If you have been planning your trip and your Project to study in France for a while, it is very likely that you already have a clear idea of the universities you would like to apply to or perhaps you have been already admitted into a university. If you are still at the beginning of your search, I hope this post can guide you in answering the question of where to study in France.
The choice of university or school will depend on numerous factors; first, it will depend on your field of study, choosing an institute to follow French language lessons is not quite the same as choosing a university for a masters or a PHD. It will also depend on your specialty and the level you are applying to (bachelors, masters, PHD…)
In the end, I consider that this is a very personal choice and should not be taken lightly because your professional and personal future relies on this decision. Studying abroad is a project that takes time to prepare and requires a thorough research to make an informed decision.
In my case, my search started in 2009 and more officially in the beginning of 2010. I started my MBA on September 2011, just to give you an idea of the time it requires. The reason why it took a bit more time for me is that France was not my first choice, and before choosing my MBA I spent lots of time looking for masters available in other European countries.
My first, and obvious choice, was Spain which was easier in terms of language. Some friends had already studied there so I already had some references about the universities and masters. France never crossed my mind because before coming to France my French was limited to the not-so-famous phrase “voulez-vous coucher avec moi?” (For french people -girls-, listening to this phrase is like when I say I’m Colombian and people bring Pablo Escobar).
However, as time went by, I decided as a personal challenge to look for masters in English in other European countries to get to know a different culture and, why not, learning a new language in the process. I ended up applying to several European universities and was finally admitted in England and France, my decision was finally inclined towards France because it was the perfect opportunity to learn French. The French government helped a bit in making my mind by granting me a scholarship ? (more about this in this post).
I cannot choose for you guys, but can give some advices from my own experience:
Anticipation is key. For searching the program you want to study, I’d suggest starting at least a year or a year and a half in advance, this will allow you to take the necessary time to choose a suitable program, and, perhaps the most important, it will give you enough time to apply for any available scholarships. Bear in mind that the academic calendar in France starts in September to calculate the time you will need to start your search.
Broaden your search. Most of foreign students focus their search in Paris, this was at least my case since in Colombia best universities are concentrated in the 2 or 3 biggest cities. This is not the case in France, and there are many universities and schools that enjoy a good reputation all around the country. It is very important to know this since costs of living in Paris are much higher than in smaller cities.
Campus France search tool is a good start, you will find a very comprehensive catalogue in this website with programs at all levels.
Google is your best friend. Once you have a shortlist of universities or schools, do a thorough research about them and the programs you would like to apply, look for the reputation of the program, the rankings, and the alumni profiles. A quick LinkedIn search will give you an idea of the positions and the industries where the alumni work after graduation.
A final piece of advice: persist. Even though sometimes it may seem complicated, once in France you will realize that all the time spent, and the effort were worth it, and this will be a rich and unique experience both personally and professionally.
If you want to share your experience or have any questions, please leave it in the comments below!