It is now widely known around the world that International students at German universities do not have to worry much about tuition fees. The latter are either non-existent or very low in global comparison. What is less widely known is that German universities often select their students more carefully than institutions that charge high fees and treat international education as a form of big business.

So, when you consider studying in Germany, do not think of the financial aspects alone. Most German universities are government-funded i.e. financed by German taxpayers. So, the academic institutions are very much accountable to the public about who they provide free education to and who they do not. Considering this accountability, it is pivotal that applicants reflect on their previous academic achievements before starting the application process.

For many study courses, the universities do not mention quantified admission criteria, such as the minimum Grade Point Average (GPA) or percentiles, required GRE / TOEFL / IELTS / SAT scores. However, most German universities are reluctant to accept applicants with a CGPA below 70%, especially into the graduate programmes taught in English. Furthermore, the competition into those programs is extremely stiff.

It is pivotal that applicants reflect on their previous academic achievements before starting the application process.

Does this really imply that German higher education is off limits for you if you are below this benchmark?

Not necessarily! With a CGPA between 60 and 70%, what is considered “average” in Germany, there are still options, as long as you are flexible regarding the choice of programme and institution. This does not mean that you have to compromise on the quality of education. The regulatory bodies strive to maintain an evenly high standard throughout Germany.

I am often asked whether it is possible to compensate for low marks with job experience or test scores like GRE. This may sometimes work out. However, when several hundred candidates apply for 20 or 30 places, as is the case with many graduate programmes, few universities are able to pay attention to all details of an applicant’s profile. The GPA then serves as an easy benchmark. All candidates below it are automatically out of the game.

Another opinion that is frequently voiced refers to variations in the grading system between different foreign universities. “60% at my university is like 80% at another university”, the argument goes; the converse is rarely mentioned, for obvious reasons.

Please bear in mind that the German universities are rarely willing to involve themselves in the intricacies of grading practices used in other countries. So, if you come up with the above-mentioned argument, the chances are the admissions committee will most likely ignore your arguments, unless, of course, you are a graduate of one of the premier academic institution in your country, whose academic achievements are internationally well-known.