The better your preparation is, the more successful your time studying in Germany will be! Clarify the most important questions well in advance.
Where and what do I want to study in Germany?
What conditions do I have to fulfil in order to enroll at the University of my Choice?
Do I need a visa?
How do I find affordable accommodation in the German university town of my choice?
How do I finance everything?
You will have to contact several authorities or organizations to answer all these questions. Your most important contact will definitely be the German university that you choose. But in the German university system there is a clear division of responsibilities; the universities advise international students on all questions to do with admission, enrolment and academic support and the Studentenwerke are responsible for the social aspects around studying. Among other things they provide inexpensive accommodation. The Studentenwerke also offer many other services for international students.
Studying in Germany
In Germany there are 240 state and around 100 private universities. Basically the different types are: universities and universities of technology as well as technical colleges, art, film and music colleges and universities of applied sciences. German universities are manifold and diverse. The roots of some colleges, especially the universities, go back to the Middle Ages; others were founded after the Second World War.
The range of study courses is widely diversified. Of a total of 14,500 around 8,700 are undergraduate courses which lead to a university qualification. The remaining 5,800 courses lead to a higher university degree. The classic German degrees Diploma (degree), Magister (master's) and Staatsexamen (state examination) are to be changed to the international qualifications of Bachelor and Master.
The universities in Germany are open to students from all countries. Currently in Germany there are about two million enrolled students, 250,000 of them are international students. With over 10 % international students Germany is the world's favorite place to study! 85 % of international students arrange their stay in Germany themselves, 15 % via an exchange or cooperation program.
Prerequisites for studying
Besides a good knowledge of German in order to study in Germany you will need a qualification for university entrance, that is, a certificate which would permit you to study in your own country.
However, universities in Germany may also have other requirements. For example, for certain courses or at several universities there are additional requirements regarding grade point averages or language ability.
Please also take note that closing dates for applications differ. You should, therefore, get as much detailed information as possible on the admission requirements for the course of studies you have chosen. You will avoid disappointment later on!
Points of contact on such questions are mainly the academic international offices and the students' offices at the universities.
Entry: with our without a visa?
Students from the European Union (EU), the European Economic Area (EEA) and from some other countries can enter Germany without a visa.
As a rule, all other international students need a visa - especially if they want to stay longer than three months in Germany.
Enquire in advance about the entry regulations which apply for your country! Once you arrive in Germany you must present your visa to the German Aliens Department where it will be converted to a residence permit for the purpose of studying.
Cheap accommodation relieves the strain on your student budget enormously. The rent, on average about 250 Euro per month, is the largest monthly expense for students. However, the amount of rent depends mainly on the type of accommodation and the place of study; especially in the New Lander (East Germany) the average rents are lower and a room in student accommodation is also cheaper than a room or a flat on the independent housing market.
In urban areas and the classic university towns there is very little cheap accommodation. Especially at the beginning of term it is often difficult to find cheap rooms and flats. Begin as soon as you can with your flat search!
Students on an exchange program often have it easier than the students who organize their studies in Germany themselves. This is because they are usually provided a room in student accommodation. Enquire at your university in Germany!
How do international students finance their studies?
The financing of studies is one of the most difficult and important subjects that international students have to deal with. As early on as when you apply for a visa and a residence permit you must prove that you have enough financial means to finance your studies in Germany. At the moment the German authorities require proof that you have 8,040 Euro for one year of studies. This proof of financing is meant to ensure that international students can finance their studies themselves since they do not normally qualify for state help in Germany.
Even if you provide evidence of financing your financial worries are not yet over. In Germany, a budget of around 8,000 Euro per year will only allow you to lead a very modest lifestyle!
International students often have to go to work in order to finance their cost of living, but the amount of work they are allowed to do is restricted! Unfortunately financial difficulties are part of many international students' lives.
How do German students finance their studies?
In order to understand the German system it is important to know how German students finance their studies. In Germany, parents have to pay for student education. The German Studentenwerk has published a study on the economic situation of students; on average students receive roughly half their money from their parents. A quarter of their budget they earn themselves. The state financial assistance for education makes up about one seventh of their budget. Only three percent of German students receive a grant. Major grant donors are foundations and organizations sponsoring talented students.
On average German students have over 812 Euro per month at their disposal, however a quarter of all students have to make do with less than 640 Euro per month.
Planning reliability: the Servicepaket of the Studentenwerke
If you do not know Germany very well, it is difficult to guess how much money you will really need here. That is why many Studentenwerke offer Servicepakete. These give first year students from abroad more planning reliability for their first year of studies. They can be arranged from your homeland and for a fixed price they contain accommodation, meals and health insurance. Some Servicepakete also contain leisure activities and help you to settle in to life in Germany.