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Applying to universities in South Korea 

The admissions process differs from school to school but, in general, you can apply directly to your chosen university by post or online. Be aware that the South Korean academic year begins in March, although many schools take on new students twice a year – in March and September. Deadlines for March applications are typically set between September and November, while for September entry, deadlines are often between May to June. Most universities in South Korea have just two terms, with a summer break from July to August and a winter break from December to February.

Although proficiency in the Korean language is advantageous, around 30 percent of courses at South Korean universities are taught in English. This, along with the fact that English proficiency is growing nationwide, helps to break down the language barrier for international students. However, a desire to learn the basics of the Korean language will certainly be helpful, paving the way for fuller integration into South Korean society and culture. In either case, foreign students must prove their proficiency in the language their course will be conducted in.

Visas to study in South Korea 

To study in South Korea as an international student, you will require a ‘D-2 visa’, which can be gained from a South Korean embassy or consulate in your home country. Typically, as well as proficiency in English or Korean, you will be asked to provide your passport, a completed application form, a certificate of your most recent school record, confirmation of your acceptance at a South Korean university and proof of sufficient finances. For your D-2 visa you will be required to pay a processing fee of about US$50 (for single entry) or US$80 (for multiple entry). The visa allows you to stay for up to two years. Engineering students can apply for the D-2-7 visa, which allows government-invited international students to stay in South Korea after they graduate and find work.

You’ll also need to purchase health insurance from the National Health Insurance Service (NHIS), which will entitle you to access treatment at all hospitals in the country and costs around US$20 per month.

Fees and funding 

One of the good things about studying in South Korea is that tuition fees are the same for domestic and international students, as part of the national plan to bring more international students to the country. These fees will vary depending on the course and university.

An undergraduate course at a public university costs around US$4,350 per semester (with humanities subjects at the lower end and medicine at the top). At a South Korean private university, fees are estimated at US$5,800 per semester. And at Seoul’s 16 internationally ranked universities, the average annual tuition fee for undergraduate students is US$6,500.

To calculate the total cost, bear in mind that there are two semesters in each academic year, and South Korean undergraduate programs typically last four years (or six years for subjects like medicine and dentistry).

Scholarships for international students are widely available from individual universities, covering between 30 to 100 percent of tuition fees. In addition, a number of governmental scholarships are available, which may also cover air fares and living expenses. One such governmental program is the Global Korea Scholarship (GKS). More scholarships to study in South Korea are listed here.

Recent government deregulations of scholarships, dormitories, part-time jobs and employment after graduation aim to make studying in South Korea more accessible for international students – by making it easier to cover the costs, and also to stay and seek work in the country after graduation.

Accommodation and living costs 

University dormitories are usually the cheapest options for accommodation, costing around US$280 to US$1,300 per semester, with the costs varying depending on how many students you’ll be sharing with, and whether catering is included. Private accommodation costs can vary considerably, at anywhere between US$280 and US$700 per month. Most universities offer affordable catering on campus, and if you take advantage of this you’ll likely only spend around US$260 on food a month. In Seoul (South Korea’s most expensive city), a one-way public transport ticket costs around one US dollar, or alternatively a monthly pass would be US$50.

Once you’ve been enrolled for six months (one semester) you’ll be eligible for applying for part-time work to help supplement your income. You can work up to 20 hours per week during term time and full time during semester breaks, and will need to supply employers with your student visa and a letter of recommendation from your university.

South Korea is a popular choice for students looking to further their higher education. It comes as no surprise because not only can you acquire an affordable, high-quality education in one of the world’s best universities in Korea, you also get to soak up one of the world’s oldest cultures while experiencing life in the birthplace of K-pop.

Steps on Studying in Korea for International Students

  1. Know the cost of studying in Korea and prepare financially
  2. Prepare for application requirements for universities in Korea
  3. Apply to Korean universities following their application procedure
  4. Process your Korean student visa

Now, we will guide you on these specific steps.

1. Cost of Studying in Korea

One of the reasons why many students choose to study in Korea is its world-class education at a cost that does not burn a hole through your pocket. On average, you would probably need about $5,000 a year for your bachelor’s degree. The cost of living in Korea is also relatively low. With less than $1,000 a month, you will be able to cover your living expenses and still get to enjoy the amazing activities and explore the scenic locations this country has to offer.

2. General Application Requirements for Studying in Korea as an International Student

Depending on your field of study, the courses will be taught either in Korean or English. Most universities will ask their applicants to present documents that will indicate their level of understanding in these languages.

General Korean and English Requirements (Undergraduate)

In general, you will need at least a level 3 proficiency in Korean (Test of Proficiency in Korean, TOPIK) and/or a minimum score of 80 for TOEFL iBT or 5.5 for IELTS.

For example, Seoul National University requires a minimum of level 3 or higher in TOPIK or a minimum of 80 for TOEFL iBT, 6.0 for IELTS, or 551 for TEPS in English proficiency.

Sung Kyun Kwan University calls for a minimum of level 4 or above in TOPIK or one of the following requirements in English proficiency.

  • English Track A – TOEFL iBT 90 or IELTS 6.5 or above
  • English Track B – TOEFL iBT 80 or IELTS 5.5 or above

General Korean and English Requirements (Graduate)

To study in Korea for international students, the language requirements for graduate program applications are similar to the university’s undergraduate requirements. You will need level 3 or above in Korean proficiency and a score 80 or above for TOEFL iBT or 5.5 or above for IELTS.

For instance, the language proficiency you require to apply to Seoul National University’s graduate program is the same for its undergraduate program (with exception to certain courses).

The prerequisites vary from one university to another, so you should go through the official application requirements of the university you are applying to.

Application Requirements (Undergraduate)

These are the usual documents (examples taken from Yonsei University) that you are required to send to the university after you have completed your online application. If your document is not an original, you will most likely need to have the copy notarized before sending it in. It is advisable to keep copies of your submitted documents as they will usually not be returned to you.

  • Admission application form
  • Personal statement
  • Proof of language proficiency (Korean or English or both)
  • Recommendation letters or counselor reference
  • High school transcripts
  • A copy of your passport
  • Copy of your parents’ passports
  • Birth certificate
  • Optional documents may include high school profile, standardized tests, and other indicators of academic achievement
  • Supplementary material such as awards, portfolios or volunteer activities during high school
  • Application fee ($70 – $150)

Application Requirements (Graduate)

The typical documents (examples taken from Korea University) a graduate applicant has to submit are as follow:

  • Admission application form
  • Statement of purpose
  • Proof of language proficiency (Korean or English or both)
  • Recommendation letters
  • Certificate of degree or expected graduation
  • Official transcripts
  • Identification documents such as passport copy or family registry
  • Financial statement
  • Application fee ($90 – $120)

3. Application Procedure

The next step of studying in Korea for international students is to apply. Applying to a Korean university is pretty simple and straightforward. Most universities in Korea have two intakes each year for their undergraduate and graduate courses – Fall and Spring intakes. You can apply to a university through its official website.

Each university’s application period is different, so it is best to check the university’s official website ahead of time to avoid missing your chance to apply. The application process may also be time-consuming so checking the university’s application guideline in advance will allow you ample time for preparation!

The application procedure is similar for most universities. Determine which intake you want to apply for – Fall or Spring – and check the official application period and requirements of the university you are applying to, as each university has its unique deadline and prerequisites.

Some universities, like Seoul National University, have a short application period of 2-3 weeks. Try to prepare in advance so that you can complete your application and submit the necessary documents within the stipulated deadline.

For Seoul National University, as with most other universities, you will have to identify which of the two categories you fall into when you are going through your online application.

  • Both the applicant and his/her parents are not Korean citizens
  • Overseas Koreans, naturalized Koreans who have undertaken their entire education outside of Korea

Next, you need to submit the required documents within the given timeframe and pay a $70 application fee ($90 for graduate application). If you are applying to study fine arts or music, you will also be required to send in your portfolios.

You will usually be informed by email two months later about the outcome of your application. If you are offered a place in the university, you will then be required to confirm your acceptance and make payment for your first term. You may also be asked to take a Korean proficiency test if deemed necessary.

As for applicants who are applying for a graduate course in the university, the same procedure applies even though the application timeline differs from that of the undergraduate admission application. It is usually the month after the undergraduate intake application.

4. After you get accepted, you’ll need to get a student visa

Congratulations on getting an acceptance offer from the university! There are a few more things you need to do before you are ready to study in Korea as an international student.

Once you have confirmed your acceptance and paid the tuition fee for the first semester (some university might have a one-time admission fee as well), your university will issue you a Certificate of Admission and other necessary documents that you will use to apply for your student visa (D-2) at the Korean embassy or consulate in your home country.

The required documents for a student visa application may differ slightly from each country. Please check the official website of the Korean embassy or consulate in your country. For example, these are the documents that you will be asked to prepare if you are from Singapore:

  • Visa application form with one passport-sized photo
  • Passport
  • Identification card
  • Certificate of your highest academic qualification
  • Certificate of Admission from the university you will be attending
  • The university’s business registration certificate
  • Bank statement to show your financial ability to finance your education and living expenses in Korea

The visa application fee will also depend on the type of visa applied (single-entry or multiple-entry) and your nationality. It should cost between $60 to $90.

Bravo for completing all the necessary procedures. You are now ready to embark on the most exciting time of your life! Now pack your suitcases and book your flight to Korea. You might want to spend some time exploring the city or getting settled in before the start of your semester.












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