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Student loans in Germany

How can international students finance their studies in Germany?


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Updated: 15.11.2021
Reading Time: 8 mins
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Student loans in Germany: Guide and recommendations

As a student in Germany you enjoy a lot of benefits and you can be sure that the German universities will provide you with a broad range of opportunities to get to know new people, travel and work. However, if you have just moved to a big city like Hamburg, Munich or Berlin, you may have to pay high rents and to face high costs of living.

If you are looking for information about how to finance your studies in Germany and or you would like to apply for a student loan, you are in the right place!

In this article we will show you:

GIROMATCH is your independent credit platform. Our team guides you through German banking and financial products, writes reviews for foreigners living in Germany and provides you with important information to improve your financial situation in Germany.

Why to apply to a student loan in Germany: Your costs of living

If you are wondering about applying for a student loan, you should first have a look at the average living costs for a student in Germany. Fortunately life in Germany is not so expensive compared to European standards. Though, it can vary a lot according to the city where you live. In general, big cities are more expensive and the tendency is for Southern Germany to cost more than Northern federal states. Of course, you should take into consideration that, when choosing a private university, tuition and semester fees may be higher than for a public one. 

According to the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, the average cost of life in Germany is 867,- Euros. In the following table you can get an overview of its structure:

CategoryCosts' amount
Rent€332,-
Food€154,-
Clothing€48,-
Transport costs€116,-
Health€96,-
Telephone/ Internet/
TV-radio license fee
€32,-
Study materials€24,-
Leisure/ Culture/ Sport€65,-
Total €867,-

As an international student in Germany, you benefit from numerous discounts and offers and from reduced prices in many services, such as public transport, hairdresser or gym contracts. However, you may still need help to keep your finances safe.

Student loans in the private lending market

If you are planning to buy a new laptop or you need to buy those expensive books to pass a difficult exam, you may only need a small amount of money. In this case you will probably prefer to avoid bureaucratic processes and opt for an easier way. Through our loan platform you can apply for a student loan completely online by clicking on the button below. After having completed the application process you will be matched with one of our partners. 

In order to apply for a online personal loan through GIROMATCH.com, you only need to fulfill some basic requirements:

  • you are 18 or older
  • you have a German address
  • you dispose of a minimum income of 500,- Euro per month

Furthermore, it is recommended for you to have a clean credit history (clean SCHUFA) but you will not be excluded from the possibility of getting a loan if you do not dispose of credit history in Germany. If you want to know more about the application process for the GIROMATCH.com's loan, you can have a look here.

State-backed student loans: BAföG and KfW educational loans

If you have lived a long period of time in Germany, it may be a good option for you to have a look at state-backed financial aid for students. The German state grants students with low-interest-rate loans and subsidies, whose granted amount is usually divided into monthly instalments.

However, you should keep in mind that the application requirements are often very detailed which makes it difficult for international students to get state-backed financial aid in Germany.

In the following table you can get an overview of the main differences between the three types of state-backed loans you can apply to when starting your studies in Germany.

FeaturesKfW Educational loanKfW Student loanBAföG loan
Loan providerKfWKfWState financing
Type of loanMonthly or all-in-onceMonthlyHalf subsidy, half loan
Need-based loan
Monthly loan amount granted€100,- to €300,-up to €650,-up to €861,-
Current interest rate0,47% APR3,45% APR0% APR
RepaymentFull repaymentFull repayment50% of the granted amount
Repayment's startFour years after first loan rate18 months after end of grant periodFive years after end of grant period
Age limit35 years old44 years old35 years old

Half a subsidy, half a loan: BAföG student loan to finance your education

If you are planning a long-term stay in Germany, a BAföG student loan could be a valid option for you. BAföG relates to the German Federal Training Assistance Act and it is a need-based financial aid for students. 1 out of 5 German students are granted a student loan through BAföG whose amount depends on the financial situation of their family. BAföG student loans are paid half as non-revolving loans, and half as classical loans. In order to apply for the BAföG loan you have to fulfil some basic requirements:

  • you must be younger than 34 years old
  • you have already been offered a place at a German university

In addition, as an international student with a European citizenship:

  • you must have lived 5 years in Germany or
  • you must have worked at least 6 months in Germany before starting your apprenticeship
  • one of your parents must work in Germany or is a freelancer who is permanently in Germany

If you come from outside Europe you must show your settlement permit. If you only have been granted a residence permit, you could still have a chance by demonstrating that you are going to stay in Germany for a long period of time. More information and a step-for-step explanation of the application process for BAföG student loan can be found here (in German).

KfW student loans: a flexible option to get financial assistance

KfW stands for Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau and represents the German state-owned investment and development bank. KfW offers you loans up to 300,- € (Bildungskredite) or up to 650,- € (Studienkredit). Both offers are independent on your income.

As an international student, you will have to fulfill some basic requirements:

  • to have lived in Germany 3 years or 
  • to have a family member who has lived in Germany since 3 years
  • to be less than 44 years old 

However, when it comes to the repayment, the KfW-Studienkredit is the least convenient compared to the other state-backed financing, since you have to pay it back with an APR of 4% (which is still low compared to loans in the private market).

In the following table you can get an overview of the main differences between the three types of state-backed loans you can apply to when starting your studies in Germany.

What you should consider before applying to a student loan in Germany

Knowing that you need financial help may seem simple, but when trying to find out which financing option is the right one for your situation, the task turns out to be really difficult. Here you can find some questions you should reflect about before approaching any state or private lender in order to be sure that you are choosing the right option for you. A further possibility to finance your studies is through applying for a scholarship or for a student job. 

What to think aboutHow to assess it
Your financial situationDo you need financial assistance on a monthly basis or do you wish an all-in-once amount of money? 
Do you have to pay any other loans? 
Do you have a monthly income of at least 600,- Euros?
Your family's financial situationHow does the financial situation of your family look? 
Do you plan to work or to be financed by your family? 
Your life in GermanyDo you have a German bank account?
Do you plan to stay for a long period in Germany? 
Do you have a German residence, settlement or residence permit?
Your study's performanceAre you a highly talented student? 
Are you coming to Germany for an exchange programme? 
Do you have particular interests that could fit into the ideological background of a German public organization?

An easy way to finance your studies: Find the best scholarship for you

In Germany there are a lot of public and private institutions which offer scholarship programmes. If you are planning to apply for a scholarship, it is important for you to get as much information as you can about the selection process and the basic requirements that you have to fulfill. Many scholarships programmes’ applications are available online and you can apply without having received a place at a university yet. It is very important to respect deadlines and to plan your application on time. Ideally you will plan your application one year ahead of the start of your studies. However, do not worry if you are running out of time, there are also opportunities for latecomers!

The most popular scholarships grantor is the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD, in German) which offers scholarships based on students’ performance, country of origin and study subject. Here you can have a look at the different programs and filter them according to your needs. DAAD scholarships grant students with a considerable amount of monthly income to allow them to pay their living costs. Furthermore DAAD also covers insurance and a vast range of additional costs which can occur when studying. The application process usually entails different phases and starts with you sending a cover letter with your resume and illustrating your motivation to study in Germany. 

Stipendiumplus.de represents an additional possibility for gifted and motivated students. Here you can have a look at scholarships offered by 13 German organizations which are funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research. According to the organization’s ideological background and field of activity you may be required to fulfil different criteria and to undergo different election processes. 

GIROMATCH explains
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Still looking for a way to finance your studies in Germany?

If you are still struggling with finding financial support or you simply do not need such a big amount of money, it is worth having a look at your own university’s job offers. As an international student (even from outside Europe) you are allowed to work as a student assistant at your own university. Universities’ chairs offer different possibilities for you to gain some extra money and experience.

Furthermore, we have good news for you! GIROMATCH offers student jobs in the fintech sector, international students are welcomed!

FAQs about student loans in Germany

How do private student loans work?

Private student loans are loans granted by private banks. Since as a student you may not have proof of your income, many banks require a guarantor to sign the loan agreement with you. In addition, the majority of credit institutions require a clean SCHUFA, meaning that you do not have a negative credit history. Through our loan platform, you can apply for a student loan without paperwork. Have a look here for more information.

How to find private student loans?

Finding private student loans in Germany is not an easy task. When asking your bank for more information about student loans, they usually redirect you to have a look at state-backed financial aid such as the KfW educational loan or BAföG student loan. These are two valid options for German students but can be difficult to get for an international one. In order to find a private student loan, you can apply for a loan through our loan platform. According to your needs we will match you with one of our partners which provides the perfect loan for your situation.

How to consolidate student loans?

You can consolidate your student loans by applying for a loan consolidation. This allows you to pay a single loan rate throughout the month, to have a good overview of your monthly expenses and to spare some money, since loan consolidation providers usually apply lower interest rates. You could have a look at Anyfin, which offers a completely mobile application process.
However, you should pay attention to the duration and the interest rate of the new loans. If you have state-backed student loans, it usually doesn’t convene to refinance them, since they already have below-the-market interest rates. In addition, if your consolidated loan has a longer duration than your current ones, you may end up paying the same amount of money.

Do I need a cosigner for a student loan?

When applying for a student loan in the private market, you will have to show proof of income. If you do not have a provable income being a student, many banks will ask you to present a cosigner. This can be one of your parents, your partner or a person whom you thrust. Their signature in the loan agreement guarantees that they will pay the loan for you, if you cannot pay it.

How does student loan interest work?

Student loans in the private market work as classical loans. Their interest rate is composed of three elements: the general interest rate level which is determined by the European Central Bank, a part of your interest rate is based on your creditworthiness and a third part depends on the bank’s processing costs for the loan.
When you apply for a state-backed student loan, the interest rate is fixed or null and determined by the state itself. For more information on the current interest rate for state-backed student loans, you can have a look here.

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