Brief Background: Finland is consistently rated
highly as a study destination by international students who value the
many perks that Finnish institutions offer including quality education,
academic freedom, and studentcentered support services. Finland
attracted nearly 31,000 international students in 2015-16, with the
majority enrolled in degree programs, according to the Finnish National
Agency for Education.
A national education policy focused on quality, efficiency, equity,
and internationalization; excellent basic education; and competitive
student admission underpin the high standards of Finnish higher
education. The country boasts a world-class knowledge community, and is
frequently rated as one of the most innovative countries with
first-class higher education and training programs, according to the
World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report.
Students who complete their bachelor’s at a university are automatically admitted for a master’s degree program upon completion of the undergraduate degree, without needing to apply again. With a UAS bachelor’s degree, students must apply for admission to a master’s degree and are not automatically granted a place in the program.
Finland has 23 universities of applied sciences (UAS), formerly known
as polytechnics, and 13 universities. At UAS institutions, research and
development form the basis for teaching, and the curriculum addresses
the needs and expectations of both industry and commerce. A UAS
bachelor’s degree typically takes between 3.5 and 4.5 years, and
consists of core and professional studies, optional studies (similar to
electives in the US), practical training, and a thesis. At universities,
a bachelor’s degree consists of basic and intermediate courses,
language studies, and a thesis. It is typically completed in three
Good to Know: English is considered Finland’s third,
unofficial language, and most Finns speak it fluently. Finnish higher
education institutions provide over 400 full-degree programs taught in
English. Most of the bachelor-level degree programs taught in English are
offered at universities of applied sciences.
If students are fluent in Finnish or Swedish, they can pursue a
degree in one of these national languages tuition-free. Advice on how to
apply to these programs can be found on the Finnish National Agency for Education’s Study in Finland website.
The Finnish attitude toward education follows an approach that
benefits the individual: Students are challenged and encouraged to think
for themselves. Courses offered at Finnish universities are
researchbased and align with the institution’s specialization. These
high-quality study programs combine in-depth research with the needs of a
student’s future working life.
Academic Calendar: Finnish universities and
universities of applied sciences usually follow a twosemester calendar.
The first semester typically begins at the end of August, and the second
semester in January. Summer break occurs between June and August, when
some institutions offer courses, with a two-week winter break taking
place in December and January.
Search: The Studyinfo website is the official source for information on Finland’s degree programs.
The Study in Finland website also links to the admission webpages for the 13 universities, as well as all 23 UAS.
Apply: Applying to Finnish higher education programs
takes place either through a joint application or a separate
application. Applications for bachelor’s degree programs are primarily
completed through a joint application. Students should always check with
the program to which they are applying to ensure they are applying in
the correct way.
With a joint application, students use one application to apply to up
to six study programs, placing the programs in order of preference on
the application form. The six options may include degree programs from
one or several different institutions.
Some programs may require students to apply through a separate
application, though this is not common at the bachelor’s degree level,
and there is no limit on the number of programs a student can apply to.
Separate applications are typically submitted either through Studyinfo
or an institution’s own website.
Steps to Applying through a Joint Application:
The universities will instruct students about the type of document needed to verify their upcoming graduation. For example, institutions often accept an official academic transcript as an official statement of upcoming graduation.
Deadlines: For fall admission, there are two
application periods. The first period typically runs for two weeks
beginning in early January, and the second runs for two weeks beginning
in the middle of March. Dates are adjusted annually. If seeking
admission to UAS bachelor’s degree programs, most students apply during
the first period in January.
If applying during the first period, a copy of the high school
diploma or official statement of upcoming graduation must be submitted
to the higher education institutions by early February. Student
selection results are published in late June, and students have
approximately two weeks to accept an offer of admission.
For spring admission, there is only one application period that
typically runs from early- to mid-September. Required certificates must
be submitted by the end of September. Shortly following that date,
student selection results will be published, and students have until
early December to accept. Again, all deadlines are updated annually.
If all places are not filled during the primary application rounds, a
supplementary application round is held. For fall admission, this takes
place between July and August, and for spring it happens between
November and December.
Application Fees: Universities and universities of applied sciences do not require application fees.
Admission Requirements: Student selection is usually
based either on grades, an entrance exam, or a combination of the two.
Students can learn about entry requirements and eligibility criteria by
reading program descriptions on the Studyinfo website. Students can also find this information on the institutions’ admission websites.
In most cases, students are eligible to apply for bachelor’s degree
programs in Finland if they have a high school completion certificate
(e.g., a US high school diploma), which would allow them to apply to a
college or university within that country. Programs also recognize the
International Baccalaureate (IB) diploma.
Generally, applicants must have already completed high school for a
copy of their diploma to reach the relevant university by the
application deadline. For universities of applied sciences, the
qualification will be sent to the admission office of the UAS marked as
the first choice on the application form. That institution will
determine the applicant’s eligibility for all UAS programs selected.
Note that universities and universities of applied sciences
provisionally admit students who apply and have not yet graduated. Once
available and prior to enrollment, these students are asked to submit a
copy of their diploma.
Entrance Examinations: The entrance examination
process is primarily a domestic system and used as part of student
admission when applying to bachelor’s degree programs. though some
universities and UAS institutions are moving away from this process.
International students should check with the individual programs to see
if entrance examinations are being used. In some cases, institutions may
require SAT subject tests in lieu of an entrance examination.
Many universities of applied sciences cooperate in the design and
administration of entrance examinations, meaning that a student will
take one examination and the results will be shared with multiple
institutions. Exam types vary by field of study. In some cases, a
student is invited to take the entrance examination of his or her
highest ranked institution, with the results transferred to cooperating
degree programs. If institutions require separate entrance examinations,
a student must sit for all the necessary exams to be considered for
Some entrance exams are offered only in Finland, while others may be offered abroad through the Finnish Network for International Programmes
(FINNIPS). Students will be able to access a list of countries where
entrance examinations will be held at the time of applying. Some
entrance examinations include multiple phases, with only some applicants
continuing after each phase of the process.
Upon Acceptance: After the application and any
required entrance exams have been completed, the university will process
the student’s application and make a final admission decision. Results
are usually announced by the end of June.
If accepted, students will receive an official letter of admission
from the university or UAS. They must follow the steps provided by the
institution to confirm their placement.
As soon as a student has received the official letter of admission,
they should start making arrangements to study and live in Finland.
“Finland’s student culture is unlike any I’ve seen. Growing
up in the US I always had a picture in my head of what university would
be like. In Finland the opportunities to be out and about with not only
your classmates, but with students from all over the country are
endless. There are always different events going on and clubs and
associations for every interest under the sun.”
—Oksana Mitchell, Maryland, Aalto University, School of Business, Mikkeli Campus
Tuition and Fees: Non-European Union (EU)/European
Economic Area (EEA) students applying to an Englishtaught bachelor’s
degree program are required to pay tuition. Fees range from 4,000 to
11,000 euros, depending on the program. Students should confirm details
about tuition or scholarships with the university to which they are
applying. Tuition exemptions do exist. For example, fees may be waived
if a student is an EU/EEA citizen, a citizen of Switzerland, or is
related to an EU/EEA citizen. Visit the Studyinfo website for more information.
Each university and UAS has its own student union. At universities,
students are required to pay an annual student union fee. Currently the
fees range from 100 to 140 euros. Student union membership is optional
at universities of applied sciences. Students who join a local student
union receive a card they can use to access several benefits. Student
unions often organize services like student housing or tutoring, and
routinely plan sports events or cultural excursions.
Finnish higher education institutions offer scholarship options for
gifted non-EU/EEA students who are admitted to fee-charging degree
programs. Often based on academic performance, these scholarships may
include full or partial fee waivers or performance-based refunds.
Typically, students apply for scholarships at the same time they apply
Housing: Students are encouraged to inquire about
housing options directly from the institution where they will be
studying. Housing organizations work closely with the institutions to
provide on-campus housing, which is offered widely, but many students
live in local flats. These apartments, which have been designed for
students, are located near campus and are generally easily accessible
via public transportation.
The Finnish Association of Student Housing Organisations (SOA) maintains a list of SOA members that provide student apartments.
Choosing student housing through the local student housing foundation
is often the most cost-effective option. The average monthly rent for a
single room in a shared student flat ranges from approximately 160 to
400 euros per month, and typically includes internet, electricity, and
water. Single apartments or family flats are also available, but the
rent is higher. Monthly living expenses are around 600 euros, depending
on where a student is studying. Costs are typically higher in the
Helsinki metropolitan area and other large cities.
There may be long waiting lists for student flats, especially in the
autumn term when many new students start their studies. Students should
apply for housing well in advance of their arrival to Finland.
Visas and Other Permits: US citizens do not need to
obtain a visa for visits or studies lasting less than 90 days, but their
passport must be valid for a minimum of three months after the trip.
Therefore, a US citizen would not need a visa to travel to Finland to
take an entrance examination.
When staying in Finland for a longer period of time, for example to
pursue a degree program, non-EU/EEA citizens need a student residence
permit. A student residence permit is a long-term temporary permit
issued by the Finnish Immigration Service that is typically granted for
two years at a time. In order to apply for the residence permit,
students will need a valid passport and an official admission letter.
Additionally, students have to show that they have enough funding to
cover the cost of their studies and living expenses. Valid health
insurance is also required. Detailed information on the health insurance
requirement and residence permits for non-EU/EEA nationals can be found
on the Finnish Immigration Service website.
“Keep in mind that if at first you feel isolated or homesick,
Finns really are extremely considerate people. Don’t be discouraged by
the lack of small talk, or the occasional silence. Finns are good at
knowing when it’s necessary to speak and when not to, which is something
I took some time getting used to.”
Part-time employment during the academic year is allowed on a student
residence permit if the work is practical training required by the
degree, or does not exceed 25 hours a week. Outside the academic terms,
such as during summer and winter break, students may work unlimited
hours. However, students who don’t speak Finnish or Swedish may have
difficulty finding a job.
Non-EU/EEA students who lived in Finland on a student residence
permit can apply for an extended residence permit for up to a year after
graduation to search for work. Students must apply for this extended
residence permit before their valid student residence permit expires. If
a graduate finds a job, they can then apply for a new residence permit
based on their employment.
Advice from the Field: Use the Steps to Finland checklist.
Universities and universities of applied sciences are currently
considering changes to the admission process for many bachelor’s degree
programs. Check the StudyInfo website for updates.