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Application: How to apply for admission to a degree programme

There are various ways in which you can apply for a place at a German university. The best option for you will depend on the subject you wish to study and your country of origin. The requirements and deadlines vary from university to university and also according to subject. You will find answers to the most important questions below.

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

1. Where do I apply?

This depends on two things: where you took your school-leaving qualification and what subject you wish to study. Three different institutions are responsible for applications: the Foundation for Admission to Higher Education (Stiftung für Hochschulzulassung), the University Application Service for International Students (Arbeits- und Servicestelle für Internationale Studienbewerbungen, uni-assist) and the university itself. Where you need to submit your application will depend on the restrictions on admissions for your subject. Which is why you should first find out whether your subject has restrictions on admissions.

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2. What are admissions restrictions?

Even if you fulfil the general requirements for academic studies in Germany, it is often not easy to enrol in your chosen subject. The reason for this is that in Germany there are many more applicants than places for many degree programmes. The admissions restrictions determine who is allowed to study the subject. It may be regulated locally, which means it only applies to individual universities. However, it can also be determined throughout Germany, i.e. on a nationwide basis.

3. Which courses are locally restricted and which ones nationwide?

Medicine, pharmacy, veterinary medicine, dentistry and geoinformation management are very popular courses of study and therefore there are restrictions on admission at all universities in Germany. They have what is known as a numerus clausus (NC). This is a specified minimum grade required for your school leaving certificate. Study places are awarded by the Stiftung für Hochschulzulassung (Foundation for University Admissions). You need to apply there for admission to these courses.
Some degree programmes only have admission restrictions at particular universities. They also have an NC, but this is determined by the university. Applicants sometimes have to pass tests or attend selection interviews. These criteria differ between higher education institutions and between study programmes. The Hochschulkompass (Higher Education Compass) will advise you as to whether your chosen subject is restricted. 

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4. What does it mean for me if I come from a EU country, Liechtenstein, Iceland or Norway?

If your subject has a nationwide NC, you need to apply to the Stiftung für Hochschulzulassung. If not, you apply either via uni-assist or directly to the university - depending on whether your chosen university is a member of uni-assist. A list can be found on the uni-assist website
 

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5. What happens if I come from another country?

If you have a school leaving certificate from a German school, then the same procedure as for Question 4 applies. If not, you will always apply through uni-assist or, if the university is not a member, directly to the university - even if your subject has an NC.
 

Infographic: The application procedure at German higher education institutions

Infographic that shows the application procedure at German higher education institutions © DAAD
Application procedure at German higher education institutions . © DAAD

Film: How to apply for a degree programme in Germany

6. What documents do I need?

In the foreign students’ office (Akademischen Auslandsamt) at your university you will learn how the application process works and which documents you need to submit. Forms and information material, which will vary according to the application procedure for the university, are available on the uni-assist application portal or from the Stiftung für Hochschulzulassung (Foundation for Admission to Higher Education). You will normally need the following:

  •  A certified copy of the higher education entrance qualification (Hochschulreife)
  •  An overview of your subjects and grades (certified and including an official translation)
  •  Certified copies of your previous higher education certificates, if applicable
  •  A passport photograph
  •  A photocopy of your passport (name and photograph)
  •  Certified copies of language certificates


Only officially certified copies and translations are accepted as proof. You can have these issued by the German embassy in your home country, for example. Some higher education institutions also accept documents in English and French. 

7. How much does the application cost?

There are also often fees for the certification and any necessary German language tests, as well as for the application itself. Universities will charge an administration fee for examining the application documents. The application will be processed only when this is paid. Application to the Stiftung für Hochschulzulassung is free of charge.
If you apply through uni-assist and are registered as a refugee, the DAAD has covered the cost of application since March 2016. The prerequisite is one of these residence permits:

  • Persons with BÜMA/proof of arrival (asylum application filed prior to submission as set out in § 63a AsylG [German asylum law])
  • Asylum seekers (current cases – temporary residence permit in accordance with § 55 of the AsylVfG [Asylum Procedures Act])
  • Tolerated persons (temporary suspension of deportation – toleration in accordance with § 60a of the AufenthG [German law on residence])
  • Persons who qualify for asylum in accordance with Art.16a GG/GCR (stay in accordance with § 25 para. 1 of the AufenthG)
  • Recognised refugees in accordance with § 3 of the AsylVfG (stay in accordance with § 25 para. 2 p. 1/1. of the AufenthG)
  • Persons with subsidiary protection status in accordance with § 4 of the AsylVfG (stay in accordance with § 25 para. 2 p. 1/2. of the AufenthG)
  • Persons granted protection against deportation in accordance with § 60 para. 5 and 7 AufenthG (stay in accordance with § 25 para .3 of the AufenthG)
  • Persons with residence in accordance with § 22 clauses 1 and 2, § 23 para. 1, 2 and 4, § 24 and § 25 para. 5 of the AufenthG
  • Reunited family members (parents, children, spouse) of recognised people with the right to asylum, refugees under the Geneva Convention and beneficiaries of subsidiary protection have access to the free processing, if they can also prove the residence of the principal person entitled (the family member who arrived first).

You can prove your status, for example, with a copy of your proof of arrival, your permission to remain, your residence permit or a copy of the refugee ID document. You will also need to prove that you have taken an aptitude test (TestAS). If you are registered as a refugee, the DAAD will assume the costs for the TestAS.
If you have already had a discussion about an application or consultation at a university, you can also submit a statement confirming this discussion instead.
First, you request free processing and submit the necessary documentation. After your application is approved, you will receive an application number, with which you can enrol. The application to uni-assist will only involve costs for you if you apply to more than three universities.

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8. When do I need to submit the application?

The application deadline is usually several months before the start of the semester. The university will only accept your application if it is completed in full and submitted to the university by the stipulated application deadline. The earlier you contact the foreign student’s office, the better. As you will then have plenty of time to obtain missing documents. These are the deadlines:
For courses starting in the winter semester (usually October):

  •  Application deadline: usually from the end of May to the 15 July
  •  The letter of acceptance will be sent in August/September.
  •  Notification of rejection will be sent in September and October.
  •  For courses starting in the summer semester (March/April):
  •  Application deadline: beginning of December to the 15 January
  •  The letter of acceptance will be sent in February/March.
  •  Notification of rejection will be sent in March/April.
Students doing research on the computer © Hagenguth/DAAD
Students doing research on the computer . © Hagenguth/DAAD

Some universities have different deadlines. Sometimes there is only admission to the winter semester, and some deadlines end earlier than shown here. Find out about the exact deadline for the application and the start of the semester at your chosen university well in advance!

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