Applying to study abroad can be daunting, but the best way to guarantee a successful application is to get organised. These five steps will guide you through the entire process...
1. Decide what you want to study
Germany has a large range of degrees to choose from so, whatever you want to study, there’s a good chance of finding a suitable course.
Germany's particular strengths may have an impact on your choice of subject: the country has been described as 'Europe's strongest economic and industrial power'; it's known for investing heavily in technology, science and education; and it has a history of being scientifically minded (it won the first Nobel Prize in 1901, and before World War II had more Nobel laureates for science than any other country). In addition, it's an obvious choice if you're wanting to study German and, with its central position and easy, cheap transport to the rest of Europe, it isn't a bad choice if you want to develop your language skills in general.
Keep in mind, however, that if you’re choosing to study an English-taught degree programme, you may need to compromise slightly on your choice of subject as the range of subjects offered are more limited than those taught in German. Also, it’s worth knowing that subjects such as Medicine and Law are fiercely competitive in Germany and therefore the admissions process is organized into a restricted, highly-selective admissions policy known as the numerus clausus (NC) - click here for more information. You will also need to have a very strong command of German in order to be accepted.
2. Decide what kind of university you want to go to
There are three main types of higher education institutions in Germany:
- Universities are strongly research-orientated and offer the widest range of subjects. They teach both theoretical knowledge and methodological expertise.
- Universities of applied sciences concentrate on the application of scientific knowledge and primarily teach professional practice. The range of subjects is focussed on areas such as technology, business, social affairs and media.
- Colleges of art and music train budding artists - musicians, directors, actors and designers.
In Germany, there are public and private higher education institutions. Public universities don't have tuition fees, but private universities cost money to attend. More than 90% of students are enrolled in public universities and colleges.
3. Check you meet the entry requirements
As soon as you know what you want to study and what kind of institution you want to apply to, it's time to check you meet all the entry requirements. Head over to our Study in Germany: preparing to apply article to get started.
Application processes vary between different universities and even between different courses at the same institution. Some will opt for a central application service, like those listed below, whilst others require direct application. The best advice is to check with the international office at your university.
Over 100 universities are members of uni-assist, the university application service for international students, most often used when applicants have qualifications from outside Germany.
Applications for competitive options like medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine and pharmacy tend to be made through the Foundation for Higher Education Admission at www.hochschulstart.de.
Regardless of the system you use, you may be charged a fee for processing and you may need to provide additional information or evidence, including:
- Certificates of qualifications achieved (your university will tell you how to get an authenticated copy)
- Academic reference
Application deadlines in Germany
Although application deadlines may vary slightly from one institution to another, there are generally 2 main intakes:
January: submit your application before 15 January for studies beginning in the summer semester, which follows the dates below:
- March to August for Universities of Applied Sciences (Fachhochschulen)
- April to September for Universities (Universitäten)
July: submit your application before 15 July for studies beginning in the winter semester, which follows the dates below:
- September to February for Universities of Applied Sciences (Fachhochschulen)
- October to March for Universities (Universitäten)
Contact your university's Registrar's Office (Studierendensekrekatriat) to learn the exact dates of application.
The gap year benefit
Taking a gap year between completing secondary school and applying to German universities has many advantages:
- For many nationalities, secondary school leaving certificates are not issued until after the deadline for most German university applications (this is definitely the case for UK A Levels, as the provisional results slip is not accepted by German public universities as proof of entry requirements). If you take a year off after school, you will have all the necessary certificates and results in time for your application.
- During your gap year, you will be able to visit the German universities and select those that most appeal to you.
- Student accommodation is limited so it’s a good idea to start looking as early as possible - a gap year will help you to do this.
- A gap year is also a fantastic opportunity to brush up on your German skills. See our ‘Language skills not up to scratch?’ article for tips on how to do this.
5. Final steps
- If you need a student visa or health insurance policy, apply for one as soon as possible (head over to our Study in Germany: preparing to apply article for more information).
- Plan out your finances (see our The cost of studying in Germany article)
- Book your accommodation. Most higher education institutions offer on-campus accommodations, although many students rent apartments and private rooms in houses. Contact the housing office of your academic institution for help finding lodging.
- Brush up on you German. Don't know how? Our handy guide will get you started.
- After arrival, obtain your residence permit if you require one.