How do I begin if I want to study in Germany?

study in germany

How do I begin if I want to study in Germany?

Choose a university

So, you’ve decided on Germany as your study abroad destination – now it’s time to choose the right course and university for you. The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) has a database of almost 17,000 programs available to search from, including 88 programs in English. Unfortunately opportunities to study in Germany in English at undergraduate level are currently quite limited, though there are some courses taught in both English and German (typically starting with English for the first two to four semesters and then changing to German). This allows you to study in English while improving your proficiency in German, particularly as your university may offer German language classes.

You may also like to consider the latest rankings of the top universities in Germany, while making your decision, or check the latest QS World University Rankings by Subject to find the top German institutions in your field. When choosing a university and a course you should also make sure the course content suits you. Check the information provided on the official websites of universities you’re considering, and get in touch to request more detail if needed.

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1. Check the admission requirements

Before applying, check that your current qualifications are recognized by your chosen university. To study in Germany you need to have a recognized Hochschulzugangsberechtigung (HZB), meaning ‘higher education entrance qualification’. This can come in many formats, particularly for international students who have gained their school-leaving qualifications in a different country.

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. Students with qualifications from outside Europe may have to sit the Feststellungsprüfung entrance examination after attending a preparatory Studienkolleg, although high-achieving students may be able to bypass this.

You’ll also need to check the language requirements. Most courses are taught in German, requiring international applicants to submit proof of proficiency in the German language. Two main tests are available for this purpose: the Deutsche Sprachprüfung für den Hochschulzugang (DSH, meaning “German language examination for university entrance”) and the TestDaF (formerly Test Deutsch als Fremdsprache, meaning “Test of German as a foreign language”).

2. Get your finances in order

In order to fulfill student visa requirements, you will need to show proof that you have, or have access to, around €7,908  per year (US$8,722) or €659 (US$727) per month to cover your living costs, although you may find you need more, depending on your lifestyle and spending habits (the average student spends €800/US$877 a month). Living costs vary depending on the location; according to Mercer’s Cost of Living Survey, Munich is currently Germany’s most expensive city, followed by Frankfurt am Main and Berlin.

3. Apply

For most subjects, you can apply directly to the international office of the university. Alternatively, you can use the website www.uni-assist.de, a centralized admissions portal for international students, run by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), although not all universities use this. You may wish to apply for numerous courses and universities separately to increase your chances of being admitted.

At many German universities it’s possible to apply for admission twice a year – to commence studies either in the winter or summer semester. The summer semester runs from March to August at Fachhochschulen (Universities of Applied Sciences) and April to September at universities; the winter semester is from September to February and October to March respectively.

In general, applications for winter enrolments need to be made by 15 July, and applications for summer enrolments by 15 January. However, application deadlines vary between institutions, and the same institution may set different deadlines for each program – be sure to carefully check the specific dates for your chosen course. 

It’s recommended to submit applications at least six weeks before the deadline, to ensure time for corrections or additions if any information is missing. You should expect to receive a formal acceptance or rejection approximately one to two months after the deadline has passed.

4. Take out health insurance

Before you leave your home country you should ensure you’ve purchased health insurance to cover you during your stay 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 country within the EU or EEA, there should be a social security agreement in place between your country and Germany. This means that if you have public health insurance in your home country, you should be covered in Germany as well (full list here).  You will generally need to get a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) to take advantage of this (free to obtain).

5. Get a German student visa

The requirements for obtaining a student visa for Germany depend on your country 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 read this article to find out how to get a German student visa and a residence permit.

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