Your Guide to Studying in Germany

By Tess Campbell Modified on September 19, 2023
Tags : High School | Money | Travel

Check out this guide on everything you need to know about studying in Germany, from admission requirements to cost of living.

 Your Guide to Studying in Germany

So, you’ve decided you want to study abroad, and Germany is on your list of possibilities. Great! Check out this guide on everything you need to know about studying in Germany, from searching for programs to landing in Germany. If you’re still on the fence about studying abroad, check out the four reasons you should study in Germany.

Finding the right school for you in Germany

The first step to studying in Germany is choosing what university you’d like to go to. There are different factors you should consider in your search:

Types of universities in Germany

In Germany, there are three main types of universities students typically chose from:

  • Public universities — state-funded educational institutions have free tuition for all students, but also have “numerous clauses” which limits the number of admitted students.
  • Private universities — independently owned education institutions that charge students tuition fees but are more lenient when it comes to admission requirements.
  • Universities of Applied Science — these schools combine academic studies with a practical approach to learning like internships.

Language of study

When exploring your school and program options in Germany, make sure you check the language requirements. Although there are many bachelor programs offered in English, a majority of the programs are taught in German. The level of proficiency you’ll need in German varies for each program, but you may be required to prove your skills with a test.

However, there’s always some exceptions to a rule. Many graduate programs are taught in English and don’t require German as a prerequisite. The same goes for international degree courses. Also, 56% of the population in Germany speak English, so you won’t have to be fully fluent to get by in your daily life.

Requirements for studying in Germany

If you decide to pursue an education in Germany, there are a couple requirements you need to be aware of:

Higher education entrance qualification

German universities require their applicants to have a university entrance qualification. This can be your high school diploma or a year or two at university in Canada. Each university will accept different levels of requirements, but for a general idea of whether your credentials will be accepted, try out this entrance qualification questionnaire.

If your school qualifications don’t meet the university’s requirements, then you can participate in a foundation course (also called a preparatory course) that will cover several subjects that match your choice of program, and then pass an assessment exam.

For other admission requirements, please check with each individual university, as the requirements often vary.

Language tests

If German is a requirement for a program you’re interested in, then you can take one of two exams to prove your skills: the TestDaF language exam (test of German as a foreign language) or the German Language Test for University Admission in Germany (which many universities will offer).

If your German isn’t sufficient, or is non-existent, then you can take a language course in Germany during the summer break.

How to apply to universities in Germany

The best way to apply to universities in Germany is to apply directly to each individual school. This will help you keep track of each school’s prerequisites and important dates.

The general deadline to apply to universities in Germany is in early January for a fall start. However, application deadlines can vary between each school, and a given school may even have different deadlines for each of their programs. So, make sure you do your research first!

You’ll typically need these documents to apply to a German university:

  • a copy of your high school diploma and other relevant qualifications
  • a copy of your courses and grades
  • a copy of your passport
  • your passport photo
  • proof of language proficiency

Do you need a student visa in Germany?

Nope! As a Canadian studying in Germany, you don’t need a student visa, which typically takes months to apply for. Instead of a student visa, you’ll need to apply for a residence permit within 90 days of entering the country.

A residence permit allows you to live in Germany while you pursue your studies. It’s valid for one to two years with the initial cost of 110€ ($160 CAD) and has the option to extend it for the period of your studies. This means that you won’t need a visa to enter Germany.

You’ll typically need these documents to apply for a residence permit:

If you’ve signed up for a language course or a preparatory course, then you may need a different type of residence permit, which you can learn about in this step-by-step guide on how you can obtain your German residence permit.

Free tuition

One of the biggest benefits to studying at a university in Germany is having free tuition! Studying abroad as an international student can usually be very expensive, but as of 2014, the German government got rid of tuition fees for all students, including international students, enrolled in public universities. You’ll save thousands of dollars not having to pay tuition fees!

Keep in mind that although you don’t have to pay tuition fees, you’ll still need to pay a small amount of money known as a semester contribution, which usually costs 150-250€ ($218-363 CAD). These small fees will cover public transportation, administrative costs, student union costs, and more.

Since public universities in Germany offer free tuition, this makes Germany one of the top study abroad destination for international students. This popularity unfortunately means German universities typically have a much lower acceptance rate, averaging around 30% or lower.

Cost of living in Germany

Your cost of living will vary depending on where in Germany you choose to live and study. Larger, more populated cities may be more expensive, whereas smaller, student-friendly cities can be more affordable.

Here's a quick look at the general cost of living in Germany as a single person each month (CAD):

  • Estimated monthly costs: $1,369
  • Rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the city: $779 - $2,166
  • Rent for a one-bedroom apartment outside the city: $582 - $1,616

So, for a full year of living in Germany, you can expect to pay $23,412 - $42,420 CAD, not including your groceries, utilities, phone plans, etc.

In comparison, you could be spending $28,008 - $48,984 CAD in Berlin, $26,436 - $38,676 CAD in Cologne, and $26,928 - $53,160 CAD in Konstanz for your cost of living. Make sure you do your research to find out what the cost of living is in locations you want to study.

Working as a student in Germany

Since you won’t have to worry about tuition costs (so long as you chose to study at a public university), there’s still your rent and other expenses you’ll need to pay for. A great way to earn money for these expenses is by working while you study in Germany .

As an international student, you can work part-time for up to 20 hours a week during your semester, and full-time during your school breaks. In total, you can work for a maximum of 120 full days (240 half days).

However, if an internship is part of your program requirements, or you work as a student assistant at your university, then the hours you work don’t count towards the 120-day rule. But, if you work as a student assistant, you’ll need to let the immigration office know you’ve been offered this position.

Phew! That’s a lot of information to digest, but hopefully this helps you determine if Germany is the right study abroad location for you! Good luck with your school search!

Find the right program for you in Germany

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