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Higher education in Germany: how to enter the University of Munich after school

Maria, our specialist in higher education in Germany, herself entered the Technical University of Munich, received a scholarship to study and managed to work in a German company while studying. In this article, she shares her experience of studying at a German university. Read to the end – a promotional code for a consultation with Maria awaits you.

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Hello! My name is Maria and I:

  • I graduated from the Technical University of Munich, received a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and continue my studies;
  • Received a scholarship from the German Ministry of Education for special academic and social achievements;
  • I help with admission to top universities in Germany, because I know how the process works from the inside. My clients get into the top 15 universities in the country.

Why did you decide to study in Germany?

I graduated from a gymnasium in Penza, where from the 9th grade I studied in a specialized class with in-depth study of literature and foreign languages – English and German. Since middle school, I have been interested in mathematics and physics, participated in olympiads in these subjects, but in high school I still decided to go into linguistics.

In the 11th grade, I chose to take the Unified State Exam in English, social studies and biology. With such exams, I entered the Maurice Therese Institute of Foreign Languages, but studied there for only one semester, realizing that I still wanted to study mathematics. I didn’t want to re-enroll in another Russian university and take the Unified State Exam in mathematics a year after school, so I decided to try to enroll in Germany.

Why Germany

From the 5th grade I studied German at school. We talked a lot about Germany in class, and I made several German friends with whom I communicated online. I liked talking to them and was impressed by the German culture. My parents also worked with the Germans, who often came to visit us when they came to Russia.

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When I wanted to study abroad, I also considered universities in Austria, but I knew more about Germany and was already learning German. This was the decisive moment. In addition, my dad had and still has business trips to Germany, so it seemed to me that in this country I would be closer to home.

Preparation for admission and study at the Studienkolleg

It will not be possible to enroll in a German university immediately after school due to the difference in the number of classes – Germans study at school in 12 classes, and not 11, like Russians, Ukrainians or Belarusians. Therefore, this additional year must be completed either in the first year of university in your home country or at a German Studienkolleg. This is something like pre-university preparation at universities, studies there last a year, and it is free.

Since I only studied at the university in Russia for six months, my option was to enter the Studienkolleg. The documents needed were a certificate, its translation into German and a certified copy of the translation, a certificate of sufficient knowledge of the German language – for admission you need a level of at least B2.2. My level from school was not enough, so I took a six-month German course in Germany. One month of German courses cost 300 € (≈ 12,600 rubles in 2013) without accommodation.

At the end of the course I passed the TELC exam. As soon as I received the results, I immediately submitted documents to several German Studienkollegs: in Munich, Karlsruhe and Heidelberg. Preparation for admission after school took a year.

At the Studienkolleg in Munich , where I wanted to go most of all, there were many people interested in my T-course – a course for students who enroll in technical or natural science majors. There were 40 places and 200 applicants. Upon admission, everyone again took a test in German and a test in mathematics.

You only have two attempts to get into the Studienkolleg. If you fail both, you will not be able to study at the institution, but you can take the final exams in a year as an external student, although this is very difficult.

I had good preparation, but I was still worried. My advice is to solve as many math problems as possible and memorize the math terminology in German well.

At the Studienkolleg I had only five subjects: descriptive geometry, German, mathematics, physics and chemistry. It was easy to study, classes were held every weekday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., and the second half of the day was completely free. The subjects themselves were at the high school level with a slight takeover of the program from the first year of the university.

I successfully graduated from the Studienkolleg: I passed the final exams for units, this is the highest grade in Germany, like our five. With such results they are accepted into any university in Germany.

How to choose a university in Germany

Higher education in public universities is free for everyone, and those who did well at school and at the Studienkolleg have a better chance of enrolling. When I was choosing a university, I didn’t want to leave Munich, so I applied to two universities in the city: Technische Universität München (Technical University of Munich) and Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München (Ludwig Maximilian University). They are considered the best in Germany in their specialties. To be on the safe side, I sent documents to other less prestigious universities in Germany, but I was focused on studying at the University of Munich: I went to their open day and realized that everything suited me and I liked it.

The admission process to the University of Munich is different from other universities. Usually you send your documents and wait for the results, but at the University of Munich you may also be invited to an interview to assess your knowledge and level of German, check how motivated you are and how you understand the study program. Thanks to my excellent grades, I was not invited to an interview, but they informed me about my enrollment quite late – three weeks before the start of my studies.

My choice of specialty was influenced by my social circle. I had friends who studied mathematics, physics and IT. I felt comfortable with them. Given my school background, I understood that I had an interest, and I had an idea of what exactly I would study. What I also liked about majoring in mathematics is that you can take a second subject. There are fewer lectures on it, but they are just as rich and deep. I chose computer science. I already understood then that the combination of mathematics + computer science had great potential. 🙂

About finding housing

I had been living in Germany for six months at the time of admission. When I was studying German courses in Karlsruhe, the school provided me with housing for 300 € (≈ 13,500 rubles in 2013) per month. When the Studienkolleg in Munich announced my enrollment, and this happened 10 days before the start, I had to quickly look for housing. I searched in groups on social networks where rooms or apartments were rented.

I was very lucky: in one of these groups I met a Russian-speaking woman from Munich who was renting out a room, we quickly agreed. I paid 560 € (≈ 25,200 rubles in 2014) per month for the room. I lived with her for only two months, and then I moved to a small studio apartment not far from Studienkolleg for 700 € (≈ 31,500 rubles in 2014). Then my boyfriend arrived, and we rented a two-room apartment for 1,400 € (≈ 63,000 rubles in 2014).

In Germany there are two sites for finding housing: Immobilien , where you can find an apartment for a long term, and WG Zimmer , where they rent out a room and an apartment for a limited period, but you can find housing faster. It was easier for me than for other foreigners who had not lived in Germany before enrolling: I could come and look at future housing at any time if I saw suitable options on the websites. But some people had to rent an apartment on Airbnb for the first time before finding a cheaper option.

As for housing issues while studying at the university, the most profitable option is a student dormitory. The university does not provide housing; this is handled by individual student organizations in each city. In Munich they have quite a few hostels scattered throughout the city. Sometimes you can get a room or apartment in one of them before the start of your studies, sometimes you have to wait in line for 1–5 semesters. The price depends on the distance and the city itself; on average, a month costs from 250 € (≈ 19,500 ₽ price for 2020).

About a student visa to Germany

Prices are for 2020

It was easy to get a visa for language courses. And when I entered the university, I submitted documents to the Ministry of Immigrant Affairs, and they extended my visa, giving me a residence permit.

Usually the following set of documents is required:

  • Questionnaire;
  • passport and photographs;
  • certificate of enrollment at the university or invitation to an interview/exam;
  • financial guarantees for at least the first year of study and life in Germany, about 10,000 € (≈ 782,000 ₽) in the account of the student or sponsor (parents, spouse);
  • a sponsorship letter stating that your sponsor is willing to pay your expenses;
  • proof of education (school certificate, diploma);
  • a motivation letter explaining why you want to study higher education in Germany;
  • summary;
  • confirmation of language knowledge at level B1 (English or German, depending on the program);
  • medical insurance;
  • receipt for payment of a visa fee of 60 € (≈ 4,700 ₽).

Find more detailed information on the website of the German Embassy or leave a request for visa support .

About studying at the Technical University of Munich

Studying at German universities is very different from studying in Russia. Here you don’t need to come to classes at 8 a.m. every day from Monday to Friday and sit for a certain number of classes. In Germany you have more freedom in choosing your subjects. Usually, during a semester, it is realistic to study in 4-5 subjects, for each subject per week one or two lectures and additional classes – exercise class – where only practical problems are solved.

My schedule might look like this: Monday I have classes at 10:00, 12:00 and 16:00, on Wednesday I have one class at 10:00, on Thursday I have two classes at 8:00 and 14:00, and Tuesday and Friday are days off.

But even when you only have four lectures a week, there will be a lot of homework. If it is not mandatory, you need to do it, because this way you understand the material better and prepare for the exam. By submitting your homework for review, you can slightly improve your final exam grade. This work can be done in groups of two or three people, since the tasks can be very complex and can take the whole day. I tried to work in groups, but it didn’t work out, although the Germans themselves love this format of work, and the teachers encourage it.

In Germany, students are not divided into groups. There is a subject, and if 500-1500 people have registered for it, they all take it at the same time. If no auditorium can accommodate such a number of people, several more halls are organized where the lecture is held in live mode via conference call. During practical classes, students are divided into groups, but there is no guarantee that you will be with the same people at different lectures. But you can get to know everyone.

I really liked the lectures on mathematical analysis, the theory of measures and integrals, as well as applied lectures on numerics and optimization. They were taught by wonderful professors who enjoyed the process, they liked what they were doing, what field they were working in, what they were researching, and they presented their material perfectly. Each teacher had assistants who conducted practical classes; these could even be students who passed the subject with flying colors last year. I taught programming classes for one semester.

I also liked that in some lectures we studied algorithms and methods that were invented and discovered just a couple of years ago. This is very motivating: you are not studying prehistoric things, but keeping up with progress.

At my university there was still a tradition: every technical student had to choose one or two subjects that were not related to the main ones. The choice was huge: you can listen to lectures on self-development, time management, creating video and text content, learn yoga – and get points for all this. I chose two Spanish courses and took them not during the semester, but during the holidays – they lasted 10 days, 5 hours a day.

Practice as a mandatory part of training

Practice is a mandatory part of the curriculum in most mathematical areas in Germany. At our university, you had to work 160 hours in any company in your field, which is 4 weeks of 40 hours. Students look for a place on their own; if they don’t succeed, the university can help.

I didn’t want to work in this mode, so I stretched out my internship for several months, and then got involved and worked for 2.5 years as a working student in a company that deals with artificial intelligence. Sometimes I worked 16 hours a week, and when I was very busy, I only worked 8 hours. I received 20 € (≈ 1,200 ₽ in 2015) per hour, which is not bad for Munich, especially when you don’t have a diploma.

Working and studying is hard, but thanks to the flexible schedule at the university, you can, for example, give yourself one day just for work. The time I worked there was later counted as internship, which I also had to complete in the master’s program.

About the scholarship from the German Ministry of Education

Getting a scholarship in Germany is not easy. Typically, German universities do not provide scholarships to students even for excellent grades. The scholarship is provided either by the German government, the Ministry of Education, or private organizations and foundations.

The annual Deutschlandstipendium scholarship for international students from the German Ministry of Education is the easiest to obtain. You need to have good grades and recommendations, including from the Studienkolleg. If you are an international student, this also increases your chances of receiving a scholarship. I decided to apply for this scholarship because I had good chances: I graduated from Studienkolleg with excellent marks, and I also had high academic performance at the university. Plus, half of the math students are girls. This is highly encouraged. 🙂

When I applied for the scholarship, I didn’t have high hopes, but I was lucky. My choice of scholarship was limited: I did not meet the criteria for scholarships from foundations, which, for example, were given to future architects or students from Third World countries.

To receive a Deutschlandstipendium scholarship, you need to submit an application to the university where you will study. This can be done in advance before the start of school or during. A list of required documents is available on the university websites, and it also indicates where to send them. The number of scholarships varies each year.

I passed the selection and received a scholarship in the amount of 300 € (≈ 14,400 ₽ for 2014, the amount of the scholarship in euros has not changed) per month. It didn’t cover all my expenses, but was a nice bonus. The scholarship is paid only for one year; if you want to receive it in the new year, you need to go through the selection process again.

When you plan to study in Germany, you do not need to rely on external scholarships. If you were not given a scholarship or grant before starting your studies, then it will be difficult to get one during your studies, even with the highest grades.

Germany is famous for its free higher education, which is available to both Germans and foreigners. We made a detailed analysis of this topic in an article on our blog .

About expenses

Prices are for 2020

Despite the fact that public education in Germany is free, you need to transfer a certain amount to the university every year. This is not a fee for education, part of this amount goes to the student organization, the other goes to the transport company, and there are still restrictions on public transport. In Munich, every six months you need to pay 126 € (≈ 9,850 ₽) to the university and additionally buy a travel card for 200 € (≈ 15,600 ₽) for six months. But such a pass allows you to travel outside of Munich.

With a student card you can dine inexpensively in student canteens. For example, a vegetarian dish costs 1.5 € (≈ 117 ₽), a portion with meat or fish costs 3 € (≈ 234 ₽). The choice of food in the canteens is large, sometimes there are promotions, but the quality of the food is not always the best. You can also get discounts at museums as a student, not only in Germany, but throughout Europe.

A student will need at least 900 € (≈ 70,300 ₽) per month, this includes expenses for food and accommodation. Most of this amount is taken up by rent, but as for food, prices in Germany are reasonable. I spend about 400 € (≈ 31,200 ₽) on groceries, but for some people 150 € (≈ 11,700 ₽) is enough, it depends on what a person is used to.

Another expense item is insurance. Students pay 100 € (≈ 7,800 ₽) per month for it, and those who work pay even more.

About free time

If you work and study, there is practically no free time left. But if you balance your everyday life, you can have a good rest. German universities have additional clubs and sports sections – from fencing to ballet – and organize student trips, field trips and parties.

I love exploring Munich’s food scene. There is a lot of delicious food here, I love going to cafes and restaurants and trying something new. I also like to walk in parks with my dogs; I don’t go far, but I travel around the outskirts of Munich.

Advice for applicants to Germany:

There is nothing wrong with moving to a new country, you just have to study for real, there is no hack work in German universities.

Maria completed her bachelor’s degree and is completing her master’s degree at the University of Munich in 2020, combining her studies with work as an analyst (data scientist) in a medical clinic. Foreigners who have graduated from a German university are given one and a half years to find a job in Germany. But usually, if the specialty is popular like IT, students find work in the last months of their studies or receive offers during their internship. In big cities like Munich or Berlin there are many job opportunities, while in most companies the main language of communication is English, and Germans and foreigners have the same chances when hiring.

Another story of admission to the University of Munich – the story of Artemy – can also be read on our blog.

And if you have already decided to enroll in Germany, sign up with Maria for a consultation on higher education in order to choose the right German university.

Interested in studying in other European countries? Sign up for a free consultation with Repafi.com specialists.

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