FAQ about International selection
École Normale Supérieure (ENS) is a higher education establishment for pre-doctoral and doctoral studies (graduate school) as well as a top-level research centre in France. ENS counts fifteen departments for education and research, spanning the main disciplines in humanities and sciences. It is the 1st French institution in many rankings.
ENS Paris is situated in the very heart of Paris, in the “Quartier Latin”, which has been known for centuries for its rich intellectual and cultural activity. It is a wonderful place to live and learn.
• Apply before your 26th birthday,
• Apply to ENS International selection for the first time,
• Having not lived in France more than 10 months during the year of the application and the year before.
• Justify you have validated at least one year of undergraduate studies in the year before the application
• Justify you have validated at least two years of undergraduate studies in a foreign university (outside France), on September 1st, after the final jury.
As an exception, the Director of ENS could authorize the application of a candidate whose academic background outside France is not standard.
• passport (for non-European candidates) or ID card (for European candidates)
• high school diploma
• university transcript
• letter of motivation ( 1 to 3 pages long, text of 12-point text in Times New Roman, 1.5 line spacing)
• In Arts&Humanities, your study project and possibly your research ( 1 to 3 pages long, see explanations below), including a bibliography (see more details below)
• 2 to 4 Email addresses of recommending teachers (with their phone number if possible) who will be contacted by ENS, in order to get a reference letter.
If incomplete, the application will not be examined.
Yes, your referees can choose their own format.
Academic disciplines offered through International selection in Sciences are: Biology, Chemistry, Earthscience, Computing science, Mathematics, Physics, Cognitive sciences. Candidates must select 1 major (mandatory) and 1 minor (optional).
Academic disciplines offered through International selection in Arts&Humanities are: Anthropology, Archeology, Classical studies (Greek, Latin), Cinema, Theater studies, History of Art, Musicology, Cognitive sciences, Economics, Political studies, Geography, History, History and Philosophy of Law, History and Philosophy of Sciences, Linguistics, Literature, Philosophy, Sociology. Candidates must select 1 discipline.
During the interview, the candidates must introduce themselves for a maximum of 10 minutes to present their background and academic and professional projects.
Then the jury asks them questions for 10 minutes.
The bibliography is a list of 10 books, including articles or literary works you have read and which turned out to be important in your intellectual career, three of them have to be in French.
The application essay should be no more than 3 pages long (i.e. 10000 characters). This is not a cover letter but a research project: it should address a well-defined topic and deal with a core issue, then develop a set of arguments and provide for a few hypotheses. The material the research project relies on (e.g. fieldwork, corpus, database, archives, etc.) has to be precisely described. The research project refers to an existing scientific literature while selecting a small range of relevant and informed references.
This presentation must be written in French for candidates in Arts and Humanities.
All your documents must be uploaded in the acount you create on the ENS application portal whose link is here.
Passport or ID card is not to be translated.
High school degree and university transcript must be in French or in English.
- International selection Arts & Humanities: Letter of motivation, study project and bibliography must be in French.
- International selection Sciences: letter of motivation and study project can be either in French or in English.
Each year, the international office receives around 1600 applications, but only 320 to 340 of them are complete with the eligibility criteria respected. Around 70 to 80 candidates are on the shortlist and come to Paris. 20 students are finally selected to become the scholarship holders of the international selection.
If you want to, you have to apply on our Web page (Application in March-April), on ENS’ Website. Admission by “concours Normalien étudiant” doesn’t award you with any grant, but you can prepare both a master and the DENS.
Some departments open applications to their master’s. Please visit their Webpage.
• a written test in French, related to the candidate's discipline
• an oral test with a panel of professors chosen in the candidate's discipline
• an interview about the candidate's academic background and application project, in front of a single panel
The oral tests are in French. The candidate may use English.
The tests can be taken by videoconference. They will be detailed later on on our Web page.
The oral tests in Sciences are:
• Oral test in your major (1h)
• Interview about your motivations and your personal scientific culture (30 minutes)
During the interview, the candidates must introduce themselves for a maximum of 10 minutes and present their background as well as their academic and professional projects.
Then the jury asks them questions during 10 to 15 minutes.
The interview varies between departments, but a scientific article is often proposed to the candidate as a base of the conversation and exchanges with the jury members coming from both disciplines chosen by the candidate (Major and Minor).
Any personal document is forbidden.
Dictionary is not allowed.
Jury members are French or foreign teachers, teaching at ENS or in any other university. The jury list is displayed on the ENS’ Website at the beginning of the tests.
Visas and Campus France
For candidates needing a visa to enter France, they can come with a tourist visa or apply for a visa “concours”.
Site of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Warning: Some countries (see list above) are under Campus France procedure for the visa “concours” application and their citizens MUST open a Pastel account on Campus France Website:
www.campusfrance.org >Préparer son séjour >S’inscrire >Pays à procédure CEF, for the citizens of 43 following countries: Algeria, Argentina, Benin, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroun, Chile, China, Colombia, Comoros, Congo Brazzaville, Democratic republic of Congo, Egypt, South Korea, Kuwait, Ivory Coast, USA, Gabon, Guinea, Haïti, India, Indonesia, Iran, Japan, Lebanon, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Maurice, Mexico, Nigeria, Peru, Russia, Senegal, Singapore, Taiwan, Tunisia, Togo, Turkey, Vietnam.
Some of those countries have specific programs and procedures for the application on Campus France. For more informations, contact SAE by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 01 44 32 28 01.
If admitted, candidates needing a visa must get a long stay visa i.e “visa long séjour pour études”. This application can be done through Campus France.
No, campus France doesn’t forward any application to the international selection. But you need a pastel account on Campus France to apply for a visa to come for the tests.
ENS will not cover your travel expenses, except in exceptional cases. But you can apply for a partial reimbursement if you are a non-European citizen. ENS offers each student tickets to have breakfast and lunch at the School restaurant, as well as tickets for underground and bus.
The grant for students selected through International selection is € 1 000 a month, during 36 months.
In public universities in France, tuition fees are paid by the State. But you have to pay registration fees.
Registration fees are evaluated each year. They are € 243 to register in Master’s, € 210 to register to the ENS graduate degree, and € 91 for the CVEC (Contribution à la vie étudiante, i.e.cotisation to students life) for the academic year.
Warning: Registration fees for non-European students are currently being reformed. They will be known within a few months. They will be published on this website.
In Paris, the living cost is around € 800 per month. The cost for food is € 280 to 300 per month.
ENS is allowed to credit only a French bank account with this sum. That’s the reason why you must open a French bank account. You open it in September, once arrived in Paris.
- International selection Arts & Humanities: In Arts and Humanities, courses are in French.
- International selection Sciences: In Sciences, they are either in French or in English, depending on the department.
- International selection Arts & Humanities: Candidates in Humanities must read and write French easily enough to be able to understand courses and tests (B1 level), butwe don't require any official langauge degree.
- International selection Sciences: In Sciences, no level is officially required.
Yes, ENS offers French lessons throughout the year, at different levels.
An intensive French course is also offered to foreign students at the very beginning of September.
Admitted through International selection, your schooling lasts 3 years, allowing you to validate a Masters (M1+M2) and 72 additional ECTS in order to obtain ENS graduate degree.
Students selected through international selection are allowed to ask up to 2 gap years during their studies (either annual or biannual). During the gap year (or semester), the grant is not paid.
The department of your major chooses your tutor.
You are given his/her name in August or September.
Yes, if selected by international selection, you must enroll in the ENS graduate Degree. To obtain this degree, you have to earn 72 ECTS (credits) in addition to the credits you validate for your master. You have 3 years to get these credits.
Yes, if selected, you must enroll in a Master’s (sometimes, you enroll first in the last undergraduate year, depending on the level of recruitment), either at ENS or in one of our partner universities.
Student admitted through International selection don’t receive a salary but a monthly grant, don’t become civil servant. Therefore they are not subjected to the ten-year commitment.
Timetable varies depending on each student. The average volume of class hours is between 10 and 20 hours per week. To this volume, you must add courses at ENS.
Rooms are furnished.
During the tests week, linen, pillow, blanket and towel are provided. Pan, plate, glass and cutlery are provided as well and candidates can cook their diner in shared kitchens.
If admitted, you can ask for a room (the rent is € 315 a month). It is furnished but will not be equipped with household linen.
During your 1st year, you are usually housed rue d’Ulm. During the 2 following years, your accommodation could be in 1 of the 3 campuses, either rue d’Ulm, or boulevard Jourdan or in Montrouge. Be aware you can use a joker in order to choose the location of your room, but if you have used all your jokers, you are not assured to get an accommodation for the 3d year.
Rooms are allocated by the general delegation i.e délégation générale (DG), a group of students.
Re-allocations are organised several times a year.
The dormitory is closed in August. Students must empty their room before the end of July (the deadline varies each year). They store their belongings, carefully packed in a storage room (trunks room i.e salle des malles) and settle again at the beginning of September. Therefore, no rent is debited in August.