Most Americans who decide to apply to study in Germany are drawn by the low (or free) tuition, but another aspect of the system that is equally, if not more, appealing is the simplified admissions process. Unlike the holistic approach of the American system, which weighs many factors when deciding whether or not to admit a student, zulassungsbeschraenkt (admission restricted) university study programs generally simply the process through the use of a Numerus Clausus (NC) designation, which restricts admission to students with a minimum G.P.A.
Germany has a limited number of total university places, which is why the NC system was developed. More popular programs, therefore, have high NCs. If you want to study medicine, for example, you generally need the equivalent of a 4.0 G.P.A. But even if the study program you’re interested in has a high NC, don’t despair. “Students shouldn’t be discouraged from pursuing studies in their desired area by an NC,” says Frank Ziegele, head of CHE, a university think tank. It’s important to always check out alternatives in other cities. A majority of programs in Germany are zulassungsfrei, or unrestricted admission. If an international student meets the minimum requirements to study in Germany, they can then enroll directly into these programs.
In a positive development, the overall number of programs with NCs across the country has been declining in the past few years. In Winter Semester 2015/2016, the total number across all programs in the country was 42 percent. This decrease was especially stark in Berlin, where the total number of NC restricted programs fell by 9 percent in 2015.
The lack of NC-restrictions on programs makes certain states within Germany especially appealing as study destinations. The universities in the states of Mecklenburg-Pommerania and Thuringia, which include institutions like the University of Jena and the University of Greifswald, only restrict around a quarter of their programs. In the west, Rhineland Palatinate, home to the University of Koblenz and University of Trier, has a similar low level of NC-designated programs.
In general, NC-restrictions are more common for Bachelor programs, but potential graduate students will also often have to deal with NCs in certain programs. Often, this depends a lot on your potential area of study. Law, economics, and the social sciences have high rates of NC restricted programs, while languages and cultural studies have comparably low rates.