Blog 🍎 School 10th March 2021

Applying to Study at University in Germany [ In 7 Easy Steps]

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James Leach

James is senior content marketing manager at BridgeU. He writes and directs content for BridgeU's university partners and our community of international schools

From university shortlisting to document sending, applying to German universities requires a lot of planning and attention to detail. Read our 7 step process to help get your students ready.

When it comes to applying to German universities, the majority of deadlines fall between May and July, with universities making their decisions and offers in August and September.

The first thing to bear in mind is that you and your students applying to German universities will likely have a lot to organise in a short space of time. As well as the university application itself, there are a whole host of other supporting documents and competing deadlines that should be on your radar for applying to German universities. They include:

  • Helping your students finalise their university shortlist.
  • Ensuring your students have taken any relevant language proficiency tests.
  • Making sure they know how and where their application needs to be sent.
  • Meeting student visa and student finance requirements.
  • Ensuring your students know the next steps if they are offered a university place.

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What are the deadlines for applying to German universities?

This will depend on when the German universities and courses that each student is applying to.

For students applying to a course starting in the winter semester (September-February), then the final deadline is usually 15th July.

Meanwhile, students applying to a course that begins in the summer semester, the final deadline is usually 15th January.

When applying to German universities, it’s important to remember that not every university will work to the same application deadlines, so ensure that both you and your students are clued up on the deadlines for each individual university.

Note: Universities and universities of applied sciences have slightly different semester cycles, meaning that courses start and end at different times.

Semesters at a UAS typically run from September to February (winter semester) and March to August (summer semester). Meanwhile university semesters run from October to March (winter) and April to September (summer)

Remember that the semester dates above will also affect other components of applying to German universities, including enrolment and student visa applications. We can’t over-stress the importance of making sure you’re on top of these!

We’ve grouped the important steps of applying to German universities into 7 easy-to-remember steps, ensuring you have a simple checklist to help guide your students through the process.

Step One – Shortlisting German universities

Your younger students will have plenty of time to research and shortlist their preferences before even thinking about applying to German universities.

But for your final year students, now is a good time to get that shortlist finished if they haven’t already. If they need some more help with finalising their options, then check out our guide to the different German university pathways.

Some useful assignments to set final year students who may still be shortlisting German destinations include:

  • How many German university destinations are in their shortlist? Do they have a good grasp of the necessary application criteria? Do all the universities in their shortlist meet their own application criteria?
  • Have they prepared any relevant personal statements, application essays or portfolios that they may need for their final application?

Step Two – Check entry requirements for applying to German universities

A useful next step after your students finalise their German university shortlist is to ensure that they review any and all entry requirements, academic or otherwise. There are a number of factors to consider in this step.

Do your students meet all the academic requirements?

This is especially important for students applying to Germany from abroad. International students who have studied towards curricula such as the A-level, the IB or the US high school diploma will need to check the academic requirements for applying German universities as an international student carefully.

Note: International applicants can check out the entrance criteria for degree courses all over Germany using the DAAD admissions database. Students can enter their country of origin and the school qualification they are working towards and the DAAD database will provide insights on their eligibility.

Do any of their chosen courses have local/national restrictions?

In Germany, this is known as ‘numerus clausus’ (Latin for ‘closed number’). A German degree course that is classed as ‘numerus clausus’ will only permit a fixed number of students to apply.  It’s an important concept to be aware of when applying to German universities!

Courses that are ‘numerus clausus’ nationwide include oversubscribed courses such as Medicine, Architecture and Veterinary Science. Courses that are numerus clausus will often have a much lower chance of acceptance/higher GPA requirements, so students need to take this into account.

There are also courses that are classified as ‘numerus clausus’ on a local level, i.e. certain regions, local governments and individual universities will set their own restrictions for particular courses.

Does the course have any language requirements?

This will depend on whether your students are applying for a degree course that is taught in German or English. International students who are not studying in their first language should be aware of a number of relevant language tests.


The TOEFL and IELTS are two globally recognised tests that measure a student’s English language speaking ability. Students are required to take either one of these tests if they are applying to an English-taught course.


These refer to two German language proficiency courses for international students who want to take a German taught degree course. If your students are applying to a German language course, then they will need to check what score they are required to attain in order to gain entry to their chosen university.

Step Three – Evaluating financial resources when applying to German universities

This is an important one for international applicants. Any student applying to to a German university from outside the EU/EEA must be able to demonstrate that they have the necessary financial resources to support themselves throughout their studies.

Whilst a lot of universities in Germany offer tuition for free, students will still have to think about living costs. Applicants who are required to have a student visa will need to demonstrate that they have at least €8,700 in their bank account.

Some of your students may decide to apply for a scholarship. This is another step in the overall university application process that they need to consider. There are a number of organisations that can help students find and apply for relevant scholarships.

The German Academic Exchange Service (or DAAD to give it its German acronym) has a database of relevant scholarships, with information on application deadlines and eligibility.

Step Four – Actually applying to German universities

There are two main ways to apply to a university in Germany.

Students can either submit applications directly to the university itself, or through an application portal. DAAD runs its own German university application portal, Uni Assist. It’s important to remember that not every German university will use Uni Assist, so students need to check each university’s entry requirements carefully.

The document that students will be required to submit will also differ from university to university. But, broadly speaking, you and your students should be prepared to submit any or all of the following documents:

  • A copy of their passport
  • Certified copies of any relevant school qualifications
  • Proof of language proficiency if necessary
  • Portfolio (if relevant for the university in question)
  • A letter of recommendation (this falls to you and your team!)
  • A personal statement/letter of intent (students must check individual course requirements for this carefully)

Depending on how your students are applying to German universities, they may have to pay an application fee. For example, Uni Assist charges students an admin fee for the processing of all relevant application documents.

Note: EU/EEA students who are applying for a course that is numerus clausus must apply through another organisation called the Foundation of Higher Education admission (

Students can expect to receive a response within 4-6 weeks of the application deadline, be it July or January.

If all goes well, they’ll have gained a place at the destination of their choice.

But the journey doesn’t end here. If your students are accepted to a university in Germany, there are a few more items on their checklist to cross off before they can take up their place.

Read on.

Step Five – Applying for health insurance

This might seem like a minor detail in a university application process. But in Germany it’s a prerequisite for international students who want to qualify for a student visa and, ultimately, enroll at university.

Again, for EU/EEA students this is a slightly easier process. EU law means that if you have health coverage in your home country, you’re covered in Germany too. EU students just need to make sure they have a (free) European Health Insurance Card.

For international students outside the EU, this is an important detail. Whilst this won’t be something that falls directly into your area of responsibility, there’s no harm giving the prospective German applicants at your school a gentle nudge!

Step Six – Securing a student visa after applying to German universities

Before we go any further, it’s worth making sure that your students actually need a visa!

EU/EEA students

As with health insurance above, if your school is based in an EU/EEA country and then your students don’t need to apply for a German student visa.

North American/Asia Pacific students

This isn’t applicable to students from all countries in these regions. But if your students are submitting applications from the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, Japan or South Korea, they don’t need a student visa. Instead, they will have to apply for a residence permit within two weeks of starting their degree course.

South America/Central American students

Students from some South American and Central American countries will only have to apply for a German student visa if they plan to work in Germany before or after university.  Students based in Honduras, Andorra, Brazil and El Salvador only need a student visa if they plan on working after their degree. (Taiwan and Monaco are two other countries where this is the case).

German university applicants from any other country in the world will have to apply for a student visa before enrolling on their degree course.

What’s required for a German student visa?

In order to qualify for their visa, your students will need to include evidence of the following:

  • A valid passport.
  • Proof that they possess health insurance.
  • Proof of sufficient financial resources.
  • Letter of acceptance from a German university.
  • Proof of academic records.
  • Certificate of German language proficiency.

Step Seven – Enrolling at university in Germany

This will be the important final step in your student’s German university application journey. If they’ve crossed off the previous six items on this checklist, then they can take up their place at university!

As with the previous steps, enrolling at university in Germany requires students to meet certain eligibility criteria. New German undergraduates must provide evidence of their passport, proof of university admission, evidence of health insurance and evidence of language proficiency.

Students enrolling at a German university must also pay a small semester fee, which normally costs between €150 and €250. In addition, they can purchase a ‘Semesterticket’ that will cover the cost of public transport for six months.

This is a simple checklist, but there’s a lot for you and your students to prepare if they aspire to study at a German university. As you help them work through this checklist, make sure you ask them the following questions to keep them organised.

  • Do you have a realistic, finalised shortlist of German destinations?
  • Are you applying directly to the university, or through a third party organisation, e.g. Uni Assist?
  • Do you know what supporting documents are required for your university application?
  • What are your eligibility requirements for studying in Germany?
  • Have you got a good overview of the deadlines and milestones for your German university application?

Studying in Germany opens students up to a rich and varied university experience, whether they’re pursuing an academic or vocational path. The checklist above is a sure-fire way to ensure they’re ready for the challenges ahead.

Help students create the strongest possible applications

Armed with all this knowledge, you’re well-prepared to help students craft really strong applications to German universities. 

But what if you could give them even more support, guidance and resources? With the BridgeU platform, you can! They’ll be led from self-exploration to university research, with our intelligent matching tools revealing their best-fit programmes in Germany and beyond.

We then have a whole host of application-building features that can help them ensure every application they send is as compelling as possible.

Our platform also helps you (and them!) stay on top of each application, so that no document or deadline is ever missed. 

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Learn how BridgeU can help deliver better outcomes for your students and improved results for your school