Waiting Semester
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Waiting Semester

The topic of waiting semesters is a key issue for many applicants, often associated with uncertainty and many questions. In a system where demand for study places often exceeds supply, waiting semesters can play a role in deciding admission to the desired degree program. This article aims to educate comprehensively about waiting semesters: What they are, how they work, and how to make good use of the waiting period. This is intended to shed light on this often misunderstood aspect of the university application process.

What are Waiting Semester?

Waiting semesters are an unavoidable topic for many prospective students. Especially in degree programs with a numerus clausus (NC), they can be decisive. Waiting semesters can help to increase the chances of getting a place at university if the Abitur grade alone is not sufficient.

Objective of the article

In this article, we want to shed light on the term "Waiting Semester" from all sides. We clarify what exactly waiting semesters are, how they are counted and what you can do during this waiting period. In addition, we answer frequently asked questions and give tips for useful alternatives.

What are waiting semesters and how are they calculated?

Definition of Waiting Semester

Waiting semesters are those half-year periods during which someone did not enroll at a university after graduating from high school, even though they would have been eligible to do so. They serve as a criterion in the allocation of study places, especially in admission-restricted courses of study.

Functionality of Waiting Semester

In popular courses of study, where the demand for places often exceeds the supply, the NC values (Numerus Clausus) are usually high. Waiting semesters can serve as a kind of "compensation" here. Each semester of waiting increases the chances of getting a place at university, as one is given preference over fresh school graduates. However, it is important to note that this does not mean that automatic admission is granted after a set number of waiting semesters. Depending on the study program and the university, the number of required waiting semesters can vary.

Calculation of the waiting semesters

The calculation of the waiting semesters is actually quite simple: The semesters in which one was enrolled at a German university are subtracted from the total number of semesters that have passed since the acquisition of the university entrance qualification. This means that periods of professional activity as well as periods of unemployment, travel or internships can count as waiting semesters. However, periods of study that have already begun are not taken into account.


Anna graduated from high school 4 years ago. After that, she traveled for 2 years and then worked for 1 year before applying for a place at university. She has thus accumulated 7 waiting semesters (4 years = 8 semesters - 1 semester for work = 7).

Special features of the imputation

There are certain activities, such as federal voluntary service, voluntary social year or even military service, which are not counted towards the waiting semester. This means that such activities are neutral with regard to the waiting period and are neither considered positively nor negatively.

It is also important to note that waiting semesters are only relevant for German universities. Anyone who studies abroad and then returns to Germany to take up further studies cannot expect to receive credit for waiting semesters that were accrued during the studies abroad.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Waiting Semesters

Waiting semesters are a double-edged sword and often fraught with many prejudices. For some, they represent "lost time" as they wait impatiently for their studies to begin. For others, they offer a valuable opportunity for personal and professional growth. As with most things in life, there are both advantages and disadvantages, which may be weighted differently depending on the individual situation. In this section, we aim to provide a balanced perspective to help you make the decision that is right for you.

Disadvantages of waiting semesters

  1. Uncertainty: There is no guarantee of a place at university, even if you have accumulated several semesters of waiting.
  2. Lost time: Some see the waiting semesters as lost time that could have been used in their studies or profession.
  3. Limited choice: Not all degree programs offer the possibility of obtaining a place via waiting semesters.

Summary of the Advantages and Disadvantages of Waiting Semesters

Durch diese Tabelle sollte deutlich werden, dass Wartesemester sowohl Vorteile als auch Nachteile haben können. Es lohnt sich, beide Seiten gründlich abzuwägen, bevor man sich für oder gegen Wartesemester entscheidet.
Aspect Advantages Disadvantages
Chances of getting a place at university Increases with the number of waiting semesters No guarantee of admission
Personal development Time for travel, language courses, internships, etc. Considered as "lost time"
Career opportunities Opportunity for first work experience Limited choice of studies
Time management No time pressure, flexible start to studies possible Uncertainty and potential career delay
Financial considerations Opportunity for job and savings Potential financial uncertainty without a firm plan

Possibilities instead of waiting semesters

While waiting semesters can be a strategy to bridge time and possibly increase your chances of getting into a degree program, there are also alternative ways to get into the degree program of your choice.

  1. Dual degree programs: These offer the opportunity to gain work experience and academic training in parallel. Admission criteria may be different than for regular degree programs.
  2. Study Abroad: While studying abroad requires careful planning and may incur additional costs, it also offers many experiences and may be easier to access.
  3. Private Universities: Institutions like Munich Business School do not have waiting semesters and look at each applicant individually. The NC does not play a role here, but each application is considered individually

There are therefore numerous alternatives to waiting semesters. Especially at private universities, an application independent of waiting semesters and numerus clausus (NC) can be promising.

Tips for the time of the Waiting Semester

Waiting semesters need not be regarded as "lost time". On the contrary, these months offer a rare opportunity to intensively develop in areas that are often neglected in the stressful daily university routine. Here are some more detailed tips:


An internship can be the perfect opportunity to get your foot in the door of your desired industry. Not only do you gain valuable work experience, you also make contacts that could be important for your future career. Often, internships also lead to a permanent position.


Volunteer work is not only good for the soul, but also looks great on your resume. You learn new skills, from project management to teamwork, and show social commitment, which is appreciated by many employers.


A job during the waiting semester not only provides the obvious financial cushion, but can also offer insights into work processes and structures that could be helpful during your studies. Particularly in subject-specific jobs, initial professional networks can already be established.


Travel broadens horizons and promotes personal development. Especially if you plan to study abroad or work internationally, intercultural experiences are a must.

Language courses

In today's globalized world, mastering several languages is a clear advantage. A waiting semester offers sufficient time to devote oneself intensively to a new language or to deepen already existing language skills.


In this section, we clarify some of the most frequently asked questions about waiting semesters to give you a comprehensive overview.

Can I work during a waiting semester?

Yes, during a waiting semester you are not bound to a university and therefore have the freedom to pursue full-time or part-time work. Many use this time to gain practical experience or to save money for the upcoming studies. However, it can be useful to clarify this with the department or the future university to ensure that gainful employment does not have a negative impact on the allocation of study places.

How many waiting semesters are usual for my desired degree program?

The number of waiting semesters can vary greatly depending on the degree program and university. Sometimes a few semesters are enough, while for very popular courses the waiting period can be several years. It is advisable to obtain information from the respective university or its website at an early stage.

Can I "sell" or "transfer" my waiting semesters?

No, waiting semesters are personal and cannot be sold or transferred. They are only valid for the person who applied and waited the corresponding time. A "trade" with waiting semesters is not possible and would also violate the rules of the allocation of study places.

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