Do you want to apply to Korean universities? In this article, I have created a step-by-step guide on how to apply to Korean universities. This might be a surprise to some, but there is a lack of international students in many prestigious Korean universities.
In 2015, the Korean government announced plans to triple the current number of international students to 200,000 by 2023.
To make this possible, the Korean government is giving incentives for international students such as Korean Government Scholarship, decreased visa regulation, and increased funding for university scholarships for international students.
It is not just the Korean government that wants international students on their campuses, but the universities themselves are looking for qualified international students. The primary reason is to increase the diversity of their student body which helps Korean students to adapt to the global society.
Also, this increased diversity helps its worldwide global ranking because diversity is a huge factor in the college ranking system.
So both the Korean government and individual universities want international students to study in Korea. Are you interested?
Since many international students are unfamiliar with the process of applying to Korean universities, I will do my best to give you a good overall picture. Keep in mind that different universities have different procedures and different required documents.
If you want to apply to Korean universities, you’ll find these posts to be helpful:
- 20 Best Scholarships in Korea
- Study in Korea for Free
- Affordable Universities in Korea for International Students
Also, students find our Study in Korea Guide to be helpful. This page lists all the relevant articles that pertain to studying in Korea.
How to Apply to Korean Universities
Applying to Korean Universities is pretty straight forward. Here, I will give step-by-step guidance on how to apply to Korean Universities.
- Create a list of Korean universities to apply. Visit Korean Scholarships List for all the Korean Universities that offer scholarships to international students.
- Read the application materials for each university to see the required documents, eligibility (English proficiency test scores, etc.), and application dates. If you look at List of Korean scholarships, there are application deadlines listed with each scholarship.
- Divide the universities into reach, match, and safety schools. Reach schools are schools that are difficult for you to get into, match schools are schools that you have a good chance for you to get into, and safety schools are schools that you are almost 100% sure that you will get into. If your scores are not stellar, you might not have safety schools. In that case, you need to apply to more match schools.
- Prepare the necessary documents for each university that you are applying to. I have made a list of commonly required documents to apply to Korean Universities below.
- Submit the necessary documents and applications to universities. They will state if they want the application submitted online or submitted by mail.
Commonly Required Documents to Apply to Korean Universities
Some countries such as the US allow students to use the same application to many different universities. In Korea however, every university uses different application forms that you will need to fill out individually.
Also, most, if not all Korean universities use the online application, and you have to pay a fee for each application you send to different universities. However, some universities provide fee exemptions to all international students or to students with financial difficulty.
To apply to Korean universities as an undergraduate, you need to take a standardized test for high school students such as the United States’ SAT and ACT. Depending on the country that you are from, the required standardized test will be different.
If you want to have a better chance in graduate admissions, taking standardized tests such as the United States’ GRE (Graduate Record Examination) and getting a good score will help significantly.
Language Proficiency Tests
Korean Universities expect all international students to be somewhat proficient in English. Proficiency in Korean is not necessary, but you will have better opportunities to receive scholarships if you are proficient in Korean. Many universities require TOEFL or IELTS for English proficiency and TOPIK (Test of Proficiency in Korean) for Korean Proficiency.
To apply to Korean universities as an undergraduate, you need two recommendation letters for most universities. Each school has different recommendation letters asking different questions about the student, so you might not want to ask the same teachers to complete all of the recommendation letters.
To apply to Korean universities as a graduate student, you need different types and quantity of recommendation letters for different universities, so it is wise to check with different universities.
Counselor Reference (Undergraduate Only)
This reference is written by your high school counselor. If you attend a school that doesn’t have a school counselor, your principal can submit it instead.
The counselor reference contains information about your high school career such as your GPA, the level of your courses, and extracurricular activities. Sometimes, the counselor can submit an optional recommendation letter vouching for your character qualities.
School Report (Undergraduate Only)
A school report contains the information about your high school such as the students’ average standardized scores, rigor of the high school compared to other high schools, courses offered, universities that their graduates have attended, and other relevant information. Every school should have a school report available, and you can ask your school counselor or principal to submit the school report for you.
Transcripts contains the your courses throughout high school, grades for each courses, and overall GPA. If you are applying as an undergraduate, many Korean universities only consider grades from 10th-12th year of high school, but some universities consider grades from 9th-12th year as well.
If you are applying as a graduate student, you need the transcript containing your GPA and all of your courses taken as an undergraduate student.
Personal statements ask you different questions regarding your personal life, career goals, and extracurricular activities. Since universities use different application forms, the questions will not be the same from universities to universities.
Since personal statements are important part of your application, you need to take time writing each one. Applying to few universities will help you to focus your time on each application which will make you a successful applicant.
Students who are applying as a graduate student need to write a personal statement regarding your interest and the field of study. Some universities might ask you specific questions about yourself and your accomplishments. Since the requirements are different for each university, check with individual universities.
Copy of your and your parent’s passport
Students who are applying as an international student and their parents cannot be citizens of Korea. To confirm this fact, many universities require you to submit a scanned copy of your and your parent’s passports.
If one or both of your parents are Korean citizens, you need to apply through a separate application called International Application II. This application is for students who have studied in a foreign country for twelve years and for international students whose one or both parents are Korean citizens.
If you are applying as music or art major, many universities require you to submit a portfolio featuring your best work.
If you are a graduate student, certain universities require a summary of thesis of your research as an undergraduate student if you have conducted research. Also, if you have published any papers, it would greatly strengthen your application to submit these as well.
The following materials are optional but will greatly strengthen your application. You should not worry if you don’t have these because only few students will. However, if you still have time to prepare to participate in these programs and take the corresponding tests, you should definitely consider taking them.
International Baccalaureate (Undergraduate Only)
International Baccalaureate (IB) is a worldwide program known for its rigorous assessment. IB is offered in over 3,000 schools in over 140 different countries. It is a very rigorous program, but it is definitely worth it if you do well. If you have a high IB score, you can go to almost any elite Korean universities and other Asian elite universities because they are extremely impressed with students who have a high IB score.
Advanced Placement (Undergraduate Only)
Advanced Placement (AP) offers college-level classes in high school. After you have finished the class, you need to take a standardized AP tests to receive a score from 1-5. If you do well on AP classes and receive a score of 4 or 5, you can be admitted to elite universities. Also, the advantage of AP classes is you can receive college credits for certain classes if you receive a certain AP score such as a 4 or 5.
SAT Subject Tests (Undergraduate Only)
SAT Subject Tests are separate from SAT I and test your knowledge in a certain subject such as Biology or Math. This 60-minute long test is usually taken by Americans and will greatly help your application if you receive a high score.
Important Information about Applying to Korean Universities
1. It is much easier for international students to get into Korean Universities than Korean students.
To get into elite Korean universities or even to universities that are located in Seoul, many Korean spend thousands of hours studying for a Korean standardized test called the Suneong. Many subjects of this brutal test is graded on a curve, which means that student scores are determined by everyone else’s scores.
In order to go to universities that are located in Seoul, students need to be in top ten percent of all test takers. This competitive atmosphere is unfortunate, but it is a reality for Korean students.
The good news is that the admissions for international students are much easier compared to Korean students. As I have mentioned earlier, Korean universities want international students in their campuses because of diversity and rankings. You can use these facts to your advantage and receive top-level education in one of the best schools in Asia.
2. Korean Universities provide excellent education and hire the best professors around the world.
Korean universities provide a well-rounded and excellent education in all area of studies. Also, their professors are among the best professors in the world and studied in elite universities such as Harvard, Stanford, and MIT. Take a look at chemistry professors in KAIST and Seoul National University.
They have studied in prestigious universities around the world and are now researching in the forefront of discovery. If you apply to Korean universities and be admitted, you can study under these excellent professors and reach your full potential.
3. Many of the classes in top universities are taught in English.
In top universities, many of the classes are taught in English mainly because of two reasons. First, most of the textbooks that the professors use are written in English especially in fields of math and sciences. Since English is a global language and is used by scholars around the world to write dissertations and scholarly papers, many of the science and math textbooks are written in English. The professors find it necessary to teach in English if the textbook itself is English.
Second, the percentage of English classes compared to Korean classes affect the college rankings significantly. The Korean government wanted Korean students to be able to communicate with the scholars around the world and are also able to work globally.
To accomplish this, they encouraged ranking systems to factor in the percentage of English classes compared to the percentage of Korean classes. As the result, top universities offer many English classes, and some even offer all of their classes in English (e.g. KAIST).
So, you do not need to worry about the language barrier in your classes. Also, many Koreans speak English so you can be able to communicate with many people. It might be difficult at first to do simple tasks such as buying groceries, but you will learn basic Korean quickly.
4. International Students can be admitted in both Spring and Fall semester.
In Korea, the academic year starts in March and ends in January. Most Korean students will be admitted in the Spring semester while few will be admitted in the Fall semester.
For international students however, there will be about the same number of students admitted in each semester because academic years of high schools in various countries end differently. So, you will have equal chance of admission in either semester.
5. There are many scholarships for international students in Korean universities.
Since the Korean government wants international students to study in Korea, it offers many government scholarships just for international students. There are several of these, but the biggest scholarship is the Korean Government Scholarship which offered tuition and monthly stipend for 170 undergraduate and 700 graduate students around the world in 2017. For more information about the Korean Government Scholarship, read this article.
List of Korean Universities with Scholarships for International Students
As you can see in this article, applying to Korean Universities is pretty straight forward. I hope that this guide on how to apply to Korean universities have helped many students that are going to apply for scholarships in Korea.
As stated earlier, many excellent universities in Korea offer significant scholarships for international students in order to recruit them. To access these fully funded and full-tuition scholarships, visit Study in Korea Page.