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Last updated on November 19, 2020

Applying to Korean University

Before you start reading this, remember that the needed documents and steps change with universities and the best information you can find is the university’s official admission information. 

1. Graduate High School

With as good grades as you can get. The better your grades are, the easier it is to apply. But grades aren’t everything. The application process is much more than only about grades. Requirements differ with every university, but the most common things that help you to be accepted are:

  • Good grades (I feel like I can’t mention this too much)
  • Good score from language proficiency test (Toefl, Ielts, Topik etc. Will explain this a little later)
  • Recommendation letters (Since it is Korea we are talking about, recommendation letters from principals, teachers etc might be better than one from your mothers best friend except if that friend is some CEO or your teacher)
  • Stipends, Scholarships
  • Certificates of Volunteer work (Tutor student work, helping in organizations etc.)
  • Well written application essays (study plans etc.)

I was average… I had the best and the worst grades and together they made my graduation paper average. 

But what saved my graduation paper was the volunteer work I did. I used to be a peer student before high school and continued as a tutor student in high school ~ The work itself was really amazing and I had a lot of fun skipping classes helping the new students and visitors in our school. But when it comes to university admission, the certifications I got were the apples of my work.

2. Get a good score from language proficiency test (or be native and skip this level)

So if you apply to Korean university, you have two choices. To study in Korean track or to study in English track. As long as I know, all of the universities in Korea provide tracks in Korea, but to help the foreigners with a dream of moving to Korea and marrying Kim Soo Hyun, EXO, BTS  whatever some of the universities do provide majors in English.

If the major is in English, take TOEFL or IELTS

I personally took TOEFL and haven’t found any university yet which doesn’t accept it as language proficiency. The universities demand for different scores but most of the universities accept TOEFL ibt 80 or IELTS 5.5

And again even if you know that without studying you will get the required points, still study more and aim for higher score. High score from language proficiency test can compensate ”not so good” high school graduation certificate. Some universities give the admission points by 50% High School graduation paper and 50% Language proficiency test + extra points from additional papers.

Example how Sejong University provides 4 years full scholarship for those students with high English proficiency test score. Or the same scholarship for the ones with high score from TOPIK and average score from TOEFL/IELTS

Other English language proficiency tests can be accepted but I recommend to take TOEFL or IELTS since both of them are accepted to almost every of the universities in Korea.

If the major is in Korean, take TOPIK

Topik is the language proficiency test which tells how good you are in Korean. Most of the universities require for score 3, but again, the higher score the better chance to be accepted.

”But what if the major I wish to study is only available in Korean, but I am not good in Korean?”

Then you have two options, to either change the major you want to study or to study Korean. Many of the universities do offer Korean classes but they are pretty expensive (but again if you go to these Korean classes provided by the university, you get higher chance to be accepted to that university and you might even get some juicy scholarship)

3. Start preparations for the admission

Korea University

Before applying to anywhere, find out how much the tuition fees are and can you afford them. The tuition fees differ a lot with universities so don’t give up after seeing the first numbers, keep on searching for more suitable degree.

Also I recommend to find out if the university has an interview and is it possible to do it in Skype. If they have interview and you must visit Korea for the interview, you should consider this before you apply, are you able to make a trip to Korea for the interview? 

After finding what you want to study and in where you want to study, try to search for what papers the university wants you to send upon the admission. Since the admission time is short and everything can easily be ruined with one missing paper, try to prepare all of the papers you need BEFORE the admission starts.

Some papers I needed to prepare for the admission were
  • Official certificate of High School graduation
  • Language proficiency test score
  • Copy of applicants and parents passports (Most of the universities want to know your and your parents nationality, I guess it is because applicants with Korean nationality or with Korean parents have different application process what can be considered as a way harder than the one for foreigners)
  • An official document that shows the parent-child relationship between the applicant and his/her parents (Again I guess this is because of the nationality thing I mentioned before)
  • Applicant’s or sponsor’s verification of deposit (VOD) of a minimum of USD 15,000 (To prove that I am financially capable to support my studies, for Finns: Kelan todistus opintotuesta korvasi tämän paperin)
  • Three passport-sized photos
  • Application Form (got it from the website where the application was made)
  • Qualification Review Request Form (Internet again)
  • Study Plan (Write it like JK Rowling wrote Harry Potter, I don’t mean that you should lie, use time and effort to make the study plan perfect)
  • Agreement for Verification of Academic Record (Got this one as well from internet)
  • Recommendation letter (Can be required and also optional, but it’s never bad to have one)

The list of required documents and admission information can be viewed in the universities website. If you look for the information early, the schedule timetable might be for last year but the documents normally stay the same so you can start preparing the documents already before the official admission information is out.
BUT remember to check the official admission information also, because the university has every rights to change the required documents and the might do so.

Check for any spelling mistakes and maybe let your family member to recheck the spelling. It might be (and for me surely was) annoying to use time to write a story about yourself and your dreams, and to write it over and over again after someone tells to check the spelling and to write some parts again. But the more time you use the more likely you are going to write it well and that essay might give the last points for you to get in.

4. Send everything via express post

The express post is more expensive, but it’s better to use little more money for the post than take a risk to fail the admission just because the documents didn’t arrive on time. I used DHL and I recommend it.

Later the university contacted me and told that one document was missing (I send it later than the others which had arrived on time) and since I used DHL, the envelope could be tracked from internet. It had been delivered on time and since DHL told the name of the person who had received it, the envelope was found and it didn’t affect my admission.

Check the tracking, and contact the university by email to check if everything is okay with your admission (much better to contact with email than by phone because mail is free, it can be viewed many times if you didn’t understand the answer, Koreans also tend to be good in English when it comes to reading and writing but in conversation there might occur some problems in understanding)

Send everything as early as possible! Because if there is a problem or the university wants you to send some additional document, you need time to prepare the document and to send it again. I had to send one document again and it took time since I needed a signature from someone and she wasn’t available on the weekend.

5. Wait

Really, just wait for the results. If you applied to one university there isn’t maybe lot to do than to wait. But if you decided to apply to other universities as well you might be busy preparing these papers over and over again.

Some of the universities have interview (depending on the rules, it might be skype interview or you might have to visit Korea) I personally don’t know almost anything about this since Sejong University didn’t have interview for the admission.

6. Check the results when their out

If you didn’t get in, don’t give up! I also got rejected in my first university admission and I took it as a test, like ”oh so this is how it works, next time I try better” I found a part-time job and worked to earn more savings, applied again to another university (found a major I am even more interested in than the one I applied first) and now I am more prepared (emotionally as well as financially) and happy to go!

If you got in, Congratulations! Now the university will start to send you emails about the tuition payment, dormitory application etc. If you got questions, ask the university and get the answers.

7. Apply for visa

The university gives information for this and the required documents may differ a little according to the nationality of the applicant. You can also get more information from the Korean embassy in your country. Apply the visa as fast as you can, since there are other students applying it as well and it can take weeks to get the visa, and you need the visa before you move to Korea.

Education in South Korea is 9th in the QS ranking of the best education systems in the world, surpassing many developed countries, such as JapanItalySpainSwitzerlandSweden and New Zealand[0]. In practice, this entails high-quality education, the development of which is facilitated in many respects by the introduction of advanced technologies, the low cost of training, and the strong chances of employment in promising sectors. Here, the rich eastern culture of Korea with its traditional hierarchy of society coexists with the multicultural environment, and the progressive development of the country in the field of economics and education.
Advantages of studying in South KoreaDisadvantages of studying in South KoreaContents

Cost and Structure of Education in South Korea

Type of EducationAgeDurationMin costAvg. The costExams
Summer Camp7-181-12 weeks271 USD/week812 USD/week
Language courses16+1-24 weeks135 USD/week195 USD/wk
Secondary education12-186 yearsFree (public school)16,236 USD/year (international school)
College18+2-3 years3,608 USD/year8,118 USD/yearIELTS 5.5/TOPIK Level 3
Bachelor’s18+4-6 years6,314 USD/year13,079 USD/yearIELTS 5.5/TOPIK Level 3
Master’s21 +2 years5,051 USD/year16,236 USD/yearIELTS 6.0/TOPIK Level 3
Doctoral21+3-4 years4,690 USD/year17,589 USD/yearIELTS 6.0/TOPIK Level 3

Additional costs

The options for admission to universities in South Korea

Education in South Korea

Admission requirements of South Korean Universities

Applications are accepted directly by each individual university, applicants can send documents by mail and/or upload them online. The academic year in Korea begins in March, although many universities enroll students twice a year – in March and September. Application deadlines are in September-November and May-June. Exact dates should be checked on university sites. Education is divided into two semesters with a break in between them: summer break (July-August) and winter break (December-February).

Knowledge of Korean might be an advantage for an applicant or affect scholarship, however, it is not a prerequisite for admission. About 30% of programs in South Korea are taught in English. When submitting documents, international students must confirm the level of language proficiency in which the training will be conducted by providing the results of the corresponding exam: English – TOEFL or IELTS, Korean – TOPIK (Test of Proficiency in Korean).
TOPIK exam can be taken in more than 82 countries. The exam is held 6 times a year (January, March, April, July, October, November). Specific dates are published on the exam site at the beginning of the year. The exam costs 36 USD to take. Korean language levels are divided into elementary (1-2) and advanced (3-6). Upon admission, level 3 or higher is required. In order to graduate from a university, a student will need to demonstrate at least level 4.
For programs taught in English, the requirement for the level of proficiency at all stages of instruction is at least TOEFL 80 / IELTS 6.0, and less often IELTS 5.5 (for undergraduate studies).

The final list of documents (for all programs) may include:

  • Notarized copy of a certificate of previously completed education and transcripts with grades;
  • Copy and original language certificate;
  • A motivation letter summarizing a study plan / research proposal;
  • Letters of recommendation from professors, teachers and/or employers (1-2 pcs.);
  • Copy of passport;
  • Copies of passports of both parents;
  • A document confirming kinship;
  • Portfolio (for creative specialties);
  • Miscellaneous materials – individual achievements, publications, thesis (optional).

All documents will require translations into the language of study (English or Korean). In the absence of valid passports of the student and/or his parents, it is necessary to provide copies and originals of other documents indicating nationality. Depending on the university and the field of study, additional entrance examinations and interviews are possible. If desired, the student can take the standardized Korean exam Suneung (수능) – an analog of the American SAT. The results can increase the chances of admission, especially in top universities in Korea – SKY.

College – Vocational education in South Korea

The negative perception and stigmatization of technical and other applied education unfairly undermine the reputation of vocational schools in South Korea, although they are a good option for those who do not want to follow the traditional university route.
Vocational education is conducted by several types of educational institutions. First of all, it is worth mentioning junior colleges (also specialized colleges, polytechnic colleges), offering two-year (75-80 credits) and three-year (120 or more credits) courses awarding associate’s degree (준 문학사 – Junmunhaksa) upon graduation. The main areas of study include various crafts, as well as an extensive block of specialties related to preschool education, economics, business administration, technology, engineering, agriculture, fishing, navigation, and nursing. The curriculum usually includes up to 30% of general subjects in addition to core subjects. Great emphasis is placed on internships.
The requirements for college admission are the same as for university admissions, but the competition is much smaller. After graduating from a junior college, graduates can start working in their specialty or transfer earned credits and go straight to the 3rd year of bachelor’s as part of partnership agreements between colleges and universities (similar to what students of community colleges in the USA do).

An associate’s degree can also be obtained at industrial universities (polytechnics), but the cost of studying there will be higher in accordance with the status of the university.

Bachelor’s in South Korea – Undergraduate

Bachelor’s (학사 – Haksa) in Korea develops key skills and trains important theoretical knowledge, which is necessary to work or continue education. Bachelor’s degrees are issued by four-year colleges and universities, including general research universities, specialized industrial universities and universities of education, and remote cyber universities.
Standard academic programs last for 4 years (130-140 credits), at the same time professional programs (architecture, law, medicine, pharmaceutical business) take 5-6 years. During the first two years, students have core and elective subjects of a general profile, then focus on special disciplines, which are also divided into compulsory and optional.

In order to successfully complete the program, it is necessary to write a thesis, finish a project, or pass a comprehensive examination. In addition, requirements are set for the final GPA, which should be at least 2.00 (C). Universities in South Korea issue both standard degrees of Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science and many specialized ones: Bachelor of Economics, Bachelor of Information Science, Bachelor of Statistics and others.

The main requirement for foreign applicants is the equivalent of 12 years of study in a Korean school. Completed secondary education of 11 years may be also considered equivalent if that is its standard duration in a student’s home country.

Grading system in Korean universities

Master’s in South Korea

Master’s (석사 – Seoksa) in Korea is awarded by graduate schools, which combine master’s and doctoral programs. Moreover, on the basis of a university, there may exist one general grad school of an academic orientation or several professional schools with a practical inclination.
The duration of study for a master’s degree in Korea is 2 years. The curriculum involves the study of a specific set of courses, with an aggregate credit score of 24 credits (approximately 48 ECTS), and a master’s research. To obtain a master’s degree (MA, MS and others), a student must have a final GPA of 3.0 (B) or higher, pass a comprehensive exam and a foreign language exam, and also defend a thesis. Thus, the master’s program in South Korea sets a fairly high standard, providing its graduates with a wide range of competencies. Master’s applicants must complete a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field with an average score of 3.0 (B) or higher.

Doctoral studies in South Korea – Graduate school

Doctoral studies (박사 – Baksa) is the last stage of higher education in Korea. It is conducted by graduate schools, most of which are part of universities, although they may exist as separate educational institutions.
In Korean universities, there are two ways to obtain a doctoral degree:

  • Stand-alone program. Assumes at least three years of study, including 2 years of course work (30-36 credits). A mandatory requirement for admission is a master’s degree in an adjacent field.
  • The integrated program. Admission is based on a bachelor’s degree. At a certain stage of training, students are awarded an intermediate master’s degree. Duration is at least 4 years, during which it is necessary to collect 60 credits with training courses.

For successful completion of the program, the student must secure a final GPA of 3.0 (B) or higher, pass a comprehensive exam and two foreign languages, and then write and defend a doctoral dissertation. The most common qualification in South Korea is Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), but there is also Doctor of Science, Doctor of Business Administration and others.
Upon admission to doctoral studies, the GPA at the previous stage of education (at least 3.0), published papers, research proposal, resume, and also the knowledge of foreign languages (depending on the program, this can be Japanese, English, Korean, French, etc.), all are taken into account.
Academic career in South Korea

Scholarships and grants

The most famous government grant is the Global Korea Scholarship (GKS). It fully covers the expenses of students for travel, accommodation, training, medical insurance, training materials, and other needs. The program also includes one-year language courses before starting the main program. Each year, scholarships are given to 170 students of undergraduate level (bachelor’s, associate’s) and 700 students of graduate level (master’s, doctoral).
The main selection criteria are age (up to 25 and 40, respectively) and GPA at the previous stage of education (more than 75% for admission to associate’s and more than 80% for other programs). Applications for GKS are accepted by Korean embassies in participating countries and universities accredited by the National Institute for International Education.

There is also a scholarship program for self-financed undergraduate students. Full-timestudentswho have studied at a Korean college or university for at least two semesters and demonstrate good knowledge of Korean at the minimum of level 4, according to the results of TOPIK, can apply. Annually the Korean government selects 200 students who receive the scholarship for 12 months.
Many universities provide foreign applicants who have a high academic performance with a discount of 30-100% of the total tuition cost.

Student visa to South Korea

Student visas to Korea can be of two types:

  • Overseas Study (D-2). Long-term visa for bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral studies, as well as participation in research projects at colleges, universities and professional schools.
  • General training (D-4). Short-term visa for taking language courses on the basis of a university or other training in organizations that do not fall under the first category.

To obtain a D-2 visa, the following documents must be prepared:

  • International passport valid throughout the entire course of study;
  • A completed visa application form;
  • Registration fee payment receipt (50 USD for single entry and 80 USD for multiple entries;
  • Letter of acceptance from the university;
  • Copy of education certificate (translated into the language of instruction and notarized);
  • Proof of financial ability.

The latter may take the form of a bank statement (at least 10,123 USD) or a document confirming the availability of a grant/scholarship or external financial support. The above list of documents is not always final. In some cases, additional documents are required.
D-2 visa is initially issued for a period of up to two years, then it is extended. Engineering students can apply for category D-2-7, which allows foreign students to stay in South Korea after graduation in order to find work.
Within 90 days after arrival, the student must visit the regional migration service in order to receive an Alien Registration Card, the cost of which is 9 USD. In addition, you will need to purchase an insurance (19 USD/month) that provides access to all medical facilities in South Korea.

Work while studying in South Korea

During studies at the universities of South Korea, a foreign student with a D-2 visa can get a part-time job (no more than 20 hours a week) for a semester and full-time during the break. To do this, you must study at the university for at least 6 months (one semester) and obtain the appropriate permission. The student will also be required to provide the employer with a valid student visa and a letter of recommendation from the school.

Immigration opportunities

After graduating from a university and obtaining a degree, a student has a lot of opportunities to stay in South Korea, while changing his visa status[5]. The most common are the following options:

  • E-1-E-7. Type E statuses are available to graduates of Korean universities who have already found work that matches one of the following categories: Professor (E-1), Foreign Language Instructor (E-2), Researcher (E-3), Technician (E-4), Professional (E-5), Artist / Athlete (E-6), Foreign National of Special Ability (E-7)[6]. The maximum stay duration varies from 3 to 5 years.
  • D-10. Job seeker statusis suitable for those who are still looking for work or planning to create a startup. Validity of the visa is 6 months, but it can be extended for up to 2 years.
  • F-2-7. Resident status (permanent residence) is issued to graduates with a master’s degree and above who are employed in a Korean company. To obtain a residence permit, you need to score at least 80 points out of 120 based on criteria such as age (25), level of education (35), level of Korean language proficiency (20), income (10), payment of taxes (5), volunteer activity (5), etc.

Employment opportunities

A high level of education in the country is only one of the signs of the exceptional transformation of Korea, which has experienced a rapid economic recovery over the past 70 years. Today, the Korean economy occupies 12th place in the world and 4th place in Asia[7]. The unemployment rate is only 4%[8]. As for foreign citizens, the South Korean government provides significant support to students and graduates of Korean universities, without imposing insurmountable visa restrictions on them. All this creates more than favorable conditions for employment in the country.
The first thing that comes to mind when thinking about Korea is, of course, high technology, which is reflected in the largest industries: automobile manufacturing, chemical industry, electronics, shipbuilding, metallurgy, mobile telecommunications. Many know Korean companies like SamsungHyundaiLG ElectronicsKPMGExxonMobil and others. The most sought after specialists are those with technical and IT skills. However, in the context of globalization, one cannot fail to note another promising area – teaching of foreign languages, mainly English.
In general, with a Korean diploma, getting a job in Korea is much easier than without it, but the competition for jobs here is extremely high. Most likely it will not do without learning the Korean language. At the same time, the degree obtained in South Korea is not inferior to the American or the European one, and therefore opens up broad prospects for employment not only in Korea but also in many countries of the world.












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