theme icon

Upper secondary school

After comprehensive school (peruskoulu), students enter upper secondary institutes (toisen asteen oppilaitos). Upper secondary institutes include upper secondary school and vocational institutes. More information on vocational institutes is available on the InfoFinland page Vocational education.

Upper secondary school studies are more theoretical in nature than vocational education. The studies provide all-round education: they are primarily focused on natural sciences and humanities. 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.

Upper secondary school prepares you for a university of applied sciences or a university, for example. 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).
Information on upper secondary school studiesFinnish | Swedish | English

linkkiThe Union of Finnish Upper Secondary School Students:
An organisation for upper secondary school studentsFinnish | Swedish | English

linkkiFinnish National Agency for Education:
Information on upper secondary school studiesFinnish | Swedish | English

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.
Joint application for vocational schools and upper secondary schoolsFinnish | Swedish | English

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. However, you must obtain the school books yourself. The books are often expensive. Upper secondary school books are also available second-hand. You also need to obtain a laptop computer.

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.
Information on the Finnish matriculation examinationFinnish | Swedish | English

linkkiThe Matriculation Examination Board:
Information on the matriculation examinationFinnish | Swedish | English | French | German

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.
Information on upper secondary schools for adultsFinnish | Swedish