Germany is one of the most famous non-English-speaking study destinations in the world, and with its popular student cities and low (or no) tuition fees, it’s not hard to grasp why. If your intention is to apply to study in Germany for your first university degree, read on…
1. Choose a university – How to Apply to Study in Germany
So, you’ve chosen Germany as your study abroad destination – now it is time to select the right program and university for you. The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) has a database of about 2,000 programs accessible to search from, comprising 1,389 programs in English.
Regrettably, opportunities to study in Germany in English at the undergraduate level are presently fairly limited, though there are some programs taught in both the English language and German (usually starting with English for the first two to four semesters and then switching to German). This permits you to study in English while refining your proficiency in German, particularly as your university may offer German language classes.
You may also want to give consideration to the latest rankings of the top universities in Germany while making your decision, or go through the latest QS World University Rankings by Subject to find the top German universities in your discipline, using the comparison tool to assist you narrow down universities.
2. Check the admission requirements
Before submitting your application, check that your present qualifications are recognized by your selected university. To study in Germany you are required to have a recognized Hochschulzugangsberechtigung (HZB), which means ‘higher education entrance qualification’.
For prospective undergraduate students, a high-school diploma, school-leaving certificate, or university entrance exam result is usually sufficient, and the DAAD has a database of information on admission requirements for selected countries. Candidates with qualifications from outside Europe may be required to sit for the Feststellungsprüfung entrance examination after attending a foundation Studienkolleg, although exceptional students may be able to bypass this.
You’ll also need to check the language requirements. Most programs are taught in German, requiring international candidates to tender evidence of adeptness in the German language. Two major tests are available for this intent: the Deutsche Sprachprüfung für den Hochschulzugang (DSH, meaning “German language examination for university entrance”) and the TestDaF.
Similarly, if your program is taught in the English language, unless you are a native speaker or have formerly studied in the English language, you will be required to demonstrate your knowledge of the language with a test like IELTS or TOEFL. Universities will typically specify the score/s they require on their websites.
3. Get your finances in order – How to Apply to Study in Germany
In order to fulfill student visa requirements, you will need to show proof that you have, or have access to, around €8,700 per year (~US$10,000) to cover your living costs, although you may find you need more, depending on your lifestyle and spending habits (the average student spends €850/US$975 a month). Living expenses also vary based on the location; according to Mercer’s Cost of Living Survey, Munich is presently the most costly city in Germany.
If you have concerns about expenses, there are scholarship awards available to assist students studying in Germany at different study levels.
For a lot of subjects, you can apply straight to the international office of the university. On the other hand, you can use the website www.uni-assist.de, a unified admissions portal for foreign students, managed by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), although not all universities make use of this. You may wish to put in for numerous programs and universities individually to increase your chances of getting admission.
At a lot of German universities, it’s possible to put in for admission two times a year – to start studies either in the winter or summer semester. Generally, applications for winter admissions need to be submitted by 15 July, and applications for summer admissions by 15 January. However, application closing dates differ between institutions, and the same institution may set different closing dates for each program – make sure to carefully look at the specific dates for your selected program.
It’s advised to submit applications at least six weeks prior to the closing date, to ensure time for adjustments or additions if any detail is missing. You should anticipate obtaining a formal acceptance or rejection about one to two months after the closing date has passed.
The specific credentials required and application procedure will be set by each institution, but you’ll usually be asked to submit:
- An official copy of your high-school diploma or former degrees, and any other applicable qualifications in the original language
- A translated transcript of your program modules and grades
- A passport photo
- A copy of your international passport (personal details and photo ID page)
- Evidence of language adeptness (a test certificate or online equivalent)
You may be required to pay an application fee when you apply to study in Germany.
For some subjects, there is a nationwide cap on the number of students who can enroll. For these said subjects (mostly life sciences), candidates from the EU (plus Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein) are required to apply via the Foundation of Higher Education Admission. Candidates from outside the EU region should apply as normal.
5. Take out health insurance
Before you depart your home nation, you should make sure you’ve bought health insurance to cover you during your residence in Germany. This is required both before you enroll and before you get a student visa and/or residence permit. If you’re a resident of a nation within the EU or EEA, there should be a social security arrangement in place between your nation and Germany. This means that if you possess public health insurance in your home nation, you should be covered in Germany also. You will generally need to get a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) to take advantage of this (free to obtain).
If your health insurance is not valid in Germany, expect to pay between €80 (US$92) and €160 (US$176) per month to cover this. The cost is greater if you’re above 30, and if you’re above 29 when commencing your program, you can only obtain private insurance.
6. Get a German student visa
The criteria for getting a student visa for Germany depend on your nation of origin. You can find an overview of the countries for which a student visa is or isn’t required on the Foreign Federal Office’s website. You can also check out this article to find out how to secure a German student visa and a residence permit.
7. Find accommodation
Once you’ve gained a place on a course and your student visa (if applicable), it’s advisable to start looking for accommodation, as unfortunately, most German universities do not offer accommodation to enrolling students. Rent is most likely to be your largest monthly spending and will differ depending on which part of the nation you reside in. In big cities within Western Germany (i.e. Cologne, Dusseldorf, etc.) and smaller, student-leaning cities like Heidelberg and Freiburg, you should anticipate paying slightly more compared to if you were residing in eastern Germany (i.e. Berlin).
Once you’ve found a place to reside, you are required to register at the ‘residents’ registration office’ (Einwohnermeldeamt) or the ‘citizens’ bureau’ (Bürgeramt).
You have to enroll before you can commence your program and use university facilities like the library. You’ll also be required to re-register before the start of each semester. This usually costs between €150 and €250 (~US$170-290), depending on the university. There may be an additional charge of around €180 (~US$205) for a “Semesterticket”, which covers public transport expenses for six months.
The usual documents you need for enrollment are:
- Your passport with visa or residence permit
- Several passport photos
- Completed registration form
- Evidence of higher education entrance qualification, either original certificates or formally certified copies and translations
- Notice of admission
- Proof of suitable knowledge of German (or English)
- Evidence of statutory health insurance in Germany
- Payment receipt for the semester fee
Once enrolled, you will receive a registration certificate which acts as a provisional student ID, allowing you to apply for your residence permit and register for classes.
9. Settle into student life in Germany
Well done, you should now be (mostly) all set to commence your education in Germany! Don’t forget to pack all the essentials, as well as arranging a few more important affairs:
- If you haven’t before now, once you’ve secured accommodation, you have to register with the local registration office of your city (Einwohnermeldeamt or Bürgeramt). Once registered, you’ll receive a document confirming your registration at that address, which you can then use for the next step…
- Get a student bank account. Most banks provide these for free, and it will make handling your regular payments (like accommodation) much easier.
If you’re concerned or not sure about anything, request for help from the advisory service provided by the student committee (Fachschaft) or your university’s international office.
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