You know what you want to study, but the hurdle of Numerus Clausus is simply too high? Many universities focus on other factors. Here you’ll learn about open admission programs and what you need to bring to the table.
You have worked hard for years and it is now within your grasp – your High School Diploma. While some look forward with confidence to high school graduation, others feel under pressure. After all, they want to meet their own expectations, make their families proud, or simply look forward to good career opportunities. After all, in Germany the rumor persists: Those who have achieved very good grades also hold all the cards for university and job.
In one aspect that may be true: Many subjects at state universities are restricted by a so-called Numerus Clausus (NC for short), where applicants have to attain a certain grade on their Abitur. Those with a lower grade, who still want to study, require additional qualifications or must simply wait a few semesters. We explain here what you should know about open admission programs and why some universities have decided to drop NC.
What is the Numerus Clausus?
In theory everyone in Germany has the right to freely choose their educational institutions and has access to universities when he or she has the requisite formal qualifications. It is thus stated so in the constitution (Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany). But because some degrees such as Business, Medicine, or Psychology have been so popular for many years, there are more applicants than university places; a fair and reliable process is required to decide on university access.
Fair and reliable, that’s what the NC should be. It is undoubtedly fair in the admissions process: In the end, all applicants have attended school under broadly the same conditions and over that period obtained comparable certificates for their performances. As a matter of principle, any other criterion could be used for this purpose, which then has to be applied to each individual applicant. And given that most high school graduates apply to more than one university, an individual interview with all candidates is not efficient and simply not practical.
On the reliability of the NC, opinions differ. After all, it should predict where the applicant is in terms of aptitude to study. It is however not the case in all subjects that high school marks are predictive, as studies have already shown. Those who have the aptitude for it therefore miss out and the process could be improved. But how?
What universities actually want
Aptitude to study describes someone who is able to successfully complete a degree and preferably do so within the standard number of semesters. University degree is however difficult to compare with school: At universities, students are essentially left to their own devices, and are not reminded or guided. Independence, sense of responsibility, and organization are therefore crucial. “In order to find out how best to assess aptitude to study, we first look at the reasons why students drop out,” explains Lars Holtvoeth, President of BiTS. This way students and universities can deduce under which conditions university study functions best.
Number one on the list according to studies is false expectation for the subject, closely followed by lack of skills. In order to avoid both success killers, universities such as BiTS and BTK have developed alternative aptitude assessments. There are tests at two levels: Do I know what I am facing and do I want to do it? And do I have the right skills set for it?
Open admission programs: What you need
For a reliable application, there is usually a test conducted by the university of choice first. While you can only improve fundamental abilities such as your IQ, numeracy, or language skills in the long term, there are two things that are completely in your control: Your interest in the subject (therefore your knowledge about it) and you work ethic. If you work hard on these beforehand, you have the best chances to enroll in an open admission program.
Obviously interest in something cannot be feigned. You should not attempt do so either, since even if you successfully cheat, you will have to endure at least three years in that subject. That would be neither pleasant nor productive. Instead ask yourself (and this is best done long before you send off your applications!), what professions you can really see yourself working in and for which you do not have to make compromises with your interests and skills.
Also familiarize yourself with how the actual degree works. What does the curriculum look like, which classes are you going to attend? Note your expectations and compare them perhaps even with current students. You should have the opportunity to do so from your circle of friends, student groups on Facebook, or – this is the best – directly at school: Most universities offer open campus days or trial sessions.
As regards your work ethic, it could be a bit tricky. It is in fact more comprehensive than you may think. How you resolve problems in your everyday life can be inferred from every aspect of your life. If you would like to work on it, you need support, from a friend, teacher, or even professional coach. Receive feedback on how you are perceived by others, and allow your bad habits to be constantly pointed out.
Even a detour can lead you to your goal
One thing can be said for certain: Not everyone is suited for a university degree. In turn a degree is not always a guarantee for success. Career paths today are varied as never before and that’s a good thing! Should something not work out from time to time, you can consider detours. Many graduates do subject-related training before they start their degree. Use the time and work hard to improve your skills! That way there’s no obstacle between you and your dream job.
Would you like to know more about studying without NC? Here you can find more information on the application process.