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.

How Can International Students Gain Admissions to Korean University?

International students can gain admission to a Korean university by submitting their application in a category called International Track.  You need to show that you are a prospective applicant by having good scores in your transcripts, high-quality recommendation letters, and proof of varying language proficiencies.

To help you get started, we have listed the steps that help you prepare for the application process, and we have also included a list of necessary documents that you will need to submit to institutions in South Korea. All this information is listed in the following sections, so take your time while you are going about your business.

Check Also: Available Programs for International Students

What Are the Entry Requirements to Study in South Korea?

If you want to study in South Korea, you need to get accepted into one of the institutions in South Korea. After receiving the letter of acceptance, you need to make the decision of attending that university, and after making your decision known to your institution, they will go on to the next step to prepare a student visa for you.

After receiving your student visa, your next step is to buy a plane ticket and navigate your way to the campus of your institution. To continue studying in South Korea, you will need to show proof that you are receiving good grades in all your courses, and over time, you will also need to show proof of Korean proficiency since you need to speak Korean in order to continue living there.

How to Apply to Korean Universities

Applying to Korean Universities is pretty straightforward. Here, I will give step-by-step guidance on how to apply to Korean Universities.

1. Create a List of Korean Universities 

Even before you start worrying about the application process, the first step is to figure out which universities in South Korea look like a good fit for you. Look at the locations and the perks offered by Korean universities, and try to select the first few that come to mind.

Since international students need some sort of financial aid during their academic period, you can visit the Korean scholarships list for all the universities in South Korea that offer scholarships to prospective international students.

2. Read the Application Requirements for Each University

After coming up with a list of prospective universities, the next step is to figure out the application requirements for prospective international applicants. Take a look at their list of required documents, eligibility criteria, and especially the application deadline for your preferred program.

By looking at the application requirements and varying deadlines, you will get a sense of when to prepare your application materials and how much time you have left. Personally, I recommend that you create a calendar listing all the application deadlines so that you are not surprised when that deadline rolls around.

3. Divide the Universities into Different Categories

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.

By separating your preferred universities into these categories, you will know how much time you need to spend on each one. If you don’t have that much time, try to focus most of your hours on applications to match and safety schools, which will leave your remaining time with preparing for your reach schools.

4. Prepare Necessary Admissions Documents

To help you guys out, we have created a list of required documents that you will need to prepare when applying to universities in South Korea. The list is all written in the section down below, and make sure to take a closer look at each of the required materials since some may be optional in your case.

As always, some requirements might take some time to complete than other requirements, so make sure to begin your application process early so that you can get a lot done before the application deadline rolls around.

5. Submit Your Admissions Applications

After finishing the admissions material, the next step is to upload your finished material through an online admissions portal. When colleges first started, the application materials would have been sent by mail, but due to modern technology, most admissions applications are submitted online.

To make sure, check the method of applying to your particular university since they will set the standards of either submitting it by mail or submitting it through an online portal. As always, make sure to submit your application on time in order to be considered as a prospective international applicant for varying universities.

Common Required Documents to Apply to Korean Universities

1. Application Form 

Some countries such as the United States allow students to use the same admissions application to many different universities. In Korea however, every university uses different application forms that you will need to fill out individually. In addition, you might need to fill out a separate scholarship application if you are applying for scholarships, so keep that in mind!

Also, most, if not all Korean universities use online applications, 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 difficulties.

2. Standardized Test Scores

To apply to Korean universities as an undergraduate, you need to take a standardized test for high school students such as the SAT and ACT used in the United States. Depending on the country that you are from, the required standardized test and their respective minimum scores will be different.

If you want to have a better chance in graduate admissions, taking standardized tests such as the GRE (Graduate Record Examination) and getting good scores in college will improve your chance of being admitted.

3. 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.

4. Recommendation Letters

To apply to Korean universities as an undergraduate, you need two recommendation letters at a minimum. 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 varying quantities of recommendation letters for different universities, so it would be wise to first check the requirements for recommendation letters of that particular institution.

5. 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’s 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.

6. School Report (Undergraduate Only) 

A school report contains information about your high school such as the students’ average standardized scores, the 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.

7. Transcripts 

Transcripts contain your courses throughout high school, grades for each course, and overall GPA. If you are applying as an undergraduate, many Korean universities only consider grades from the 10th~12th year of high school, but some universities consider grades from the 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. If you have attended multiple universities as an undergraduate student, you need to include the transcripts from all the universities that you have previously attended.

8. Personal Statement 

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 university to university.

Since personal statements are an important part of your application, you need to take time to write each one. Applying to a few universities will help you to focus your time on each application which will make you a successful applicant.

Students who are applying as graduate students need to write a personal statement regarding their interests 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 for specific details.

9. Copy of Your Passport & Parent’s Passport

The parents of prospective international students cannot be citizens of Korea. To confirm this fact, many universities require you to submit a scanned copy of your passport along with 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 applies to students who have studied in a foreign country for twelve years and for international students whose one or both parents are Korean citizens.

10. Supplementary Materials 

If you are applying as a 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 the 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 your work as well.

Optional Materials

The following materials are optional but will greatly strengthen your application. You should not worry if you don’t have these because only a few students will have them. However, if you still have time to participate in these programs and take the corresponding tests, you should definitely consider taking them.

1. 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 university and other Asian elite universities since they are extremely impressed with students who have a high IB score.

2. Advanced Placement (Undergraduate Only) 

Advanced Placement (AP) offers college-level classes in high school. After you have finished the class, you need to take standardized AP tests to receive a score from 1-5. If you do well in 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.

3. 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 US citizens and will greatly help your application if you receive a high score. You can take the same subject tests multiple times, so don’t worry too much if you receive a low score for your first test.

Important Information about Applying to Korean Universities

1. It Is Easier for International Students to Get into Korean Universities than Korean Nationals

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 Suneung. Many subjects of this brutal test are 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 the top ten percent of all test takers. This competitive atmosphere is unfortunate, but it is a common reality for high school students in South Korea.

The good news is that admissions for international students are much easier compared to Korean students. As I have mentioned earlier, Korean universities want international students on 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 Taught by Excellent Faculty

Korean universities provide a well-rounded and excellent education in all areas of study. Also, their professors are among the best professors in the world and studied at elite universities such as Harvard, Stanford, and MIT. Take a look at chemistry professors at KAIST and Seoul National University.

They have studied in prestigious universities around the world and are now researching at 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. Majority of Courses Taught 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 the 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 science and math textbooks are written in English.

Second, the percentage of English classes compared to Korean classes affect the college rankings significantly. The Korean government wants Korean students to be able to communicate with 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 a 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 will 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 while staying in South Korea.

If you are interested, take a look at some of the English-taught universities in Korea.

4. International Students Are Admitted in Both Spring and Fall Semesters

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 an equal chance of admission in either semester.

5. Many Scholarships Are Available for International Students in Korean Universities

Since the Korean government wants international students to study in South 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 a monthly stipend for 170 undergraduate and 700 graduate students in 2017. For more information about the Korean Government Scholarship, take a look at this article.

List of Korean Universities with Scholarships for International Students

As you can see in this article, applying to Korean Universities is pretty straightforward. I hope that this guide on how to apply to Korean universities has 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 and to access these fully funded and full-tuition scholarships, visit Study in Korea Page.

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  1. Malika - Reply

    It was so helpful for me. For a long time i have been searching that kind of information but i wasn’t able to find. I got a lot of useful information. Kamsahabnida

    • Hyun Lee - Reply

      You are welcome! I’m glad that this article helped

  2. Anonymous - Reply

    I want admission in Master I am from Pakistan. Pleased guide me

    • Hyun Lee - Reply

      Hi, this article is about how to apply to Korean universities and has Master’s application guideline too. Please take a look at this article more thoroughly.

  3. Anonymous - Reply

    As you mentioned above some universities offer grades from 10 to 12 years of high school so I want to ask you can a student with 10 years of high school can apply for Korean university

    • Hyun Lee - Reply

      Hi no. You do need to graduate from high school (secondary school). Some countries have 11 years and some have 12, but I’ve never heard of 10 years. If you did some sort of test given by the government that is equivalent to a high school diploma, then you can apply after 10 years in school, but I think that’s about it.

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