Study Abroad in France: Planning and Budgeting for Your Overseas Education


Marisa Fasciano
Content Specialist
Marisa is a communications consultant based in New York with a background in social research, diversity education, and nonprofit development.  She has lived and traveled abroad extensively… Read more

Whether you are strolling along the banks of the Seine, cycling through the fields of Provence or taking a study break on the French Riviera, you’ll have no regrets about choosing to study abroad in France. 

The country is the 6th most popular in the world for international study, with more than 350,000 students flocking to the country in 2020 according to student data monitor Project Atlas. It’s not surprising, given France’s mix of history, culture and personality, as well as the fact that it hosts some of the most prestigious universities in Europe. 

Thinking about moving to France for your higher education? This guide will help. We discuss some of the best places to study abroad; discuss key requirements and visas, tuition fees and scholarships; answer how much it costs to live in France; and look at how you can compare money transfer options to make sure you can send money abroad safely and affordably. 

Where Can I Study Abroad in France?


The top draw for foreign students is by far the capital city of Paris, which can’t be beat for its sheer quantity of inspirational attractions. With over two million people, Paris supports a wide range of academic institutions, so you can find study abroad programs for almost any major in both French and English. Fashion, art history, international relations, literature and political science are some of the most popular areas of study.

Well-regarded universities in Paris include the Institute d’Etudes Politiques (aka Sciences Po), which specialises in the humanities and social sciences and has a student body that is almost half international, and the Université Paris-Sorbonne, which ranks especially high for its modern language programmes.


France’s third largest city of Lyon also attracts a large share of foreign students. Perched at the confluence of the Rhône and Saône rivers, and with an enchanting medieval center that gets lit up at night, it’s one of the most beautiful cities in France. Since it’s less touristy than Paris, you’ll find more opportunities to immerse yourself in the French language.

Students in Lyon enjoy a high quality of life, partly because they’re in the gastronomic capital of France, with a lower cost of living than Paris. The city contains Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon, ranked 5th among France’s institutions of higher education, as well as four other reputable universities.

Other places to study abroad in France

Other popular study abroad destinations in France include Versailles; Creteil; Lille; Toulouse; Nice, which experienced the biggest recent jump in foreign students; and Grenoble, which L'Etudiant magazine named the best student city in 2016.

Each of these places offers a unique slice of charm and joie de vivre, so wherever you choose to study you’re likely to come out ahead. However, in addition to dreaming about the finer aspects of French living, you’ll need to consider some more practical matters, like living expenses.

Lyon France.jpg

How Can I Apply to Study Abroad in France?

Applying for higher education in France differs depending on a number of factors, including your nationality, the country where you received your secondary/high school education, your country of residence and the year of the degree programme you wish to apply for. 

The prospect of moving to France to study might appear daunting, but it doesn’t need to be. French universities are welcoming to international students, and are there to help if you need more information. However, below are a few things you should keep in mind. 

Where to Apply

While EU-based students can apply for a French university just like any other French student, those outside the system will need to apply through the Etudes en France platform, supplied by higher education organisation Campus France. Helpfully, you’ll also be able to apply for your student visa in the same way (see the section on this below). 

Deadlines and the documents needed to apply will depend on the university, degree type and when in the year you are applying. Because this information varies based on a number of factors, it’s best to check on the Campus France website. 


It goes without saying that you’ll get by easier in France if you know some of the lingo. However, not all courses of study and in France will require you to know your chats from your charcuteries. For example, the American University of Paris teaches courses in English from the French capital. 

Having said that, some courses of study will require proof of French language proficiency, which you can obtain through completion of a French Studies diploma. For English-taught courses, you may be required to complete a similar proficiency test, such as via the International English Language Testing System. 

Health Insurance

If you’re planning to study in France, bear in mind that you will need health insurance. Depending on your age, country of origin and degree, you may be eligible for France’s national health insurance plan, but if this isn’t open you can always go for a private provider. 

How Can I Obtain a Visa to Study in France? 

European students are exempt, but if you are a non-European student planning to study in France you will need to obtain a visa. To do so, you’ll need to apply via your local French consulate or online through Campus France.

To apply for a visa, you’ll need to be over 18 and have the certificate of enrolment for the course or university you are attending, plus valid ID. The visa you need will depend on how long you are staying and include: 

  • Schengen short-stay student visa: for studies shorter than three months.
  • Temporary long-stay visa: three to six months.
  • Long-stay visa: longer than six months.

If you are planning to stay for longer than a year you’ll also need to apply for a residency permit. You’ll also need this if you want to work at any point during your studies. Also, within a month of arriving in France, you need to register at the French immigration office and have a medical exam to validate your visa. 

How Much Does it Cost to Live in France? 

As a global economic leader, France – and especially Paris – ranks among the most expensive places to live, so it’s important to budget accordingly. Online opinions vary, but depending on your lifestyle and where you choose to live, you can expect to spend anywhere between €800-1,200 per month. This is in addition to tuition fees, which for public universities can be as low as €170 a year, but for private universities and business schools can cost thousands of euros annually.

France is a member of the European Union and uses the euro. Our currency converter tool will help you find the up-to-date interbank exchange rate between your chosen currency and the euro. Bear in mind though that this tool doesn’t cover additional money transfer fees, which we discuss below. 

Finding the Cheapest Way to Transfer Money Abroad

There are a variety of international money transfer specialists that can help you send funds to France both cheaply and conveniently through online platforms. They typically offer lower fees and better exchange rates than banks. 

Transferring $1,000 to France would leave you with over €800 (the exact amount varies depending on which provider you use). 

Take advantage of our comparison tool to find the best provider for your needs. Because more euros saved means more euros for fresh croissants, French movies and Parisian cafés.

Parts of this guide have been written with the assistance of ChatGPT, with edits being made by a human editor. 

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