Greece is where it all started. The foundations for all of western civilization were set there. A major part of our language is rooted in ancient Greek; philosophy started there; most of the principles of democracy, law, organized society, ethics, freedom, and government sprang out of the great minds of Socrates, Thales of Miletus, Aristotle, Sophocles, Homer, Herodotus, and Plato, to name a few. Also, let’s not forget theater, comedy, tragedy, arts, history, mathematics, geometry, medicine… the list goes on and on.
Just thinking about all that glorious heritage can make someone want to go there, study, absorb the knowledge, and be part of the continuing advancement of science, philosophy, and art.
You wonder why a Greek lawyer would write an article about studying in Greece?! Well, things are a little different there! And when I say different, I mean that the application process is complicated, it requires quite a bit of paperwork, patience, knowledge of the local system, and a network of people willing and able to help you along the way. You can actually benefit quite a bit from the help of a skilled lawyer, who will assist in navigating the system!
The difficulty and complexity of the whole process is the main reason why this article is longer than average, but bear with me, because all this information might be valuable.
Higher Education in Greece
Apart from the romantic and nostalgic view (and on a more practical note), there are a lot of advantages in attending a Greek University.
Firstly and most importantly, it’s free. Alright, this article is over. I don’t need to write anything else… But seriously, higher education in Greece is free for all EU citizens. All study materials, textbooks, etc. are free, as well. For all non-EU citizens there is a small annual fee of around €1,500 (or $1,683), which includes all necessary textbooks.
Secondly, Greece has more than 20 Universities and about 15 Technological Educational Institutes, which give students the opportunity to study practically any subject on an undergraduate, graduate, and post graduate level. Even though most classes are taught in Greek, there are specialized study programs available in English. All Greek Universities are recognized throughout the EU and some of them are considered to be among the best in the Union.
Thirdly, life in Greece is very affordable, quite enjoyable, and absolutely safe for residents and visitors alike.
Gaining access to higher education
The door to high quality and free education in Greece opens to those, who pass a multi-themed, nation wide examination, called the “Pan-hellenic Examinations”, administered once a year at the end of each school-year. For Greeks living in Greece, they are administered at every major city throughout Greece.
Here is where help from a Greek attorney, like me, comes very handy; dealing with the process and the paperwork!
Greeks living abroad and/or their children can sit for a significantly easier version of the Pan-hellenic exams at specially modified auditoriums in Athens and Thessaloniki. In order to be eligible to sit for these easier exams, a Greek living abroad must fall into one of five distinct categories:
- Children of Greeks living abroad, who have graduated from a Greek High School,
- Children of (i) Greek government employees dispatched to a foreign county and performing their duties abroad or (ii) Greek employees of an international organization that Greece is a member of. These children also need to have graduated from a Greek High School,
- Greeks, who have graduated from a foreign High School with a curriculum recognized by a EU member country,
- Greeks, who have graduated from a High School in Cyprus with a curriculum recognized by the Cypriot Democracy, or
- Greeks, who have graduated from a foreign High School with a curriculum not recognized by any EU member country. On line diplomas are not accepted nor recognized.
Applying for colleges and universities in the US is a pretty straightforward process and an applicant can manage it with little effort and some on line research. The same cannot be said for the processes in Greece, where you will have to provide many different certificates to the relevant authorities, all of them will have to be translated into Greek certified for their authenticity. That is again, why having an attorney by your side helping you with the process is a very good idea.
Before you start with your on-line application, it is advisable to assemble all the necessary paperwork and all the relevant documentation. I have a detailed “laundry list” of documents for each of the above-mentioned categories, available to anyone, who might need it.
What is tested
Expect to be tested on all the following subjects, divided into two directions, one “theoretical” and one “scientific”:
(I) “Theoretical” group direction tests:
1) Ancient Greek,
2) Modern Greek Literature,
4) History, and
5) Modern Greek Language.
(II) “Scientific” group direction tests:
4) Biology, and
5) Modern Greek Language.
If you fall under categories (3), (4), or (5):
Expect to be tested only on Modern Greek Language and your adapted GPA will be calculated into your test results, to form your final score.
Finally, students, who wish to attend faculties that specialize on music, sports, fine arts, etc. should expect to be examined on these extra fields.
What are the next steps, after being admitted to a University in Greece?
A major concern for non-Greek successful applicants of the Pan-hellenic examinations is immigration and visas, another issue that calls for professional legal assistance. International students, who are admitted to study in Greece, will need to obtain a study visa in most cases.
- Students, who are citizens of an EU member country are allowed to travel and study freely within the European Union, so they will only need to submit the following documentation:
1) A valid passport,
2) Proof that the duration of the study program is more than three months,
3) Proof that they have sufficient income to support themselves during their studies, and
4) Proof that they have obtained a health insurance plan for the duration of the studies.
- Students, who are citizens of non-EU member countries, will have to obtain a student visa, in order to go and study in Greece. This requires a visit to a Greek consulate in person, an interview with a member of the consular staff, and submission of the following documentation:
1) A valid passport (Please, make sure that your passport will be valid three (3) months after the date you exit Greece),
2) One color photograph (2×2 inches). (Please note that it must be glued on the application form. Applications with stapled photographs will be rejected),
3) A completed and signed National VISA Application Form (provided by the Consulate),
4) Acceptance letter of the institution, where you will be studying, certified by the prefectural office,
5) Letter from a physician stating you suffer from no communicable diseases,
6) National criminal record check from the F.B.I.,
7) Travel Insurance stating that you are covered in case of a medical emergency and repatriation in the Schengen States (minimum coverage of € 30.000),
8) Proof of funds for the duration of stay in Greece (for example, signed affidavit from your parents stating they will cover all your living expenses while in Greece),
9) Parents’ bank and credit cards statement, and
10) Parents’ W2 forms for the last two years.
As soon as you get the good news, you should start planning your stay in Greece, within the University housing or close to it. Some faculties offer student housing, but it is by far not enough for all the enrolled students. In all major cities, small apartments for single students, or bigger ones for sharing, are available at very affordable prices. The best time to search for accommodation is during the summer months.
Late September or early October, get all your credentials together, go to your faculty, submit your application along with your test results, enroll in order to receive your student booklet, your student pass and all your books, textbooks, and materials, get your class schedule, settle in, and start enjoying your college years in gorgeous Greece.
Studying in Greece gives the opportunity to all Greeks living abroad, no matter if they are first generation Greeks, second generation, or even third, the opportunity to return to their roots, to learn about their heritage, to become a more integrated part of the culture, to master the language, and to promote the Greek ideals further, when they return. … Did I mention the food?
I encourage you to ask questions in the comments below.