutions in France accept the following language tests:

For French proficiency

Exemptions from the requirement to demonstrate proficiency in the French language:

  • Holders of the French baccalauréat, the international or European baccalauréat, and the Franco-German baccalauréat
  • International recipients of scholarships from the French government, international organisations, or foreign governments whose grants are administered by an approved French entity
  • Nationals of states where French is the official language
  • Students graduating from bilingual programmes, in which French was one of the languages

For English proficiency

Each university determines the minimum grade or mark for language tests. Always check which tests are accepted by your university and what's the minimum passing grade they expect from international students.

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Required university application documents

  • Prior admission or pre-registration certificate provided by the university
  • Campus France authorization
  • Passport or ID card (valid for the duration of your stay)
  • ID/passport-type photos
  • Copies of graduation diplomas and their French translation
  • Registration fee
  • Social security registration (free)
  • A civil liability certificate
  • Students from the EU: a copy of your European health insurance card
  • Resume (only in some cases, and only for postgraduate degrees)
  • Cover letter
  • French and/or English Language certificate (depending on tuition language of chosen degree)
  • Transcript of records
  • Copies of diplomas (if not available, a certificate stating you graduated)
  • Proof that you can fund your stay in France (with a minimum of 800 EUR per month)

University application deadlines in France

Application for French universities are available twice a year and these are the deadlines:

  • For the fall admission: January 17th or April 1st, depending on degree type and other factors (in some cases, after this date as well, based on the available spaces)
  • For the spring admission: September 15th, and after this date, based on the available spaces
  • Applications for Post-Bac (Parcoursup): from January 22nd to March 13th
  • Applications for TCF during DAP process: from November until January 22nd

Learn more about application deadlines at universities in France.

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Final steps after receiving your acceptance letter

  1. Institutions inform students of their admission decisions between June 15 and September 15 for programmes beginning in October. Thus, you will only have around a month to prepare all the arrangements for your departure to France.
  2. If you're a non-EU/EEA/Switzerland citizen, you will have to apply for a student visa.
  3. If you plan to study more than six months in France, you will have to apply for a residence permit at French local authorities ("Préfecture").
  4. You will have to prove you have sufficient funds to support yourself. 

If you are from the EU/EEA, you can use the European health insurance card. If you are non-EU, you are eligible for the national health insurance offered in France. You must register on the website to benefit from French social security and health spending repayments.

Once you arrive in France, register in person at your university. You must pay about 90 EUR as a contribution to campus and students life.

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