EPFL Reflection

Reflection, Thoughts, and Recommendations Based on my Time at EPFL

Preamble 📜

I earned a B.Sc. in Computer Science from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL) in 2022 after three years of study. This page presents general thoughts, remarks, and recommendations for prospective students interested in pursuing Computer Science at EPFL.

Originally, my intention was to review EPFL’s undergraduate Computer Science program. However, due to a bachelor’s reform in 2023, almost all the courses I took have undergone changes in one way or another. As a result, this page provides insights into the overall undergraduate Computer Science experience at EPFL.

Summary 📝

Below is an overview of the topics I’ll cover on this page. Use it as a guide to navigate directly to the subjects that interest you.

What is EPFL?
Pros: EPFL’s Standout Features
Cons: Considerations at EPFL
Final Thoughts

Reflection ✨

In the following section, I share my reflections on my time at EPFL and offer tips for prospective students. If you’d like additional information about the school, feel free to email me.

What is EPFL?

EPFL, officially known as École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in French, is a public engineering institution in Switzerland. It serves as the Francophone counterpart to ETH Zürich, albeit with a somewhat lesser international profile.

The EPFL Campus in Lausanne

A view of the EPFL campus in Lausanne, situated near Lake Geneva (credit: Wikipedia)

In the field of Computer Science, EPFL scores particularly well, hosting several noteworthy individuals and being renowned for research in multiple areas such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, data science, computer vision, networking, and cybersecurity. Consequently, it holds a reputable position in international rankings (though it’s worth noting that rankings aren’t everything).

As a publicly funded institution, EPFL is a highly sought-after destination for French-speaking Swiss high school students, who are given immediate access preference over international students. Additionally, it attracts many individuals from France due to its proximity and relatively straightforward admission process for those holding the French baccalaureate.

Therefore, EPFL relies on a rigorous propedeutics filtering system during the first year to reduce the number of students by more than 50%. Those who pass are eligible to embark on a two-year bachelor program, where the Computer Science curriculum truly begins. However, failing twice leads to expulsion from the school. This nurtures a distinctive school culture, where a blend of hard work and collaboration creates a unique atmosphere on campus.

The university boasts a diverse community of international students, with representation from over 120 nationalities. If you’re a prospective international student interested in studying Computer Science, French, and discovering Switzerland, you can learn more about the admission process here.


Already having basic notions of French is recommended if you want to make the most of your experience; however, you’ll quickly improve once you arrive.

My Opinion

In the following section, I offer a non-exhaustive list of pros and cons related to studying Computer Science at EPFL. I will progressively expand this page as I think of more noteworthy aspects.

Pros: EPFL’s Standout Features

In retrospect after graduating, here are some notable positive highlights from my experience at EPFL. The elements provided below are not in any special order.

Exceptional Value for the Price

EPFL’s annual tuition, as of 2024, is CHF 1,580, which is about USD 1,800 at the time of writing. This is more than 30 times cheaper than equivalent colleges in the United States. Although Switzerland is known for its high cost of living, chances are you’ll still end up saving a substantial amount of money and avoid having to accumulate debt during your time there.

While EPFL may not offer an education on par with institutions like CMU, MIT, or Stanford, the quality-to-price ratio is certainly much more favorable. Furthermore, you can always pursue a shorter master’s degree there after completing your bachelor’s, which is exactly what I did.

A Wonderful Location

Although the CS buildings themselves are rather old and not of any particular interest, EPFL is just a few footsteps away from Lake Geneva. There, you can take a boat to visit the Lavaux area with its picturesque vineyards…

The Lavaux area The Lavaux region, a 30 minute drive from EPFL (credit: Wikipedia)

…or venture further East to ski in the Swiss Alps! Keep in mind that everything is very close to each other in Europe.

Zermatt Zermatt, the signature ski resort of Switzerland, in Valais (credit: Loïc Lagarde)

I’m not suggesting that you should choose your university based on location alone, but having such beautiful surroundings is really nice and allows you to relax your mind after a heavy semester.


The Computer Science curriculum at EPFL features digital circuit design courses that pave the way for several high-quality Computer Architecture courses. Perhaps surprisingly, ECE (Electrical Computer Engineering) is not a distinct department at EPFL but is seamlessly integrated into the CS department.

Upon arriving at CMU, where most bachelor students skip ECE courses, I realized the added value of understanding Computer Architecture for effective systems programming. Grasping the CPU’s execution model—encompassing multi-core processing, superscalar, out-of-order execution, processor consistency, and cache coherance, is crucial for developing high-performance systems.

I am truly grateful for having taken these classes, especially the Multiprocessor Architecture course taught by Prof. Babak Falsafi, where we finally covered modern Computer Architecture and got a glimpse of its current research areas.

Cons: Considerations at EPFL

Since joining CMU, I can highlight three points worth considering about EPFL, particularly relevant for an international audience.

No Internship Culture

Most bachelor students do not intern at all during their three-year degree. First of all, the academic calendar doesn’t really allow for it, with less than two months of real vacation in the summer, and also, it’s not part of the culture.

In contrast, students in the United States grind Leetcode and interviews as soon as they get accepted. Students at EPFL, and more broadly in Europe, generally enjoy their holidays. There are fewer tech opportunities here, and unfortunately, hiring after university often relies on connections rather than past experience.

Note that I am not praising America’s internship culture either, especially the Leetcode grind, but it does make you more industry-ready than EPFL’s approach.

Undergraduate Research is Limited

Getting involved in undergraduate research, like finding internships, can be difficult. In my three years, I’ve noticed that PhD students and professors often don’t respond to emails about research opportunities. Although it’s not expected for students to explore academia until their master’s degree, it’s unfortunate that accessing research opportunities during undergrad is so challenging.

Securing research opportunities can be seen as finding summer internships—not impossible. But you’ll have to be ready to step off the usual path and build strong connections with faculty.

Doubts on Academic Integrity

At EPFL, you encounter some brilliant minds. Yet, after three years, I observed more people taking “shortcuts” than expected. Many rely on public repositories of past solutions for heavy assistance, and sharing code or collaborating on online exams is quite common.

It stands in contrast to CMU, where people are also supportive, but they mostly do so without blatantly breaking academic rules (i.e., plagiarism, cheating, etc.).

Final Thoughts

Despite these considerations, I still believe EPFL is an excellent university to pursue a bachelor’s in Computer Science. As mentioned before, it’s challenging to find such a high-quality international school with affordable tuition, situated in a country with a quality of life like that in Switzerland.

Additionally, you’ll have the opportunity to learn French and immerse yourself in a culture that is quite different from what you can find in the United States!