So You Want to Study in Germany: Resources

So You Want to Study in Germany: Resources

You must meet specific prerequisites if you want to study in Germany. What’s more, your application will look quite different to one for a job. Depending on which subject interests you and what country you come from, different regulations apply. Here you can find out which criteria you must fulfil, what you need to pay attention to when submitting an application to a German university and whom you can ask for help.
by Clara Görtz

International Office

Your most important contact is the International Office (AAA) of your chosen university in Germany. Some universities might call these International Centres, or ICs. The staff there will provide you with all the information you need to apply to the relevant university, including such things as admission requirements, application deadlines and standards, preparation for your degree, language courses and much more. The final decision on whether you are given a study place is made by the university you apply to. That’s why you should always make contact with the AAA of your chosen university. You can find the addresses on the website of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), where information is available in German and English.

University entrance certificate

To study in Germany you will need a university entrance certificate. This is a specific school qualification which enables you to study. In Germany, this qualification is known as the “allgemeine Hochschulreife”, or “Fachhochschulreife”. An initial overview of whether you can study at a German university with the school qualification you have can be found on the German- and English-language website of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). In the admission requirements section you first choose the country in which you acquired your university entrance qualification. You can then find out whether it qualifies you to study in Germany. You can also find more precise information on the German-language information portal for the recognition of foreign educational qualifications (Anabin). Go to “Schulabschlüsse mit Hochschulzugang” (high school university entrance qualifications), then click on “Suche” (search), then step by step you can get information about the recognition of your school-leaving qualification in Germany. You can find lots of useful tips on the Recognition in Germany website, which is available in eight languages. A few clicks through the “Recognition finder” will reveal details of the body that will be able to answer your questions.

Perhaps you’ve already completed a degree in your home country and would like to do a master’s degree in Germany. This degree qualification needs to be officially recognised in order for you to apply to a Germany university. To get this recognition, you need to contact the International Office (AAA) of your chosen university.

Studying without a recognised school-leaving qualification

Is your school leaver’s qualification not recognised in Germany? In that case you can attend a “Studienkolleg”, or preparatory college, at a German university. A basic level of German is required for acceptance on the courses. The preparatory college will prepare you both academically and culturally for a degree in Germany. Normally you will study at the college for two semesters, and it is generally free of charge after the semester contribution is paid. At the end of the course you take an assessment test called the “Feststellungsprüfung”. You will also take a language test. If you pass both of these, then you can begin a degree course in the subjects covered by your preparatory course anywhere in Germany. NB: you will need to apply to attend a preparatory college. How this works and what else you need to know about it is outlined on the German- and English-language website Studienkollegs in Deutschland.

Test for foreign students

Perhaps you are actually able to study in Germany with your school leaver’s certificate, but you’re not sure whether you can get to grips with the demands of a German university. If that’s the case, then you can take the test for foreign students (TestAS). This test is offered several times a year in test centres all over the world. When and where the next test takes place near to you, how much it costs and what the advantages are is all explained on the German and English-language website.

Admission restrictions and numerus clausus

Even before you apply, you need to find out whether your degree course has a limited number of places. There are two types of limitations: central and local. Some subjects, such as medicine, are very popular all over Germany, meaning there are more applicants than places. For courses like this a central admissions restriction applies – the so-called nationwide “numerus clausus” (NC). Some subjects only have limited places at certain universities, in which case a local or regional NC applies. Then there are study courses for which there are no restrictions on numbers. You can find more detailed information on the German- and English-language portal Higher Education Compass.

Applying for courses with central admission restrictions

Do you want to study a subject for which there are central admission restrictions, such as medicine or pharmacy? How and where you need to apply depends on the country you come from and whether you have a German university entrance certificate. You can find information on German university entrance under the appropriate heading. If you have acquired your high school leaver’s certificate in Germany or at a German school abroad, or if you come from an EU member state or from Iceland, Liechtenstein or Norway, you submit your application via the Stiftung für Hochschulzulassung, or Foundation for Higher Education Admissions. Its German-language web portal is called Hochschulstart. In the section “Antrag online” (AntOn, “Apply online”) you can set up a user account and can start filling in your application online just a short while later. Perhaps you don’t have a German high school leaver’s certificate and you are not from an EU member state or from Iceland, Liechtenstein or Norway. In that case you have two options. Either you can apply via uni-assist, and the way this works is explained in the “uni-assist” section on this site, or you can contact your chosen university directly. The best way to do this is to contact the university’s International Office (AAA). You can find more information on this matter on this site under the heading “International Office”.

Applying for courses with no central admissions restrictions

Some subjects have a local admission restriction. Often these are known as a “local numerus clausus (NC)”. The universities then calculate an average grade that you must have achieved in order to gain admission. Alongside this, there are other criteria according to which universities select their applicants if certain subjects have an admission restriction. It is possible, for example, that you might be invited to an interview, or that you will need to have completed an internship or a skills test. Each university decides for itself which procedure it follows. Before applying, get information from the International Office (AAA) of your chosen university. You can find more information on this matter on this site under the heading “International Office”. Where there are local NCs and for subjects with no admission restrictions, all international students apply directly via the AAA. In addition, you also have the opportunity to apply via uni-assist, and the way this works is explained in the “uni-assist” section on this site.

Applying via uni-assist

Perhaps you would like to apply for several universities at the same time – but you are not obliged to apply centrally to the Foundation for Higher Education Admissions. Naturally this will help your chances of being able to study the subject you want. The effort involved is much greater, though, if you need to apply to each university directly, so in these cases you can also apply via uni-assist, the German work and service office for international university applications. The staff at uni-assist support you with your application and, at the same time, check whether you meet the criteria for university study in Germany. You only need submit one set of application documents to uni-assist, where your documents will be reviewed. If your documents are complete and you meet the criteria, then uni-assist will forward your application to the universities. If there is something missing among your documents, somebody from uni-assist will contact you promptly. The service does incur a charge. More information on the costs and on your application is available in five languages on the uni-assist website. Please note: uni-assist already collaborates with a lot of universities, but not yet with all of them. On the web portal there is a list of participating universities. You can also read about the standards your application must meet on this site in the “Applying” section.

Documents

There are a few important documents you’ll need for your application. Generally you fill in a form that you get either via uni-assist or from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), the Foundation for Higher Education Admissions or the International Office (AAA) of your chosen university. Most universities also require officially certified copies of your university entrance certificate and any university certificates you have already acquired, along with a passport photo, a copy of your passport, a CV, and proof of language skills.

Often your officially certified copies must also be submitted as translated versions in German, likewise officially certified. You can find out exactly which documents you need for your application in both German and English on the Inobis website. The Inobis database includes application checklists for the qualification you wish you gain, for your chosen university and for your country of origin. Alternatively, you can get in touch directly with uni-assist.

Curriculum vitae

Important documents such as CVs differ in their formats depending on which part of the world you are from. If your chosen university requires a CV, you need to submit a version that complies with German standards. A good point of reference for this is the bilingual website Europass. The information provided there will help you to present and to document your skills and qualifications in accordance with European standards. Here you can also produce a CV online directly.

Application deadlines

No doubt you have already heard that degree courses are divided into semesters: in Germany an academic year consists of two semesters – the winter and the summer semester. The winter semester generally begins in October and ends in March, whilst the summer semester often begins in April and runs until August. These dates may vary depending on the type of institution. If you wish to begin your degree course in the winter semester, then you generally have to submit your application by 15 July of the same year. For the summer semester, the 15 January if often the key date. Please note: some universities set other deadlines. The best thing to do is enquire directly at your chosen university – the staff at the International Office (AAA) will be able to help you. You can find the addresses on the website of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). The information is available in German and English. And one more point to note: some degree courses can only be started in the winter semester.

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by Clara Görtz