For many high school students in the United States, the college process begins in middle school, and all college-bound students need to get serious by the time they reach their junior year. For American students interested in continuing their studies in Germany, though, this timeline looks very different. While their applications to US colleges will go out around a year before they begin their studies, many of the deadlines for German universities don’t come up until after they graduate. So when should American students start planning in earnest to get ready to study in Germany?
The most important initial difference between the US and the German system is the admissions process. Whereas American schools are able to take a holistic approach to admissions in examining each individual candidate, German colleges generally focus mainly on eligibility, or whether or not a candidate meets the minimum requirements to study and then on the applicant’s grades. Some programs may also require other qualifications, such as a pre-study internship, or will require applicants to take a university proctored entrance exam to test their qualifications in the subject they’re interested in studying.
Because the admission process for applicants is so much less complex in Germany, it’s possible to start much later in a student’s high school career. Parents considering this path for their children should still check whether or not their kids are taking the required coursework, which includes some courses (like pre-calculus) that may not be necessary for graduation. They also need to be focused on maintaining their GPA, as it will be one of the main factors in the ultimate decision on their eligibility for admission.
At Eight Hours and Change, I work with many high school students and their parents to put together a college preparation plan, sometimes as early as freshman or sophomore year. Even though seniors are of course eligible to apply, assuming they meet the criteria to study in Germany, the best time to get started is before a student’s junior year. For one thing, this gives them time to start practicing their German, which all students who enroll in a bachelor program, whether it’s taught in English or German, should be able to speak competently. This also gives them a chance to compare and contrast by including a German College Visit on their schedule for the year. Studying in Germany is a very different experience to studying in the US, and it’s important to recognize that so students don’t end up disappointed. In order to help students and parents out, we’ve put together a handy little infographic that should help you plan out your College Prep for Germany.