A short guide on how to get through the BAföG jungle

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In the jungle

The stated aim of the German Federal Training Assistance Act (BAföG) is that it “enables all young people to choose the training that suits their own personal interests, irrespective of their families’ financial means”. But the route to receiving this financial support is often long and difficult. Anyone thinking of applying for BAföG automatically thinks of endless forms, gathering proof of income and having to make incessant telephone calls because some important piece of information is missing. But it doesn’t have to be like that if you take the time to get informed beforehand – that being said, BAföG is definitely worth the hassle!

For a number of reasons, it is often impossible for your family to support you throughout the course of your academic studies. Even if you don’t have to pay study fees, you still need money for rent, train or bus tickets, food and loads of other things.

Depending on your study program (or location) it can be very difficult to work part time and meet attendance obligations. BAföG can help take the pressure off students in a number of different ways. However, there are a lot of requirements that those who wish to receive BAföG need to be aware of. This blog entry will help to give you an overview of the most important points.

  • Who is entitled to claim BAföG?

One of the most “negative” aspects of BAföG is the application process, as this requires time and patience, especially if you have previously had little to do with applications and filling in forms. In order to be successful there is one thing you need in abundance: patience, patience and more patience.

Some small comfort for those of you who are currently slaving away filling in the forms (or plan to do so in the near future): The application process is being continuously modified and improved in order to reduce the administrative burden and shorten the time taken until your application is approved. So don’t immediately throw in the towel the first time you see the forms. First just take a deep breath because it really is manageable – and there is also support available from the University of Stuttgart’s Student Services if you really get stuck.

When are students entitled to claim financial support? The following people are entitled to BAföG:

Not only German students, but also many foreign students are eligible for BAföG. Fundamentally, foreigners who are likely to remain in Germany and are already integrated into German society are eligible for financial support. For example, this includes people with a right to permanent residence pursuant the Freedom of Movement Act/EU, a permit for permanent residency-EC, or a settlement permit.

  • What criteria does financial support depend on?

It is difficult to make a generalized statement about the process at this point. When you’ve got past the first hurdle and got to grips with the application process it will become clear that you are expected to provide certificates of performance within specified time periods. These documents prove that you really are studying. This means completing modules and gaining certification in order to receive the required ECTS points.

This requirement is not just harassment or mere bureaucracy. It is supposed to ensure that the academic course will be completed within the expected standard period of study. And because the employees at the BAföG office don’t have second sight, they require suitable documentation of your academic achievements so far:

No money, no fun: studying with BAföG.

No money, no fun: studying with BAföG.

The required certificates of performance show that it can be expected that the educational goal will actually be achieved. […] Students studying at technical colleges, academies or universities are also required to provide relevant certificates of performance at the beginning of the fifth semester. If the study and examination regulations stipulate that an intermediate examination or other relevant certificate of performance is required before the beginning of the third semester, then the financial support in the third and fourth semesters is also dependent on the submission of this proof.

Age is also an important factor and must not be forgotten in the BAföG application.  Financial support is available up to the age of 30 or 35 (for a master’s course), although it is your age at the time when you begin studying that is important.

  • How much BAföG am I entitled to?

There is no straightforward answer to this question either, because the amount of money depends on a number of factors, such as your parent‘s income, possible maintenance etc. The BAföG calculator at Studis Online can give you an estimate, so that you can calculate in advance whether you might need to work part time while studying. In expensive cities in particular, rent prices have increased exponentially in recent years, even for a room in a shared house. You shouldn’t completely rely on financial support from BAföG.

  • How long will I receive financial support?

The maximum support period depends on the standard study period for your specific academic course; this is 6 semesters for some courses and 7 or even more for others. Currently up to 670 euros per month is the maximum financial support available.

  • Why should I complete the application as quickly as possible?

At first glance, the BAföG application really does look extremely complicated and numerous supporting documents have to be provided. However, the most important thing to remember when you are completing the application for the first time, is to complete it on time, even if some of the necessary supporting documents and/or certificates are missing. If you don’t do this you might have to wait months for approval and this can cause financial difficulties. In order to avoid this you can complete a so-called informal application that makes it clear that you wish to receive BAföG. A sample application can be found at Studis Online.

  • Where should I submit the application?

The BAföG application should be submitted to Student Services at the University of Stuttgart. All the necessary forms (with instructions about how to complete them) can be downloaded here or here as a pdf file.

  • Changing your degree course – what will happen to my BAföG?

If you realize that you have chosen the wrong academic course, it is still possible to receive financial support after you have changed your degree course. It is important to remember that that there are time limits for this though: You must change your course by the 3rd semester and you need to give a good reason for your decision, otherwise financial support will be discontinued (except in exceptional cases).

  • I don’t have any contact with my parents – does that mean I won’t receive anything?

 

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The BAföG application requires the submission of a lot of supporting documents and written statements.

It is a popular misconception, that you will only receive BAföG if your parents cooperate and send the necessary proof of income required for the application. Even if you no longer have any contact to your parents, it is still possible to receive financial support from BAföG while you are studying, as long as you are entitled to receive it.

For this eventuality, there is the parent-independent BAföG pursuant § 11 paragraph 2a BAföG, which applies when “the parents’ whereabouts is unknown, they live abroad (and they are effectively unable to pay maintenance due to legal reasons)”.

Further information about parent-independent BAföG can be found by clicking here.

  • Taking out a loan in order to study?

Whether you apply for financial support to enable you to study or not is entirely your decision. But it is helpful to know that that you have to pay back a maximum of 10,000 euros from the entire loan – because that’s what it all comes down to in the end. Furthermore, you only have to start paying back the loan “5 years after the end the maximum financial support period”.

BAföG is half grant and half loan. The bottom line is, that depending on the amount you earn you have up to 20 years to pay back the loan. Further information about repaying BAföG loans can be found here.

  • I still have questions …

Of course there are still questions that haven’t been answered here, and that’s why I would recommend that you visit the webpage: “Rund ums BAföG”- FAQ, which tells you pretty much everything you need to know about BAföG. If you still have questions even after visiting the site or if you would prefer to meet with someone in person who can answer your questions then you can visit Student Services at Holzgartenstraße11, 70174 Stuttgart for a consultation. Information about how to make an appointment and consultation hours can be found under the following link.

Good luck with your application!

Romy

PS: If you are looking for more information about BAföG it’s also worth looking here.

Source: bafög.de and Studis Online

 

 

 

 

My name is Romy. I am 28 years old and study psychology, my second great passion alongside literature. I am most comfortable writing prose but I also sometimes write poetry. Apart from that I also blog about literary and psychological topics. I already have a BA in Literature and Slavic Studies and an MA in Literature and German Philology.

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