Last month marked this blog’s 3 year anniversary. YAY! In that time, I have moved to Germany, passed the TestDaF, applied to German master’s programs, enrolled in a German master’s program, and am now writing my master’s thesis with the plan of finishing my master’s degree in September. Whew!

Over the past three years, I have also received countless comments and messages from prospective students looking to study in Germany. So, in an effort to help these curious minds, here are some of the most frequently asked questions I have received about studying in Germany.

Studying in Germany: Frequently asked questions

Student Visa/Residence Permits

I want to move to Germany, but I haven’t applied/been accepted to a degree program yet. What can I do?
If you want to move to Germany BEFORE applying to degree programs, there are two options for you: the language course visa (Sprachkursvisum) and the student application visa (Studienbewerbervisum).
You can also read my post about all three types of German student visas. Just remember that my personal experiences with applying for these various visas are from a US-American perspective. There are, of course, different rules for people from different countries.

Can you convert a language course visa/student application visa to a student visa?
This a question I get a lot, although I don’t really understand why. Once you enroll at a German university as a full-time student, you are eligible for a student visa. Just bring your documents to the foreigner’s office, and they will invalidate your current visa (whether it be a language course visa or student application visa) and issue you a student visa.
Make sure to check out my posts about the process of getting a German student visa and renewing my German student visa.

The people at the Ausländerbehörde are mean and don’t want to give me a language course visa/student application visa/student visa. What can I do?
Sometimes, the people at the foreigner’s office don’t even know which visa options are available. So, if you get someone that doesn’t want to give you the visa you need (when I asked for a student application visa, the German man told me to leave the country), then you need to pull out the big guns: the German law. All of the student-related residence permits are explained in §16. So, print it out, highlight the article that pertains to you, and show German bureaucracy what you’re made of.

Applying to German Universities

This is an area where I usually get very specific questions regarding various programs nationwide. For program-specific questions, you should obviously read over the program’s website or contact someone at the university. However, many German universities do not handle applications from foreign students by themselves. Instead, they use the third-party company uni-assist. If the program you want to apply to requires you to apply through uni-assist, I am sorry in advance. However, I managed to live through the experience of applying to German master’s programs, and you will too.

Do I need to send my high school diploma to uni-assist? Does it need to be certified? 
Even if you are applying for a master’s program, they need your high school diploma. Personally, I just send my transcripts – they were not certified – and they were still accepted.

Why didn’t I receive a confirmation from my university? Did they get my application? 
You will get a confirmation from uni-assist when they receive your application by mail. They will not, however, send you a confirmation that your application was sent to the university (assume that no news is good news). Basically, they thrive off of foreign students’ constant panic and worry.

Do real human beings even work at uni-assist?
This is a mystery that nobody actually knows the answer to. All we do know is that uni-assist sometimes answers phone calls, rarely answers emails, and never actually answers any questions. I am sorry if you find yourself in a situation where you need to contact them.
On the bright side, if you need a laugh, just try googling “Probleme mit uni-assist.” You will find plenty of forums of people that are just as annoyed with this bureaucratic middle-man as you.


Should I take the TestDaF or the DSH?
Both the TestDaF and the DSH are German proficiency tests, and both are accepted by Geramn universities. Which you should take depends on your personal circumstance. I took the TestDaF because I needed to take a language course to qualify for the language course visa, and the best course available was the TestDaF-prep course at the local VHS. If you are already enrolled at a university, then I would recommend taking the DSH, as they are created and graded by the university faculty themselves.

How can I pass the TestDaF?
It’s not easy, but you can do it! I practiced by taking as many practice tests as possible, always timing myself to make sure that I would be ready on test day. I also wrote multiple blog posts with tips and tricks for each of the sections of the test here:

I am also keeping a list of free TestDaF online resources.

How can I improve my vocabulary for the TestDaF?

If you need to improve your vocabulary because you aren’t understanding enough of the words on the practice tests, then you need to start immersing yourself in the German language. The best way to do this is to use German entertainment everyday: watch German TV shows, watch German YouTubers, and read German books.
Studying in Germany

How much time do you spend in classes?
In comparison to an American university curriculum, the German curriculum is much more free. This means less time in classes, but more expectations that you are reading and studying outside of class. 
For my particular program, I have to take 6 classes per semester, and each class is 2 SWS (Semesterwochenstunden = hours per week in the semester). That means I am physically in class for 12 hours per week.

How does the grading system in Germany work?
This is also an important question for those applying to German programs, because Americans will need to convert their GPA to determine if they are eligible for German programs. To do this, check out my American to German grade conversion post.
Here is my quick explanation of the German grading system: a 1.0 is the best grade in Germany, a 5.0 is a failing grade, and a 4.0 is the lowest passing grade.

I hope prospective students will find this helpful! Let me know if you have any more questions in the comments below, on Facebook, or on Twitter.