The prestigious SKY universities of South Korea
Applying to Korea (South Korea, of course) is slightly different from applying to the UK or the US. Luckily, Korea also has an online application system. In fact, they have three, but the one you are mostly likely to use is Uway. Uway is the sole online application system for most universities across the K-pop nation, and is used by the top universities in Korea, known as the “SKY” universities, which are seen as the “Ivy Leagues” of Korea. These SKY universities are: Seoul National University, Korea University, and Yonsei University.
Korea is recognized for its rigorous academic system and top-notch engineering and medical department. Examples include KAIST (Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology) and Seoul National University. The number of courses conducted in English are growing every year in order to attract foreign students, and the quality of education, regardless of which course you will take, is guaranteed to be of good standard.
All universities in Korea work roughly the same. I applied to Ewha Woman’s University and Yonsei University, so the application process and whatnots I will be talking about will apply to a lot of the other universities in Korea.
Before you apply, it’s important to remember the following:
DEADLINES ARE IMPORTANT. Make sure you check the website for the International Undergraduates deadline for the admission period you are entering. There are usually two: Fall and Spring admissions. It’s important because, like any other university in the world, there are often different deadlines set for different types of applicants. Make sure you know which one you are! Also, there are different deadlines for different universities.
WHAT LANGUAGE IS YOUR COURSE IN? Not every university in Korea offers all their courses in English. Depending on your level of Korean proficiency, you could opt for a course of your choice in Korean and get on well if you’d like.
FEES. Their fees are given in Korean Won. Do not let the fees keep you from applying. There are scholarship opportunities available if you work hard for it! Plus, there are so many opportunities in Malaysia. From personal experience, I found it difficult to look for the tuition fees on any of the Korean university websites. Do not hesitate to email and inquire the university.
Each university in Korea has their own essay questions. They do not necessarily have to be 1500 words. Most universities have two essay questions, sometimes followed by a short set of questions. The first question is almost always about why you chose the course and why this university. The second question is usually something that they look at to see how you demonstrate your level of thinking and what kind of a person you are. This could be questions such as “What is your philosophy on life?” (Korea University: 고려대학교), “ What will be the most challenging for you when you arrive in Korea? What do you admire about Korean culture, tradition or lifestyle?” (Yonsei University: 연세대학교). Do not overly pepper your essay with flowery words, as it can be an obvious result of trying too hard.
They will look for how passionate you are about the course you chose to be enrolled in, and most importantly, your goals. To show your passion, they want to clearly see you state what you will be doing with the degree. This also links to your goals. The type of goals they are hoping to hear about are specifically what you want to achieve in the future, how you will contribute to the world and why would it be beneficial to society. You could also include how you intend to climb to your achievement with a degree from the university.
How do they assess you?
A lot of the time, Korean universities evaluate their candidates by their grades and exam scores first. Extra-curricular activities and achievements come second, then the essays. You will be “competing” with other international students around the world.
It is highly unlikely that you will be invited to an interview, but this can differ from course to course. I applied for Economics in both universities, and I did not require an interview to be accepted.
With us being Malaysians, we are considered as International Students. Korean universities usually ask their applicants to demonstrate their English language proficiency through their TOEFL or IELTS scores. Some universities such as Ewha Woman’s University will not ask for it if you have achieved a certain level of grades for your English exams or have been attending an english conducted school for seven years or more. Some universities might even ask you to demonstrate your Korean language proficiency. This is compulsory if you’re willing to take your course in Korean, or your course involves the language.
I did not have to provide evidence of my English proficiency through TOEFL or IELTS because my IGCSE and IB scores did the job. Also, Economics at Yonsei and Ewha is thankfully conducted in English, so no need for a Korean language test either!
They will ask for your passport as well as your parents or guardian’s passports, your passport sized photo, birth certificate, proof of achievements and awards, transcripts, etc. The university will provide a list of documents they will need for the course you are applying in their application guide. Make sure you have photostated them all. I don’t think you will need to upload additional materials onto the online application since it’s meant to be posted with the forms.
Things to watch out for:
THEIR WEBSITES ARE SLIGHTLY DIFFICULT TO NAVIGATE. A lot of their information is either written in Korean or difficult to find. I remember clicking on several links that lead to “further information,” only to find myself facing a page fully written in Korean. Also, I found it really hard to find information on tuition fees. If you can’t find the information you want, always contact the university through email or use their search bar.
Uway’s main interface is unfortunately only available in Korean, but do not be put off! Usually, there will be a link from the university’s website that takes you directly to the application part of the Uway site, which will (thankfully) be in English. The next time you would like to enter the site to track your application i.e. payment status, all you’ll have to do is login and click the logo of the university you’ve applied to.
INTERNET EXPLORER IS THEIR CENTRAL WEB BROWSER. For a country so advanced in technology, I never stopped wondering why they never allowed their online payment websites to open through Chrome or at least Firefox. This is difficult for an Apple user like me. I literally had to scavenge for someone with a Windows computer so I could make my payment (not many people I knew had a PC). If you can’t open a website and a Korean notification error pops up, it’s most likely asking you to open the site with Internet Explorer.
PAYING CAN BE FRUSTRATING. I don’t know how it was for other people, but I was one of the very few unlucky people who had a lot of trouble going through the payment process, which has to be done on the online application hub. I tried to pay my admission fees with the credit cards I have, and none of them went through, and it wasn’t a problem with the cards. It was a financial security problem on the website. If you do come across this problem, email the university immediately so they can help you arrange a bank transfer instead. From then on, you will not need to use the website.
THEY PREFER POST. Although there’s an online application hub, each university still requires you to fill their respective forms and post it via mail. The online application hub turned out to be just for payments, yet they still ask you to fill in the forms online prior to paying (it’ll be a matter of copy and paste if you’ve filled the form on your computer).
*You do not post your application until you have paid the admission fees on the online application hub (Uway). To avoid missing deadlines, try to get this sorted at least a week before the deadline, so there is room for technical mishaps and such.
What to do after you apply?
Wait. Wait until they release their confirmation on their successful applicants. Sometimes, it is the applicant’s duty to track whether he/she has been accepted or not, as the university may not send an email telling them so. Yonsei University, for example, has a log-in portal for their applicants to check their status. The applicant will either see “Accepted” or “Fail” with no reason given why if they are put in the latter.
Ewha Woman’s University, on the other hand, sends you an email notifying so, as well as a list released on their website of the applicant numbers that have been accepted.
After you know when you’re in, they will guide you through steps that need to be taken to get you fully enrolled at the university.
IN A NUTSHELL
- Download the up-to-date university’s application guide.
- Highlight the deadlines relevant to you & bookmark the essential documents page.
- Start writing the essays. Proof-read. Grammar-check. Make it spotless.
- Gather essential documents and fill in the forms on your computer.
- Proceed to apply through the website indicated on the application guide and make admission fee payment.
- NOW you may post your application to the stated address in the guide.
Future applicants, I advise you all to thoroughly read the application guide for the university you are applying. Some of them want you to do something a little different (e.g. Yonsei requests you to write your applicant number on the front of the envelope before you post it, which you will receive after you make the admission payment.)
Do not give up! May the hallyu spirits be with you, and GOOD LUCK! 🙂
- SKY universities – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SKY_(universities)
- How to get into Korean colleges? – http://seoulistic.com/quick-tip/how-to-get-into-korean-colleges/
- Uway application website – http://www.uwayapply.com/
Eliana Sulaiman has applied to Ewha Woman’s University and Yonsei University in Korea amidst her other applications, but has chosen to major in PPE (Philosophy, politics, economics) at Lancaster University in the UK. She is often found with a yellow ukulele and is all about organic soap.