I remember the first time I made up my mind to study in Germany. There were a lot of questions running through my mind. Unluckily for me, I had no one to answer these questions and had to find out the answers myself. Most of the answers came to me through thorough research. Others, I had to learn through bitter experiences which cost me valuable time and money. I was surprised at how much false information was on the web when I finally went through the entire process and made it to Germany as a student. So I decided to take it upon myself to provide correct and detailed information so students can make a smooth transition from their home countries to Germany.
Who better to answer a question about studying in Germany than someone who started from scratch and was able to make it to Germany as a student? I believe I have a better insight into the minds of prospective students. I understand what sort of answers they seek when they want to study in Germany since I was once in their shoes. I hope these answers will save students some time that they could have used researching and also prevent them from repeating the same mistakes that I did.
Germany, UK and USA are all equally developed nations which provide great infrastructure and opportunities to foreign students. Obviously, countries like the USA, Canada, and the UK are English speaking countries whilst Germany is not. It all boils down to if you are prepared to learn a new language. Even though most Germans understand English, they will prefer you speak German. You will need to attain a certain level of German if you plan to live and work in Germany. If you are not prepared to sacrifice to learn a difficult language like German, then Germany is probably not for you.
Yes. Germany is among the few countries worldwide that do not charge tuition fees to both domestic and international students. Students are only required to pay semester fees and contributions which rarely exceed 400 euros. Unfortunately, the state of Baden-Württemberg started charging tuition fees of around 1500 euros to non-EU students from autumn 2017. Other German States like North-Rhine Westphalia are also considering introducing tuition. Prospective international students should take advantage of this tuition-free period because you never know when it might end.
Even though most German universities do not charge tuition fees, students are subject to a student body and social contribution fee which rarely exceeds 400 euros. The social contribution is used to finance the semester ticket, which is a public transportation pass valid for most bus and train lines running in the State where you will be studying. The Semester Ticket provides a range of mobility options to students at an otherwise unbeatable price.
Most people assume because English is not the official language in Germany, degree programmes in Germany must all automatically be in German. However, this is not the case. There are over 800 master’s and bachelor’s programmes in Germany that are taught completely in English. You can find most of these programmes by visiting the DAAD website.
Yes. Germany has over 100 bachelor’s programmes in English in various fields. To qualify to study at the undergraduate level you need the Abitur. The Abitur in most cases is not equivalent to the high school diploma from most countries. It is usually the equivalence of the high school diploma, plus one or two years of study at an accredited university. Be sure to inquire from the university you wish to apply to, whether the high school certificate from your country is equal to the Abitur. You can also visit anabin, which contains information on foreign institutions and academic qualifications. Please note that this site is available only in German.
Admission to German universities is getting competitive every year. With the decision of Finland and Sweden to introduce tuition fees to international students, that means Germany is one of the few countries left that still offer tuition-free privileges to foreign students. German universities as such receive numerous applications from students from all over the globe who want to gain access to this tuition-free education. Universities are getting stricter and stricter every year with their selection process as they are only a few seats available. However, if you have excellent grades then you have nothing to worry about. Most German universities base a huge part of their admission decision on the grades you received from your previous studies.
Some people feel it’s not worth studying in Germany because their universities are not highly ranked like those in the US and UK. However, you can look at it in this light. In the US and UK, there are around 20 universities (most are private and very expensive) which are household names. They have a few thousand others that offer good education but aren’t household names like MIT, Havard and Cambridge. You can also find universities where you can just hang out and party for 4 years and get a certificate for it, to places that absolutely just try to rip you off, or are run by religious zealots and still somehow maintain accreditation.
In Germany, if you go to a public university, you’ll receive a quality, rigorous, and affordable education, no matter what the national or international rankings may say. Most public universities are funded by the state and thus maintain a high level of standard. German universities also do not rely on tuition fees from students and so they are under no pressure to pass them. Professors don’t care to fail an entire class as long as there is nothing wrong with the questions.
TU9 is the alliance of leading Institutes of Technology in Germany: RWTH Aachen University, TU Berlin, TU Braunschweig, TU Darmstadt, TU Dresden, Leibniz Universität Hannover, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, TU München, University of Stuttgart.
The TU9 Universities are excellent in research: According to the Federal Statistical Office, TU9 members attract a fourth of all third-party funding. In the DFG ranking for research funding in engineering, the TU9 Universities are to be found in the top groups. Nationwide 57 percent of all doctorates in engineering are awarded at TU9 Universities.
Furthermore, TU9 Universities were very successful in the German government’s Excellence Initiative. RWTH Aachen University (2012, 2007), TU Dresden (2012), Universität Karlsruhe (TH) (now Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, 2006) and TU München (2012, 2007) were awarded the status of “University of Excellence”.
The initial difficulty that students encounter in Germany is trying to understand the system, the exam pattern, and what professors look for in a student during an examination.
Lectures are usually conceptual. The concepts of the subjects will be introduced to you. You will normally get the scripts or notes from the professors but you cannot rely solely on these scripts to pass examinations. Questions asked during examinations are more application oriented. Just knowing the concept is not enough. You need to know the subjects well enough to be able to apply the concepts to real-life problems.
In short, Universities of Applied Sciences or Fachhochschules are practically oriented whereas Universities are research oriented. Almost all Universities of Applied Sciences have a compulsory practical semester which students must undertake. Another important point is that doctorate degrees are usually offered only by Universities although some Fachhochschules have been legally allowed to offer doctorate degrees in conjunction with a partner university or a research institute.
German universities do not generally charge tuition fees and that in itself is a form of scholarship. However, they do provide some funds which cater for the living expenses of students since the cost of living is quite high in Germany. You can find more information about the various scholarships by visiting the scholarship database of DAAD.
No, there is no age limit to applying to study programs in Germany. In fact, Germany is known to have a reputation for having the continent’s oldest graduates – on average 28 years old.
Most German universities have two main application periods. One is in the summer semester and the other is in the winter semester. The summer semester usually starts around April 1 and students are required to submit their applications by January 15 since it can take quite some time between receiving your admission letter and processing your student visa. The winter semester usually starts around October 1 and students are usually required to submit their applications latest by July 15.
You should use the following equation if your bachelor’s degree was obtained in a country other than Germany.
GR = 3 * [(GRmax – GRd) / (GRmax – GRmin)] + 1
GR = the GPA you’re looking for, converted GPA (German)
GRmax = highest possible grade in the non-German grading system, expressed in numbers
GRd = grade earned in the non-German grading system.
GRmin = lowest possible passing grade in the non-German grading system (i.e. the lowest possible grade that would still allow you to pass the course)
Please, after you have obtained your converted GPA (German), round it to one decimal place.
– If the system works with percentage, please just use the number without the % sign in the equation.
– If the system works with letters, please just convert the letters into numbers.
A = 5
B = 4
C = 3
D = 2
E = 1
F = 0 (fail)
GRmax = 5
GRmin = last grade to pass = 1
GRd = your grade point average, e.g.
A+A+B+C = 5+5+4+3 = 17
GRd = 17:4 = 4.25
The resulting equation would be:
GR = 3 * [(5 – 4.25) / (5 – 1)] + 1 = 3 * 0.75/4 + 1 = 0.562 + 1 = 1.562
–> Rounding to one decimal place –> your “new” GPA would be 1.6
Please keep in mind: The German system recognizes grades from 1.0 (best)
to 4.0 (lowest possible passing grade) – so the result should be within this range.
Prior periods of study and related examinations and coursework, which were completed in an identical programme of study (full or partial) at a university that is subject to the Basic Law of Germany, shall be recognised officially and fully without an equivalence assessment. A “period of study” is defined as any evaluated and documented component of a degree programme at a German university, which, while not equivalent to a full programme of study, nevertheless constitutes a significant acquisition of knowledge or skill.
In most German universities, you usually have 3 chances for each exam. After failing the third time, you have to leave the university and you can never study anything related to your study program. Failing a paper might mean two things. One is sitting down for a paper and actually failing it. The second is not showing up for an exam without a suitable excuse. An example of a suitable excuse is being sick.
It is a one-year preparatory course which has to be joined by individual candidates who wish to study at a German higher education institution but whose school leaving diploma is deemed insufficient to apply for a degree program.
The course covers full-time education in the subjects of a degree program as well as the German language, for five days a week. A passing score on the final Assessment Examination qualifies you to apply for a degree program that is suitable for you at any German university.
Abitur is a university-preparatory school leaving qualification conferred to students who pass their final exams at the end of their secondary education, usually after twelve or thirteen years of schooling. As a matriculation examination, Abitur can be compared to A-level, Matura or the International Baccalaureate Diploma, which are all ranked as level 4 in the European Qualifications Framework. The high school diploma from most countries is usually not equivalent to the German Abitur. You should therefore check with your university if the high school diploma from your country is the equivalence of the Abitur.
Yes. There is no restriction on the language of study for international students. Of course, if you would like to study in German, then your German language should be very good. Most German taught programs require a minimum of B2 and prefer C1 to ensure smooth studies.
You should have a minimum German language level of B1 in order to be admitted to ‘Studienkolleg’.
If your course is taught completely in English, then there is no need to show any proof of German language. However, it is advisable to have some basic knowledge of German to allow you cope with everyday life in Germany.
Most German universities do not place much emphasis on GRE scores. There are few universities that will request you have a particular score in the GRE but generally, most German universities do not really consider GRE scores. They rather place a huge emphasis on your previous academic records. Most German universities base 80% of the admission decision on previous academic records and the remaining 20% on other factors like your motivation letter and work experience.
If you are from a native English speaking countries like USA, Canada or Australia, then there is no need to write IELTS or TOEFL. There are some universities who would waive these tests if your bachelor’s degree was in English but they are very few. Most German universities will insist you provide them with IELTS or TOEFL if your program of study is in English. It is therefore advisable for students who want to study in Germany to write IELTS or TOEFL just to be on the safe side. Some Embassies might also request for IELTS or TOEFL scores if your program is in English. Most universities require an overall minimum of 6 in IELTS Academic and a minimum TOEFL score of 80( internet based)
Uni-assist checks if your document fulfils the general requirements for a university course of study in Germany. Uni-assist performs this preliminary check on behalf of all its universities. For this purpose, you send uni-assist all the documents requested by the university in question. Uni-assist will usually require you to pay the costs for the preliminary check performed on your documents.
If you have a degree that qualifies you for a doctoral program in Germany, you first need to find an academic supervisor/mentor (the “Doktorvater” or “Doktormutter” in German), who will guide you through the research phase leading to the writing of your dissertation.
There are a whole lot of ways of finding an academic supervisor in Germany. One way is through personal contacts your professors may have in Germany. Another way is through online research of various scientific publications.
Once you find an academic supervisor, you have to enrol at a university program for several semesters, where you will gain scientific experience and also get to work as an assistant, all the while researching and writing your dissertation.
The most important formal qualification for beginning a PhD in Germany is a very good higher education degree that is recognised in Germany. Generally, a minimum of eight semesters of academic study is required, and the degree must be equivalent to a German Master. Decisions on the recognition of earlier periods of study lie solely with the individual German higher education institution. You can also be admitted to the so called fast track program if you have a bachelors degree. However, you need to be extremely talented to make it into this program.
There are two types of PhDs available in Germany. The first type is the individual doctorate. It is the most popular type of PhD. You will be required to work independently and will produce your dissertation under the supervision of a professor. You will have a great deal of flexibility with this option but it demands a high level of personal discipline from your part. The second type is the structured PhD programs. Here, doctoral students work in groups and are guided by a group of supervisors.
Yes. Students are given 18 months to find a job in a field closely related to what they studied in after completing their studies. Your stay in Germany is dependent on your ability to secure a job in a relevant field within these 18 months.
The first and probably the most important document you need to apply for a student visa is an admission letter. This is to provide proof that you have been admitted to a German university. You can visit the website of the German embassy of your country and take a look at their student visa requirements as this differs from country to country. Most Embassies require students to open a blocked account to show proof of finance.
A student visa is issued if you have applied for a study course at a German university and having received the admission letter. A language course visa, on the other hand, is issued if you wish to do a language course in Germany. It should be noted that a language course visa cannot be converted into a student visa in Germany. Also, If you attend a language course the regulations are stricter than for normal enrolled students. You are only allowed to work with the approval of the Aliens Department and the Employment Agency – and only during the lecture-free time.
The following documents are generally requested in most student visa applications:
- passport pictures
- birth certificate
- admission letter
- transcripts and university degrees earned
- proof of previous and current employment, internships, practical attachments
- motivation letter
- sponsor’s passport, information/proof on relation to sponsor, a motivation of sponsorship
- proof of adequate financial means to cover the university fees, housing, the cost of living and other expenses, 853 euros (from 1 January 2020) for every month of the first academic year.
Students need to be financially sound to survive in Germany. The German embassy places a huge emphasis on the financial capability of students. There are 3 main ways students can prove sufficient financial means.
The first and most common one is through the opening of a blocked account. Students are expected to fund this account with 10,236 euros (from 1 January 2020) every year for the duration of their studies.
The second is the formal obligation according to §§ 66 to 68 of the German Residence Act (signed by a person living in Germany at the local immigration office in Germany and confirmed by the immigration office). The formal obligation should specifically state that the sponsorship covers studies and mention the duration of the intended sponsorship. The formal obligation is only suited as an adequate proof of finance with the remark “Die finanzielle Leistungsfähigkeit des/der Verpflichtungserklärenden wurde nachgewiesen.” (The financial capability of the sponsor has been verified)
The third is through scholarships from German public funds or by scholarships financed by an organisation that promotes education and is approved in Germany. Scholarships from the public funds of the applicant’s country of origin are also accepted.
A blocked account is exactly what the name implies. It is an account that limits the amount of money you can withdraw at a given point in time. The German Embassy has estimated the average cost of living for students to be around 853 euros per month. To make sure students don’t run into any financial burden once in Germany, one of the ways to show financial proof is through the opening of a blocked account. Students are required to open an account in Germany and transfer 10,236 euros (from 1 January 2020) into it. Once they arrive in Germany, they can be able to gain access to this account. They can however not withdraw more than 853 euros per month from this account.
You can only open a blocked once you have gotten an admission letter. Some Embassies require you to open the blocked account before the interview. Others will tell you not to open the blocked account until you have completed your interview. The German Embassy collaborates mainly with Deutsche Bank for the opening of blocked accounts. However, recently, it has started collaborating with other banks such as Ecobank. Since Deutsche Bank is the most widely recognised bank for opening of blocked accounts in Germany, that is what we would be dealing with it.
The first step in opening a blocked account is to take the following documents to the embassy and have them certified:
- Completed application form for opening a blocked bank account from the official website of Deutsche Bank
- Valid passport
- A copy of the course admission letter from your university/language school
- A prepaid envelope (from a private service provider such as FedEx, DHL or UPS)
The completed, certified and signed application form will be sent to the following address by a German embassy/consulate:
Deutsche Bank Privat- und Geschäftskunden AG Alter Wall 53 20457 Hamburg Germany
After the account has been opened, you have to transfer the minimum balance and service fee to your new account at Deutsche Bank. Deutsche bank will send your IBAN and BIC to your e-mail address or your registered postal address once the account has successfully been opened.
As soon as the money has been received, you will automatically be informed by e-mail.
Following your arrival in Germany, please visit a branch of Deutsche Bank and fill in a service order (application to activate the blocked account for foreign students). Take a valid passport with you to the branch.
If you are not granted a visa to enter Germany, Deutsche bank will need the following documents to transfer the balance back to you:
- Lifting of the block by the beneficiary of the blocked account or original letter stating that your visa application was unsuccessful.
- Signed application to close the account (must be completed in full and signed)
Please send these original documents (an e-mail or fax is not acceptable) to the following address: Deutsche Bank Privat- und Geschäftskunden AG Alter Wall 53 20457 Hamburg Germany.
The visa interview always seems to be the scariest part of the visa process for students but this shouldn’t be the case. The fact that your university has offered you admission means they believe you are in good academic standing to pursue your desired program. The main aim of the visa interview is to confirm whether you are in the right state of mind and are motivated enough to study in Germany. Being academically sound is only a small fraction of the total package that students should possess in order to succeed abroad. You can find out more about the likely student visa interview questions with answers by clicking here.
In Germany, you will usually not get a residence permit without proof of adequate insurance. Health insurance is mandatory for all students in Germany, so you will not be able to start working or studying without it. Since 1 January 2009, anyone resident in Germany is required to possess health insurance cover from a provider licensed in Germany.
The health insurance is usually paid on a monthly basis. For students, you will need to register and provide your bank account details to your health insurance company once you arrive in Germany. Universities usually assist students with this during the enrollment process. Your health insurance company will then withdraw a specified amount of money from your bank account every month.
The following documents are usually needed for enrollment:
- your notification of admission
- proof of valid health insurance (your university will assist you in getting this)
- your passport with valid visa and passport pictures
- original documents you used in your application like transcripts and bachelors certificates
- receipt of payment of semester contribution fees
The German Embassy usually gives students a 3 months visa. Once students arrive in Germany, they are expected to apply for a residence permit with the respective Immigration Office responsible for their country. The first and most important step that students need to undertake once they arrive in Germany is to register their address with the Citizens´ Services Office (Bürgerservice/Einwohnermeldeamt). Typically, their personal data will be transferred to the Immigration Office within a few days after registration.
Some immigration offices initially give students a two-year residence permit. Others give students a one-year residence permit. It is essential that you always have a valid residence permit during your stay in Germany. As a rule, this permit can be extended as long as your purpose of stay is still valid. Most immigration offices require you to show 10,236 euros (from 1 January 2020) in a blocked account in order to have your permit extended again. Others will accept your work contract and monthly payslips if you are successful in securing a part-time job. Depending on the amount of money you earn from your part-time work as a student, you might still have to show a certain amount of money in your blocked account. For instance, if you earn 450 euros per month, you will be required to show 4836 euros in a blocked account in addition to your work contract and payslips in order to have your residence permit extended.
It can be really frustrating if your student visa gets rejected. However, students need to understand that there is no guarantee you will be granted a visa even if every aspect of your application is perfect. The most common reasons that cause the visas of students to be rejected are poor financial status, insufficient language level, poor academic profile, inconsistency with your choice of your study program, and lack of preparation for your interview. You can get an in-depth explanation of the various reasons for rejection of German student visas by clicking here.
There are two options you can take. You can either appeal or reapply. If you think the refusal decision was not fair and your circumstances merit reconsideration. Then you can go ahead and appeal the decision. If however, you believe you stand a better chance now than the last time you were denied because of change in your circumstances which may be that you have applied for a new study program, improved your IELTS score, or have adequately prepared for the interview this time around, then it’s best to reapply.
Studying in Germany is not all rosy as most educational consultancies portray it to be. These consultancies present Germany to students as a country with streets of gold where they can be assured of a perfect life. With these lies in their heads, students become shocked and frustrated when they come to terms with the realities on the ground. Such frustration has even led some students to commit suicide. Some of the common problems you are likely to encounter in Germany are the language barrier, problem securing accommodation, performance demand from your study course, problem securing part-time jobs, and problems adjusting to the German educational system and culture.
International students who do not come from the EU or EEA are allowed to work 120 full or 240 half days in a year. If you want to work more than 120 full or 240 half days, you need the approval of the Employment Agency and the Aliens Department.
The legally allowed number of working days (half days) for foreign students also includes voluntary work placements, regardless of whether the placement is paid or unpaid. Also, foreign students face an additional restriction: while working the legally allowed number of days (or half days), they cannot be self-employed or work on a freelance basis.
Most prospective students are really concerned if they can be able to find a part-time job to support themselves. There is no sure answer to this question as it depends on a whole range of factors. The first and probably the most important factor is your ability to speak good German. It will be very difficult to secure a job if you don’t speak any German. Another important factor is the city where you live. If your school is located in a big city like Berlin, then there is a high chance you might find something as compared to a smaller town. Don’t expect to earn much as a student unless you want to forfeit your studies which can get you into trouble. What you will earn from part-time jobs will just be enough to take care of basic living expenses. If your monthly payment exceeds 450 euros, you will have to pay taxes. As of January 1, 2015, the minimum wage in Germany is 8.50 euros per hour.
Companies like Daimler and Amazon offer seasonal jobs to students during the holidays. Students can take advantage of this to earn some extra cash during their semester breaks.
Spouses who accompany foreign students may be allowed to work under certain circumstances. Spouses of foreign students who plan on accompanying them and hope they will be allowed to work must fully disclose their intention when applying for the visa.
The two main factors that determine whether you will be liable to pay tax are the amount of money you’ve earned working and the duration of your stay in Germany. You are generally excluded from having to pay taxes if your stay in Germany doesn’t exceed six months and if you make less than €450 per month (considered to be income from a so-called ‘mini-job’ and therefore tax and pension contribution exempt) working in Germany. If your annual gross income is less than €8,130 you will get all the taxes you paid refunded back to you at the end of the year when you file your tax return with tax authorities.
Family reunification is possible if you have a residence permit in Germany and also if the duration of your study will take longer than one year. However, you must prove that you can be able to support them without burdening social assistance in any way for you to be allowed to bring them to Germany.
Studentenwerk is an organisation which acts in the interest of the students of each particular region in Germany. Each German region has its own studentenwerk, but they cooperate closely on the national level. Studentenwerk generally organize and run cafeterias, restaurants, housing units, the BAföG for the government, and even psychological and low-level health services. Some regions and universities mandate a certain yearly fee by each student for the studentenwerk, making it legally a very close cooperation between the semi-independent organisation and the local governments.
Most universities in Germany offer the so called “Duales Studium”. This special way of studying makes it possible for students to study theory at a traditional university and at the same time practice what they have learned at companies who partner with the university or program. Depending on your visa you will most likely be able as a foreigner to work only 120 days out of the year. As long as this is in agreement with your university’s program you can participate in the highly successful Dual Studium program.
The validity of foreign driver’s licenses is usually limited to six months. If your driver’s license expires after 6 months as a full-time student with a residence permit in Germany, the only way for you to continue to drive legally would be to transfer your license. The country of issuance of your driver’s license will determine whether the transferring of your license will require you to undergo the theoretical and driving tests administered by driving schools in Germany. You can find out more about what regulations apply to your home country by contacting the local dept. of motor vehicles/driver’s licenses.
Transferring your driver’s license in Germany will require you to provide the following documents:
- Your original driver’s license (has to still be valid),
- Passport-size photograph of you,
- Proof of residency in Germany and
- Your passport or ID card.
Finding accommodation as a new student in Germany can be quite tough depending on the city where you find yourself. In big cities like Munich, finding accommodation can be a huge headache and most of the rooms you might come across can be relatively expensive. Some universities provide accommodation to students. It is therefore important to check with your university first if they offer accommodation since university accommodations are quite cheaper. If you are unable to find accommodation through this means, you can search online. One of the most popular sites for searching for accommodation in Germany is WG. New rooms are advertised each day on this site and you can definitely secure a room if you are persistent.
If possible do not arrive late at night since you can end up being stranded. If you still don´t have a flat after your arrival in Germany, please go as soon as possible to the Studentenwerk. They often have an emergency accommodation available at the beginning of the term.