Five steps to studying in Germany

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Looking for a place to study? If so, a German university could be a sound choice. Sound academic training and the international atmosphere will make your student days in Germany unforgettable. We explain the best way to put your plan into action here.

Getting your school and university diplomas recognised

If you want to study in Germany, you need a qualification that gives you university entrance qualification – that is, a diploma that allows you to take up studies in your home country. In Germany, this diploma is then verified to see whether it is comparable to a German diploma giving access to higher education. Many foreign diplomas are now recognised as equivalent. You can look up which of your home country diplomas this applies to and whether or not you need to take further examinations to gain access to higher education on the German Academic Exchange Service database.

If you have already completed a course of study in your home country and want to do a Master's degree in Germany, for example, you should get your degree recognised beforehand. This is the task of the German International Office (Akademisches Auslandsamt) at the university of your choice. You will find the addresses on the German Academic Exchange Service Web site. The database of the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs (German) will also provide information about whether your diploma is recognised.

Also, think about whether taking up studies in parallel to a job is a feasible option for you. This kind of course is available either part-time, full-time or by distance learning. By doing this, you can gain professional experience in Germany as well acquiring theoretical training. You will find out more about this on www.hochschulkompass.de (German).

You do not have a recognised school-leaving diploma? A preparatory course is the solution.

Even if the diploma from your home country is not equivalent to a German diploma giving access to higher education, you still have a chance of studying in Germany. Before taking up your studies, you must take a preparatory course at a Studienkolleg. These university-run centres for international students provide language teaching and teaching geared to the subject you have chosen to study. Courses usually last a year. If you pass the end-of-year examination, you will be entitled to apply for a higher education course in that subject. You will find out more on the Preparatory Courses in Germany Web site.

Attend your first language courses

If you apply for a course which is taught in German, you will have to prove that you know enough of the language. The most current certificates of proficiency include the DSH (Deutsche Sprachprüfung für den Hochschulzugang ausländischer Studienbewerber) and TestDaf (Test für Deutsch als Fremdsprache) certificates for German as a foreign language. Since February 12, 2016, the exam "telc Deutsch C1 Hochschule" is also accepted for admission to a German-language course at all German universities and colleges. Both are equally well recognised. For courses taught in English, you do not normally have to prove that you have any knowledge of German. Even if you have attended a German school abroad or a preparatory course, you are not obliged to take this examination.

Regardless of what you study, you are advised to have a command of German corresponding to level B2. That will help you to make yourself understood without anyone else's help, whether out shopping, at the foreign nationals' registration office or at the doctor’s. Moreover, it will make it easier to have a social life and will raise your career prospects if you stay on in Germany.

If you want to take a German exam while still in your home country, you can do so in one of the 158 Goethe Institutes worldwide, for example. You will find the address of the nearest Institute to you on our interactive world map, “local contacts”. You can find out more about language examinations on the “study-in.de” Web site.

Bechir from Tunisia
It had always been my dream to become a lawyer, and so I began a law degree in Germany. Although I could already speak very good German, in lectures I always had the impression that I only understood half of what was being said. After two semesters, it was obvious to me that I wouldn’t be able to take my degree and so I decided to change courses. That was possible as I hadn’t completed the third semester. The rule is that foreign students can only change subjects during the first three semesters. When I began my electrical engineering degree, I soon noticed that it was much easier for me – fewer long texts to read and write, and instead, lots of computing. All foreign students have to realise that many university courses are more difficult than others when it comes to the language. My tip: if you have difficulties speaking German, the best thing to do is to choose a course that doesn't demand such a high standard (e.g. an engineering course, etc.).

Getting a German diploma recognised abroad

Hopefully, you will like life in Germany so much that you will want to stay here after you have finished studying. However, if you do subsequently decide you want to work in another country, you can rest assured that German Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees are recognised on the international labour market. This is not the case with the Staatsexamen, the exam you take when you study law, medicine or pharmacy or teacher training. That is why you should check in advance which courses of study offer good job prospects in Germany and abroad. The German Academic Exchange Service, can help you to find the right course and a suitable university.

Enough money to live and to study

Doubtless one of the most important questions for you is how you are going to finance your studies in Germany. Moneywise, you need to plan ahead for two things

  • Semester and tuition dues: The universities in Germany do not charge tuition fees for undergraduate courses. Merely a semester fee must be paid. This includes the contributions for Studentenwerk (Student Union) and AstA (student self-government. Depending on the university, the amount is between 100 and 300 euros. Often with the payment of semester due students also receive a semester ticket for local public transport.

    Note: for international courses – Bachelor’s or Master’s courses in English, for example – other rules may apply. If you wish to take this kind of course, first ask exactly whether you have to pay fees and, if so, how much. You will find the most salient information about more than 1,550 international courses of study for the year 2013/2014 on the German Academic Exchange Service Web site.
  • Living costs: German students spend an average of around 800 euros per month. Of this, nearly 300 euros go towards paying the rent and around 165 euros on food. Depending on the place where you study and whether you are married or single, or have children, you will need either more or perhaps less. You will find more details on expenditure while studying in a report by the German National Association for Student Affairs (PDF 3.9 MB) (German).

Inquire about scholarships

Would you like to fund your studies by means of a scholarship? In Germany, numerous institutions provide this kind of financial aid on a monthly basis to students who meet specific conditions. These may either involve good marks, or even social commitment. However, you need to be aware that in Germany, scholarships are rarely granted from the first semester. Students in later semesters and PhD students from abroad can apply for a scholarship from the German Academic Exchange Service. Some private institutions also support foreign students. You can find out more about the possibilities of funding by the German Academic Exchange Service or other selected funding bodies for international students on its Web site.

Apply for a place on a course

There are two ways to apply for a place on a course of study: at numerous universities, you can apply through a special body called Uni-Assist e.V. You can find out which universities this applies to on the Uni-Assist Web site. If there is no Uni-Assist at the university of your choice, you can send your application directly to the university. You can find out the address of your chosen university from the list of German universities.

If you want to start your course in the winter semester, you generally have to apply by July 15 at the latest. To start a course in the summer, you usually have to submit your application by January 15 of each year. Different conditions and application deadlines may apply for certain courses. For example, for many subjects you will need to have achieved certain grades, or take an Entrance examination. You can find out more about this on the Web site hochschulstart.de (German).

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