Before explaining how to apply a German university, what to do, how to do and all the necessary documents, I need you to quickly understand the educational system in Potatoland. It’s gonna be a real fast post and only about the basic and what is really interesting to know in order to understand certain steps you’ll make during the application process, the rest you’ll find out when you get here.
The school system in Germany is rather complicates, fragmented and has even been criticized by the UN, because it divides the kids into three types of schools and marginalize them according to the school they attend. If you want to understand the whole system, from Kindergarten to the University – passing by the division of kinds into smart, somewhere in the middle and dumb (saving euphemisms) – I suggest you to read this Wikipedia article that looks really big and complete but I haven’t read through yet (heh :P). But now let’s go to what really matters:
First of all you have to understand the grades in Germany. Now, I have no f• clue of how does it work in America as the whole thing is A’s and F’s looks quite surreal to me, and I’ve never really asked people form other countries how does it work. In Brazil your grade can be from 0 to 10, being 0 the worst and most embarrassing one and 10 the grade you always wanted but never got. In Germany grades are from 1 to 6 and – ATTENTION! – 1 is the highest grade you can get and 6 is the lowest. I’ve already caught myself crying because I’ve though I did quite well on an exam and got a 2. I cried for pretty much 5 minutes, locked in the bathroom, until I remembered that in Germany 2 is actually good. Drama Queen, I know, I’m that lame… While in Brazil the general minimum to pass is 6 (in a few schools even 5 or 7), here, in order to pass, you need at least a 4. Some places use decimal numbers, like 2,4 or 3,5. Others use + and -, being, i.e., a 2+ = 1.7, 2=2, 2- = 2.3. In general grades have the values below:
|1||sehr gut – very good|
|2||gut – good|
|3||befriedigend – satisfactory|
|4||ausreichend – sufficient|
|5||mangelhaft – “poor”|
|6||ungenügend – insufficient|
Beside the different grade system, Germans also study a bit longer. According to my calculations, an American who hasn’t repeated any year nor skipped spends 12 years studying, not counting the Kindergarten. In Germany, a non-marginalized German sent to the Gymnasium (what gives him the chance of going to the University) studies 12 years + Abitur. Here there are no SAT’s nor any kind of test for college admission and that’s that’s where the Abitur comes in. It is a kinf of high-school-conclusion-test, or something like that. You only write this test on the relevant -and chosen by you – subject and its result summed to the grade of your last school year defines your Numerus Clausus (NC – Latin to “closed number”), and that’s your final grade and tells where and what you may study.
American, Brazilians and people from several other countries don’t take the Abitur. So, unless your high school is considered equivalent to the German one, you have 3 options:
1- If you still haven’t finished school in your country and already know you want to study here: find a German School or RUN TO GERMANY!
2- Studienkolleg, or STK (which will be future posts’ subject), it’s a kind of College for foreigners where subjects are taught according to what you intend to study in the Uni. It lasts 2 semesters, and at the end you take an exam called Feststellungsprüfung, which gives you an NC and an equivalent to the Abitur. STK is hell on earth, but one learns German there and things about German rules to work presentations and formatting. Also, studying French revolution again, this time in German, was quite worthy. That’s the most reasonable choice.
3- After finishing to years at the University in your home country you may study here, but in the same course (maybe same area), doing everything again from the very first semester, but without going through Studienkolleg.
And your list of choices doesn’t end up there. Here you can either go to a University (Universität) or to a Faculty of Applied Sciences (Fachhochschule). The University emphasizes theory and research, while at the Fachhochschule classes are a lot more practical and an internship before and during the course is mandatory. Normally people studying at the FH want to be Architects or Engineers, as these professions require more practical skills and no one would hire an Architect who read 87348923 books but hasn’t really drawn a house. Right?
System quickly explained. Start your research, decide where you want to study, try to understand the requirements at the University you chose and wait till the next post, with explanations about the first things to be done still at home.