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Off-Campus Study

ISEP at Université de Lausanne


Wilkommen and Bonjour in Switzerland!

Snow-covered Alpine peaks, geopolitical neutrality, high-tech watches, gourmet chocolate, yodeling mountaineers, and sophisticated banking are the Switzerland you know. However, ISEP’s Swiss institutions offer exciting academic and extracurricular opportunities to immerse yourself in the dynamic, youthful, and high-tech Switzerland that you have yet to discover. 

Situated in the French-speaking region of Switzerland, beautiful Lausanne sits next to one of Europe’s bluest Alpine lakes, offering students the opportunity to sail and ski. Lausanne is home to the International Olympic Committee and stakes its claim as the smallest city in the world to have a rapid transit system! The University offers strong programs in business, sciences, humanities, law, theology, and sport as well as French as a Foreign Language (EFLE) courses to exchange students.

This program is best for a student that is independent.  A student must be comfortable with advocating for themselves on campus and comfortable with the local language to thrive in this location. Please be aware that there may not be the same access to internet or amenities to which you may be accustomed.  Student services and especially class registration may not be at all similar to what is done at the College and may be difficult for some students to adjust.

Learn more about Lausanne here! Read the ISEP Country Handbook to learn more about visa requirements, educational system, and culture.

Program Type



Lausanne, Switzerland

Languages of Instruction

French - A minimum of 4-5 semesters of university-level French or the equivalent

Program Dates

Fall 2018: mid-September to End of January

Spring 2019: February to End of June

All dates are tentative and may change.  ISEP will alert all accepted students of final dates.


To be eligible to participate in this program, students must meet the following requirements:

  • Good academic and judicial standing during time of application AND time of participation in program
  • Undergraduates must have completed at least two semesters of study at Lake Forest College AND have junior status or higher before participation. 
  • At least 18 years of age by the program’s departure date. 
  • Be able to stay at the host program for the duration of the semester, including through the exam and travel periods
  • Minimum GPA of 2.75.
  • Option 1: Full year or semester enrollment in regular university courses 
    A minimum of 4-5 semesters of university-level French or the equivalent must be completed prior to the program.  
  • Option 2: Full year or semester language and culture courses at the École de Français Langue Étrangère (EFLE) 
    Note that the EFLE does not offer a beginner’s course in the full-time program. For beginners, students must enroll in the intensive French courses during the summer break. For enrollment in the full year or semester language and culture program, students must be able to start at an intermediate level.
  • Students must submit ISEP language proficiency report in application, even if native speaker


Students applying to ISEP must apply for an Exchange option (in any country) as a first choice but may apply to a Direct option as a back-up.  Direct options may have an additional cost.

ISEP Exchange chance of placement for US students is generally Limited.


Lausanne, which is in western Switzerland on Lake Geneva, is a business center and capital of its canton. It offers many shops, theaters and art galleries. Lausanne has frequent concerts and hosts the ballet troupe, Béjart Ballet Lausanne. Most of the university buildings are located in Dorigny, to the southwest of Lausanne, at an attractive, modern campus by the lake.


Founded in 1537 as a school of theology, Lausanne evolved into an academy and became a university in 1890.  The University offers strong programs in business, sciences, humanities, law, theology, and sport as well as French as a Foreign Language (EFLE) courses to exchange students.

ISEP participants may take Bachelor/master-level courses in all departments except medicine. Most courses at Lausanne are offered on a semester basis.


Full year or semester enrollment in regular university courses (French-language) 
Faculties of Biology and Medicine (biology); Commercial Studies(actuarial science, economics, political economy); Geosciences and Environment (geography, geology, geophysics); Law and criminal science (comparative, French, German, international, public, Swiss, Forensic science and criminology); Letters (ancient history, archaeology, art history, cinema, English, French, German, Greek, history, information science, Italian, Latin, linguistics, Oriental languages & civilization, philosophy, Russian, Spanish); Political and Social Sciences (anthropology, mass communication, political science, psychology, social science, sports sciences);Protestant Theology. School of French as a foreign language, Center for European Research, Swiss Institute of Comparative Law, Institute of Advanced Studies in Public Administration

French language and culture courses are offered in addition to regular classes during each semester for all levels. Contact hours per week: 6-8. 



Most Masters-level courses in business are offered in English. 



A 3-week (SM1 and SM2) or 6-week (SM1 only) pre-session intensive French language and culture program is available before for an additional cost for all levels (SM1) and for intermediate to advanced levels (SM2). 

The UNIL organizes intensive French courses during the summer break. For a detailed description of these French options, refer to the Opportunities for Exchange Students

For information regarding Courses: click here.

Here is the link to the University Home Page.


Studying at a Swiss University

Significant differences exist between European universities and their U.S. counterparts; In European universities, the structures of programs and majors vary considerably. Foreign students are placed differently than natives; thus, although ISEP students are able to take courses with regular Swiss students, their programs of study may be slightly different than those of their Swiss friends.

To complement lectures, professors sometimes prepare a bibliography of suggested readings on the lecture topics; it is a good idea to talk with the professors early to find out whether they might have these reading lists. Specific assigned readings or homework, as U.S. students know them, are uncommon; keeping up with general reading is your responsibility. It is advisable to tell your professors that you are a U.S. ISEP student and are not totally familiar with the Swiss educational system; most professors will be willing to advise and guide you in the first few weeks of adjustment.


Academic Environment and Teaching Style

Please understand that the academic system is quite different. Classes are usually lecture-based, instead of discussion or group work. Classes are often much larger than those found at Lake Forest College. Grades are based heavily, at times almost entirely, on one end-of-term exam, though some courses will also offer a midterm.  Professors are often more formal than those in the United States.

All courses/modules may have prerequisites.  Some departments may have limitations on numbers of courses that can be taken within or outside it.  Be aware of these limitations.

Can review the country handbooks for ISEP here as well:


ISEP Placement info: http://www.isep.org/Coordinators/us_placement_notes_english.asp


Please review country handbook for more information on the education system, grades, class hours, and classroom etiquette.


Courses are usually in the form of lectures and seminars. Swiss students usually take a majority of courses in their field of study with some flexibility within the field. They do not have the same general education requirements found in other higher education systems such as in the United States.

Students will also find that universities have modules. A module is a unit that is confined in respect of content and time and can consist of multiple courses, e.g. lecture and tutorial. Modules are structural components of study programs and generate a defined workload. For the calculation of a student’s workload, the ECTS-credit points are to be multiplied by the factor 30 (1 ECTS-credit point = 30 hours). The workload that is to be brought up in order to pass the module comprises all learning activities of the student, i.e. contact hours (actual taught course hours) and self-study hours. During the self-study hours the reading of relevant literature (reading assignments), the writing of term papers, and the preparation of oral presentations and/or exams are to be accomplished.

Registration and Course Selection

Registration will generally take place during the first few weeks of courses. Students are allowed to register in multiple facultés or departments in order to meet with their home institutions requirements. Each department will have different registration requirements and processes, so students will need to speak with individual departments to ensure they are registered for courses properly. Students may be able to register online for certain courses while other courses will require the student to speak with a department faculty member.

Exams and Grading

Grade averages between 5.5 and 6 are very rare; an average of a 6 is mostly impossible. In exams, quarter steps are usually used to indicate grades between integer grades: e.g., 5.25. To pass a year, this overall result needs to be sufficient. Sometimes further conditions need to be fulfilled, such as a maximum allowed a number of grades below four. At the university level, classes can often be repeated individually in case of an insufficient grade, so not the whole year or semester needs to be repeated.

Since education is the responsibility of the cantons (except for the federal universities), grading notations may differ depending on the region. In some regions, + and - are used to indicate marks below or above an integer. Sometimes the - is used to indicate a better grade if it stands after the grade and a lower grade if it stands before the grade (in which case - is a symbol for “bis” ‘to’ rather than ‘minus’), for example -5 is lower than 5 which is lower than 5- in that system. 

6 Excellent
5.5 Very good
5 Good
4.5 Satisfactory
4 Pass
3.5 Fail
3 Poor
2.5 Very poor
2 Extremely poor
1.5 Almost no performance
1 No performance
0 Absence without good cause 

Evaluation is based on written or oral exams, presentations, and works. In a typical exam, the average result will be somewhat above 4 with a variance between 0.5 and 1. This, of course, varies depending on the kind of exam, the tested class, the school level, the region, the teacher and other factors. Exams take place at the end of each semester. Students may have to register for examinations, so be sure to contact the departments about exam registration procedures.

Transfer of Credit

Students will be able to earn ECTS credits for courses. In the ECTS system, credits are allocated to course units according to the workload required to complete the course unit. The workload takes into account lectures, practical work, seminars, field work, private study, examinations, and other assessment activities. ECTS is thus based on a full student workload and not limited to contact hours only. In the ECTS system, 60 credits correspond to the workload of a full academic year of study and 30 credits to that of a semester (full-time studies). ECTS credits are relative rather than an absolute measure of student workload. They only specify how much of a year’s workload a course unit represents at the institution allocating the credits. ECTS credits ensure that the program will be reasonable in terms of workload during the period of study abroad.

A student must take 30 ECTS credits to earn 4 Lake Forest credits.

Credits will only be given for a course if the student has passed the evaluation. A written or oral exam will usually be administered at the end of the semester.

Course Approvals

Check to see if your department has pre-approved courses here. If not, don’t worry. You can work with your advisor.

Student Life

Founded in 1537 as a school of theology, Lausanne evolved into an academy and became a university in 1890. The physical education center of Dorigny offers multi-purpose sports rooms, physical training facilities, a stadium, and sports fields. Total enrollment: 11,500 (including 6,500 bachelor students, 2,300 master students, 1,600 PhD students and 2,300 international students). 



The UNIL Xchange Association (www.unil.ch/xchange) will contact you before your arrival in Switzerland to offer you a partnership; a UNIL student may pick you up at the airport or at Lausanne’s train station and bring you to your student residence. The Affaires socio-culturelles office will welcome and assist you in administrative and academic procedures. The Welcome Days for new students give general information about the university and information about the departments (faculties) is given out. The service d”orientation et conseil and the mobility advisors in each faculty will be at the service of the students who have difficulties in their studies.


International students have many opportunities to participate in extra-curricular activities at the University of Lausanne and the student organization Xchange (http://www.unil.ch/xchange) offers a lot of social and cultural activities (theater, music, skicamp, pub nights, meals, travel, etc.) Xchange also organizes a buddy program.

Housing and Meals

Single students are housed in residence halls or in off-campus rooms. A stipend to cover the cost of room and board is provided. 

Financial Information

For all approved programs for guaranteed financial aid transferability, students pay their Lake Forest College tuition plus a program fee. The program fee for a semester with the ISEP Exchange program includes orientation, on-site director, college fees, housing and a stipend to cover the equivalent of 19/meals per week.

Here is an estimated budget for the Fall 2018/Spring 2019 semester:

Budget Item


Lake Forest College Tuition


Program fee (estimated)

Note: Spring may have added cost


College Deposit (credit)


Total Expected Billed by Lake Forest College


ISEP Fee due on Stage 2 Application


College Deposit due on Acceptance (non-refundable, but shows as credit on bill for off-campus term)


ISEP-required health and repatriation insurance ($90/mo estimated)

Note: Some countries require national insurance. Check ISEP


Additional Meals


Estimated Airfare


Estimated Personal Expenses (passport, visas, immunizations, textbooks, supplies, personal expenses, additional national insurance, if required, travel insurance, additional travel etc.)


Total Out-of-Pocket Expenses






Tuition rates and program fees are subject to change each year, but this information was up-to-date as of January 2018. We will notify applicants, and update this page if the program fee or other estimates change.

Keep in mind that you may spend more or less in certain areas like personal expenses, travel, meals, or airfare, depending on exchange rates and your own spending habits. Classroom or lab fees are not included in this estimate, nor fees to enroll in courses at partner institutions, and will depend on your course registration choices.  

Don’t forget to apply for scholarships! A great listing can be found here.  

Do check your student account on My.Lakeforest for your aid awards, as much of this will go with you. If you want to compare your program to the cost of being on campus, those numbers can be found here: https://www.lakeforest.edu/admissions/tuition/fees.php

You can discuss with Financial Aid your specific aid package and your expected family contribution.