Applicants to study in Germany can choose between 426 different types of universities, where 2.9 million students from all over the world study. According to statistics, more than half a million people started studying at German universities in 2018, of which 14% were foreigners.
German universities offer more than twenty thousand different fields of study at the undergraduate and graduate level. In this article, we introduce you to what you need to do to get into a university in Germany!
Being a citizen of one of the member states of the European Union, you can easily study in this country. In most cases, it is not too complicated and goes smoothly.
To be able to study in Germany you first have to be admitted (die Zulassung erhalten) by the university you are applying to. The other criteria do not differ much from those in Poland and depend on the university or college in question.
Documents needed to apply to study in Germany
Depending on the university or vocational college (Fachhochschule) you have to submit the necessary documents. Each university has its own requirements, so it is important to contact the university of your choice to find out exactly what you will need. An application for a place to study in Germany must always include the following documents:
- Bewerbungsantrag, or application for admission: Many universities use their own online portals or the public portal uni-assist.de, where university applicants can create an applicant account and submit an electronic application for a university place (Studienplatz). If you are applying for a degree course with a limited number of admissions (Zulassungsbeschränkung), such as, for example, psychology, medicine (Humanmedizin), dentistry (Zahnmedizin), veterinary medicine (Tiermedizin) and pharmacy (Pharmazie), you will need to submit your application for admission via www.hochschulstart.de.
- Hochschulzugangsberechtigung, i.e., the secondary school graduation certificate (Sekundarschulabschluss) entitling the student to pursue higher education and other documents confirming academic performance (transcript of transcript/list of subjects and grades, if the student completed his/her studies in Poland at Bachelor’s level and applies for admission to Master’s level studies, it is necessary to submit the Bachelor’s diploma together with a supplement).
- Deutschkenntnisse und Sprachzertifikate, i.e., knowledge of the German language and language certificates recognised in Germany. If you wish to study philology, you may also need certificates that prove your knowledge of other languages at the appropriate level for your studies, for example, an English language certificate for applicants majoring in English, applied linguistics or American studies, or a French language certificate for applicants majoring in Romance studies.
- Other application documents, i.e. additional documents required by the university, such as a completed special application for admission, a curriculum vitae (Lebenslauf), proof of completed internships (Praktikumsnachweise) or mandatory internships before starting the studies (Vorpraktikum), a motivation letter (Motivationsschreiben), references from third parties (Empfehlungsschreiben) or a list of scientific publications (Publikationsliste – in the case of doctoral studies or postdoctoral programs).
Please note: Applicants for art or music studies usually have to submit a portfolio with completed works to prove their artistic, photographic, dancing, instrumental, acting or vocal skills. There are also very often entrance exams or other qualifying procedures in these majors. The qualification procedure at one of the most renowned Fine Arts Academy Folkwang University in Essen contains as many as eight steps https://www.folkwang-uni.de/home/hochschule/studium/bewerbung/.
Also candidates for journalism studies must submit a portfolio with published articles. Here, too, it is often required to pass an entrance exam on knowledge of society and current world and political issues and to write an essay on a given topic.
Hochschulzugangsberechtigung, the documents required to study in Germany
You must submit your university entrance documents (Hochschulzugangsberechtigung) via the university’s online portals or through the Uni-Assist or Hochschulstart portals mentioned above. All certificates and certificates must be complete (vollständig) and without gaps (lückenlos). You will also need to submit certified copies in the original language (i.e., English) as well as translations into German by a sworn translator. These must also be certified.
Documents required from candidates for Bachelor’s degree:
- High school diploma with a list of subjects and grades,
- Certificate of passing the entrance examination in your home country (if you passed it),
- In case you are already studying in Poland, an excerpt from your transcript book / transcript of courses and grades; this is useful in case you are admitted to a higher semester,
- grading system in force at your university. You may attach a link to your university where this information is available or print this information as a pdf and attach it to your application. This will be helpful for converting your grades into the German scale and for transferring courses from your studies in Poland to your studies in Germany.
Documents required from candidates for Master’s degree:
- Documents confirming the completion of higher education: diploma with supplement, extract from the index/list of subjects and grades,
- The grading system used at your university.
- Some universities also require a secondary school-leaving certificate and a certificate that you have passed the entrance examination in order to be admitted to a Master’s programme.
The documents needed to study in Germany must be translated into German by a sworn translator. Sworn translators cannot authenticate documents in their original language. Since the translation must necessarily be certified, it is best to have it translated in Germany. This is admittedly more expensive, but then you can be sure that they will be recognized by the university right away. The price for one line of translation from Polish to German in Germany varies between 0,65 and 1,00 €. With the original translation you can go to the city office, where the clerk will make a copy with the stamp of the office. This way certified copies are accepted by all universities in Germany. The average cost to the municipality is 3-5 Euros per page.
Knowledge of the German language
Every university applicant who did not attend a German school and does not have a German Abitur (Abitur) certificate must demonstrate sufficient knowledge of the German language to be able to study. This also applies to citizens of EU countries. Each university has its own rules regarding the type of certificate and the grades depending on the field of study. If you have any doubts about whether your certificate is recognized by the university, it is best to contact it directly by phone or e-mail. Most universities recognize the following German language certificates:
- DSH2/DSH3 – German language exams organised internally by universities in Germany
- TestDaf: Level 4 (Niveau 4) in each of the four components/skills: speaking, reading, writing, listening. You can find more about TestDaf here: www.testdaf.de
- Goethe-Institut certificates for level C2 (Großes Deutsches Sprachdiplom)
- Telc C1 Hochschule
- Telc C2
- Deutsches Sprachdiplom der Kultusministerkonferenz: DSD II at level C1 in each examination component
Most German universities organize language exams just before the start of the first semester. These are the DSH exams (Deutsche Sprachprüfung für den Hochschulzugang), the German language exam for gaining access to universities. These exams consist of a written part, which consists of listening comprehension, reading comprehension, a grammar part and a written essay, and an oral part. The purpose of this test is to determine whether you have sufficient language skills to study at a particular university.
In order to get a place at a German university, you must achieve a score higher than 60%, which corresponds to DSH 2 (see below). Depending on the chosen major, this requirement may be higher. With a DSH score of 3, applicants will be admitted to any major, even medicine, psychology or law.
The DSH levels are as follows:
- DSH level 1 (≥57%): B2 level
- DSH 2 (≥67%): level C1
- DSH 3 (≥82%): level C2
Please note: applicants for music and art studies are subject to different language criteria depending on their chosen field of study. If you have any doubts or questions, please contact the university directly.
So what documents should I prepare?
To be able to apply for a place at a German university you need to prepare a number of documents. Depending on the university, the number of required documents may vary. Below is a list of the documents you will need to provide:
- A completed application for admission, or Zulassungsantrag, which you can find on the university’s website,
- A certified copy of your high school diploma,
- A certified translation of the validated copy of your high school diploma,
- A certified copy of your secondary school leaving certificate,
- Certified translation of a certified copy of your high school diploma,
- Certificate of language skills (DaF, DSH or equivalent – see above),
- Copy of identity card or passport (page containing personal data, date and place of birth),
- Passport color photograph,
- Proof of payment of the processing fee,
- Other documents required by the university.
After completing the online application, all the documents should be sent to the address shown on the university’s website. If you use the online portal (for example https://www.uni-assist.de/bewerben/online-bewerben/), all documents must be scanned and uploaded to the server (papierlose Bewerbung). If you use the online portal, you will be asked to submit all certified paper documents in original form to the university when you are allocated a place at the university.
Deadlines for submitting documents to study in Germany
The deadlines for submitting documents to German universities are:
- July 15 for university applicants beginning their studies in the winter semester,
- 15 January for candidates beginning their studies in the summer semester.
Different deadlines may apply to applicants for art or music studies due to entrance examinations or other qualification procedures. Information about this can be found on the websites of the universities and faculties.
University entrance examination in Germany
There are no entrance exams for higher education in Germany. The exceptions are the aforementioned art and music courses. There are some degree programmes where you can enter directly, regardless of your grades. These courses are called “zulassungsfrei”. Other courses, on the other hand, have a Numerus Clausus (Latin for “limited number”), which means that applicants must submit themselves to a selection procedure based on the so-called “Verfahrensnote”, i.e. a grade based on certain criteria (the final secondary school exam average is one criterion) and a waiting period for a place on a course of study. Such fields of study are referred to as “zulassungsbeschränkt”.
The process of assigning study places depends on the type of course. For courses with a local Numerus Clausus, the decision to allocate a place is at the discretion of the university. For courses of study such as psychology, medicine (Humanmedizin), dentistry (Zahnmedizin), veterinary medicine (Tiermedizin) and pharmacy (Pharmazie), a nationwide Numerus Clausus applies and it is necessary to apply for admission through www.hochschulstart.de regardless of the city and state.
The higher your average (1.0 is the highest average in Germany), the better your chances of getting a place at the university of your choice. The results of the allocation of places are published on the websites of the individual universities. Below you will find an example of the application of the local Numerus Clausus procedure (DoSV Dialogorientiertes Serviceverfahren) for the course “Psychology” with explanations.
- Psychology (BA) – DoSV Procedure
- First semester – hochschulstart.de (DoSV)
- List boundary based on the amount of grade calculated in the proceedings
– All those who have a grade calculated in the proceedings of at least 1.51 were admitted to the degree program.
– Of the applicants with a procedural grade of 1.52, all those who have been waiting for a place for at least one semester have been admitted
– Of the candidates with a calculated grade in the proceedings of 1.52 and zero waiting time (zero semesters), candidates were admitted to the study on the basis of random draw.
- Border of the list on the basis of waiting time for admission
– All those who wait at least 15 semesters for a place of study were admitted to the college.
Residence permit and student visa
Candidates from EU countries do not need either a temporary residence permit in Germany or a student visa. However, they do have to register with the Residence Registration Office (das Einwohnermeldeamt) in the city where they live to study. In Germany, registration is required if you intend to stay in the country for more than three months.
Health insurance in Germany as a student
Persons undertaking a course of study in Germany must also compulsorily provide proof of membership in a health insurance fund (Die Versicherungsbescheinigung der Krankenkasse zur Vorlage bei der Hochschule) and thus of statutory health insurance at the time of enrolment (Immatrikulation). Students in Germany pay a lower health insurance premium, which is currently about 72,17 € per month and is the cheapest alternative. Dojczland.info works with one of the best health insurance companies in Germany, the Techniker Krankenkasse. In order to take advantage of the student tariff, you will have to present a certificate of student status (Immatrikulationsbescheinigung) to the health insurance company and then submit it every semester.
Basic abbreviations for types of study in Germany
With the unification of study programmes within the European Union, Germany too has abandoned the single-degree system (Master- und Diplomstudiengänge) in favour of a three-degree system (Bachelor, Master, Doctoral Study PhD). Accordingly, the following types of studies are distinguished:
- Bachelor of Arts (MA) – bachelor’s degree in the humanities
- Bachelor of Science (BSc)- Bachelor of Science
- Bachelor of Engineering (B.Eng.) – Bachelor of Engineering
- Bachelor of Laws (LL.B.) – bachelor’s degree in law and economics, which does not entitle to take the national exam
- Master of Arts (MA) – Master’s degree in humanities
- Master of Science (MSc) – Master of Science
- Master of Engineering (M.Eng.) – Master of Engineering
- Master of Laws (LL.M.) – Master’s degree in law and economics, which does not qualify you to take the state exam
- Doctor (Ph.D.) – Doctor of Philosophy
There are also courses in Germany that lead to state exams, called Staatsexamen or Staatsprüfung. These include courses in teaching (Die Erste und die Zweite Staatsprüfung für das Lehramt), law (Das Erste und das Zweite Staatsexamen) and medicine (Das Erste und das Zweite Staatsexamen).
Scholarship in Germany
Every student can apply for a scholarship. If you want to apply for a scholarship to study in Germany, you can apply to the DAAD (Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst, or the German Academic Exchange Service). The amount of the scholarship depends on various criteria, such as personal financial situation, academic achievements, language skills, etc. In addition, the major field of study is also important. In addition, the field of study is also important. If you meet the requirements, you can generally receive a scholarship in any major. You can find detailed information on this subject on the website of the head office:
There are also various foundations in Germany that award scholarships. Prerequisites for a scholarship include political and social commitment, special talents and excellent grades.
Foundations that award scholarships:
- Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung https://www.kas.de/de/web/begabtenfoerderung-und-kultur/home
- Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung https://www.fes.de/studienfoerderung
- Hans-Böckler-Stiftung https://www.boeckler.de/112003.htm
- Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung https://www.boell.de/de/stiftung/stipendien
- Friedrich-Neumann-Stiftung https://www.freiheit.org/stipendien
- Bayer-Stiftungen http://www.bayer-stiftungen.de/de/uebersicht-stipendien.aspx
- Stiftung Industrieforschung https://www.stiftung-industrieforschung.de/htm/stipendien.php
- Evonik-Stiftung https://www.evonik-stiftung.de/foerderungen/stipendien/stipendium-der-evonik-stiftung/
- Hans-Seidel-Stiftung https://www.hss.de/stipendium/
- Peter-Feld-Stiftung https://www.peterfuldstiftung.de/stipendium/
- Rheinstahl-Stiftung https://www.rheinstahl-stiftung.de/de/das-stipendium
- Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung https://www.rosalux.de/stiftung/studienwerk/
- Gerda-Henkel-Stiftung https://www.gerda-henkel-stiftung.de/forschungsstipendien
Interest-free student loan BAföG?
BAföG is an interest-free student loan which, according to (§8 of BAföG), is also available to international students. Eligible to apply for a BAföG are:
- Citizens of European Union countries,
- Migrants and refugees with a right of residence in Germany
As of the winter semester 2019/20, the maximum monthly payment is 853 euros. The BAföG is repaid in monthly minimum installments of 130 euros up to a maximum of 10,000 euros. BAföG repayment begins five years after graduation, and you will receive information about how and when to repay the loan by mail at least one year before the repayment deadline. In exceptional situations (e.g. unemployment), the repayment term may be extended or lower instalments may be ordered.
Studying at a distance in Germany?
Distance learning courses are very popular in Germany. This is ideal for working people who do not have time to go to university for classes. The lectures take place online and the study materials are sent by mail or e-mail. Below are some of the German institutions that offer this type of study and training. On their websites you can order catalogs free of charge, which contain information about all curricula offered by the institution of your choice:
1. ILS – Institut für Lernsysteme
- ILS is one of the best-known training providers in Germany.
- ILS offers a wide range of further education courses, e.g., a 12-month course for caregivers of the elderly (look for Altenbetreuung under A…), German for professional purposes (Deutsch im Beruf), programmer (Geprüfte/r Programmierer/in (ILS) – Schwerpunkt Java), beautician (Geprüfte/r Kosmetiker/in), and many others (see link to website above)
- Free hotline
- You can try out each course for 4 weeks for free
- More than 75,000 students per year
2. Fernakademie für Erwachsenenbildung – Das Fernstudium mit mehr Service!
- Like the ILS, the Fernakademie also offers a wide range of further education courses, e.g. caretaker (Fernkurs Betreuungskraft gemäß §87b an der Fernakademie-Klett), fitness trainer (Fernkurs Fitnesscoach an der Fernakademie-Klett) and much more (see link to website above)
- Free hotline
- 4 week free trial period
- One month’s notice for each course
- More than 6,000 students per year
3. Euro-FH – Europäische Fernhochschule Hamburg
- EURO-FH is an institution that enables you to obtain a university degree (Engineer, Bachelor, Master, MBA)
- The university has numerous accreditations and cooperates with universities in Poland, China, Spain, Great Britain and the USA
- The university offers online lectures and materials via email
- Lectures take place twice a week (in the evenings) or on Saturdays and can be attended online without leaving home
- More than 5,000 students per year
4. the Studiengemeinschaft Darmstadt
- The Studiengemeinschaft Darmstadt is a school offering the opportunity to take the German Abitur (Abitur) and a variety of academic courses.
- The school has been in operation since 1948!
- An information packet with sample lessons from selected courses can be ordered free of charge
- Course material is sent by mail as a hard copy
- 90 percent pass rate among students