Studying in Switzerland when you have previously been educated abroad can be difficult. We are providing you with a step-by-step guide of questions you should be asking yourself in order to make an informed choice.
Initially, it makes sense to obtain the maximum amount of information and consider all options available to you. Refer to New Opportunities to find points of call which can support you in your decision-making process.
Three aspects should determine your decision: your interests, your job prospects in due course as well as practical matters such as the length and intensity of a course, documents, costs, language and travel.
Step 1 and 2 cover your interests, job prospects and course choice. Step 3 and 4 deal with logistical questions. Step 5 looks at the admissions process.
Step 1: Should I do a degree course?
Should I do a degree course or is there any other suitable training for me?
The Swiss education system has many particularities. There is a range of excellent training pathways which abroad might require you to complete a course at degree level. In Switzerland, you might be able to attend a university of applied sciences or do an apprenticeship instead. If you wish to train in Switzerland, you might therefore be having to take a new career path.
Find the information you need below:
Follow these questions to get you started:
1) Interests: What do I want to do?
Consider the following questions to find out what is the best pathway for you:
– What would I like to do following on from my degree?
– What topics am I interested in?
– What do I enjoy doing?
A degree takes a long time to complete. This means you should choose an area you are genuinely interested in. You will have to engage with the subject matter for a prolonged amount of time.
– Why do I enjoy these things?
– What am I good at? What are my strengths?
Write down several options.
Once you have found out what interests you, it is time to look into job opportunities in this field.
2) Job prospects: Will I find work in this field?
In each country there are professions which are particularly sought after and important for society (e.g. engineers and doctors are highly in demand in Egypt). The professions in demand in Switzerland might not be the same as in your country of origin.
If there are good job prospects in a particular field, it will be easier to find support for your training. This is especially the case if social services are currently contributing to your maintenance costs.
Bear in mind:
– What professions are on offer?
– What training will leave me with good prospects to find a job in Switzerland?
– What training is required for me to be doing the job I am interested in?
– What other experience will be required in this job?
Your local careers service can assist you with these questions.
Click here to get an insight into different fields and training pathways.
Are you interested in an apprenticeship? Great! Your local careers service and your adviser will be able to assist you.
Go to Step 2 if studying at a university or university of applied sciences appears to be the best choice for you.
Step 2: Choosing a course
Bear three things in mind if you choose to study for a degree
1. What subject do you wish to study?
2. Which is the higher education institution of your choice?
3. University or university of applied sciences?
Assemble a list of 4-5 subjects you could see yourself studying. The following questions might be helpful.
It might well be that the subject you have studied in your country does not exist in Switzerland. Try to think which skills this subject has equipped you with. In which areas are similar skills needed here?
– Which subjects appeal to you?
– What are the principal fields in the degree subject of your choice?
– What skills are you acquiring?
– Which subjects can be combined?
– Can the subject only be studied as a single major or will you be able to study minor subjects alongside?
Universities often allow you to choose a major and a minor subject. The minor subject can complement the major subject or cover other interests of yours.
You should also bear in mind:
– Can you study alongside your job?
– Can you study part-time?
– How many hours a week could you spend working?
Which higher education institution?
You will not be able to study every subject at all higher education institutions in Switzerland. Find out which institution offers the subjects that interest you.
Not every canton has a university of applied sciences, university or federal technical university (ETH/EPFL). Travelling to a different canton can be expensive and time-consuming. If you receive financial support from social services, you cannot simply move to another canton for your studies. If possible, make sure the university is close to your place of residence.
Degree courses at universities and federal technical universities are not designed like degree courses at universities of applied sciences.
Look into different training pathways and decide what works best for you.
Roughly speaking, this is how to distinguish the different higher education institutions: Do you want a strong practical component as part of your course? The university of applied sciences might be the right place for you. Do you like to engage with ideas and research? Look into universities. Federal technical universities (ETH/EPFL) offer theory and research in a technical or scientific field.
Admissions to higher education
Overview of recognised higher education institutions in Switzerland. NB: The Certificate of Advanced Studies (CAS) and the Master of Advanced Studies (MAS) do not constitute formal degrees, though these are offered at institutional level!
Step 3: Find out about entry requirements for a degree course
Your next step should be to learn more about the entry requirements for the institution and course of your choice. What have you already achieved? What will you still need in order to study on this programme?
Admissions at Undergraduate or Master’s level are far from identical. If you are applying for a course at a university of applied sciences, it is the department(s) responsible for your course which also oversees the admissions process.
Find out which entry requirements you can already meet and what you will still have to achieve. We recommend you make a list of all the requirements and tick those you can already meet. Our checklist can guide you in the process.
Let’s check the prerequisites you need to meet: documents and language requirements
Which documents do you need?
Find the information you need below
Which documents are required? (Transcripts, diploma, certificates etc.)
Draw up a list:
– Which documents are still missing?
– Who can issue these documents? (Universities? Swiss authorities? Another point of call?)
– Will you have to request documents from your country of origin?
What are the language requirements?
Find the information you need below:
– What language level are you expected to have for this degree course?
– Do you have a recognised certificate?
– How long will it take you to attain the right level?
– Is your language level sufficient to pursue your studies?
Step 4: Planning. How much time will it take? What will it cost to study?
When making the decision to study, you need to keep in mind whether you have the time and financial means to do so.
At this stage, you ought to discuss your plans with your adviser. Show them what you are planning to do.
Preparing for admissions and your course: How much time does it take?
Studying for a degree takes time and effort. Therefore, you will need to think ahead: How much time will it take to complete the course?
– How many hours a week do I need to set aside for my course?
– Which writing/research tasks need to be completed during the vacations?
– What are your circumstances?
– Are you free to decide how to spend your time? (Other commitments: work, family, classes etc.)
– How much time do you have available?
– Would you like to study full-time or part-time?
– What length of time can you dedicate to your studies?
Preparations as well as your time studying will be expensive. Make sure you get an idea of the costs involved.
Find the information you need below:
- Separately list expenses occurring in preparation for your studies and costs for the course itself.
- Calculate how much money you will need in preparation.
- Calculate how much money you will need during your course.
- Calculate what your sources of income will be. Which expenses are you eligible to have paid for by social services?
- Do you have alternative means of funding your studies?
- Which expenses are you unable to cover?
Ideally you have an overview of how you would like to fund the duration of your course.
Step 5: Decide whether studying is the right choice for you.
Now that you have all the information in front of you, assess whether the efforts in attaining a degree are worth it for you.
– Is it worth studying or is it too much effort?
– Do you have the time and financial means to study?
Remember: The Swiss education system has different training pathways, allowing for movement between them. You are able to decide after an apprenticeship to go on to a university or a university of applied sciences.
Step 6: Enrolment
You are well informed and have chosen a course.
Using the information you have obtained from the previous steps, you should now be able to plan the enrolment process:
– Complete the checklist.
– Decide when you would like to start studying. Make sure to observe deadlines for enrolment.
– Requirements: how does enrolment work? Will you have to get in touch with the institution of your choice before applying?
– Gather all your documents, get translations and photocopies.
– Two sets of eyes see more than one: get someone else to read through your portfolio! A mentor can give you a hand. The same goes for friends or experts working for a careers service.
– Make amendments to your checklist and print off the finalised version.
– Take your documents and the checklist to the admissions office or fill in the online form.
– Will you require any other documents? Will it require further action? Have information given to you in writing! (“Do you mind writing this down for me?”) This means you will retain the information and can ask someone for help if there is something you don’t understand.
– In case you still require documents, now is the time to get hold of them. The same goes for translations, tests, etc.
This all looks easy so far. But bear in mind that it can take some time, especially if you need to attend language classes or order documents.
We wish you every success!