High School & Beyond
If you have a high school student in your family you are sooner or later confronted with the topic “What about College?”
As a good parent you attend all the informational meetings at your student’s high school and get acquainted with all the special steps that will finally lead into your child attending university. You might even visit some colleges and check them out. But at one point you will just freeze… That’s when you have reached the “Cost of Attendance” part online or during a college presentation.
Free University Education in Germany – Plan Ahead & Be Prepared
While still gazing in disbelief at these mesmerizing numbers that make up only one year of the college attendance fee, a little thought suddenly pops up in the back of your mind and with a sigh of great relief you remember: “Hey, my son/daughter is German. We send him/her to university in Germany!”
Nice thought. But not so easily executed…
Most German universities are free, yes! Only some universities in some states, like the Munich LMU (Ludwig Maximilians Universität) in Bavaria has a minimal fee per semester. The fees are usually around 500 € depending on the university.
You might be surprised to hear though, that just being a German citizen doesn’t make you qualify for entering the German university system. In fact most German universities won’t let your child transition from an American high school straight into a German university. German universities generally don’t accept a traditional American High School diploma as a qualification to enter a German university!
So in order for you take advantage of a free college education in Germany get ready for some thorough planning and this quite well in advance.
Is the Abitur the one and only entrance ticket for studying at a German university ?
In short, having the Abitur is the absolute sure ticket to start at a German university right out of high school. Also having the International Baccalaureate by taking special IB courses during high school seems to ease the transition into the German university system, but only if one follows certain guidelines. Only then is the international baccalaureate accepted by German universities.
Finishing high school with the Abitur is almost impossible in California unless you live close to Mountain View in NoCal (see below). Therefore the next option is to look for a high school that offers the international Baccalaureate (IB) and get informed on the specifics so that the IB diploma will be accepted by a German university. Also check with the particular German university you have in mind since “Zugangsbedingungen” (Admissions) vary form state to state since it is “Ländersache” (State decision).
If you happen to live in an area where local high schools only offer AP courses , don’t despair yet. Also here are ways for your student to qualify for a German university, even though the process seems much trickier . A good website to start out with your careful future planning is Uni Assit . Uni-Assist.de shows you what kind of courses will be accepted under which circumstances and depending on where you live in the world.
Abitur in California? It’s possible but only in Northern California.
Only one High School in California offers the German Abitur and the traditional California High School diploma together. GISSV( German International School of Silicon Valley) in Mountain View is unique in the way that it prepares its students not only for an immediate start at a German university with the ‘Deutsches Internationales Abitur’, but allows them also to qualify for admission to American colleges.
Transitioning into a German university after having started out at an American college.
If you plan to have your student start out college first in the United States and then switch him/her over to a German university, a transition might be easier in terms of ‘just’ getting accepted to study at a German university. Unfortunately this doesn’t translate into automatic recognition of previous diplomas or credits from an American university. It is up to the particular university in Germany to decide on which credits will be accepted and which not. To find out about the specific details the DAAD recommends to get in contact with the international office at the desired German university. DAAD offers a well organized website to get more information on this topic.
In order to benefit from a free university education in Germany your student will finally have to fully register at a German university as a German citizen, which means he/she will have to withdraw from his/her American university or take a year of absence. Also here it is absolutely necessary to consult the college admission’s officer at the respective college in the US in order to find out about the correct steps and the proper procedure, so that there won’t be any unforeseen surprises upon your student’s return to the United States.
More information on this topic on the web:
Studiengebuehren in Deutschalnd:
Hochschulzugang und -zulassung:
Recognition of academic diplomas within Europe:
Deutsches Internationales Abitur:
DAAD – Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst – German Academic Exchange Service:
See ALL the Universities in Germany on a map :
- It’s Time for School – German Preschools in California (californiagermans.com)
- One in ten graduating in Germany is foreign (thelocal.de)
- Getting College Credit Before College (bigfuture.collegeboard.org)
- How to Take Your High School Classes to the Next Level – College Planning (bigfuture.collegeboard.org)
- Preparing students for a globalized world (thelocal.de)