University in South Korea

Education is one of the major stresses in a Korean’s life.   Even to the point that one of Korea’s top university, KAIST, has experienced quite a few of them and being a high-profile university where education is free, providing you keep certain grades, this has been making news for about a year with 5 students and one professor!

Here students write exams to get into Universities.  Not only does this exam dictate which university you can attend, it pretty much pegs you for life on what you will be able to accomplish…at least, that’s what everyone else will think.  If you think that’s bad, students also write exams to get into certain High Schools!  Oh, and if you have the money, then you can go to one of the Private Elementary schools where you are supposedly getting a ‘higher education’ but really, because it’s a business, they just manipulate the scores to keep the money flowing in from the parents.

Some might think that’s pretty jaded, if not an outright lie, but my wife currently works at one.  She was told that the students HAD to have an average of 90% on their tests.  When one of the tests came back at an average of 78% she was told that the ‘questions are too hard, make them easier’.  So, paying for education does not guarantee a better quality student it seems.

Here is a scan from another test she had to give with the wording to this very effect.

Korean Elementary Exam guideline

So, the education system needs some work, whose education system doesn’t?  Still, with over 100 Universities listed, it’s not like you won’t get in at all.  Unless you are a foreigner, who never went to a college or university and graduated from high school before most of the university admissions staff was most likely born.

I did a bunch of research and it seems that I cannot get into University here as a ‘mature student’ like I could back in Canada.  Here is the list of material requirements for KAIST (one of the only Universities that teaches its courses in English from Undergraduate and on….the rest are Graduate only if you want to be taught in English).

Required Materials*

1) Application Form

  • Complete application online(
  • Print it out and include it in the application package with other necessary documents.

2) Statement of Financial Resource

  • The form can be found in the online application.Select KAIST scholarship, if you are not financially sponsored by government or organization.

3) Application Fee, 80USD or 80,000KRW

  • Please submit a nonrefundable 80 USD or 80,000 KRW, payable to KAIST by credit card or bank transfer after completing your application.
  • You cannot edit your application once you pay the application fee. Please make sure to complete your application before you make the payment.
  • We strongly recommend you to pay the fee by credit card, which is the most simple and fast way to use.
  • Additional charges (i.e. bank charges) should be covered by the candidate.

4) Transcript

  • You are required to submit transcripts from each high school (and college) attended.
  • Official transcripts must be sent directly from your high school (and college) to KAIST.
  • Transcripts must include year by year record of all coursework from last three years of upper secondary school. The last year coursework in process should also be included.
  • If you are to submit a duplicate, the transcript should be authenticated with the seal of the issuing institution or a notary office. Simply photocopied documents are not considered valid.

5) Letters of Recommendation

  • Two recommendation letters are required. One from homeroom teacher and the other from math or science teacher.
  • Print and submit the Recommendation Forms below.

■ Recommendation Form for Homeroom Teacher [ATTACHMENT 1]
■ Recommendation Form for Math or Science Teacher [ATTACHMENT 2]

  • Recommendations on official letterhead will also be accepted.
  • Your teachers may send their recommendation letter directly to the admissions office. Letters should be signed and sealed across the back of an official envelope by the recommenders.
  • Photocopies or recommendation letters via email are not accepted.

6) Standardized Official Test Scores

  • Official Test Score Reports such as SAT1, SAT2, ACT, GCE A-Level, IB, AP, NCEA, high school leaving exam, university entrance exam, or other nationally/internationally recognized exam results should be submitted.
  • Official test results should be sent directly from the testing agency to KAIST. If the testing agency is unable to send the results, submit certified copy authenticated with the seal of the issuing institution or a notary office. Simply photocopied documents are not considered valid.
  • Institution Code of KAIST for SAT score report: 4433
  • You may attach a separate sheet to explain the exam procedure, competition rate, results, etc.
  • Certificate of National or International Olympiad can replace Official Test Score. Submit certified copy authenticated with the seal of the issuing institution or a notary office. Simply photocopied documents are not considered valid.

7) Certificate of Official English Proficiency Test (EPT)

  • Candidates whose native language is not English must submit the EPT certificate. Candidates whose official language is English are exempt from submitting the EPT certificate.
  • Candidates are recommended to achieve above TOEFL PBT 550, CBT 210, iBT 80, TEPS 550, IELTS 5.5 and TOEIC (Listening & Reading 750, Speaking level 6, Writing level 7).
  • For TOEIC, all three TOEIC score reports (Listening & Reading, Speaking, Writing) should be submitted.
  • EPT must be taken within two years from the deadline of the online application.
  • ETS can send your original copy of score report directly to KAIST admissions office. Score reports must be received by the deadline. If you are to submit a duplicate, the EPT result should be authenticated with the seal of the issuing institution or a notary office. Simply photocopied documents are not considered valid.
  • Institution Code of KAIST for TOEFL score report: 0195
  • IELTS takers are allowed to submit a photocopy instead of an original copy of score report. Test score will be verified via Test Report Form (TRF) number.

8) Copy of Passport or National ID Card

  • Submit a copy of your International Passport or National ID card.

Optional Materials

1) Honors and Awards

  • You may submit up to five honors or awards obtained during your secondary and tertiary education.

2) Secondary/tertiary School Profile

  • You may submit GPA rating system, college acceptance statistics, or other information that would help us understand your school better.


This is all the physical proof you need just to be considered as an applicant.  Problem is that the vast majority of those leaves me completely ineligible.  There is NO way that my High School records from 25 years ago are in any way shape or form, a reflection of me or my skills now.  SATs?  Canada doesn’t do SATs.  I was told that if I took one, that would be considered valid but unless I was near genius level on that, my mediocre high school marks would kill any semblance of acceptance to any post secondary education here.

So, this really only leaves me online programs from back home in Canada (or maybe the US).  The whole university process confuses me.  It should be a free course in of itself in order to understand it and the variations that exist.  Maybe I should look at colleges?  In either case, I need to do something while I am here, besides just improving my Korean.

Author: DragonDon

Having a love of travel has lead me to move to South Korea in 2010. Moving to an Eastern culture from a Western culture is a wild experience and there is never a dull day!

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