ETH Zurich - MIT Exchange for Courses 2, 4, and 6

ETH (Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule) Zürich dates back to the year 1855, when the founders of modern-day Switzerland created it as a center of innovation and knowledge.

At ETH Zurich, students discover an ideal environment for independent thinking, and researchers enter a climate that inspires top performance. Situated in the heart of Europe, yet forging connections all over the world, ETH Zurich is pioneering effective solutions to the global challenges of today and tomorrow.


More Information on ETH Zurich

Freedom and individual responsibility, entrepreneurial spirit and open-mindedness: ETH Zurich stands on a bedrock of true Swiss values.

ETH Zurich is one of the leading international universities for technology and the natural sciences. It is well-known for its excellent education, ground-breaking fundamental research and for implementing its results directly into practice.

Founded in 1855, ETH Zurich hosts today around 25,000 students from over 120 countries, including 4500 doctoral students. To researchers, it offers an inspiring working environment; to students, a comprehensive education. Twenty-two Nobel Laureates have studied, taught or conducted research at ETH Zurich, underlining the excellent reputation of the university

Here is information on the ETH Exchange experience.

Here is more information about ETH generally.


MIT students on the exchange will be studying at ETH Zurich for the equivalent of MIT’s fall or spring semester.

Fall Semester Dates: Early September (including the two week intensive German course) to Mid-January (Session exams go into Mid-February)

  • *Exams take place from mid-December until mid-February. You will be able to arrange to take exams at a distance, but, should an exam be in February, you will need to take it while working on your MIT classes.

Spring Semester Dates: Early February (including the two week intensive German course) to Mid-June (Sessions exams go into early September)

  • *Exams take place from mid-May to mid-June and Session exams take from the beginning of August to the beginning of September. You will be able to arrange to take exams at a distance, but, should an exam be in September, you may need to take it while working on your MIT classes.

We recommend verifying start and end dates directly with ETH Zurich: ETH Zurich Academic Schedule.


Exchange for Course 2, 4, or 6 majors. Applicants for the exchange must:

  • Have a GPA of 4.3 or above
  • Be in good academic standing
  • Be in good judicial standing
  • Be up to date with the Communication Requirement
  • Be up to date with HASS courses

Contact MISTI if you have questions about your particular situation.

This exchange is based in departments 2, 4, and 6. This exchange will allow up to 8 MIT undergraduate students to study at ETH Zurich for an equivalent of one semester every year.

  1. Complete your application for the exchange through the MISTI Portal, including academic recommendation.
  2. Once your application is complete, it will be reviewed by MISTI and your department. You may be invited to a ~30 minute informal interview. Following the interview, you will receive a decision on your application and be given two weeks to confirm your space on the program.

MIT students will be taking courses in English.

MISTI requires all students to take a pre-semester two-week intensive German course. Find more details here

ETH has offerings in Mechanical Engineering, EE, CS, Architecture, and German, at both the Bachelor and Master levels (provided you meet the prerequisites).

Because you are applying to a particular department at ETH Zurich, two-thirds of your course credits (e.g. 16 out of 24 ECTS) should be in this department (exceptions possible in interdisciplinary study programs). 1 ECTS is equivalent to approx. 30 working hours per semester (including self-study). Exchange students must obtain a minimum of 20 ECTS per semester (language courses not included).

There are limited offerings in the Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences. We recommend using the previous year’s course catalog ( to establish your study plan - the final course catalog is not available yet when you apply for an exchange.

Transfer Credit

Information on the transfer credit process at MIT can be found here.

Courses at ETH offer three exam types: semester performances, end-of-semester exams, and session exams. Session exams are taken several months after the end of the semester (in August following spring and in February following fall), which can present challenges MIT students who have since departed Switzerland.

  • For end-of-semester exams (Jan/June exams), students may take some as distance exams or make arrangements to take them early before leaving Zurich.
  • For semester performances, these exams mostly take the form of integrated performance assessments during the semester or performance assessments which take place outside of the normal semester schedule.
  • For session exams (which are in February [fall] and August [spring]), distance exams are preferred so that professors don’t have to create two exams that are fair and equal; thus, there will be a long gap between the end of the semester and the exam.  Students will have to plan accordingly to take exams remotely.

The ETH course catalog (here) outlines the exam type for each course under the “performance assessment” tab. Navigate to this section, then choose "type," and see if it’s an end of semester or session exam.

Below you'll find information about how to arrange session distance exams, as told to us by Emily (Course 6, ETH Spring 2019). Please consult the ETH students exchange office and exams office for up-to-date information and procedures.

ETH's general guidelines for written session exams are that you can either take it as a distance exam at the same time as the exam in Zurich (with slight time adjustments allowed if the exam takes place in the middle of the night), or prepone it as an oral exam held at the end of the semester. While they also allow preponing as a written exam, nearly all professors will be unwilling to offer this because they would have to write a separate exam; it's only in very large classes with a large population of exchange students that professors allow this option. Regardless of the exam method, students must separately obtain approval from both the professors and from ETH in order to shift the exam. 

Here is more information from ETH about preponing exams. 

Process/timeline was as follows: 

  1. Beginning of semester: Ask professors if they allow distance exams. If a professor won't agree to it, there isn't much you can do about it, and you may choose to switch classes. ETH will require written approval from the professors (email is fine) to take a distance exam, so if you can get it earlier you won't need to worry about it later. 

  2. Early March/Early October: Attend ETH "Preponement and Distance Exams event". It gives a lot more detail on how exams work. ETH says that internships must be mandatory in order to consider them to be a valid reason for distance exams. MISTI and your department can provide you a letter stating this, upon your request.

  3. Early March/Early October: Register for all exams, even if you plan to take them as distance exams. 

  4. Early May/Early December: Once the exam schedule is released (first 2 weeks of May/beginning of December usually), you can initiate the request for distance exams (the process for oral exam preponement happens earlier). The first step is to submit the MIT letter, along with written approval from professors, to the exam office. At this point they'll also ask what time you'd like to take the exam: if the exam is outside regular business hours, they allow you to shift the exam to the first possible time the next working day (i.e. 2am -> 9am), but only if the professor agrees. Emily got verbal approval from her professors before submitting the request (it isn't necessary to have written approval until later). It takes a while to get approved, so it's a good idea to submit the request as soon as possible (i.e. get approval from professors and the MIT letter before the request system opens). 

  5. Mid-end of May/Early December: Once you get approval from the exams office to take the exams as distance exams, you need to set up a proctor for the exam, and get signatures from the proctor and your professors (this is when the professors have to sign to agree to any time shifts). For proctors, they prefer you to take the exam at your home university, but also allow you to take them at third-party test proctoring services, or for someone at your internship to proctor. Emily did have one professor who was very adamant about her taking it at MIT or another university that ETH had a partnership with, but when that proved not to be feasible he allowed her to use a third-party test proctoring service.  Since different professors have different preferences on these things, it's good to start the conversation early to make sure you're able to take the exam.

Students admitted to the program will continue to pay MIT tuition for the exchange semester and will pay all their living expenses locally for that semester.

A few months before departure, SFS and MISTI will share with the students and the most up-to-date budget for the participation on the Exchange based on an agreement with the host institution.

MIT financial aid is portable for this program. Admitted students who receive financial aid should make an appointment with the financial aid representative to whom they are assigned to discuss the details.

Please be aware that living costs in Switzerland are very high, and especially so in Zurich. The Immigration Authorities identify a sum of CHF 1750.- per month as necessary to support oneself financially. The actual amount needed may be slightly lower; this will depend largely on your monthly rent. Here is more information regarding living in Zurich.


If interested, you can also apply for additional scholarships.


MIT students live in dorms provided through ETH Zurich. Dorms can be up to 30 minutes away from campus.

Students have communal kitchens to cook in with their dorm mates.

Students will receive information on registering for accommodation in a separate email after their official acceptance. They should read this information and apply online within the set deadlines. Students may insert housing preferences in the comment field during their housing application, but there are no guarantees preferences will be accommodated.

Please note:
- Rental periods are fixed and in spring there are two options:

Fall semester: September 1st – late January

Spring semester:

1. beginning of February – late June for students who know that they have an accepted reason to prepone their exams or take them as distance exams
2. beginning of February – late August

Depending on your nationality, you may need a visa for Switzerland. The Student Exchange Office of ETH Zurich provides assistance with visa applications. More details will be sent to you once you have been admitted for an exchange at ETH Zurich. Do not enter Switzerland with a tourist visa: these allow you to travel to Switzerland as a tourist, but not to study there!

Find your country of citizenship on this website to determine if you need a visa (

US passport holders need a visa to reside in Switzerland for more than 90 days.

Note: passport scans uploaded during the application must be valid for at least three months beyond the official end of the semester, incl. session examinations.

Here you can find the 4 Swiss visa desks in the US, where students have to arrange the pick-up of their Swiss visa (long-term stay over 90 days; no visa fee) after you received the visa authorization from ETH. The pick-up can be arranged via registered mail (most likely from the New York Consulate). In the very rare case, if you would need to travel to pick up the Swiss visa from New York - depending on your financial aid package, it can cover some of these travel costs.

To obtain it, you must register with the appropriate authority within 14 days of your arrival in Switzerland. You will receive more information about this procedure from the ETH Zurich admission letter.

In addition, health insurance is mandatory in Switzerland (and must be purchased on top of the insurance MISTI provides). ETH Zurich does not provide any health insurance. Usually, oversea students cannot be exempted and will have to take out a Swiss health insurance of their choice. Special offers for exchange students are available and information will be provided upon arrival at ETH Zurich. This cost is also reflected in financial aid packages.


Meet Your Program Manager

Headshot of Justin Leahey

Get in touch with Justin Leahey, Managing Director for MIT-Germany, or with Amanda Tragert, MIT-Germany Program Assistant, for more information.