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Upper secondary school

In Finland, you can apply to upper secondary school after you have completed comprehensive school.

Upper secondary school provides all-round education aiming at the matriculation examination. Upper secondary school prepares you for a university of applied sciences or a university.

After comprehensive school, you can also apply to a vocational school. More information on vocational schools is available on the InfoFinland page Vocational education and training.

Upper secondary school studies are more theoretical in nature than vocational education. Subjects studied at an upper secondary school include native language, other languages, mathematics, natural sciences and social studies. Some upper secondary schools also feature plenty of education in arts.

Some upper secondary schools are specialised. They are focused on music, physical education or natural sciences, for example. Specialised upper secondary schools are very popular. It may be difficult to get accepted into one.

Young people and adults can study in upper secondary schools. Young people study in full-time upper secondary schools (päivälukio) or distance upper secondary schools (etälukio) while adults often study in upper secondary schools for adults (aikuislukio).

Applying for upper secondary school

Apply for upper secondary school via the upper secondary level joint application process (yhteishaku). If you would like to attend an upper secondary school for adults, contact the school directly. Read more on the InfoFinland page Applying for education and training.

Studying in an upper secondary school

Upper secondary school studies usually last three years. Upper secondary school can also be completed in two or four years.

Upper secondary schools provide plenty to choose from in terms of studies. In addition to obligatory courses, you can select a variety of courses that suit your preferences. In upper secondary school, you can affect the content and progression of your studies.

Upper secondary schools do not have tuition fees. In other words, education is free. If you start upper secondary school in autumn 2021 or later, your upper secondary schoolbooks will be free. However, if you have started upper secondary school earlier, you must obtain the schoolbooks yourself.

If you have a demanding hobby or you fall ill for an extended period of time, for example, you can complete upper secondary school by means of distance studies. Ask for more information on distance studies from your upper secondary school.

Matriculation examination

Upper secondary school studies are aimed at the matriculation examination (ylioppilastutkinto). The matriculation examination comprises exams on various different subjects. The matriculation exams (ylioppilaskoe) are usually taken near the end of the studies.

The national language test is obligatory in the matriculation examination. You can take the test in Finnish, Swedish or Sami. If your native language is not Finnish, Swedish or Sami, you can take the test for Finnish or Swedish as a second language.

In addition to the national language test, you must complete tests in at least three other subjects. If you want, you can also take more tests.

In addition to the national language test, you can take tests in the following subjects:

  • Second national language (Finnish or Swedish)
  • Foreign language: English, German, Russian, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and Latin
  • Mathematics
  • Sciences and humanities (reaali) i.e. general studies, such as history, religion, physics, chemistry, biology, psychology and philosophy

Matriculation exams are held in the spring and autumn. If you want, you can take some of the tests in the autumn and some in the spring. The total number of consecutive exam times used to complete the entire examination must not exceed three.

Upper secondary school for adults

Upper secondary schools for adults are mainly intended for persons over 18 years of age.

In upper secondary schools for adults, studying is flexible. You can complete the entire matriculation examination or simply study a single subject. You can study at your own pace. The classes are normally held in the evening.

Many upper secondary schools for adults provide Finnish language courses for immigrants. Ask about the courses directly from the schools.

Preparatory education for programmes leading to an upper secondary qualification TUVA

TUVA is preparatory education for programmes leading to an upper secondary qualification .

TUVA education may suit you if

  • you are an adult, but have not yet completed secondary education
  • you need preparatory education before continuing to secondary vocational education or upper secondary education
  • you want to improve your Finnish- or Swedish-language skills before continuing to an upper secondary qualification

During your TUVA education, you can raise your basic education grades to improve your chances of entering secondary education. In addition to that, you can complete upper secondary education and vocational education studies. 

TUVA education lasts 38 weeks. You can also complete just part of the curriculum. You can then apply for a study place suitable for you such as in upper secondary or vocational education.

TUVA education is organised by vocational institutes, secondary schools and comprehensive schools.

You can apply for TUVA education in the joint application process in the spring, or through the continuous application process all year round. Read more in the service.