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HomeGerman LifestyleStudying in Germany: Easy Guide for foreign students

Studying in Germany: Easy Guide for foreign students

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Thinking about studying in Germany? Here is a guide with useful information and tips for International students looking to study in Germany!

Studying in Germany has become very popular because the reputation of German universities abroad is high and the number of foreign applicants is increasing from year to year. But what requirements do foreigners who want to study in Germany actually have to meet?

5 perfect reasons for studying in Germany

studying in germany

There are a lot of reasons to study in Germany. Below are a few main ones:

  1. The degrees from a German university are recognized and valued worldwide. 
  2. German universities focus on research, which is supported by research funds provided by the state. This enables new research areas to be opened up.
  3. Studying in Germany or doing a semester abroad in Germany means getting practical experience. Some programs have compulsory internships or encourage voluntary internships – the best way to meet a potential future employer in Germany.
  4. German universities have well-run international exchange programs that endeavor to provide international students with enough study places and to look after them well during their stay in Germany. 
  5. Germany is a fantastic travel destination. So you will be killing 2 birds with one stone! Think about all the weekend trips across Europe (all you need to do is jump on the train! Thanks to its location in the middle of Europe, Germany is ideally suited to serve as a starting point for trips to other European countries)

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What are the rules for studying in Germany?

1. Applying to study in Germany as an EU national

studying in germany

With a degree from one of the EU countries, it is easy to study in Germany. 

The application is easily possible via the German university and a visa is not necessary. 

All university entrance qualifications that could be used to study in your home country also apply when you apply to a German university. 

These include:

  • The French Baccalauréat
  • The Austrian Matura
  • The Spanish Bachillerato

Basic knowledge of the German language is important, but this can also be learned shortly before the start of studies in a special language course (e.g. as part of the German language test for university admission for foreign applicants). 

Anyone who has acquired their university entrance qualification at a German school abroad does not have to separately prove their knowledge of German again. 

Studying in English in Germany is possible at many universities and usually depends entirely on the course of study. Master’s courses in particular are often designed internationally, which means that there is no need for knowledge of German purely for studying. 

Nevertheless, it is helpful to have at least a little command of the language of the country you are studying in order to cope with everyday life and to come into contact with the locals.

In the current situation due to the coronavirus, making plans for the upcoming semesters is not easy. This applies to students, but also to universities. Please visit the universities’ websites for up-to-date information about the courses.

2. Applying to study in Germany as a non-EU foreigner

studying in germany

If you come from a non-EU country and want to study in Germany, you have to have your university entrance qualification checked at the international office of the German university where you want to start your studies. 

The issue here is whether the university entrance qualification you have acquired is sufficient for German universities. If this is not the case, students can take a so-called assessment test, which is offered at various colleges in Germany. 

Those who shy away from this test have the opportunity to begin their studies in their home country and then switch to the German university after a few semesters (for example after completing their basic studies).

With a few exceptions, such as citizens from Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland, who are also members of the Schengen Agreement without belonging to the EU, applicants from non-EU countries need a visa to study in Germany. This visa is not a tourist visa, but an explicit student visa. The application is made at the German embassy or consulate in your home country.

There are three different types of visa for studying in Germany.

studying in germany

1. The pure language course visa, which cannot be used for study purposes and cannot be converted into a student visa.

2. The student applicant visa that people who have not yet been admitted to the university receive. Once approved, this visa can be converted into a student visa.

3. The student visa, which is only given to people who are admitted to a university or to a preparatory college. The visa is initially issued for three months and the student must then apply for his / her residence permit at the immigration authorities in Germany. To get the residence permit you need:

  • Proof of sufficient financial means
  • Proof that you have health insurance

The residence permit is initially valid for two years and can then be extended, but only if the course of studies is proper (i.e. within the standard period of study).

What are the application deadlines for studying in Germany?

The application deadlines for EU foreigners are similar to those for German students. 

The majority of the courses start in the winter semester and the deadline for applications is May 31 – at least in the case of central allocation. 

Courses that are awarded by the universities themselves have a deadline of June 15. You can often still enroll in courses of study for which admission is not restricted until mid-September.

You just want to do a “semester abroad” in Germany?

studying in germany

If you don’t want to complete your entire degree in Germany, but only want to do a semester abroad at a German university, you can do that.

Semester abroard for EU citizens and other Erasmus partner countries

You can register for the Erasmus program via your alma mater. Find out here if your country is a participating country or a partner country of the Erasmus program.

Many German universities have partner universities in other European countries and each year a certain number of students are admitted to the other university. The German Academic Exchange Service also offers various options for studying abroad.

Thanks to the Bologna Process, students from EU countries usually have no hurdles when completing the Masters in a country other than the one in which the Bachelor was obtained.

Semester abroad for Non-EU citizens and other countries

Non-EU citizens can apply for a semester abroad directly to the universities or via uni-assist.

For students from non-EU countries, the recognition of previous academic achievements counts here. 

Can I take a postgraduate degree in Germany with a foreign degree?

In theory, this is possible; the Bologna Process will not cause any problems within the EU. If you graduate from a non-European country, it is important to have your previous academic achievements recognized. Once this has happened, a classification within the course will be carried out. The best thing to do is to ask the international office of the new university which body is responsible for the recognition of academic achievements.

What is the best way to proceed if I want to do a doctorate?

In general, if you want to do a doctorate, you need a professor to supervise your doctoral thesis. This contact must be made personally. How this is best proceeded varies from person to person. More and more universities are now also offering doctoral programs and graduate colleges to which you can apply for a doctoral project.

List of Research Training Groups funded by the DFG (German Research Foundation) DFG Research Training Groups

Studying in Germany: The best universities in Germany

Ther are hundred of universities. As a foreigner ranking the universities involves looking at the following in comparison to universities in other countries:

  • The number of students
  • The scientific publications of a university
  • The internationality of the teaching staff
  • The evaluations of the professors are evaluated

Below are the best 16 best German universities that attract the most amount of international students. When German universities compete with foreign universities, it is usually about state universities. These are public and free. 

The best state universities in Germany (regularly ranked internationally)

  • Ludwig Maximilians University Munich
  • Technical University of Munich
  • Ruprecht-Karls-University Heidelberg
  • Charité University Medicine Berlin
  • Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen
  • Humboldt University of Berlin
  • Albert Ludwig University of Freiburg
  • RWTH Aachen University
  • Rhenish Friedrich Wilhelms University Bonn
  • Free University of Berlin
  • Georg-August University of Göttingen
  • University of Hamburg
  • University of Mannheim
  • Technical University of Berlin
  • Ulm University
  • Julius Maximilians University of Würzburg

The best Junior universities in Germany

  • University Duisburg-Essen – The Rurhpott University has over 36,000 students. In 2003, the universities in Duisburg and Essen merged; today they form a comprehensive university with excellent connections to business and many third-party funds. 
  • University of Passau – It has over 13,000 students from over 100 countries. It is excellent for research. Nonetheless, there are 91 students per faculty.
  • University of Potsdam – With around 21,000 students, the University of Potsdam is the largest in the state of Brandenburg. The cooperation with well-known research institutions such as the Max Planck, Leibnitz, Helmholtz and Fraunhofer institutes is reflected in a good value in terms of research.
  • Jacobs University – Founded in 2001, it is one of the youngest universities in Germany. 1,450 students from 110 nations are currently studying at the English-speaking university. 
  • University of Bremen – Bremen is particularly strong in the natural and engineering sciences, as well as in the social sciences and humanities. The approximately 18,500 students can also look forward to an excellent supervision ratio. 
  • University of Bayreuth – The University of Bayreuth has only existed since 1975, with six faculties it is one of the smaller. There were many points for the international orientation in Upper Franconia. 

How much money will I need for studying in Germany?

1. Cost of studying in Germany?

There are currently no general tuition fees in any federal state in Germany. This means that normal bachelor’s and consecutive master’s programs are free of charge at state universities. 

Overview of tuition fees at state universities in Germany

federal statepart-timeLong-term / second degree or similarNon-EU foreignersEnrollment / re-registration
Baden-Wuerttemberg~ € 2,500€ 650€ 1,500€ 70
Bavariaup to € 2,000
Berlin€ 50
Brandenburg€ 51
Bremen500 €€ 50
Hamburg€ 50
Hesse€ 50
Mecklenburg-Western Pomeraniaup to € 50
Lower Saxony500 €€ 75
North Rhine-Westphalia
Rhineland-Palatinate€ 650
Saarlandup to € 500 € 50
Saxony€ 500
Saxony-Anhalt“Cost-covering”up to € 500 € 50
Schleswig-Holstein
Thuringia€ 500

In Germany, all university students must pay a semester contribution. This payment has nothing to do with tuition fees; rather, it covers:
• Your contributions to student services
• The student government (AStA)

The semester contribution varies between higher education institutions and comes to between 100 and 350 EUR. It has to be paid when you enrol and before the start of every new semester.

For example, University of Heidelberg charges a semester contribution fee of 171.80
• 70.00 euros administrative costs
• 54.00 euros social contribution for student services: Student services fees
• 10.00 euros fee for the constituted student body
• 35.30 euros complementary financing of regional transit pass (Semesterticket)
• 2.50 euros levy for the use of nextbike

2. Cost of living in Germany

As of 2021, you will also need to prove that you have at least € 10,332 (€ 861 / month) in living expenses. This is also part of the student visa requirement unless you have a scholarship of a sponsor in Germany.

Do I need a bank account in Germany before studying in Germany?

Foreign students from a non-EU country need a so-called blocked account. You can use this to document your existing money, which you can use to cover the cost of living in Germany for one year. This amount is one of the most important requirements for the student visa !! The minimum amount you need to have in this blocked account is € 10,332 (€ 861 / month).

You apply for your blocked account, like a normal account, at the responsible bank. You can do this easily online by filling out a PDF application form and submitting it. As soon as you have transferred the amount to the blocked account, the process is complete. From now on you can access your money in Germany.

What is a blocked account?

The blocked account serves foreign students who come from a non-EU or non-EEA country as proof of funding and is a prerequisite for applying for a German student visa or a residence permit for the purpose of studying.

This type of account is called a ” blocked account ” because the money deposited into the account can only be withdrawn after the owner has arrived in Germany, and only a certain amount of money per month.

With a blocked account, you can provide evidence during the visa application process that you have adequate financial resources.

How do I open a blocked account in Germany?

Opening a blocked account in Germany is easy. The process can be completed in a few steps:

  • Choose the provider (Fintiba and Deutsche Bank are the easiest to deal with) .
  • Apply online for your blocked account (only applies to Fintiba)
  • Download the PDF application form and fill it out (only applies to Deutsche Bank)
  • Find proper legalization at the German embassy in your home country (only if you have chosen Deutsche Bank)
  • Transfer the money to your account
  • You will then receive the confirmation 

At Deutsche Bank, you will need the following documents to open:

  • Application form
  • Valid passport
  • The letter of admission from your university
  • A banker’s statement of your income
  • A prepaid fee

At Fintiba, you will need the following documents to open:

  • Valid passport

The following providers offer blocked accounts that are recognized by the German Federal Foreign Office:

  • BAM
  • Coracle
  • Deutsche Bank
  • Drop Money
  • Expatrio
  • Fintiba
  • ICICI Bank

Are there other ways to show proof of financial resources before studying in Germany?

  • Documents that show the income and assets of the applicant’s parents
  • A letter of sponsorship by someone who lives in Germany, that is willing to cover all your costs throughout your stay in Germany
  • A recognized scholarship

How to start studying in Germany from the US or any other country

Getting your plan to studying in Germany ready

Before you start thinking about a student visa to study in Germany, you have do first understand what and how you will be studying in Germany. You have to:

1. Do some basic research on what you are looking for

  • What are your interests?
  • Which degree are you aiming for?
  • Which language do you prefer?

2. Find the eligibility criteria for the program you are looking to study

Once you have an idea of what to study, you have to check with university offers the program you are interested in. Find out the following:

  • Program – Degree or other
  • Tuition fees – not all university programs are free in Germany
  • Program language – Is it German or English?
  • Admission semester – Summer or Winter semester
  • Application deadlines – Are there any exceptions

3. Find out what the admissions requirements

There a really helpful database that updates the admission requirements for international students to check whether they meet the requirements for the degree program of their choice in Germany.

The database will let you know if your educational background qualifies you for 

  • Direct general admission – This allows you to apply directly to a German university for academic studies in any subject area
  • Subject-restricted admission – This allows you to apply directly to a German higher education institution for academic studies in the subject area of your previous academic studies or a related subject
  • General admission to a preparatory course/the assessment examination for all higher education institutions including free choice of the key area
  • Case by case basis – Admission to an institution of higher education in Germany will be decided on a case by case basis

You can access the DAAD database here.

Further tips for you to prepare for studying in Germany:

  • Start preparing your application documents early enough. The application for a visa and the recognition process for your documents take up a lot of time
  • Organize accommodation. For example, there are student residences close to the university, which are much cheaper than normal rental apartments
  • Find out about offers for foreign students at your university. At the beginning of each semester, there are get-to-know afternoons where you can meet new faces
  • Find out about the city you will live in
  • Research bus and train connections

Applying for a residence permit to study in Germany when you are in Germany

You will need to visit the immigration office once you are in Germany to get your residence permit to study.

Requirements

  • Study placeIn order to be granted a residence permit, either enrollment or conditional admission to study must be available.
  • Personal interview is required
  • Main residence in Berlin

Required documents

  • Valid passport
  • 1 recent biometric photo 35mm x 45mm, frontal shot with a neutral facial expression and closed mouth looking straight into the camera, light background
  • “Application for a residence permit” form – This is only required when applying for the first time.
  • Proof of livelihood
    • When issued for the first time: for example blocked account with a German bank for EUR 10,032.00 / declaration of commitment on an official form / certificate of scholarship / notarized declaration from the parents to secure the livelihood for the duration of the studies with proof of the income of the parents in the last six Months
    • in the event of renewal: account statements for the last six months
  • Health insurance – Proof of a secure livelihood also includes adequate health insurance coverage. People with statutory health insurance are adequately insured. Those with private health insurance must pay attention to the type and scope of their health insurance. For more information, please read the leaflet.
  • Certificate of enrollment or conditional admission
  • Proof of main residence
    • Certificate of registration of the apartment (confirmation of registration)or
    • Rental agreement and confirmation of move-in from the landlord

Recidence permit fees

  • 100.00 euros for the initial issue of the residence permit
  • 93.00 euros for each extension of the residence permit
  • 28.80 euros (maximum): for Turkish citizens
  • none: in the case of a grant from German public funds, a German foundation or a program financed with EU funds

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about studying in Germany

Will my university entrance qualification be recognized in Germany?

The school leaving certificate that you need to study in your home country must be recognized in Germany. For EU foreigners, this means that they have their secondary qualifications checked for equivalence with the German Abitur.

As a non-EU citizen, you have to contact the international office of the respective university or college with your concerns. If there is no positive result and your degree is not recognized, you will have to take an assessment test. This is used to determine suitability for a degree.

Do I need a visa to study in Germany as a foreigner?

As an applicant from a non-EU country, you need a visa, which should be applied for early enough. There are different visas, such as:

• Language visa
• Student applicant visa for three months
• Student visa for one year

You also submit a residence permit to the university.

What do I need to know about finance for my studies in Germany?

As a student, you have to pay for your private costs as well as for others, such as semester fees and rent. As a student from abroad, you also have the opportunity to receive financial support.

In addition to scholarships and BAföG, there are other ways you can get money. Everything about financial support can be found in detail on the DAAD website.

What German language skills do I need to have as a foreigner to study?

The German language is very important for successful studies and uncomplicated coexistence in society. In order to study in Germany, you therefore need knowledge of German, which you can prove with certificates.

You can take tests in your home country or take the language test at level C at the Goethe Institute in Germany, for example. You can of course also study international courses in English.

The DAAD website has a lot of information on the subject of the German language test for immigrants, especially foreign students.

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