11 steps to study in Germany

Germany is a favorite study abroad destination for over 350.000 students from all over the world.

Students choose Germany for many reasons, but if you have already made up your mind to study in Germany, in this article you will find all the steps to apply and study in Germany as an international student.

1. Find a suitable study program

You need to have a clear vision in your mind about what study program you’re willing to undertake abroad. Fortunately, German universities have a wide variety of study programs and chances are that there will be a degree course that will be an exact match to your desires.

At each German university website, you can find information about the study courses they offer along with their curriculums.

Read them carefully so you can get an idea what the course is about and its main goals, then compare it with other courses you’ve found. Don’t underestimate the importance of this step because it may lead you to choose a course you won’t enjoy going through.

For example, although the curriculum of a study program may contain exact subjects of your interest, you may want it to be more of a lab-based research-oriented program rather than a theoretically-oriented study program.

There are countless universities and study programs in Germany, so you can surely find something more suitable for you. Take your time and do your research. It’s also much better if you already have a short list of universities you are targeting, so you can narrow down your options even further. If you don’t have such list, think of making one right now.

Despite the fact that most students give priority to the study program when they’re making decisions, for some students the location of their university is just as important.

Since there are a large number of study courses available at German universities, the opportunity to focus on a particular region and still find your desired program is quite possible.

2. Check out the requirements

Once you have found your study program, you must review the documents you need to submit your application.

German universities set their admission requirements independently. As such, they change from university to university. Even within the same university requirements may change largely between different departments and study programs.

In general, the admission requirements list of German universities contains the following documents:

Keep in mind that universities apply some minimum requirements for your grades and your language proficiency results (if you’re not a native speaker). If your grades and language proficiency are not well above these limits you may have less chances of getting admitted since the competition is fierce.

If you come from a country with different grading system your grades will be converted to the German grading system.

If you have attained your last degree in a country other than the EU, Norway, Switzerland, Liechtenstein or Iceland then your qualification may not be accepted in Germany.

In this situation, you need to undertake a foundation course before being eligible to enroll. The Studienkolleg, as it is known in Germany, lasts for 2 semesters, however, if you show excellent performance you may attend only the first one.

Note that to participate in a foundation course you must undergo an examination test to evaluate your knowledge. At the end of the course, you will also be tested in subjects of your aimed study programs.

Students of art-related study programs who show excellent artistic skills may not be required to show entrance qualifications.

3. Language proficiency

To be able to attend lectures you must have the proper level of knowledge of the language in which courses will be taught. At German universities, most courses are offered in the German language, but there are several that are also offered in English (mostly at postgraduate level).

Universities may apply different minimum requirements for language proficiency. So, before undertaking a language examination test, make sure you know what score you must go for.

There are several tests that measure your proficiency in the German language, but some of the most common are

  • Test of German as a Foreign language
  • Goethe Institut German Language Diploma
  • German Language Diploma of the Standing Conference of Education and Cultural Affairs, Level II (DSD)

Note that some of these tests you can only take in Germany.

4. Complete all documents

Submitting a university application is often a one-shot opportunity and if you miss a single document you’ll be rejected straight away. You have to carefully check (multiple times) if you have completed all the university requirements and admission application paperwork accordingly.

The whole process can be a bit intimidating and stressful at times  and it’s normal to forget something. For example, the university may ask you to include two copies of your ID but you only included one. This may not look like a big thing, but for the admission committee details like these are a necessity to process your application.

5. Apply

Finally, after you have collected all the required documents and you have gone through them several times, you’re set to submit your application.

Most German universities have a specific section for international students on their websites, where you can upload your documents online. Many universities in Germany use UniAssist to process student applications, an online platform designed for foreigners who want to apply for admission at German universities.

At German universities, courses are offered in two separate semesters: Winter and Summer semesters. Application deadlines may change from institution to institution and may also vary according to the academic level of your chosen course.

In general, application deadlines at German universities are:

  • Between June and July for the preceding Winter Semester
  • Between January and February for the preceding Summer Semester

6. Wait for the admission letter

Now that you have submitted your application, it’s time to wait until the university sends you back an admission notice.

At this stage, it’s very important to just relax and be patient. It’s not the time to spend your energy thinking what you’re going to do next and how you’re going to arrange everything in Germany, yet.

German universities receive a heavy load of application and going through them normally takes time. Your university will let you know if you’ve been admitted after several weeks from the day of your application.

7. Find financial resources to fund your studies

As a foreign student, you need to have money to cover your expenses while studying and living in Germany. Submitting proof of financial resources is one of the most important requirements when applying for your student visa.

Although showing your financial assets is not an admission requirement, it is a good idea to start planning it way earlier. This is because some universities may request additional information about your financial status to verify that you have the financial resource to study in Germany.

Based on some averaged calculation of students common expenditure a fixed amount of money is required for each or year. Under the current German regulations, you must have at least €720 per month in your bank account or around 8,640 per year to study in Germany.

There are a few ways you can prove your financial resources to study in Germany:

  • Submitting your parents’ income
  • A bank deposit at a “Blocked Account ”
  • Scholarship from a recognized provider
  • Private sponsor

Important notes:

  • The Blocked account (Sperrkonto) is a special type of bank account international students can open and use to deposit their money as proof of your financial status. At a minimum, you must deposit €8,700 in this account. It as referred to as blocked account because its user has no access to it before his arrival in Germany.
  • If you plan to finance your studies with a scholarship you have been awarded, then you need to prove that the provider is a recognized body. Similar to this, if there’s an individual like a businessman that is willing to cover your studies in Germany, you may have to show under what conditions the deal between you two was done.

>> Things you need to know about financing your studies in Germany

8. Health insurance

Health insurance is mandatory for everyone residing in Germany, including foreign students. Similar to showing your financial resources you need to get health insurance in order to settle in Germany and attend university.

If you’re insured in your home country, make sure your health insurance covers you while you’re in Germany. If you’re a citizen of an EU or EEA country, then your EHIC card covers your medical needs.

You can get one of the following types of health insurance in Germany:

  • Public Health Insurance
  • Private Health Insurance

Note: Currently a monthly premium for a Public Health Insurance (GKV) ranges from €70 to  €80 (depending on its provider). On the other hand getting Private Health Insurance (PKV) is upon your choice and the monthly premium changes according to what medical needs you want your health insurance to cover.

9. Find Accommodation in Germany

Accommodation is the first challenge you must tackle as a foreign student in Germany. After receiving your admission letter and completing student visa procedures, you need to find a place to stay.

University residence halls are your first option, but unfortunately, the number of available rooms for international students are limited and universities can’t always help you secure your accommodation.

We suggest you start investigating before coming to Germany. There are many online resources where you can get information about the rent prices in the area where you’ll be residing. In the end, if you cannot rent one online at least you know what to expect and where you can address your accommodation issue when arriving in Germany.

10. Enroll

This is the final step to officially become a student in Germany. To enroll in a German university you need to submit these documents:

Note that as German universities are mostly no-tuition or tuition-free universities, there is an enrollment fee, however. Enrollment fee varies between €150 and €250. Additionally, a ticket for free public transport can be included which normally may cost up to €100.

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