You are wondering about studying in Germany? Here is what you need to know!
You are interested in studying in Germany but do not know how, what, when or where? You have arrived at the right place to find out more about it! Germany is a great choice to start your professional career. It has a wide range of courses, degrees, institutions and good prospects. Studying at a German institution will not only give you an insight into German people, culture and language, but it will also give you the possibility to meet many other international students that are in the same boat as you are. So what do you need to know to get you started? We have compiled basic information and tips on the subject to help you out.
Choosing a study program
First things first: What do you want to study? What degree are you aiming for? Germany has a variety of institutions and study programs you can choose from. There are public as well as private institutions, including universities of applied sciences and colleges of arts, music or film. Public universities are financed by the government and most students attend these universities, especially because they have low semester fees. Government approved or recognized private universities, on the contrary, have very high tuition fees, so keep this in mind when considering where you want to study. The website Hochschulkompass is a great source of information for finding out what universities there are in Germany and what are all the study programs they offer.
Regarding university degrees, here is what you need to know:
- Bachelor’s degree (BA): It is the first university degree, which lasts between 3 to 4 years. Your bachelor’s degree will allow you to start a professional career, although there are some work sectors that expect you to have further qualifications.
- Master’s degree (MA): This is the next step after the BA, meaning it is the second university degree. It generally lasts approximately 2 years and serves to continue developing your technical knowledge or to specialize in a certain subject. Having a master’s degree will probably broaden your chances of finding a job.
- State examination: Subjects like law, medicine, pharmacy or teaching require that you pass a state examination to be able to work in the profession. The examination regulations are determined by the federal states and not the universities.
- Doctorate: If you want to continue studying after your master’s degree, a doctorate would be the next step. During a doctorate you work on a research project that culminates in a research paper, the dissertation, which will confer you a doctor title (PhD).
Each study program has its own study conditions and curriculum and an academic year consists of two terms called semesters, one winter and one summer semester (Winter-/Sommersemester). Between semesters you have a lecture free period (around 2 months). A good way to find out what a certain program is like and what you can accomplish with it is by looking into the website of the institution/study program or by consulting the program brochure or the so called “Modulhandbuch”, which is like a manual that lists the whole structure of the program (the modules, the specific courses, etc.).
After you have chosen a study program and/or institution, the next step is to find out what the admission requirements are and how to apply. To be able to study in Germany, you have to be entitled to do so. This means that you have to have a higher education entrance qualification (“Hochschulzugangsberechtigung”, HZB), in other words, you have to prove that your educational background is equivalent to the German Abitur level and qualifies you for studying in this country. Depending on what secondary school certificate or previous university background you have, you will be able to apply and be admitted directly to any program or you will have to apply to a preparatory course first. A useful tool for finding out how your education certificates will be evaluated is the anabin database (available only in German), which compares foreign education qualifications with the German ones.
Those of you who do not have an equivalent higher education entrance qualification will have to apply to a preparatory course called “Studienkolleg”. This course is meant to expand your technical and cultural knowledge, which will enable you to get admitted into a German institution. The “Studienkolleg” normally lasts two semesters, it is subject oriented (that is, you have to choose what study subject you want to focus on in relation to the study program you are pursuing) and it ends with a final assessment test, the “Feststellungsprüfung”(FSP), which will determine how suited you are for studying a degree here. After passing this test, you can apply to the corresponding programs in the normal way. To find out more about the preparatory courses, visit studienkollegs.de.
Besides being entitled to study in Germany, what other requirements do you have to fulfill? This will depend on the study program of your choice. On the one hand, there are some programs that have a restricted admission, i. e. there is a capacity restriction and only the candidates that are best qualified are considered (these are the subjects that have an NC, “numerus clausus” = “closed number”). On the other hand, you have those that have entrance examinations or auditions, which you will have to pass to be able to be admitted. Apart from these aspects, there are other selection criteria like your German proficiency or knowledge of other languages, selection interviews, motivation letter, etc.
Find out what the admissions requirements are and start the application process as early as possible!
Applying to a university is usually very simple, what takes time (and nerves) is gathering all the paperwork you need. The first step is to find out the basics, that is what documents do you need to hand in, where and by what date you have to send your application in, etc. Once you have informed yourself, you fill in your application form(s) and gather all the necessary documents. Keep in mind that some paperwork takes time (e. g. translation of certificates), so start your application on time!
International students that do not have an equivalent school certificate will have to apply through uni-assist. uni-assist evaluates school/university certificates to find out if they are equivalent to German degrees. It also evaluates other criteria that are relevant for the application process, like your language skills or other requirements. After reviewing the applications, uni-assist forwards all the ones that fulfilled the requirements to the universities of your choice. Visit uni-assit’s website to find out more about how it works!
After gathering everything you need, you are good to go! Send your application and wait for the admission letter to arrive. This can take several months, so try to be patient! If you received an admission letter, congratulations! Your next step will be to get enrolled, which we will talk about further down.
One more tip: bear important deadlines and interview/examination dates in mind! It is better to be safe than sorry.
Most foreign students that come to Germany need a visa. Whether you need one or not will depend on your country of origin and your entitlement to study here. What are the possibilities?
- Students from the European Union (EU), European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland –> No visa required.
- Students from Australia, Japan, Canada, New Zealand, South Korea and USA –> Can enter the country without a visa, but must apply for a residence permit once they are in Germany.
- All other countries –> A visa is compulsory before traveling to Germany, once here you must apply for a residence permit too.
There are two types of visa you can apply to:
- Student application visa
- Student visa
Student visas are the only ones that will allow you to study here! Other visas, like tourist or language course visas cannot be changed into a student visa, so make sure you apply to the right one.
For applying to a student visa you will need a valid passport, the confirmation of application or the admission letter, proof of sufficient funds for living expenses and health insurance. If you have any questions regarding this, contact the German embassy in your home country or check the Federal Foreign Office’s website. A visa application process can take several months, so do not wait until the last minute to find out what you need and start the procedure.
Once you have arrived in Germany, you will have to change your visa into a residence permit for study purposes (in the foreigner’s authority of your study place). Furthermore, immediately after arriving you have to go to the local registration office (Einwohnermeldeamt) to register.
Before starting your studies, you must enroll at the institution. In other words, you have to register for the program you are pursuing (the so called “Immatrikulation”). For this you have to fill out an enrollment application and send it to the student registration office (“Studierendensekretariat” or “Immatrikulationsamt”). The university will give you a certificate of enrollment and a student ID card, which, depending on the institution, will also serve as your semester ticket (a public transportation ticket). After each semester, it is compulsory for you to re-register if you want to continue your studies. This also entails that you have to pay the required semester fees. Once you have accomplished this, you will get a new certificate of enrollment.
A brief line regarding semester fees: German institutions do not charge tuition fees, what you pay are semester fees that cover administration fees, a contribution for the local student’s union (Studentenwerk) and for the official university’s student union (AStA) and, in some cases, the semester ticket for public transport. The semester fee generally ranges between 100-200 €.
After getting enrolled, take the opportunity to get to know the university and your new place of residence better. Universities organize orientation weeks or introductory events for new students, so take advantage of these offers, which will allow you to take a first look at what awaits you and it is also a great way for meeting new people! Furthermore, find out more about your program, like what courses are available, what are the examination rules, how can you register for courses, what extracurricular activities are there, etc.
Last but not least…
So you have come this far and managed to withstand the whole paperwork and application process and have finally secured yourself a place in a German institution. Congratulations! So what is left to do? Start your program, of course! You will definitely still have many questions and doubts about what to do next, but do not worry! You will continue to have a variety of contact persons at your disposition that will offer you service and advice. From subject advice, through psychological or social advice to legal or financial support, universities have many structures in different areas that will help you get through your studies. Find out what your institution has to offer and do not hesitate to reach out whenever you need advice or support! Enjoy your studies and the best of luck!
For further information, you can visit the following websites:
DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service)
www.inobis.de (Application Assistant)
Deutsche Welle (Deutsche Welle, a public broadcasting station, has an information portal about studying in Germany. Furthermore, it offers, among other things, information about political, business and cultural life in Germany as well as news from around the world. So it is a great source for finding out other things about Germany, do check it out!)
www.studying-in-germany.org (A study guide for international students)