How to study in France as cheaply as possible if you are not on a scholarship

Thinking about heading to France for higher education, or simply for a semester or two abroad?

Well, you are in for the experience of a lifetime! France, with its rich religious and cultural heritage, is one of the most sought-after destinations for study abroad students.

Yet, given the French joie de vivre approach to life, juggling your studies and pursuing the finer things in life, like good food and art, may take a toll on your limited student budget, especially if you are not on a scholarship program and have limited financial aid.

After all, French cities like Paris can be pricey when it comes to accommodation and living costs.

That being said, there’s no need to bid au revoir to your French education dreams just yet.

It is still possible to study in La Belle France without burning a hole in your wallet! Read on to find out how!

#1: Directly enroll in a French institute of higher learning

Whether you plan to study in France for a summer, a semester, an entire school year, or throughout your university education, directly enrolling in a French educational institute of your choice is an excellent way to save money!

By doing so, you circumvent third-party providers who specialize in facilitating foreign student enrollment at French educational institutes, as well as their subsequent fees.

That said, having some knowledge in French could open more doors in terms of direct enrolment options, especially if you plan on studying for an entire academic year. In such instances, you may have to take a standardized French proficiency test (depending on institute) to apply. For those of you looking to study in France for graduate school and if you get accepted into one of France’s Grandes Écoles like the École Polytechnique (for science and engineering) and the École Normale Supérieure (for humanities), you may even benefit from a cost-of-living stipend upon acceptance and enrollment.

Alternatively, you can explore the study abroad options for English speakers in various French educational institutes or universities, particularly if you only plan on studying for a semester or a summer.

If you are already studying at a university in Singapore, check out the study abroad office at your respective school to see if they already have exchange programs to France in place. That said, exchange programs via this route can be more expensive than the direct enrollment route.

#2: Seek help for rental costs

Did you know that, as an international student in France, you can obtain help from the state to pay for housing rent? Even if you have just arrived in France, you could qualify!  This rental grant is also known as an Aide personnalisée au logement (APL) — although many people usually refer to it the CAF after the group which processes such applications. The CAF is a monthly sum which varies based on your income and the type of housing you are paying for.  

To determine precisely what benefits you are eligible for, check out the Caisse d’allocations familiales (CAF) website (in French, with information available in English as well), where you can ascertain what you could claim with an online calculator for which you will require particular information, such as your income (if any) for the past two years.

Subsequently, you can apply for funding online and download the mobile app to monitor your application’s status and when you can receive the first tranche of payments.

Notably, the CAF has a range of videos on topics educating international students on what to do to qualify for the benefits and how they calculate the level of benefits they can receive.

#3: Eat at student cafeterias

If you are studying in France on a budget, then you would not want to miss out on relatively cheaper meals at student cafeterias. For just around 4 to 5 euros, you may be able to get a small starter, a main course and a dessert in other words, it’s possible to enjoy a hot meal with a menu that changes daily. The quality of food would likely not disappoint; you are living in the land of delicious cuisine after all. There are also places like fast food restaurants in various French cities that provide student meal deals, so be sure to carry proof that you are a student when traveling around.

#4: Leverage transportation discounts or cheaper travel options

Train ticket prices in France can break the bank, especially if you plan to travel around a lot. Nonetheless, if you are between the ages of 12 and 27, you qualify for a Carte Avantage Jeune discount card that costs 49 euros for the entire year, and ensures that you can enjoy a discount of 30 percent off all high-speed and intercité trains. Even if you only want to visit nearby towns from where you are studying, you can still obtain cheaper discount cards for regional TER train lines.

Another relatively affordable travel option in France would be covoiturage (carpooling). For example, you can check out local company Blablacar and find others who are planning the same travel route as you and who may have space in their car to accommodate you along the way!

#5: Work part-time jobs

As a foreign student in France, you are legally permitted to work while studying in France, regardless of nationality. Students who are not nationals of the European Union (EU) must have a student resident permit to qualify for legal part-time work.  Thus, you can supplement your income and mitigate the costs of studying in France.

According to French law, foreign students can work up to964 hours per year, and whether workers are students or not, they can enjoy a statutory minimum wage, known as the SMIC(salaire minimum interprofessionnel de croissance) or guaranteed minimum wage). Having said that, a guaranteed minimum wage is usually gross, and you have to minus off the compulsory social security contributions to calculate your actual earnings.

While France isn’t the cheapest country in Europe, it does not mean that you cannot study in France on a shoestring budget. If you do some research, you will find that the country offers various benefits and programs for students, such as lower tuition fees if you directly enroll into educational institutes. Do not let a limited budget hinder you from pursuing your educational aspirations in France!


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