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Frequently Asked Questions

Application procedure

Q : I won’t have the grades for my last semester in time for the submission deadline. Can I complete my file once it’s submitted ?
A : You can’t add documents to your file after the submission deadline. However, if your application goes on to the second step, you should bring the missing documents to your interview.

Q : Which language can I use in my application ?
A : The application documents may be in English or in French.

Q : Which English level is required to apply ?
A : There is no formal requirement, the jury will evaluate your command of scientific English and biological vocabulary during the interview. If you hold an English language certificate, a C1 level should be on the safe side.

Q : Can I apply for an Eiffel scholarship ?
A : Unfortunately no, Eiffel scholarships are geared towards engineering/technology students and our Master’s degree is too fundamental to apply.

Q : I need a letter of acceptance early for my scholarship application. Can you provide this ?
A : Unfortunately no. You will receive an acknowledgement of your application after the application deadline, and you will be notified that your application has been accepted or rejected as soon as the jury has come to a decision. If you haven’t been notified yet, it means that the jury hasn’t decided, so we can’t guarantee your acceptance at this stage.

Q : Here’s my CV, I’d like to know if I’m eligible for the programme.
A : The short answer : we don’t have the time and resources required to assess CVs sent outside the application procedure.

Longer version : there are far too many higher education systems and diplomas for us to know, and we can’t give you a personalised answer in advance. Here are some guidelines to help you evaluate your eligibility :
- the applicant should hold a degree in life sciences or in another scientific discipline while having demonstrated interest for the life sciences [1],
- two years of post-secondary education (120 ECTS in the European system) are required to apply for L3,
- a three-year diploma (180 ECTS, Licence or 3-year Bachelor) is required to apply for M1,
- a four-year diploma (240 ECTS, M1 or 4-year Bachelor) is required to apply for M2,
- some of our programmes have more specific requirements, which are listed on the corresponding pages : Q-Life scholarships, programme Médecine/Sciences, double diplôme AgroParisTech-ENS.
The degrees listed here are required at the time of registration, i.e. next september. Applications can be made while the degree is still in preparation. In this case, acceptance is contingent upon the actual obtainment of the required degree.

We are open to atypical profiles, so if you meet the relevant qualifications in terms of years of study/course credits, you may apply even if your curriculum isn’t straightforward. You may also apply at a level lower than the one to which you are eligible if your projects warrant it. All this should be described and justified in your application letter.

Q : Is a research experience necessary to apply ?
A : A research experience is a plus for all applications. While not formally mandatory, a laboratory internship [2] is expected for all Master applicants ; its absence should be justified by specific circumstances [3].

Q : I can apply for M2, will I have more chances of success if I apply for M1 ?
A : Both levels of admission are extremely competitive, and choosing the lower level will not necessarily improve your chances.

Reasons to apply for M1 instead of M2 include (but are not limited to) :
- if you’re willing to take the more generalist M1 courses to ensure that your basic knowledge is solid enough before taking the more advanced M2 courses,
- if you’re planning to switch majors and want to acquire a solid basis in a new discipline,
- if you want to study biology disciplines outside your current major, either in order to develop a multidisciplinary project or to complement your biological culture before fully committing to your major.
This choice, and the way it articulates with your project, should be clearly stated in your application letter.

Q : Can I apply through the Campus France website ? Or via the French Embassy in my country ?
A : No, applications have to go through our dedicated platforms, which are listed under the Venir étudier/Prospective students menu at the top of this page.

General information

Q : What is the DENS ?
A : DENS stands for Diplôme de l’ENS, or ENS Diploma. We have a whole page on the subject.

Q : What is a "normalien" ? A "mastérien" ? What’s the difference between "normalien élève" and "normalien étudiant" ? What is a "normalien boursier", an "étudiant boursier" ?
A : This is a difficult one, so bear with us...
- Normaliens are students who enlist for the 3-year DENS on top of their Licence and/or Masters’s degree. Master’s students who don’t enlist for the DENS are called mastériens. Students who join the Biology Department at L3 level are required to enlist for the DENS, and are therefore normaliens. Students who join at M1 level may become normaliens or mastériens [4]. Students who join at M2 level become mastériens [5].
- OK, that was easy, so here’s more : normaliens come in two flavours. Those who joined through the BCPST competition become French civil servants in training, they commit to working for the French public service for ten years and in return they get a salary during their studies. They are called normaliens élèves. University students who joined through the application file/interview process are called normaliens étudiants.
- Not lost yet ? Étudiants, be they mastériens or normaliens (but not élèves), can also be boursiers. Boursier simply refers to someone who holds a fellowship ("bourse" in French). We offer a few dedicated fellowships for our students : M/S, SI, Q-Life, but there are others.

Now you’re officially confused, but don’t worry : no matter what their status is, they all take the same great courses, and they all get the same dedication from our amazing teaching staff.

Q : What do L3, M1, M2 mean ?
A : In the French university system, the three-year Licence (equivalent to a bachelor’s degree) is followed by a two-year Master [6].
L3 is the third year of Licence, and the third year of university studies. The first year of Master (fourth year of university studies) is called M1 and the second year — you guessed it — is called M2.

Q : In which language are the courses given ?
A : This depends on the level.
- At L3 level, most courses are given in French, with a few in English.
- At M1 level, some courses are in English, some are normally in French but switch to English as soon as it is required (i.e. if there is one non-French speaker among the audience).
- At M2 level, courses are in English.

To summarise : command of French is not required for Master students (although it may be useful outside the classroom). English is required at all levels.

Q : How much are the tuition fees ?
A : Academic Year tuition fees for a Master’s degree are typically around 250€ (it was 261,10€ in 2017-2018).
At the time of registration, students must also matriculate with the French Social Security, which provides health insurance (217€ in 2017-2018).
On top of this, normaliens also pay tuition fees for the DENS (210€ in 2017-2018).

Q : Does the ENS offer accommodation ?
A : Normaliens can apply for a student’s room at the ENS. Unfortunately, we aren’t able to guarantee housing for mastériens.

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[1Attested at least in part by the applicant having taken some Biology courses.

[2At least one month long.

[3For example medical studies only allowing hospital internships.

[4More specifically, "regular" M1 applicants, M/S students, "Double diplôme" students and International Selection students become normaliens, while M1 Q-Life scholars become mastériens.

[5Normaliens who joined in L3 or M1 remain normaliens when they reach M2.

[6The two years are normally required to complete the Master’s degree, although holders of a 4-year degree may apply directly for the second year.