Popularly known for dishes like kimchi and the home of K-Pop, South Korea stands tall not just in top cuisine and entertainment but also in higher education, as evidenced by several top-ranking institutions. From Seoul National University and Sejong University to KAIST and Yonsei University, the country boasts some of the best institutions in the world offering top programs for domestic and international students.

With the country’s emphasis on the local culture, futuristic architecture, and popular industries such as electronics and automobiles, studying in South Korea can be a rewarding experience, offering a blend of high-quality education, rich culture, and technological advancements. Additionally, international students can benefit from the numerous scholarship opportunities offered by the government and various institutions.

Prospective international students planning to pursue their studies in South Korea need to be aware of the cost implications including tuition and visa fees, financial aid opportunities, and any opportunities for work during and after studies. Fortunately, all these aspects have been covered in this guide.

Let’s explore deeper as we look at the ultimate guide to studying in Korea including how to plan for your studies and any other educational opportunities to take advantage of.

How to Plan for Your Studies in South Korea

Before deciding to pursue your studies in South Korea, you need to be aware of any factors that could influence your educational journey. Let’s look at some of them in detail below.

Education System in South Korea

Higher education in South Korea consists of universities and colleges, two or three-year junior and technical colleges, and graduate schools. In total, these represent 190 universities, 134 junior colleges, and 45 graduate schools. There are also other types of South Korean colleges and universities including industrial colleges, teacher’s colleges, corporate colleges, cyber universities, air and correspondence colleges, and polytechnic colleges for hands-on training.

There are 3,201,561 students enrolled at various institutions of higher education in the country. Additionally, the country plays host to thousands of international students with the recent statistics putting the number of international students at 152,281. This number is expected to increase even as the rules of the pandemic continue to be lifted.

CURRENT FIGURES: HIGHER EDUCATION IN SOUTH KOREA
Total number of universities 190 universities
134 junior colleges
45 graduate schools.
Total number of international students taking bachelor’s degrees 71,540
Total number of international students taking graduate degrees 39, 421
Total number of international students 152,281

Choosing a University in South Korea

With many top-ranking institutions in the country, it can be daunting to pick an institution to pursue your higher education studies. However, some common things to look at include the location of the university. For example, if you prefer to study in a busy city, then choosing a university in Seoul or Busan would suffice.

Additionally, your program of study will influence the type of institution to choose. If you are looking for hands-on training to gain job-ready skills, then consider selecting among the various industrial and polytechnic colleges to study for your program. Other factors to consider include the tuition fees and availability of financial aid opportunities, the duration of the program, and the variety of leisure activities near the school.

Some of the best universities to consider for studies in South Korea include Seoul National University, Korea Advanced Institute of Technology, and Yonsei University.

Choosing a Study Program in South Korea

Choosing the right academic programs in South Korea is crucial as it will ensure you don’t spend years studying something you are not passionate about. Ensure you consider factors like the language of instruction as some programs are taught in Korean meaning you need to be proficient in the Korean language. For English-taught programs, you will need to pass English language proficiency exams like TOEFL or IELTS.

Additionally, the length of the program matters. While some programs especially in the arts take standard years, some programs in the medical and computer take longer. Understanding this will help you budget better for the duration of your stay.

South Korean education system is very advanced and technical, with popular subjects like engineering and architecture thanks to the many industrial and polytechnic colleges.

DEGREES DURATION
Bachelor’s degrees Arts degrees take 4 years to complete while specialized degrees like medicine take 6 years
Master’s degrees The majority take 1 to 2 years to complete while others can take up to 6 years, especially computer or medical-related programs.
Ph.D. programs Usually take 2 to 3 years to complete and often involve completing coursework and a dissertation

Students who prefer to study in a distance learning or online setting can do so in Korea. The country has several cyber universities and distance colleges offering online bachelor’s and online master’s programs. Some of the popular cyber schools are Korea National Open University and Kyung Hee Cyber University.

How to Finance Your Education in South Korea

Studying abroad can be very costly for international students when they have to factor in tuition costs and other living expenses. Let’s look at some of the costs you are likely to incur below;

Tuition fees in South Korea

Tuition fee in South Korea varies with the school and program of study. The tuition fee in the majority of the universities is relatively affordable for international students. It ranges from ₩1,939,717.50 – ₩27,156,045 per year. While there are expensive schools like Hanyang University and Kyung Hee University, you will find some cheap universities like Sejong Cyber University and Seoul National University of Science & Technology.

Tuition for undergraduate degrees typically ranges from ₩1,939,717.50 – ₩13,964,292 and ₩1,939,717.50 – ₩27,156,045 for graduate programs.

For example, the tuition fee for a Master’s in Liberal Sciences at Korea University is ₩4,964,000. Tuition fees for doctoral degrees at the institution are the same as for master’s degrees. Note that, some programs like medicine or computer-related programs may cost more. For example, the tuition fee for a master’s in medicine at the same institution is ₩8,784,000.

Tuition fees for undergraduate programs also vary with the program and institution. For example, the undergraduate tuition fee at Seoutech’s College of Humanities and Sciences is ₩2,362,940 while a bachelor’s at Yonsei University’s College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences is ₩4,251,000.

Apart from tuition, you may also be required to pay other costs like entrance fees, student fees, and application fees which vary by the university but range between ₩77,581.80 – ₩193,954.50.

Cost of Living in South Korea

Studying abroad comes with several expenses including educational costs and other living expenses. Apart from tuition fees, international students planning to study in South Korea should budget for things like accommodation, food, and health insurance. On average, you should have at least ₩1,000,000 per month for living expenses. Let’s look at the breakdown of the expenses below.

Accommodation

Housing for international students in South Korea can be quite expensive with rental charges ranging between ₩300,000 to ₩1,000,000 per month for a dormitory or at least ₩387,894 monthly if renting outside the school. You can opt to share a room with another student to reduce the cost of rent.

Transportation

South Korea’s transport network is very advanced and comprises an extensive bus and subway system which is much affordable for students. A ticket costs around $1 to $1.2 in buses and $1.1 to $2.5 in subway. Transport in general will cost you around ₩70,000~₩110,000 per month, but you can avoid using taxis to save money unless it is necessary.

Food

South Korean cuisine is very rich and diverse. You should budget around ₩150,000 per month if eating on campus and ₩300,000 – ₩500,000 if eating off campus. A simple meal costs around ₩4,135 in a restaurant.

Books and other school-related expenses

Books and other study materials can be pricey depending on your program of study, but you can cut down costs by borrowing from the library or your friends. Otherwise, you should budget around ₩150,000 – ₩200,000 for books and other study-related expenses.

Miscellaneous expenses

There are other expenses you will incur that will set you back financially every month like internet, phone bills, and entertainment. You should have around ₩130,000 per month for such expenses.

The cost of living in South Korea for students varies with lifestyle choices and whether there are any financial aid opportunities or work opportunities to help cover the expenses.

Additionally, international students need to have health insurance while studying in Korea. Health insurance for international students in South Korea is around $20 per month.

Student life in South Korea can be expensive if you don’t budget and save. Look for ways to cut down your costs, like limiting eating in restaurants and using cheaper means of transport.

Here is a general breakdown of the expenses you are likely to incur as you pursue your studies.

LIVING AND OTHER EXPENSES AVERAGE COST
Accommodation ₩300,000 won – ₩1,000,000
Food ₩150,000 – ₩500,000
Transportation ₩70,000 – ₩110,000
Books and other school-related expenses ₩150,000 – ₩200,000
Miscellaneous expenses ₩130,000

 

For degree-seeking students planning to study in Seoul, the country’s capital city, the Cost of Studying at SNU and the Cost of Studying at Yonsei University articles provide a more detailed list of expenditures you are likely to spend during your studies in the city.

Financial Aid and Scholarships

Studying in South Korea has become affordable for international students thanks to the various financial aid programs and scholarships available from the government, schools, and other organizations. Here are some of the scholarships in South Korea to consider:

  • Global Korea Scholarship (GKS) – This is a scholarship by the Government of Korea for international students pursuing undergraduate and graduate programs at a Korean institution. For undergraduate degrees, the scholarship covers 4-6 years or 2-3 years of an associate degree plus one year of Korean language course. For graduate degrees, it covers 2 years of master’s or 3 years of a doctoral degree plus a one-year Korean language course among other benefits.
  • Korea University Global Leader Scholarship – Graduate studies in South Korea are very affordable thanks to this scholarship for international graduate students at Korea University. It covers full tuition and entrance fees plus ₩500,000 monthly support for students who meet the eligibility requirements.
  • Global Hope Scholarship Program – This scholarship is awarded by the Samsung Dream Scholarship Foundation to international students enrolled in select Korean universities and with proven financial needs.

Fortunately, international students can get full tuition or fully-funded scholarships like the ones mentioned above. You can also check out several other scholarships for international students in South Korea to explore your options.

How to Apply to South Korean Universities

If your dream is to study at a South Korean University, there are important aspects you need to consider before embarking on that application. Below is a detailed look at them:

Admission Requirements

International applicants applying to South Korean universities or colleges must meet certain admission requirements for their application to be considered. Documents to be submitted differ for bachelor’s, master’s, and Ph.D. levels. However, here are some of the general admission requirements:

  • Having a high school diploma or an equivalent.
  • Passing the College Scholastic Ability Test (CSAT) based on the university’s selection criteria.
  • Some universities like Korea University carry out entrance examinations or interviews as part of the admission screening process.

Knowledge of the Korean language or English language depending on your program of study language requirements

Required Documents

Several documents are required for admission into South Korean universities though these vary by the institution. Generally, you need to prepare the following documents to boost the chances of your application being accepted:

  1. Previous academic certificates or transcripts
  2. Proof of identity like a passport
  3. Proof of language proficiency (Korean or English)
  4. Personal statement or essay
  5. Letter of reference or recommendation
  6. Evidence of financial support like documents showing your bank balance

Application Deadlines

While universities have varying application deadlines, the majority of the programs have a general time for submitting applications. Many South Korean universities conduct their admission in March(Spring semester), meaning you need to submit your application between September and November of the previous year.

Those who submit early applications in September can expect to know the university’s decision in December while those who make late submissions will know about their fate in February. Hence, making your application in September is the best decision as it will give you ample time to prepare for travel in case of a successful application.

General Admission Steps

To make the process easier for you to submit your application to a South Korean university, here is the general admission process for your guidance:

  1. Research and select a university and program of interest.
  2. Learn about the required admission requirements and start working on them. This includes taking the necessary required tests.
  3. Prepare the required admission documents.
  4. Submit your application online with the required documents.
  5. Wait for a decision on your application.

These general admissions steps are only an overview of what to expect in applying to a Korean university. The application process will still vary per university. Hanyang University, Sejong University, Yonsei University, SNU University, and Korea University have very distinct admissions processes and requirements for international students.

How to Obtain a Student Visa for South Korea

If you are fortunate enough to receive a letter of admission to a university in South Korea, one of the most important documents you need to enter the country is a student visa also known as a D-2. Study permits for international students can be obtained from a Korean embassy or consulate in your country.

Required Documents and Application Process

To get your student visa, you must present certain documents to the embassy or consulate showing your intent to enter South Korea. Here are some of the student visa requirements for studying in South Korea:

  • Visa application form
  • Your passport and a copy of the passport ID page
  • Letter of acceptance or certificate of admission from a South Korean university
  • Financial Proof stability showing that you can pay for at least a year’s tuition and living expenses
  • Academic transcripts or certificate of your highest level of education

Generally, to obtain your student visa, you will need to:

  • Secure admission at a South Korean university
  • Obtain the visa application form
  • Gather all the documents required for the visa application
  • Submit your application to a South Korean embassy or consulate in your country
  • Await a decision on your student visa

Note that, the visa processing time depends on your country and if you submitted all the required documents. If you are fortunate enough to receive your visa, you can then go ahead and plan for your travel to South Korea.

How to Prepare for Your Arrival in South Korea

Congratulations on securing a place at one of South Korea’s top-ranking institutions! Now it’s time to prepare for your arrival in the new country to ensure a smooth transition. Here are some of the things you can do to avoid the inconveniences of navigating a new location.

Pack Essentials

Start by creating a packing checklist so that you don’t forget to carry any essentials. Some of the important things to keep in mind include appropriate clothing for changing weather patterns, prescription medicine, and other important things you can’t live without.

Arranging Transportation

You need to ensure that your travel itinerary is in check as a pre-travel precaution. This includes booking your air ticket in advance once you get your visa and arranging ground transportation from the airport to your university. Ensure you research if there are any travel restrictions or requirements to take care of before your journey.

Learn Basic Korean

Before you travel, you could practice some basic words in Korean to make your journey smoother. You are likely to interact with Korean-speaking people from the airport and other places even before you get to your school. Thanking your taxi driver in Korean for example can go a long way in building rapport and contributing to a nice experience from the start.

No matter how well you prepare yourself, there is still a chance that you will experience culture shock. For example, the use of chopsticks for eating is very common in South Korea as compared to places outside Asia.

Tips on Adjusting to Life in South Korea

Just like any new place, you need to learn the ropes to ensure a smooth transition. Here are some tips to consider.

Limit your expectations

If possible, have no expectations. Why? Having pre-defined expectations might limit you from fully enjoying the different experiences South Korea brings to the table. Be open-minded and explore the different cuisines, attractions, and traditions to get a different experience. Eat some kimchi, listen to K-pop, and engage yourself in traditions like Chuseok.

If you want a list of things to do in Korea, take a look at 10Mag’s Things to Do List! You can see that there are quite a lot of things to do while you are studying in Korea, so make sure to explore and do things that will enhance your stay in Korea!

Explore your surroundings on foot and bus

While familiarizing yourself with the new location, opt to use a bus or walk around so you can get your bearings and have enough time to orient yourself with the surroundings. This will help you discover the most essential amenities like grocery stores or banks.

Learn a few words and phrases in the Korean Language

Having some basic knowledge of the Korean language will be beneficial not just in school but also in your daily interactions. Learn salutations and common phrases that are used frequently like courtesy words or asking for direction. This will make it easier to move around and blend in.

Keep in touch with your family or friends back at home

It is common to feel homesick and miss the people or things you were used to. But talking to your family regularly can ease that feeling and make you feel less lonely.

Learn how to budget and save

Being in a new country comes with a lot of cost implications especially when you’re still new and don’t know how to make money yet. You could explore simple saving techniques like cooking your meals instead of eating out in a restaurant or limiting spending on things like entertainment until you get stable.

How to Study and Live in South Korea

Studying in a new country comes with its share of challenges that could hinder enjoying or settling in among the locals. Here are some of them and useful tips to help you deal with the challenges.

Challenge 1: Language Barrier

The main language spoken in South Korea is Korean which doubles up as the national language. Even in bustling cities like Seoul, you will find many people conversing in Korean, hence quite a challenge to ask for basic services or make friends with the locals. Take some time to learn helpful phrases like food, common salutations, and directional words. You can explore more language learning opportunities like the Korean Language Institute at Yonsei University.

Challenge 2: Cultural Differences

The Korean culture is known for its cultural vibrancy including tantalizing dishes like kimchi, Red rice cakes, and several cultural festivals. You might take time to understand the traditions and get used to the food.

Learning about South Korean culture and diversity is important to understanding why they do certain things and appreciating their traditions. You can attend cultural events like the Jinju Namgang Yudeung Festival to better immerse yourself and explore the culture.

Challenge 3: Financial Management

There is no doubt that studying in a new country can be very costly when you are still new. For example, you may not know where the cheapest grocery store is. With the cost of living in certain cities like Seoul being high, you will need to find ways to lower your expenses. You can look for part-time work, opt to cook your meals, or take a bus to keep your finances in check.

VALUABLE TIPS TO CONSIDER
1. Limit your expectations
2. Explore your surroundings on foot and bus
3. Learn a few words and phrases in the Korean Language
4. Keep in touch with your family or friends back at home
5. Learn how to budget and save

Can You Work in South Korea After Graduation

Yes, you can work in South Korea after graduation as long as you meet the set criteria like acquiring South Korean work permits for students. There are several after-graduation employment opportunities for international students in South Korea to explore with the top being an English Language teacher or instructor. However, you must get a work visa if you receive an employment offer. The employer then applies for a certificate of employment on your behalf which certifies you to work in the country.

South Korea is a global leader in telecommunications and electronics making these industries very lucrative for job seekers. You can explore online job boards, university bulletins, or job fairs to look for jobs that match your skills and interests.

Conclusion

Studying in South Korea offers a unique blend of academic excellence, cultural richness, and technological advancements. Additionally, South Korea’s education rankings speak for themselves, with several universities like Seoul National University and KAIST being among the top in Asia and the world. We hope that this guide will make it easy for you to understand what lies ahead should you plan to further your studies at a South Korean university or college.

 

We hope this will serve as your complete manual for studying in South Korea. Check out our South Korea and Open Courses for more valuable information about studying in this country!

About the Author: Hyun Lee

Hi! I am Hyun, and I am the founder at Global Scholarships. I've received a full-tuition scholarship at Birmingham-Southern College and a $1,000 Burger King Scholarship for my undergraduate degree and was offered a fully funded scholarship consisting of tuition, living stipend, and health insurance for computer science Ph.D. program at North Carolina State University. You can read more about my scholarship journey here. If you are interested, you can follow me on Linkedin where I regularly write about scholarship opportunities.

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