How and where can I find information before starting?
The DAAD website www.study-in.de is the prime address for everyone who wants to know more about studying in Germany. The DAAD also has many branches and information centers abroad, where colleagues are happy to provide individual help. Addresses at www.daad.de/offices. The Deutsches Studentenwerk (the German National Association for Student Affairs) offers a great deal of useful information at www.internationale-studierende.de, for instance in the section “Preparation”. Many questions are answered at www.research-in-germany.de/faq. This portal is the key platform for Germany’s research landscape.
Sprichst du Deutsch? Nein?
Well, that likely won’t be a problem for international degree programs where the language of choice is almost always English. But for all other programs, proof of your German language proficiency needs to be provided. There are two options (and acronyms): the TestDaF and the DSH (the DSH can only be taken at universities). Both test your writing, reading and listening skills and have an oral exam.
Preparing for the tests can either be done in your native country or at one of the so-called Studienkollegs. Studienkollegs require a certain level of German to enter but in their “university within in a university” role they can act as a launching pad to help you get qualified for study in Germany.
Which conditions do I have to satisfy?
All international students have to apply for admission, no matter whether they are interested in a bachelor or master’s program or want to do their doctorate in Germany. It is very important that school graduation certificates, or university degrees in the case of university graduates and prospective doctoral students, are recognized as equal in standard. You can check beforehand whether certificates are recognized via the DAAD Admission database or at www.anabin.de.
If you want to do your doctorate in Germany, you definitely need a very good university degree which is recognized in Germany and usually corresponds to the master’s degree. But for especially qualified international applicants there is also the possibility of entering for a doctorate with a Bachelor degree (“Fast Track Program”). In this case an entrance examination is usually required.
How do I apply?
Previously, international students could only apply directly to the universities. For a fee, students can now apply to several universities via www.uni-assist.de. In some subjects, such as medicine or pharmacy, non-German EU nationals have to apply centrally: see www.hochschulstart.de. The procedure for doctoral students varies depending on the program in question. Links to the colleges and graduate schools can be found at www.dfg.de/gk and www.dfg.de/exzellenzinitiative/gsc. Other programs can be accessed via the research institutes, such as www.mpg.de or www.helmholtz.de/graduiertenschulen-kollegs
Do I need a visa?
Students from European Union countries, the European Economic Area and several other countries can enter Germany without a visa. All other international students generally need a visa or a residence permit. If you haven’t yet been admitted to a university, but would like to gain information beforehand in Germany, you can apply for a study visa from one of the German diplomatic missions abroad. This is important, because a tourist visa cannot be transformed later for study purposes.
Which deadlines do I have to observe?
In Germany the academic year is divided into two periods of six months with studies beginning in the summer and winter semester respectively. The summer semester lasts from April to September at the universities and from March to August at the universities of applied sciences. The winter semesters for these two types of university run from October to March, and from September to February respectively. The closing date for applications to the universities is usually on January 15 and July 15 (these dates can vary).
What does it cost to study in Germany
In most of states there are no tuition fees (except for a minor contribution each semester). At the moment five states charge relatively moderate tuition fees of around 500 Euros per semester.
Students from non-EU countries requiring a visa have to prove that they have around 8,000 Euros per year at their disposal. This proof of sufficient funds aims to ensure that they are able to independently finance their studies. But this sum is often insufficient to cover all costs. Students in Germany have an average budget of 812 Euros per month.
Financial provisions are usually taken care of for doctoral students participating in a structured PhD program: doctoral students at the graduate colleges and schools, or at the research schools of the non-university research institutes, usually work as scientific assistants in a research project or receive a grant.
How can I finance my studies?
Most students in Germany earn something parallel to studying. Foreign students are allowed to work in Germany as well. However, there are still some restrictions for citizens and students from newly acceded EU states.
Numerous organizations in Germany also support highly gifted international students. The most grants for young international academics (usually for doctoral students, but increasingly for master’s degree students, too) is the DAAD with its broad spectrum of grants. But numerous German foundations also support up-and-coming academics as well. It is well worth doing some research into the options here.
Where can I live?
A lot of students in Germany prefer to share a flat together. Flat sharing is called living in a WG or Wohngemeinschaft. Here several students share a private apartment. Student halls of residence are also very popular. They are usually situated around the university, and the rooms are reasonably priced (about 200 euros per month). The rooms are available through the accommodation service of the Studentenwerk at the specific university. So it’s advisable to make arrangements for accommodation in good time.
Who can I approach for help?
Look at question 1. Apart from this, each university has an international students’ office (Akademisches Auslandsamt) which is an important contact centre for students from abroad. The colleagues here know everything about application procedures at their university and will gladly help with everyday questions in general. You can easily come into contact with other students via the platform www.studivz.de. The portal www.all-students.de offers information from students for students. And the website www.young-germany.de offers a wealth of information about Germany.