Does the university you attend really matter?

University selection: 14 tips on how to choose the right university

There are several 100 universities to choose from. The endless list of German universities is hard to keep track of for high school graduates. And each one is different, has its own inner workings, its own rules. But what criteria do I use to choose the right university? What do I do to increase my further career opportunities and, on the other hand, to be able to lead a pleasant student life? We tell you what to look out for when choosing a university ...

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

Stay relaxed when choosing your university

There are 423 universities in Germany, including 108 universities. But which one is right for me? What criteria should I use to choose my university? The reassuring message in advance: For your professional career, it doesn't really matter whether you obtained your academic degree in Cologne, Darmstadt or Clausthal-Zellerfeld.

An evaluation by the elite researcher Michael Hartmann came to the conclusion that the vast majority of 529 board members of the 100 largest German companies studied at a perfectly normal state university. In any case, Hartmann could not see a measurable advantage of private or certain state universities. It follows from this: If you want to make a career in Germany, you don't have to cramp up when choosing your university. By studying at a conventional German university, you lay a good foundation for your further career.

Make university choice dependent on elite?

Other countries are more elitist than that. In France, many doors only open with a degree from the ENA administration college; in the USA, job opportunities only rise to extreme water levels if you can prove that you have successfully completed your studies at Harvard or Yale. The status quo has not been cemented forever in this country either. The federal government has been promoting individual elite universities for some time, and the elite stamp should fundamentally increase their appeal.

In any case, don't waste your money to expensive private universities that do not offer any significant advantages. Especially since tuition fees have been abolished across the board in recent years and the academic playing field has been leveled across the country. Despite everything: there will always be differences between the individual universities. So take some time to think about which university is the perfect place for you to study. To make your decision easier, we have summarized the most important criteria for first-year students - sorted from ’very important to’ only important in individual cases ’.

The most important criteria for your choice of university

Numerus clausus

The NC is something like the trapdoor that is hidden in the floor between you and your dream university. The admission restriction varies from subject to subject, from state to state, from university to university. Example: It is much easier to get a place in dentistry in Saxony-Anhalt or Schleswig-Holstein than in Bavaria, Berlin or Hesse. The numerus clausus belongs, quite logically, to the very beginning of your basic considerations.


Next consideration: Do I stay at the Hotel Mama or do I cook my own soup from now on? If you choose option one, the physical proximity to the university is one of the deciding factors. A daily journey of 30 to 40 kilometers is feasible in any case, provided you have a car. But after 50 or 60 kilometers it becomes critical. Do not underestimate the time and strength that pendulum movements cost you every day. Commuting isn't just bad news, it can also affect your academic performance for the worse.


For many students, this is the number one criterion. After all, you want (have to) spend the next few years of your life in this city - and you should also feel a bit comfortable. Everyone knows Berlin, but have you ever been to Tübingen? If not, find out about the cultural offers, the fun factor and beautiful parks for jogging in advance before you make your decision. We are also happy to send a question to other readers in our new sister portal.


The cost of living in Germany is anything but uniform. They are lower in the east than in the west, and rents in Duisburg are cheaper than in Düsseldorf. If your budget does not allow for big jumps, high-price cities like Hamburg or Munich may already be ruled out. But don't underestimate typical student cities either, the housing shortage is often great there, and rents are correspondingly expensive. So take a look at the local rent index and compare the average rental prices. There are also various cost of living calculators on the Internet that you can use to run through individual scenarios.

Course of study

Before even going to university, you should carefully choose your subject. Business studies are not always the same, Romance studies here are different from Romance studies there. What is the specific content of my course of study? What are the priorities? Are there any professors who are luminaries in their field? Compulsory internships that have to be completed? A compulsory semester abroad? Compare the content with regard to your personal interests and career plans. And ask the question, what about online courses and compulsory attendance? Such framework conditions could give you more flexibility in your studies.

Campus life

Let's be honest: For most students, the fun factor is at least as important as the professional competence of their German language lecturer. A doctoral thesis a few years ago even came to the conclusion that the trappings on campus are ultimately the most important decision-making feature. How are the student residences? How do the sports courses? And what's especially going on in the evening in the party room? Online forums help with your research.

Supervision key

If the keyword "Massenuni" is mentioned, the image of a crowded lecture hall immediately jumps to the mind's eye. In fact, at large universities fewer professors can take care of all the aspiring academics. This point speaks in favor of smaller, less crowded universities and less hip cities. But: Small-town universities are of course not to be equated with a good supervision ratio per se. There are more students in Münster, Freiburg or Göttingen than a Berliner can possibly imagine.


University rankings are popular. They break down the most complex relationships into a simple 1-2-3 ranking list that is quick and easy to consume. And they definitely leave their mark on the collective consciousness, regardless of the truth or not. The University of Mannheim, for example, has built an excellent reputation for its business administration department over the years. One or the other HR manager will be well aware of this, which does not reduce the employment opportunities for graduates from Mannheim. Applicants can also use it to their own advantage by proactively pointing out this when applying. So yes, rankings can provide useful information, but should not be overrated when choosing a university.

main emphasis

At RWTH Aachen everything revolves around high-strength screws and centrifugal compressors and hybrid drives and ... Ergo, technicians in Aachen are simply better off than philosophers. In which departments does the university have its strengths? What are the priorities? Rankings could also provide clues here. In addition, having a wide range of courses increases your options overall. Because it could be that you still want to reorient yourself in the middle of it or that you want to add a master’s degree.


While the plaster is crumbling from the walls in the Ruhr area, in the universities of the new federal states even the toilet bowls are made of marble. This is a joke, but it should seriously point out that not every research institute is blessed with the very latest equipment. This is not an advantage, especially in subjects with practical application needs. Here it can actually be advisable to take a closer look at the university in advance (if there is the possibility).


The urban economy helps you - or prevents you, depending on the situation - from making important contacts in the private sector during your studies. After all, you want / should / can complete (compulsory) internships, gain practical work experience in part-time jobs and spruce up your résumé by working as a student trainee. So include the urban economy in your considerations. Which (large) companies are represented here? Which industries shape the city? Where can I apply? Examples: Berlin has a vibrant media and startup scene, but hardly any industry. Typical university cities offer top-class academic research, but often only a few fields of activity outside of the ivory tower.

Partner universities

If you want to weave a degree abroad into your curriculum from the outset, it will help to take a look at the international partner universities. You have South Africa on your list, but the university only in China? Do you want to go to a Spanish-speaking country, but the university only takes you to Anglo-Saxons? The university's global network could be a factor in setting the course for an international career.

Transport links

A criterion that is not that irrelevant. If you've never done the rag, you'll have to rely on bus and train on site (apart from the bike). How do I get from A to B, like from my student apartment to the university? Does an ICE stop at the main train station, with which I whiz home quickly at the weekend? How many long-distance buses go through here? And: for globetrotters (these are usually students) it is also practical to know that there is an airport nearby.


The innovative strength of a university manifests itself in spin-offs. How actively and successfully does your dream university actually support such spin-offs? If the university of your choice has a good rate in this regard, you could benefit from it yourself later, provided you have the right ambitions.

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