Brief Background: Campus France, an agency of the French government, was created with the purpose of promoting French higher education abroad. The Campus France USA branch serves as the primary contact for US students and international students residing in the US seeking guidance about admission to French institutions and pre-visa applications. Measures have been taken in recent years to simplify visa procedures, increase student housing options, and boost the number and diversity of programs available to international students in France.
Each year, about 17,000 US students choose to study in France, and 50 percent pursue programs that last longer than 90 days. In all, French institutions enroll more than 340,000 international students, who make up about 12 percent of the country’s total student population.
Undergraduate degrees from France are offered at 74 public universities and 250 grandes écoles. Grandes écoles are uniquely French institutions and typically offer five-year programs that are equivalent to a master’s degree, although some offer three-year bachelor’s degrees. A list of grandes écoles can be found on the website of the Conférence des Grandes Écoles while a complete list of French universities is available through Campus France, or through the Conference of University Presidents’website.
Technical and professional programs—in fields such as music, gastronomy, visual arts, design, fashion, and nursing—are offered at approximately 500 specialized schools (écoles spécialisées). The credential awarded is specific to each institution.
An undergraduate bachelor’s degree is known as a licence, and can be completed in three years. Exceptions exist, often for business courses and highly technical degrees, such as architecture, which can take four years to finish. The licence entails a course of study that is strictly defined, so a French degree provides a very clear indication of what a student has studied and is thereby capable of doing.
While programs are mainly taught in French and require French proficiency, more than 2,000 undergraduate and graduate programs are offered in English, across a variety of fields.
International students who obtain French degrees in technical fields—for example medicine, law, architecture, and engineering—may have to complete additional courses/exams and meet other requirements in order to be able to practice outside of France.
Good to Know: An undergraduate bachelor’s degree is known as a licence, and can be completed in three years. Exceptions exist, often for business courses and highly technical degrees, such as architecture, which can take four years to finish. The licence entails a course of study that is strictly defined, so a French degree provides a very clear indication of what a student has studied and is thereby capable of doing.
While programs are mainly taught in French and require French proficiency, about 1,000 undergraduate and graduate programs are offered in English, across a variety of fields.
International students who obtain French degrees in technical fields—for example medicine, law, architecture, and engineering—may have to complete additional courses/exams and meet other requirements to be able to practice outside of France.
Academic Calendar: Depending on the institution and program, the academic year begins in September or October and ends in May or June, with a two-week break at the end of the calendar year for Christmas and the New Year. The two semesters are divided by a short break following final examinations at the end of the first semester, usually in February or March. The summer vacation runs more than two months and always includes July and August.
Search: Program-specific information can be found on individual institutions’ websites, and through Campus France USA’s searchable database, which includes a directory of licence degree programs. The Campus France website also allows students to search for programs taught in English.
Apply: International students who wish to enroll as a first-year undergraduate in France apply via Campus France, with few exceptions. Campus France charges an application fee of 190 US dollars. Campus France not only streamlines the process of applying to multiple institutions but also offers applicants advice about degree programs and tips on how students can improve their chance of acceptance at their top choice institutions. Students are assigned a representative who they can contact by email or by phone.
The admission applications process has just changed. Hereafter is the an updated version of the new process:
Students can apply to up to three programs, offered by the same university or by different universities. Admission examinations will simultaneously start in March by all three selected choices at the same time. All institutions will have to respond—either accepted or refused—to candidates by May 10. All candidates will have to accept one admission offer by May 17. If denied admission to all three of their choices, a student can apply again the following year.
“Traveling is one of my favorite things to do, and not only can I say that I have studied in France (in French) but once you’re in Europe, you can travel to other countries very easily and inexpensively.”
—Zoey Ginsberg, Texas, Universite Nice Sophia Antipolis
Deadlines: The applications season typically starts in mid-November and ends in early February. The exact dates are usually released in November.
Application Fees: Public universities do not charge application fees.
The Campus France application fee of US$190 covers the application process for international students entering the first year of an undergraduate degree program.
Admission Requirements:Students must meet the equivalent requirements of the French Baccalaureate. A high school diploma, the IB diploma, or an equivalent (such as a GED) is required, as are official high school transcripts. It is recommended, though not mandatory, that students submit scores from AP exams, the SAT, or other tests. While these additional performance indicators are not officially recognized by French institutions, they add value to admission applications.
There is no standardized official equivalency recognition of AP, IB, or other non-European Union qualifications. Each institution has full discretion to admit applicants and determine the level at which they will be admitted.
Diplomas and transcripts must be translated into French by a certified translation service (such as one recommended by the American Translators Association) and uploaded as part of the Campus France application.
A curriculum vitae and goals statement in French are required. In general, universities are looking for information not addressed in the other required application documents, such as motivation to study in France, interests and strengths, and academic and career goals. Recommendation letters and internship documents can improve the chances of being admitted. Although submitting at least one letter of recommendation is strongly advised, it is not mandatory.
International students who wish to apply to a Frenchlanguage undergraduate program must take the TCF-DAP (Test de Connaissance du Français – Demande d’Admission Préalable) to demonstrate language proficiency. The required level is B2 of the European Framework for Languages.
Upon Acceptance: A student’s application is either accepted or rejected; French institutions do not utilize wait lists. Once accepted, students will be asked to confirm their intent to enroll. Students then receive a pre-inscription acceptance letter from Campus France that will allow them to apply for a student visa.
Upon arrival in France, students must finalize course registration with the institution’s registration office.
Tuition and Fees: The cost of studying in France is among the lowest in the world. For both French and foreign students, the government subsidizes two-thirds of the tuition fees in higher public institutions.
For 2019-2020, the tuition fees will be 2,770 euros per year for a licence.
However, candidates are invited to check with their prospective institutions in which they intend to apply to verify their effective tuition fee for the upcoming school year, or if they have any exemption options. Annual tuition rates at private institutions—including grandes écoles and specialized schools, such as schools of business and management—are generally higher, with annual tuition ranging from 3,000 to 10,000 euros.
Some scholarship options are available for US students. Students are advised to check directly with their prospective institutions for loan options.
Housing: Students are encouraged to secure housing upon being accepted to a university and well before they arrive in France. Contact the institution’s office for incoming international students or student association. Both should be able to provide a list of housing options along with tips on how to get started.
The French Baccalaureate has three subject streams: sciences, social sciences, and literary. As a result, French universities are used to seeing candidates “present as” one of these tracts. If a student knows early on that they want to apply to a French university, selecting courses aligned with one of these subject streams is advisable.
Campus France also has housing resources.
Many students choose to live in student dormitories. Dormitories for students enrolled in public universities are managed by regional student-service agencies known as CROUS (Centre régional des œuvres universitaires et scolaires). As CROUS dorms are the most affordable form of student housing, they are highly sought after. Rent varies from 120 euros to 350 euros per month.
There are also a number of privately-run dormitories that house students. These residences are also highly sought after and typically more expensive, their rent ranging between 300 and 700 euros per month depending on location.
International students are eligible for government assistance for housing expenses. Short-term accommodations, including homestays with host families, are another option.
Visas and Other Permits: International students who plan to study for more than 90 days in France must apply for a student visa. Students should first log on to France-Visas, the official website for visa applications. The “visa wizard” will assist students in preparing their applications and includes a list of required documents. Students will then apply in person through their local VFS visa center. Students are advised to take into account possible processing delays when scheduling their visa appointments. It may take up to three weeks after the visa appointment to receive the student visa. The appointment must take place no more than 90 days before departure.
International undergraduates pursuing their first year of study are eligible for a long-stay visa with residency permit (VLS-TS – Visa Long Séjour Valant Titre de Séjour), which must be validated once they arrive in the country by the French Office of Immigration and Integration.
For information about visa fees, students and counselors should consult the France-Visas website.
Registration to social security is free and mandatory for all students in France. Students will need to register online in order to cover most of their health care expenses throughout their time in higher education. Students may choose to increase the amount of healthcare expenses that are reimbursed by taking out complementary health insurance, or mutuelle. Practical information about social security, health, and insurance is provided on the Campus France website. International students have the right to work while studying in France as long as they are enrolled in an institution that participates in the national student health care plan. US students must also hold a valid residency permit. The law allows students to work 964 hours in a given year, which corresponds to 60 percent of full-time employment for the year.
Advice from the Field: Campus France is available to respond to follow-up questions from counselors regarding student applications, but French institutions will respond only to requests from students. US counselors may contact Campus France at Washington@campusfrance.org. Include “NACAC counselors” in the subject line of the email.
Campus France USA’s Facebook page is another good source of information. France Alumni, a digital bilingual platform, was created to unite, inform, and guide professionals who have completed part of all of their studies in the French education system, and may also be a useful resource for prospective students looking to begin their studies.
Student support services vary across institutions. Should a student reach out to an institution or Campus France with inquiries, they should make note of the person with whom they were in touch to facilitate future communications.
Study of economics, social and political history, and the hard sciences, is popular at French institutions. Furthermore, graduates of French universities in fields strongly associated with France and French culture—such as gastronomy, hospitality, and fashion—may have a competitive advantage in related job markets.
Students who have a strong command of the French language will have an easier time transitioning to life in France both on and off campus, regardless of whether their program is taught in English.