How to Study in Switzerland for International Students (4 Steps)

Switzerland is a southern European country famous for its cheese, chocolate, and of course, towering alps. A multi-linguistic country, it’s a place where you can converse in either German, Italian, French, or Romansh.

As the country that tops the list when it comes to general well-being, Switzerland is praised for its conducive living environment. Factoring this with the nation’s advanced educational system, Switzerland has become a preferred destination among many foreign students. In this article, we will be looking at how international students can study in Switzerland.


Study in Switzerland for International Students

There are many things that you need to prepare to be able to study abroad in Switzerland. Here, we will outline the basic steps and go into deeper details later in this article:

  • The first and the most important step is knowing the cost of studying in Switzerland and being able to finance your education. You can lower the cost by attending affordable universities and getting scholarships. Also, you can fund your studies by working while studying and saving up your own money.
  • The next step is meeting the requirements set by Swiss universities. There are many things that Swiss universities require, so you need to plan things in advance.
  • Then, you will need to apply following the admission procedure.
  • Next, you will need to get a student visa.

1. Financing Your Studies in Switzerland

Compared to other European countries, Switzerland offers lower tuition fees since most of its universities are publicly funded. On average, a bachelor’s degree would cost you about $19,574 (CHF 18,500) annually. However, some schools only cost $5,291 a year, while some may charge as much as $25,394 (CHF 24,000).

Masters students usually have to pay $3,174 to $13,755 (CHF 3,000 to 13,000) although some MBA programs cost an average of $25,394 (CHF 24,000).

Doctorate programs are cheaper, as some universities only charge $159 (CHF 150) a year. These students, however, are required to pay a doctoral tax of $1,270 (CHF 1,200) at the end of their studies.

As for the cost of living, a foreign student may need to spend about $1,124 to $1,528 (CHF 1,062 to 1,444) a month.

As stated earlier, you will need to look into your options of paying for the education or lowering the cost by getting scholarships or attending affordable universities in Switzerland. I highly recommend you to look up information regarding Switzerland scholarships.

2. Meeting General Application Requirements of Swiss Universities

The next step to studying in Switzerland for international students is to complete the application requirements stated below:

General Language Requirements (Undergraduate)

As mentioned, multiple languages are spoken in Switzerland. Depending on the school, you can enroll in a program taught in either French, German, or English. To be admitted, you need to show language proficiency through the following exams:

  • German: TestDaF, DSH, OSD, or Telc
  • French: DELF or DALF
  • English: IELTS or TOEFL

Such is the case with the University of Basel, where German is the primary medium of instruction for undergraduate courses. As such, applicants need to possess a C1 certification from the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFRL).

At the University of Zurich, German is also used to teach all bachelor’s degrees. It also requires a CEFRL certification of C1, which is equivalent to the following German proficiency exams:

  • New Goethe Certificate C1
  • Goethe Certificate C2: Grosses Deutsches Sprachdiplom
  • Goethe Institut Zentrale Oberstufenprüfung
  • Goethe Institut Kleines Deutsches Sprachdiplom
  • Goethe Institut Grosses Deutsches Sprachdiplom Deutsche Sprachprüfung für den Hochschulzugang ausländischer Studienbewerber an Deutsche Universitäten, result categories 3 and 2
  • Deutsches Sprachdiplom der Kultusministerkonferenz (KMK), level II
  • telc Deutsch C1 Hochschule certificate
  • TestDaF with an average result of TDN 4 and at least TDN 3 in all partial examinations
  • Österreichisches Sprachdiplom, Oberstufe Deutsch, level C1
  • Österreichisches Sprachdiplom, Wirtschaftssprache Deutsch, level C2

Although most programs are taught in German, some schools also offer classes in English. A good example is the University of Basel, where you need to accomplish any of the following proficiency tests:

  • IELTS = band 6
  • TOEFL PBT = 550
  • TOEFL CBT = 215
  • TOEFL iBT = 80
  • Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE)
  • Cambridge Certificate in Advanced English (CAE)
  • Cambridge Business English Certificate Higher (BEC Higher)
  • Cambridge First Certificate in English (FCE)

Another school that requires a different kind of language proficiency is the University of Lausanne. As a French-speaking school, applicants need to take a French exam before registering for a Bachelor’s program.

General Language Requirements (Graduate)

Compared to bachelor’s degrees, postgraduate degrees are taught in the English language. Each university has a different set of language requirements, so you should check the admission portal for more details.

The Università Della Svizzera Italiana, for example, is an Italian-speaking university where English programs are taught. It usually has higher proficiency score requirements, which are:

  • IELTS = band 7
  • TOEFL iBT = 100
  • CEFRL = C1
  • Cambridge English = C1 Advanced (Grade C or above)

Although knowledge in Italian or French is optional since the program is taught in English, students are encouraged to take such classes. After all, the university provides tutorial classes free of charge.

The same can be said with the University of Neuchâtel, a French-speaking institution that also offers English-taught programs. It has laxer language requirements, as it does not require IELTS or TOEFL exams for admission. The university, however, advises its students to have a good command of English (equivalent to a CEFRL B2 score or IELTS band of 5.5).

You should definitely need to meet the language requirements to be able to study in Switzerland as an international student.

Application Requirements (Undergraduate)

As with most countries, Swiss universities require a certificate of secondary education for admission. If your diploma does not meet the standards, you may have to take supplementary courses or an entrance exam. You may be even subjected to an interview as needed.

At schools such as the University of Lausanne, grades are also factored in during the admission process. For example, Afghans and Indonesians need to have a 70% grade while South Africans need to have 60%.

Since requirement grades vary depending on nationality, it’s best to check the details on your university website.

Application Requirements (Graduate)

To apply for Swiss post-graduate degrees, you need to submit all of these necessary documents:

  • Completed application form
  • High school and/or baccalaureate diploma (plus Master’s diploma for Ph.D. applicants)
  • Transcript of records from all the universities you have attended
  • Proof of language proficiency, as mentioned above
  • Proof of identity
  • Curriculum vitae
  • 2 pcs. Passport photos

In some universities, an applicant may need to submit a personal essay or motivation letter. A recommendation later will also help, but it is not mandatory, in some programs at the University of Neuchâtel.

Ph.D. applicants may also need to secure a letter from a faculty member who has agreed to supervise his/her research.

Since post-graduate applicants need to submit a variety of documents, always visit your university website for a comprehensive list of requirements.

3. Apply to Swiss Universities following their Application Procedure

Here are the general deadline schedules for foreign applicants:


Swiss universities have two terms: Fall and Spring. As such, the deadline would depend on your term of choice so you need to ask your school about this.

Generally, the application period for the fall semester ranges from December to April. Meanwhile, you have May to November to apply for the spring semester.

Due to the length of time needed for visa processing, schools such as the University of Lausanne advise applicants to submit their documents at least two months before the established deadline.

With that being said, you need to hand in your application by the end of February so you can study during the fall semester. If not, you can start in Spring, as long as you follow its May application deadline.

Application fees range from $53 to $264 (CHF 50 to 250).


As for post-graduate applicants, intake cycles usually differ. With that being said, you need to check your university portal for application dates and deadlines.

Take the case of the University of Neuchâtel, where you need to submit your application by April to be able to start in September.

Meanwhile, at the Università Della Svizzera Italiana, intake starts mid-November and ends by August. International students, however, are advised to submit their papers by May due to the lengthy visa issuance process.

Application fees usually cost about $106 (CHF 100).

4. Apply for a Student Visa

This is the easiest step for international students to study in Switzerland. First of all, you already have the most important documents, which is proof of university registration. Second, you can ask the university that you’ve been admitted to for help, and they will definitely guide you through the process.

To apply for a student visa/residence permit, the Swiss government will require you to submit the following documents:

  • Valid passport or identity card
  • 2 passport photographs
  • Accomplished application form
  • Proof of university registration
  • Proof of residential address
  • Evident of sufficient funds

This will cost you about $71 (CHF 67).


Switzerland boasts of world-class universities with tuition fees that are lowered compared to its European contemporaries. Given its high standard of living and low crime rate, Switzerland is a picturesque place for any student who wishes to study abroad.


I hope that this article was helpful. If you are interested, visit the Europe Scholarships Page.