You would never consider buying a car without taking it out for a test drive, but a surprising number of students are willing to start their studies in Germany without seeing what it's really like. Student life is very different in Germany than the United States, and it's crucial to see it for yourself before buying your plane ticket after graduation. Here are our five reasons why you should go on a college visit in Germany.
You'll be able to compare and contrast
We always recommend that students who are considering Germany as a destination for their studies also continue to pursue admission at American universities. This also means visiting campuses in both countries. If you attend college visits in the United States and Germany, you'll be able to truly see the differences and similarities that exist, and better judge which is best for you.
You'll get honest perspective and advice
Because public universities in Germany don't charge tuition fees, they also (generally) don't recruit. This means that they have a very different attitude towards students during visits. Sure, they'll want you to attend, but if they think there may be a better destination for your studies, or if they think you're not a great candidate for them, they'll be upfront with you.
Private universities, which do charge tuition, behave a bit differently. That being said, many private schools have very good academic standards and are worth considering, just be careful when considering them.
You'll see what life is like for students in Germany
Many of the things that we associate with college in America, from fully equipped world-class gyms to football stadiums and school mascots to meal plans and freshman dorms, are all absent in the German experience. You'll still be able to work out, but you'll likely have to go to a gym in the city. There will be sports and even opportunities to play, but you'll find them in the local Vereine instead of on campus. And many schools do have student housing, but you're likely to find it pales in comparison to what you've seen in the States.
You'll also find that German universities are much more focused on academics than their American counterparts. That isn't to disparage US colleges, but rather to point out a difference in focus. American higher education has a liberal arts tradition that focuses not only on developing students academically but also on making them better people. This isn't the case in Germany; the goal of German universities is to educate, and you'll see that clearly in how they are organized.
You'll be able to "try before you buy"
Most American students visit at least a handful of colleges before they decide where they want to go after high school. It's important to feel confident in your decision about where you're going to spend the next four-odd years of your life, and it's hard to do that without stepping foot on campus before you enroll. College visits are an important opportunity to get a feel for the individual campuses and decide if you can see yourself living and studying there. You may find that a school you were interested in, despite its high rankings, impressive history, and wonderful location, just isn't right for you. And you may find another that you hadn't even considered is the ideal fit.
You'll explore beyond the big names
In the United States, we're obsessed with prestigious "name" colleges. In Germany, schools like TU Munich, the University of Heidelberg, and the Free University of Berlin usually get the most attention from American students. But what about the other 400-odd institutions of higher education in Germany? Germany's higher education system is much more egalitarian and, because it is focused on subject instead of liberal arts studies, it is very likely that the program that best fits you can be found in a town you've never heard of.