I failed my exams (1st or 2nd attempt). What are my options?
As a first step, we recommend to go through this quick self-assessment to draw lessons from your situation and to take action if necessary.
You will also find some additional useful advice here
The Career Center runs a yearly information session at the beginning of the Spring semester on the options available to those who will leave EPFL following failure or withdrawal. Check our Memento to find when the next session is scheduled. As the session targets Bachelor students, it is run in French (you may want to check the French version of this page to see the slides of the last session).
If you failed on your first attempt, it is worth assessing your chances to succeed at your second attempt. Talk to the study advisor of your cohort and ask the coaches of your section for their opinion (don’t forget to bring your transcripts).
To better prepare for your second attempt, why not have a look at the pages put together by the Student Affairs service?
Reminder: the requirements for passing exams at EPFL are listed here
Choosing another University
While most other university fields may seem easier and require less workload than that at EPFL, keep in mind that the requirements in terms of working autonomy and personal accountability will be more-or-less the same.
You should also be aware that admission rules at other Swiss universities for holders of a foreign secondary-school diploma may differ from those at EPFL. You may thus be asked to take a language exam (French or German) or even the ECUS (Examen Complémentaire des Universités Suisses) when enrolling. The ECUS takes place in August, but the registration deadline is mid-June.
Choosing a similar educational path
At EPFL, a lot of importance is given to maths and physics in the early years, regardless of the choice of Major. This can often be a reason for failure or withdrawal. Students in this situation could be interested in enrolling in a curriculum similar to the one they started at EPFL but with less focus on basic sciences. For instance:
- Coming from Environmental Science and Engineering (SIE), the Bachelor in Geosciences and Environment at the University of Lausanne could be an interesting alternative.
- Coming from Life Sciences (SV), the Bachelor in Biology at the University of Lausanne, that leads (among others) to a Master in Medical Biology or to a Master in Molecular Life Sciences.
- Coming from Chemistry (CGC), the Bachelor in Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Lausanne.
Apart from the University of Lausanne, which has specific rules for transfers from EPFL with a special enrollment deadline on September 30th, Swiss universities have their standard enrollment deadline for the next academic year set on April 30th. It is therefore worthwhile to anticipate a possible failure by registering before that date in order to avoid the risk of losing one year, should you have to leave EPFL.
If you have already acquired ECTS credits while at EPFL, we recommend that you contact the Registrar’s Office or the person in charge of admissions at your university of choice. S/he will be able to inform you about which credits can be recognized.
In case of definitive failure
Students in definitive failure cannot enroll in the exact same field at another Swiss university. They may, however, enroll in another field but they could have to satisfy particular conditions, depending on the field and the university.
The possibility remains to read the same subject at a foreign university. It would be wise, though, to reassess your interests and aptitudes for the subject matter beforehand. The Centre régional d’Orientation Scolaire et Professionnelle in Lausanne is one place you can go to for individual advice.
More information on University education in Switzerland
Choosing a University of Applied Sciences (UAS)
Choosing a UAS education will allow you to study in the same field as at EPFL, even in case of definitive failure, or in many other fields. Apart from physics and mathematics, all EPFL Bachelor programs have an equivalent program in at least one of the UASes. For technical fields, the main differences with an EPFL education are:
- More focus on the main subject matter (Computer science, Electrical engineering, etc.) than on basic sciences.
- A more structured work environment (smaller classes, continuous monitoring, closer supervision, etc.)
- A professionalising Bachelor: you become an engineer or an architect in only three years.
Holders of a secondary-level certificate (Maturité, Baccalauréat, etc.) must usually do a one-year practical internship before joining a UAS. Contact your school of interest (link below) to get more information about internship requirements and for help in finding one.
If you have successfully passed your first year at EPFL, admission might be facilitated. Please find out directly from your prospective UAS school.
If you are interested in any other vocational or academic training in Switzerland, your best resource is www.orientation.ch, an official site that maintains a comprehensive, up-to-date list of all professions and training programs (unfortunately not available in English).