ETH Zurich – Acceptance Rate, Ranking, Notable Alumni, and More

The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich can be thought of as the Swiss or European MIT. ETH Zurich has produced an impressive list of Nobel Prize winners among its graduates and faculty and, through its 150+ year history, has been the site of numerous breakthroughs and milestones

Given its central focus on science and technology, the school keeps apace with an ever-changing and increasingly globalized world.

Founded in 1855, the school has been an engine of Swiss industry by training and equipping the brightest and most innovative minds in science and technology. 

Continuing this tradition, ETH Zurich actively supports start-up companies and encourages partnerships with local businesses and organizations. Each year, students and professors showcase their research and its application to industry professionals at an annual event, the aptly named ETH Industry Day.

Located in one of the world’s largest financial centers and cultural hubs, the university connects students with myriad opportunities beyond the classroom and lab.

Without further ado, here is one of the most prestigious schools in the world.

ETH Zurich Acceptance Rate

ETH Zurich
Dennis Jarvis, ETH Zürich, CC BY-SA 2.0

The acceptance rate into ETH Zurich is 27%.

For context, this 1 in 4 acceptance rate is lower than almost all universities in the entire world. 

However, when put into context with, say, the Ivy League schools, ETH Zurich could be said to have a high acceptance rate. 

For context, Harvard has an acceptance rate of less than 7%, as do Yale and Princeton.

The acceptance rate for Swiss students vs international students does differ, however! We discuss that more in-depth later in the article.

ETH Zurich Ranking

For some time, ETH Zurich has proven itself to be one of the flagship schools for science and technology. Its premier status is echoed by prestigious ranking lists and publications across the internet. 

The US News & World Report, for example, ranks the school at #26 among global universities, #5 among global universities in Europe, and #1 in Switzerland. 

ETH Zurich boasts many internationally renowned programs among the top 20 worldwide, such as geoscience, mathematics, physics, biology and biochemistry, and engineering.

The QS World University Rankings affirms the status and quality of the school’s programs, placing 15 of the disciplines within the top 10. Earth & marine sciences, geology, and geophysics all sit at the top, at the #1 spot. These programs have held onto these tops for several years in a row. 

ETH Zurich as a whole was placed at #8 among global universities, due to its prolific and high-impact research activity, academic reputation, favorable student-faculty ratio, and international student ratio. 

Last, but certainly not least, QS ranked the school #17 in terms of postgraduate employability and an overall rating of 95.4.

These are numbers without context. The quality of an institution of higher education is not adequately captured by these lists and rankings. 

A look at the very people who make the institution, such as the students, faculty, and staff, will render a fuller picture. For that reason, we give an overview of ETH Zurich’s impressive list of alumni and their accomplishments below.

Notable Alumni

Dozens of famous architects, mathematicians, engineers, and scientists have graced the halls of ETH Zurich. For the sake of brevity, we will only present a handful of the many notable alumni who have placed the school on the map with their outstanding achievements.

Austrian-born orchestral conductor (yes, a professional musician on this list!), Carlos Kleiber, was voted “Greater Conductor of All Time” in a BBC poll. Kleiber studied chemistry at ETH Zurich until he decided to embark on a music career.

Other notable alumni include mathematician Georg Cantor, who developed Cantor’s Theorem, and Philippe Kahn, who is credited with creating the first cell phone camera and is a prolific author of numerous technology patents. 

ETH Zurich alum scientists have blazed trails in the other sciences as evidenced by the long list of Nobel Prize laureates who have studied here, such as German physicist Georg Bednorz, whose work in high-temperature in superconductivity won him the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1987.

While ETH Zurich is primarily noted for its science and mathematics programs, the school has produced innovators in architecture as well. Max Frisch was not only an accomplished architect, but he was also an award-winning playwright.

Because of its continued expansion and ever-increasing reputation, the eclectic list of ETH Zurich alumni will continue to grow.


The cost of attendance is an essential factor to consider when choosing a school, whether we are talking about an undergraduate or graduate program. Typically, international schools’ tuition and fee structure are two-tiered; international students pay higher fees than domestic students.

Thankfully, ETH Zurich has published the most recent cost of attendance. As of February 2021, the tuition for international students is 730 Swiss francs, or approximately $800. 

Living costs, including room, board, health insurance, public transportation, and sundry personal expenses, are an estimated 19,865 Swiss francs, or around $21,500 per student.

When comparing the total cost of attendance to other high-caliber schools, especially in the U.S., these price tags may not induce too much sticker shock. It is still a good idea to research financial aid options. 

ETH Zurich has very handily published a financial aid guide for international students. As a first resort, students should seek aid and scholarships from their home country. 

In general, non-Swiss students are eligible to apply for scholarships after having passed first-year exams. Along with an application, students are required to submit documents such as most recent tax returns, loan decisions, and scholarship decisions.

ETH Zurich Acceptance Rate for International Students & How to Get In

ETH Zurich
ETH-Bibliothek, ETH Zürich im Abendlicht, CC BY-SA 4.0

According to the latest stats, 35% of the student body is composed of international students. Since its founding, ETH Zurich has grown rapidly over the last 20 years; approximately 11,000 students were enrolled in 2000. 

Since then, the number of enrolled students has ballooned to over 21,000. The number of staff, faculty, and facilities has increased steadily with the rate of students being admitted. 

What does this all mean for admissions? As with many top-tier, global universities, the acceptance rates for domestic and international students differ. In 2020, a total of 3,357 applicants matriculated. 

The university website does not disclose the number of applications received for any of the recent years. According to one source, ETH Zurich receives around 100,000 applications each year, pouring in from more than 125 countries.

As we reported earlier in the article, only 27% of all applicants were admitted in 2020.

Since domestic students with the required credentials are granted unconditional admission, we can infer that the acceptance rate refers to the number of foreign nationals who were offered admission. In any case, getting into ETH Zurich is quite competitive for international applicants, but not Swiss applicants.

What does it take to get in? As an initial piece of advice, the school’s admissions committee suggests that prospective applicants reflect on their strengths and weaknesses, values, and interests in order to determine which programs would make the best fit

Prospective applicants should adopt the long view and consider both the bachelor’s and master’s programs that best align with their interests and goals.

Along with an application, international applicants must submit resumes, a high school diploma (or its equivalent), academic transcripts, and a German language certificate. Prospective students should consult the school’s application page for certifications and other components that are needed to be submitted as part of the application process. 

Almost all classes are taught in German, and it is the applicant’s responsibility to prepare for and take the German certification examination. Applicants must submit proof of German proficiency and apply for a Visa.

ETH Zurich has not published any data on the profiles of admitted applicants, so we cannot give a baseline GPA or any other information. Nevertheless, prospective students must demonstrate an interest and ability to succeed in STEM and that they are a good fit for the school.

Is ETH Zurich Right For You?

With its robust STEM curriculum, ETH Zurich is a right fit for anyone with a strong interest in technology and the sciences. The most popular majors among newly matriculated students in 2020 were mechanical engineering, computer science, and architecture. 

While ETH Zurich alumni have made significant achievements in other fields, the school and its curriculum are heavily geared toward STEM fields. With that said, an aspiring scientist will find that this school aligns with their interests and goals than someone with a strong interest in literature or political science.

We do not want to leave out the location. Researching schools can feel like a daunting task; it is not enough to have stellar grades and a solid grasp of one’s strengths, weaknesses, and goals. Location can make or break the college experience, and it is a factor that should be considered. 

Pursuing a degree abroad is ideal for someone who wants to explore the world beyond the confines of their hometown and country. It is also suitable for someone who does not mind being an ocean away from friends and family while spending several years in a landlocked country. 

ETH Zurich is an excellent choice for someone with a strong interest and aptitude for the sciences and has a thirst for a global college experience. Combined with a scientific mind, ETH Zurich students value diversity, openness, and collaboration.ETH Zurich – Acceptance Rate, Ranking, Notable Alumni, and More