Application: How to apply to study at a university in Germany

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 student prepares her application sitting at a table and writing © DAAD/Jan Zappner
Student writing an application . © DAAD/Jan Zappner

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. Study places are awarded  by a process that checks if you meet certain criteria. The Stiftung für Hochschulzulassung (Foundation for University Admissions) awards the study places. You need to apply there for admission to these courses.
Some degree programmes only have admission restrictions at particular universities. 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.

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

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.

Film: How to apply for a Degree Programme in Germany

Three painted German maps with locks and a globe as well as the letter with arms, legs and glasses. Below the subtitle
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7. How much does the application cost?

You should plan for the cost of any certifications and German language tests that you might have to take. There are often also fees for the application itself. If you apply through uni-assist, an assessment of your certificates and a preliminary review of your documents costs 75 EUR for the first higher education institution. Each additional application within a semester costs 15 EUR per university. 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.

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.

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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