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Application: How to apply for admission to a degree programme

There are different ways to apply for admission to a German university. The application procedure depends on which subject you would like to study and where you come from. Requirements and application deadlines can vary from university to university, and even from degree programme to degree programme.

by the Editors

International students © Hagenguth/DAAD
International students . © Hagenguth/DAAD

There are three places which accept applications for admission to university:

  1. The Trust for admission to higher education
  2. uni-assist (free of charge if you are registered as a refugee)
  3. The university of your choice

The right address for your application depends on:

  1. The subject you wish to study
  2. Your country of origin

More information

Subject

There are two types of subjects in Germany:

  1. Subjects, for which admission is centrally restricted („bundesweiter Numerus clausus“ or „zentraler NC“), when there are more applicants in Germany than spaces available at university. These currently include Medicine, Pharmacy, Veterinary Medicine and Dentistry.
  2. Subjects, for which admission is unrestricted or only locally restricted (“lokaler Numerus clausus”) imposed by the university.

Country of origin

Your country of origin also plays a role in the admission process.

Scenario A

  1. You apply for university admission in a subject with a central NC, and
  2. You received your university entrance qualification in Germany or at a German School abroad, or you come from an EU member state, Liechtenstein, Iceland or Norway.

You must submit your application to the Trust for admission to higher education.

Scenario B

  1. You apply for university admission in a subject with a central NC, and
  2. You do not come from an EU member state, Liechtenstein, Iceland or Norway, and you did not receive your university entrance qualification in Germany or at a German School abroad.

You have to inquire as to whether the university is a member of uni-assist.

Scenario C

  1. You apply for admission in a subject with a local NC or no restriction.

You have to inquire as to whether the university is a member of uni-assist.

Film: How to apply for a degree programme in Germany

Numerus Clausus (NC)

If a subject has a Numerus clausus (NC), there is only a restricted number of places of a subject at a university or in Germany. In other words, there are far more applicants than space available. In such cases, the application review process is more selective and special requirements for admission apply. “Numerus clausus” is a Latin term which means “restricted number”.

You can view a list of uni-assist member universities on the uni-assist website. Under the “Applicant’s Portal”, you will find instructions which take you step-by-step through the uni-assist application process. Bear in mind that uni-assist is not responsible for each German universities! Before submitting your applications, check whether all of them actually have to be processed by uni-assist.

If the university of your choice is not a member of uni-assist and processes incoming applications itself, then you have to submit your application to that university directly.

To be on the safe side, inquire at the International Office at the university of your choice about how to submit your application for admission to your desired degree programme.

Expenses

Applicants usually have to pay a processing fee when they apply for admission to university. Additional documents and certificates are also required. You should expect to pay the following expenses:

  • Fees for certified copies and translations
  • Examination fee for the TestDaF or DSH
  • Application processing fee

The cost of the processing fee depends on where you apply.

  1. If you apply via uni-assist:

As of 1 March 2016, the DAAD covers the cost of the testing fees if you are registered as a refugee. To be eligible, you have to meet certain requirements.
For example, you will need a certificate confirming your residence status. You can meet this requirement by holding one of the following residence titles:

  • Persons with a BüMA/Proof of Arrival (asylum-seeker registration certificate prior to application in accordance with §63a AsylG)
  • Asylum seekers (process pending - temporary residence permit in accordance with §55 AsylVfG)
  • Tolerated persons (temporary suspension of deportation - tolerance permit in accordance with §60a AufenthG)
  • Refugees with right to asylum in accordance with Art. 16a GG/ GFK (residence permit in accordance with §25 par. 1 AufenthG)
  • Recognised refugees in accordance with § 3 AsylVfG (residence permit in accordance with §25 par.2 S.1/1. AufenthG)
  • Persons granted subsidiary protection in accordance with § 4 AsylVfG (residence permit in accordance with §25 par.2 S.1/2. AufenthG)
  • Persons granted deportation protection in accordance with § 60 par. 5 and 7 AufenthG (residence permit in accordance with §25 par.3 AufenthG)
  • Persons with a residence permit in accordance with § 22 S. 1 and 2, § 23 par. 1,2  and 4, § 24 and § 25 par. 5 AufenthG
  • Family members (parents, children, spouses), who have joined recognised refugees or asylum seekers as defined under the Geneva Convention or those granted subsidiary protection, may also participate in the free review process if they can provide proof that the “principal” person (the first to be granted refugee status) has a residence permit  

You can prove your status with a copy of your certificate of arrival, your temporary or standard residence permit, or with a copy of your refugee ID card.

Furthermore you need to proof that you have taken the TestAS. If you’re registered as a refugee, the DAAD will cover the cost of the TestAS, too.
If you have already had an interview at the university, you can submit a “consultation certificate” instead of the TestAS.

Uni-assist is a non-profit organisation with no commercial objectives. Generally, it receives no public financing, however, which is why they have to charge a fee to review your application documents. As a refugee, you don’t have to pay this fee unless you apply at more than three universities.

If you apply through uni-assist, first request free application processing and upload the required proof of refugee status via uni-assist Portal for Cost Exemption. When your request is approved, you will be instructed to apply via the online portal. You can find more information on the uni-assist website

  1. If you apply directly to the university:

Some universities charge applicants a processing fee. In such cases, your application will be reviewed only when the university has received your payment.

  1. If you apply directly to the Trust for admission to higher education:

Application processing is free of charge.

Forms and documents

Depending on where you apply, you can obtain an application form from the university of your choice, the Trust for admission to higher education or the DAAD website.

If you have to apply through uni-assist, first request free application processing and upload the required proof of refugee status. When your request is approved, you will be instructed to apply via the online portal. You can find more information on uni-assist website.  

You must submit several additional documents along with your application form, including:

  • certified copy of your university entrance qualification (e.g. high school diploma, A levels)
  • certified copies of all university certificates you have received thus far
  • passport photo
  • copy of your passport (page with your name and photo)
  • foreign language certificates

Copies of certificates are only recognised if they are officially certified. Not only do you need certified copies of your certificates in their original language, but also certified copies of their translations. These translations have to be done by certified translators. If you want to send a copy of a translation, even the copy has to be certified. Some universities accept English documents as well.

You can have your documents certified by the German diplomatic mission in your home country. It is also possible to have documents certified by the responsible department of the institution that issued the certificate. In case that you have no original copy of your certificates or no certificates at all, many German universities offer special application processes. Please check with the universities directly.

The application period usually ends several months prior to the beginning of the upcoming semester. The university will only accept applications which are complete and received on time, i.e. before the application deadline. The sooner you contact the International Office, the better. That will give you enough time to obtain and submit any missing documents.

The university will only begin the application process once you have paid the processing fee.

Dates and deadlines

Students doing research on the computer © Hagenguth/DAAD
Students doing research on the computer . © Hagenguth/DAAD

Enquire early about application deadlines from the International Offices, uni-assist and the Trust for admission to higher education. You must submit your application and all required documents by this deadline.

Apply as early as possible! That will give you enough time to send in any documents you might have forgotten before the deadline. If you apply via uni-assist, it will take about four to six weeks for uni-assist to process your application materials. If you send in your application early enough, uni-assist will be able to notify you of any missing documents before the application period expires.

The following dates and deadlines are valid at most universities:

For winter semester enrolment:

  • Application period: from around the end of May to 15 July
  • Acceptance letters are sent out in August / September.
  • Rejection letters are sent out in September / October.

For summer semester enrolment:

  • Application period: from the beginning of December to 15 January
  • Acceptance letters are sent out in February / March.
  • Rejection letters are sent out in March / April.

Deadlines vary at some universities. And some degree programmes only commence in the winter semester, which means that the application period may end earlier than indicated above. Inquire at the university of your choice about application deadlines and when your desired degree programme will commence.