How to study at a German university

Become a student in 9 Steps

Have you decided that you want to pursue a degree in Germany? Go to a German university?

Higher education in Germany is internationally recognised. It is in high demand.

Why?

In Germany, living and university costs are low compared to other European countries.

It sounds pretty heavenly, if you ask me.

Studying in German can be a great experience. It also looks great on your CV.

However you must know how to organise and prepare for this new adventure.

Let me explain what steps you must take to study in Germany.

#1 Why studying in Germany?

Maybe you are still researching and exploring different options for studying in Germany.

You are looking for the best option.

I agree you should pick the best university for your subject. And living in a big city like Berlin, Cologne or Munich would be nice to, wouldn’t it?

Let me tell you why higher education in Germany is a good choice.

  • German institution of higher education are globally recognized due to their centuries long history and adequate requirements for entry
  • There are more than 300 institution of higher education within Germany
  • Many universities offer study programs entirely, or partially, in English, in order to give chance to international students
  • studying at a public university in Germany is generally free (there is a small fee for which you get a public transport ticket and other discounts)
  • if you want to study at a private university like Zeppelin university,WHU, or Hertie School of Governance look out for scholarships
  • Living costs are more affordable compared to other Western European states;
  • German universities offer free language courses and other free campus activities for international students
  • German universities offer many international degrees, which will come in useful all over the world; these degrees are mostly taught in English

#2 Finding a degree at a German university / Fachhochschule

Are you still in your homeland looking for a degree in Germany? Or you live in Germany and have decided to study?

A good way to find out where exactly you want to apply is using the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). This is how many students find their new university. I know, what a time to be alive!

You can search for Bachelor, Master or Doctorate programs from the comfort of your home, or even while travelling.

Apply filters to narrow down the results and get useful information regarding

  • German university fees
  • deadlines
  • approximate costs per month (depending on the location)
  • requirements and details of the study course.

Find out more on www.daad.de

This agency is devoted to helping the international and German students with their university qualification.

From DAAD you will be directed to the website of the desired institution. From here you have to organise everything yourself.

#3 Get a German Student Visa

Are you from the EU? Then you do not need a visa to study in Germany.

If you are from outside of the EU, you must apply for a student visa. How do you do this? You must do this at the German embassy in your home country.

To apply for a German student visa, you must have

1. a conditional offer from a German university. Without this written offer, you cannot apply for a visa.

2. You also need proof that you have enough money to sustain yourself while you live in Germany. For this financial guarantee, you must show a bank statement from a German bank with enough money on it. At the moment, the regulations say that you must have proof that you have 8040 € for the first year of studies. So you must have 8040 Euros on the bank account statement for your visa application. Usually, this must be on a blocked account. The Deutsche Bank offers these sorts of accounts.
With Deutsche Bank you can open a German student bank account from abroad , if you do not live in Germany yet. You can also have written proof from your parents that they will support you. This proof must be signed by a lawyer / notary. Attention: every embassy has slightly different regulations, so make sure you check with your own embassy!

You feel overwhelmed with your visa application?

I can highly recommend to get professional help with your visa application, if you find the process complicated. It’s a one time investment that makes sure you can start your studies in time.

I paid roughly 800 Euros for getting help with my student visa for Germany. Seems a lot, but if you think about it, it’s not. They’ve skyped with me, answered all my questions, got in touch with the German embassy in the US on my behalf. They checked my paperwork. This way my first shot was successful, it all happened in only 3,5 weeks. So I just got my visa in time to start my degree in Germany.

#4 Get German health insurance

Needless to say, if you study in Germany, you must have health insurance.

Everyone who lives in Germany must have proof of health insurance.

Once you have matriculated in Germany, you can apply for public health insurance.

Alternatively, you can get a private health insurance package. It is valid from the moment that you enter in Germany.

#5 Find a place to stay

If you are already here, let me welcome you!

It’s very brave and ambitious to come to a foreign country to study – I know what it’s like…

I know it can be very stressful arriving at a new place.

But do not despair. Just to everything step by step!

It can be really hard to find a place to live, once you have arrived in Germany.

So prepare for some challenges. I strongly recommend searching for a place before your arrival.

Websites such as wg-gesucht.de and immobilienscout24.de are great to search for a flat or a room in a shared flat. Do not forget the Facebook groups of your university and city! Here you can find other students. I found my shared flat on a Facebook group!

You can also look up our blog post about renting a flat in Germany. You can find it in our wiki. Or just click on the search button. The article explains:

– how a German rental contract looks like
– what paperwork you need to rent an apartment in Germany
– whether you have to pay estate agency fees
– how much you pay for a room in Berlin

Good luck with your flat hunting :)

#6 Register your new address

So…

Let’s assume you have found your way to the desired destination in Germany and have found a place to live in.

It is time to get to the bureaucratic part:

Once you are in Germany, you must register within 1-2 weeks after your arrival at your local registration office.

To register, you must fill out two forms: the registration form and the landlord confirmation form.

These forms only exist in German.

To help you, we have translated them.

You can fill out the registration forms online – in English.

#7 How to earn money as a German student

As a student you have the right to work in a so-called Minijob or as Studentische Aushilfe (student jobber) for not more than 450 Euros a month.

In order to work in Germany, you must provide a German bank account number. As a student you get a free bank account at any bank, Deutsche Bank, DKB, Sparkasse, Commerzbank… Open your free account online (check out the menu on this website for this) or go into a local branch!

This is the amount of money that is tax free and equals to approximately 2 days work per week (taking that 8,50 Euros is the minimum wage/hour in Germany).

Hint 1: It is relatively easy to find a job only with English skills in the bigger cities (Google „Minijob + your city”). If you are in a smaller town, it would be best to have at least basic knowledge of German…

Alternatively, as a student you are allowed to work part-time for 90 days (or 180 half days) a year, without having to present a work permit.

You should estimate your monthly costs at approximate of 700 Euros a month. If you live in the south of Germany like Stuttgart or Munich, you will need probably around 900 Euros a month.

Hint 2: applying for scholarships is always a good idea!  (Google „Stipendium + your German state, i.e. Berlin or Bayern”)

#8 Learn and improve your German

It is very useful to speak German when you live in Germany. I am sure you are not surprised to hear this :)

Perhaps you already speak German. If you study a German degree then you must have the language level C1 German. In this case it is probably enough to be studying in German. You do not need extra lessons. But perhaps a private tutor can help check your essays. A useful resource for finding a private language tutor us ebaykleinanzeigen.de as well as local facebook groups.

If your degree is in English, you should consider brushing up your German in a language course. There are different options for foreign students in Germany:
1. Check out whether your university offers some free German courses
2. Check the VHS courses – these are very cheap state-sponsored German lessons, google „VHS + your city”
3. Get free language learnings apps like Babbel and Duolingo to learn a few new words every day
4. Check out the free online resources on Deutsche Welle (www.dw.de) and BBC German

#9 Get Student Discounts!

Now.

You have chosen your preferred degree.

You have submitted all necessary papers.

You have done your research on the housing and work matters

….

You are almost ready to begin this new adventure!

Well done!

Don’t forget to get your student ID (Studentenausweis).

With your student ID you get lots of discounts.

For example, you get discounts at cinemas, like Cinestar and Cinemaxx, the zoo, public transport, certain clothes shops – just make sure you always ask „Gibt es einen Studentenrabatt?” (Is there a student discount?).

Great discounts when you study in Germany as a foreign student:

  1. As a German student, you can get a Bahncard 25 for only 20 Euros. With this Bahncard you save 25% on all your train travels in Germany and Europe ->
  2. You can use Flixbus to travel around Germany and Europe from 5 Euros
  3. You get a student discount on all article and newspaper subscriptions (by the way, try to become a member of e-fellows, here you get lots of newspaper subscriptions like Die Zeit, Der Tagesspiegel, Der Spiegel for free!)

In any case.

I genuinely hope that you will enjoy studying in Germany.

And yes, there will be lonely times. Times when you will miss home.

But make sure to always go out and meet new people, even if it is hard! Go out until you find true friends. Until you meet people that are like you!

After all, friendships that are forged during university time often last a life time…

Finally.. Don’t forget to deregister before you leave…

Perhaps you want to work in Germany after you leave. If you are not from the EU, you can apply for a work visa, an EU Blue card, or a work seeking visa. The last one entitles you to stay in Germany 6 months after your graduation to find a job in Germany.

But many foreign students return to their home country for a few years after they graduate from a German university.

If you leave Germany after your degree, you must deregister your address. This is very important. If you do not deregister, you can be still hold accountable to pay tax or pay for contracts in Germany.

So.

Deregister online when you leave Germany.

Want to add something? Want to share your own experience? Get in touch! 

This contribution is a modified version of an article submitted by Kalina Nikolaeva, who shared her own experiences of being a Bulgarian student in Germany.

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