At German universities, admission to most subjects is unrestricted (“ohne Numerus clausus”) or only locally restricted (“lokaler Numerus clausus”). That means that some universities have unlimited admission to a particular subject whereas others offer a set number of places. This is the case for subjects such as French literature, physics or political sciences, for example. “Numerus clausus” is Latin for “restricted number”.
If you want to become a doctor, pharmacist, veterinary doctor or dentist, you have to follow a different process. Admission to these four subjects is centrally restricted (“zentraler Numerus clausus”) which means that there are a lot more applicants than places. Whether you will be selected or not, largely depends on your high school marks. It is possible to be put on a waiting list (“Warteliste”) if your application is rejected.