Studying in Korea – Everything You Need to Know

Studying at University in Korea

When I thought about writing this article, the first thought that crossed my mind was ‘how do I possibly answer everything in a short blog post?’.

I’m still not sure how I’m going to manage that, but this particular question seems to be one of the most common questions I receive.

So here I am, attempting to explain all of my experiences in a relatively short post. This is my answer to the question ‘what is it like studying in Korea?’.

As usual, my words aren’t definite. Most of what I say in this post won’t be facts, but rather my personal experiences. I can’t say how your experience will be, but I can definitely guess.

I have studied at a university here for four years, and I have met a lot of people in that time. This post is an aggregation of all of my experience along with what I have heard.

If you have any further questions at the end of this post please don’t hesitate to contact me. Either at [email protected] or down below in the comments! I will reply as soon as I can.

About Me

I study at Korea University (고려대학교) in Anam-Dong, Seoul. Korea University is one of the top universities in Korea and is one of the infamous SKY schools.

I am currently in my fourth year studying International Studies in the DIS. I have enjoyed my time in Korea and given the chance, I would happily come and study here again. If you want to learn more about me, check out my about me page.

However, university life in Korea definitely does have a few downsides. They aren’t deal breakers for me and many others, but they are definitely something to keep in mind.

The first part of this article is quite harsh towards Korea and my experiences studying here. However, the article will become more positive as you read further.

I wanted to cover the negatives first so that I could end the post on a positive note! So, don’t let the negatives discourage you. Korea is a fantastic place to study – it’s just flawed. As is everywhere else that you could choose to study.

SKY Universities

Korea University Seoul Campus

The main hall at Korea University, a SKY University in Seoul.

SKY stands for Seoul National University, Korea University, and Yonsei University. These three universities along with KAIST and POSTECH are known by everyone as the top universities in Korea.

If you’ve looked into studying in Korea, I am sure you are already sick of hearing about these universities. I don’t want to discuss SKY for long as I think their reputation is highly overrated. SKY universities are also surrounded by an elitist feeling that to me as a foreigner, feel unfounded.

However, I wouldn’t be writing an article about studying in Korea if I didn’t at least mention them in passing.

Are SKY Universities the best?

Studying in Korea - Everything You Need to Know 1

The three SKY universities.

I can’t say for certain as I haven’t studied at other Korean Universities, but I can make a few observations.

If you plan to work in Korea after graduation attend a top 10 university (SKY, Ehwa, SKKU, KAIST, etc). If you don’t attend one of these universities your chances at jobs will be far lower and you will have a much harder time here.

However, if you are here for an exchange, or you will move back overseas after studying, then you have more options. I’m sure there’s no limit to the number of people who will disagree with me, but I think it’s better to pick a university that suits you rather than the one with higher ratings.

Pick a university that offers what you want. If you are here for an exchange this is especially important, as the university you do an exchange to isn’t really too important in the end.

The SKY experience

If you study at a SKY university you will quickly notice that it influences how people act towards you. If you wear your university jacket, you will get many people saying ‘wow, you must be smart!’.

If you mention that you attend a SKY university often people will be in awe. There is a certain prestige that these universities are viewed with.

In Korea, it is common to wear a baseball-style jacket with the logo of your university. In the fall (when it gets a bit colder), you will see almost half of all students don their jackets. This is a very cool part of Korean university culture.

However, I stopped wearing mine after about a year. People will treat you differently if they know that you are from such an ‘elite’ university and I grew to dislike the attention that it got. Especially if you wear it outside of Seoul.

While there’s nothing wrong with representing your university (and the jackets are very nice!), this is something to be aware of. There is definitely a change in attitude towards when your university is openly visible.

It overshadows a greater problem with Korean society in regards to education, as there most definitely is elitism. With how vital a good education is in Korea, it’s easy to see where this stems from.

Applying For University in South Korea

Studying in Korea - Everything You Need to Know 2

Applying for university can seem daunting, but it isn’t too bad.

The application process for universities in Korea can be quite complicated and, at times, it can be very stressful. The application process for every university is different, however, they can generally be broken down into a few steps.

Every university has a different application procedure. Here are a few:

Korea University application procedure

Yonsei University application procedure

Seoul National University application procedure 

  1. Online application – This is the first step and will normally occur over a period of a few months in the semester prior to the one you are applying for. If you want to apply for the spring semester, you should apply in the fall semester prior, and vice-versa.
  2. Submit physical materials – This step usually occurs at about the same time as the online application. In this period you should submit any physical materials. These can include a personal statement, school record, birth certificate, etc.
  3. Acceptance and Payment – A few months later you will receive an email regarding your acceptance status. This will be followed up with a tuition payment deadline.

Once you get accepted you can begin to work on applying for a visa. I applied in New Zealand and the process took less than a week. However, it was a very concerning time!

The university only sent out my official letter of acceptance a week before I was supposed to be in South Korea. I was really worried about the lack of time before my departure and applying for my visa.

Luckily, the visa process was very fast and I was able to get my visa a mere three hours before my flight departed New Zealand. However, since the letter of acceptance is sent out very late (and very close to the date you should be in Korea), I recommend asking the visa office if there is any way to hasten the process.

Once you apply for a student visa with the required documents it is just a matter of waiting. Luckily, you don’t have to do anything else!

Language Requirements

The biggest hurdle for many people is the language requirement. To study at most universities in Korea you should either be fluent in Korean or have decent English. Typically an IELTS score of around 5 – 6 is required.

If you come from a country that has English as an official language then you can generally get away with no English test results. Simply submit your high school transcript.

If you have studied in an international school that is taught in English then I recommend contacting your preferred universities. You might find that you don’t need to prove your English ability!

Required Documents

Studying in Korea - Everything You Need to Know 3

Required documents for the 2020 spring semester at Korea University. Learn more here.

Again, this depends on the university, however, there are a few documents that are required more often than not.

  • High school transcript/expected graduation certificate
  • Proof of financial stability – This isn’t always needed, but some universities will require you to prove that you have at least X amount of money. When I applied in 2016 Korea University required me to prove at least $30,000. However, there are ways around this, and some universities don’t require it.
  • Relationship to sponsor – If you need to prove finances then you can also show ‘sponsors’ money. If you do, you must prove your relationship to that person.
  • Recommendation letter (from a past teacher or ‘official’)
  • Proof of language proficiency (often not needed if you live in a country with English as the official language). This can be IELTS or TOEFL
  • A portfolio is also required for some students (for example, art students)

Studying in Korea

In this section, I will cover the most important aspects of studying in South Korea. From the quality of education to getting admitted to a Korean university.

Why Study in South Korea?

Not only does Korea have all of the usual benefits of studying abroad (meeting a wide range of people, experiencing a new culture, learning a new language, etc), but it also has a few unique factors that make it an attractive option.

Seoul was recently rated as one of the top 10 student cities in the world. Why? Because it’s exciting. I have never visited somewhere more exciting in my life! Life is fast-paced and energetic. It may not be the best place to live, but it’s great for students.

The cost of living in Seoul is relatively high, but it’s cheaper than in most developed countries. The costs are covered in more detail in my post about the cost of living in Seoul as a student. However, here are a few benchmarks.

  • A one-room apartment in Seoul can be found for around $400 per month.
  • A semester of tuition usually costs around $2500. However, this depends on the major.
  • An unlimited mobile phone plan can be found for around $50 per month as a student.

While Seoul might not be the cheapest place, it is definitely not the most expensive. This makes it a fantastic place to study – especially considering that many scholarships are available.

That leads me to another point! There are a lot of scholarships available in Korea. If you can get into one of the many scholarship programs then you can greatly decrease the cost of tuition. Sometimes, you can even get scholarships that cover rent and all tuition costs.

Seoul Cityscape from Namsan Tower

Seoul is a beautiful city and a fantastic place to study.

Another aspect that makes Korea great for students is that there is just so much to do. The social life in Korea is fantastic! Drinking is popular (and cheap) and there are so many activities – from singing at karaoke to visiting cat and dog cafes.

What is the Education like?

Mediocre at best. Korea has incredibly high rankings for education up to high school, however, their university rankings begin to drop off a lot.

Studying in Korea - Everything You Need to Know 4

Top universities in Korea as of 2019.

At Korea University, I often find myself wondering how such bad teaching can be allowed. I have had teachers who often give homework copied straight from another university’s lectures. I don’t know if this is allowed, but it doesn’t seem very professional.

I have had professors who can’t speak English well at all teaching English classes. If you sign up to teach one of the English classes it is my belief that you should be adequate, if not fluent in the language. I understand that this is a Korean university, but these classes are listed as English classes.

I have had professors who publicly humiliate people. One professor even called out students in front of the class and told them that missing a class (which they had in the prior week) is unacceptable.

Don’t get me wrong, there are lots of fantastic professors at my university, and in Korea. Further, I understand every university has good and bad professors, but for a university that prides itself on being in the top 100? The education can be terrible at times.

You may not notice it initially, but if you attend a top university you will begin to notice elitism. Sometimes obvious, sometimes not, but you will notice it. I have had professors say ‘If you don’t study well you should have gone to (insert lower-ranked university here) instead!’ Or ‘you are the best students in Korea’.

Elitism does exist, and it gets to some people. Some people will refuse to date someone who didn’t study at a SKY university (especially if they studied at one themselves). It doesn’t matter if the uni was a great university, but rather if it was SKY or not. I understand wanting to date someone who has been successful, but this view of ‘success’ is extremely limited.

Minus these bad experiences, education is decent. Most professors are friendly and are willing to help you with any troubles that you might have. Koreans are generally very hospitable and this is the same for professors.

Many of the textbooks used are the same as at other universities. Often the lectures will follow the chapters in these books and this means that you will often get a similar education to most other western universities.

Study in Korea in English

Studying in Korea - Everything You Need to Know 5

Studying in a foreign language can be incredibly hard. Luckily English is also an option!

Many people ask whether or not it is possible to study in Korea in English. The good news is that it is! As long as you are interested in Business, International Studies, or a few other majors.

Many universities will offer a few courses that can be completed in English. At Korea University, those courses are International Studies and Business. International relations and other courses are also offered partly in English. I believe the same goes for Yonsei University.

There are many partly English courses and these are an ideal option as they allow you to study in English for a few years while you learn Korean. After a few years, you can begin moving to the Korean classes.

Every university is different, and some will offer English courses while some won’t. However, many of the more famous universities will offer at least one or two courses that are fully in English.

If you search around you are sure to find universities which offer other courses in English too. It really just depends on the university!

Graduation Requirements

All of this information is all well and good, but how do you actually graduate? Luckily, it’s pretty straightforward.

Graduation is credit-based and each course generally awards 1-4 credits. To graduate in Korea University I need to get 130 credits with a specific amount in major courses, some in elective courses, and a few in other areas.

Perhaps the biggest hurdle, however, is that most universities will require you to attain TOPIK 4 to graduate. TOPIK is a Korean language test and generally, you will be required to pass it in order to graduate.

Korea University has recently done away with this system. Now, you can graduate either by proving English OR Korean fluency rather than both.


Asianboss did a video about what it’s like to be a foreigner in Korea. While it’s a very brief video, some of the points are very valid. Especially the comment near the end about no matter how long you live in Korea, you will never be treated like a Korean.

Will you experience racism? Probably. But it’s rarely obvious, and it won’t prevent you from having a great time here. I have never had any direct racism at my university (as it is a relatively global university), however, I have experienced it on the subway, in restaurants, and in public areas. Sadly it also depends on your race.

If you are caucasian you will be treated generally positively. However, there is definitely still prejudice in Korea towards other races. I have heard of some bad experiences from my friends from Southeast Asia, as some Koreans look down on people from that area.

You will most likely have many experiences that aren’t really racism, but more just prejudice. I’ve been assumed to be American more times than I can count. Sometimes people will randomly say ‘I love America’ to me.

Once an old guy passed me on the escalator and said ‘good job!’ (With a smile) when I walked past with my girlfriend. And more than anything, sometimes people (especially children!) will stare.

People will also always assume you speak English. I don’t count these as harmful experiences, often they are even funny. But you should always be aware.

Overall, the experiences are vastly positive.

What about racism in university? It’s there, but it’s not direct. Me and nearly every other international student I have talked to have been excluded at some point.

Club meetings where you won’t be included (they may not even let you know there is a club meeting!), drinking events where you slowly get pushed out of the group only to end up forming two groups (foreigners and Koreans) and being outright turned down from joining the club.

I don’t think the intention is to exclude, but it seems to naturally happen, even if you can speak fluent (or decent) Korean.

Overall, racism wasn’t a big problem here for me, and often it worked in my favour. But everyone will experience it in some way. South Korea is the most homogenous nation on earth, second only to the more secluded Korea, and this is bound to have some effects.

To conclude, if you are worried about racism then you can stop worrying. Racism exists everywhere, and while it is more common in Korea than in many places, it is rarely ever harmful.


Cost of living in Seoul for students

Monthly living costs in Seoul as a student.

This is something that I am often asked about, and I have a more in-depth article here. Tuition in Korea is about 2,000,000-6,000,00KRW a semester. The cost is highly dependent on the university and subject, but it is cheaper than in most western countries.

Textbooks are incredibly cheap, just don’t purchase them ‘legally’. In Korea there are basically no copyright laws for textbooks, meaning that your local print shop will happily print the textbook you need for 10,000KRW.

You can easily afford all the textbooks for the semester for around 50,000-100,000 KRW. Do not buy books from bookstores if you want to save money, just get them printed.

Dormitories usually range from 800,000-2,500,000KRW a semester. However, often cheaper housing can be found off-campus. Goshiwons are around 300,000 a month, and studios can be found as cheap as 300,000 a month with a 2,000,000 deposit (which is returned when you leave).

However, often there will be minimum stay lengths, so if you are only in Korea for a short time usually a dorm or goshiwon is the best option.

Seoul Goshiwon Large Room

Goshiwons like the one above can be found very cheap in Seoul!

Food is dependent on what you like to eat. A cheap meal out is about 5,000, while a more expensive meal out may be up to 15,000. Eating at home is a viable option too.

Transport is 1,250 one way for subways and buses. It is extremely cheap and easy, along with being fast. Transport probably won’t be one of your big costs.

Check out this post to learn more about the costs of living in Seoul as a student.

Other Factors to Consider

It is important to answer the question, why do I want to study in Korea and what are my future plans after graduating? Studying in Korea is a fantastic experience, however, depending on what you want to do in the future it can also hinder you.

If you plan to work in Korea then attending a Korean University will definitely benefit you. Not only because of the education but also because future employees will know that you understand Korean culture and (possibly) the language.

However, if you plan to work in your home country, let’s say the USA, then you are going to have a much easier time if you have a domestic degree. Most western countries tend to prioritise potential employees with domestic degrees.

There are also other factors to consider. For example, many countries have different requirements for jobs. For example, a doctor or engineer moving countries will often have to be retrained to meet the requirements of the new country.

I am unsure about the situation in other countries, but I would highly recommend investigating it before coming to Korea. Make sure that you are setting yourself up for success in what you want to do.

If you plan to go to another country for your graduate degree, make sure that your Korean degree will allow you to apply for the programs that you want.

These things may seem obvious, but many people overlook them when they first come to Korea. It’s far easier to have a plan at the start than to realise you have to reevaluate later on.

Korea Isn’t a Kdrama

The video above sums up some of the downsides of studying in Korea. The video is quite negative and should be taken with a grain of salt. However, it does have some important points that nearly everyone will experience while studying in Korea. Don’t let the video put you off coming to Korea, but the points are definitely something to be considered.

This might sound obvious again, but hear me out. Studying in Korea isn’t like a Kdrama. Especially at university, which can be extremely stressful.

I have known a lot of people who came to Korea only to really dislike it. Of course, this isn’t always due to Kdramas and other Korea media, but it definitely has an influence.

Studying in Korean Universities can be very stressful due to the high amount of pressure. Especially since many classes in Korea have relative grading, you will often be competing against the rest of your class.

If possible, visit Korea and explore around a bit before deciding to study here.

That isn’t to say that Korea isn’t like a Kdrama at all… In some respects, it can be! Just remember to be objective and keep in mind that life in Korea isn’t perfect. In fact, it’s very far from it. Media tends to only show the positive aspects and often you won’t know about the negative aspects until too late.

Campus and Student Life

Studying in Korea - Everything You Need to Know 6

Soongsil University campus.

Campus life at Korean universities is exceptional. Many universities have beautiful campuses that are large and interesting. Even if the university you are interested in has a small campus, Seoul has so much to offer. The transportation is so great that interesting areas are always close by.

Dormitories are offered by most universities and they can range greatly in quality and location. However, usually, foreigners are prioritized into the nicer/more modern dormitories.

Korea University has basketball courts, swimming pools, ice-skating rinks, tennis courts… Really everything you could ever want. Korea is one of the bigger universities though and is better equipped than others.

Every university I have visited however has a beautiful campus. Ewha, Yonsei, and Korea all have an old European architectural theme and are beautiful.

Konkuk University has an amazing lake right in the middle of the campus, and Sungshin Women’s University is surrounded by a multitude of types of entertainment. There are a LOT of universities in Seoul, and the vast majority of them have nice campuses. Especially any university in the top 10-20.

I wish I could be broader and speak more about other universities, however, I can only speak about the places I have been. One thing I can say for sure though is that Korean Universities usually have amazing campuses that are interesting, large, and beautiful.

But even if your university doesn’t have a large or beautiful campus, Seoul is fantastic and is an amazing city for students. You will be able to find lots of entertainment wherever you choose to study.

Student Life

Seoul Sky Sunset

Korea has SO MUCH to see and do. Seoul especially.

Student Life. Did you know Soju is the most drunk alcohol in the world? Well, now you do! Korean’s drink like crazy, and if you come here to participate and embrace the culture, so will you. You can buy Soju for under $2 per bottle! It may not be the nicest, but everyone who has come to Korea definitely remembers their experiences with Soju!

Activities like karaoke are abundant and can be found everywhere, PC bangs (pc cafes) and arcades too. Nightlife areas are scattered all across Seoul and there is always at least one popular place close by.

Hongdae, Itaewon, and Gangnam are all popular for their nightlife, and usually, you will be located close to at least one of them!

If you want to experience the cultural and historical side of Korea then you are in luck. Palaces, temples, and historical sites are abundant in Seoul.

One of my favourite aspects of Seoul is that there is also a lot of nature located around it. There are many mountains that are easily reachable and there are also some fantastic parks in the city.

Shopping in Seoul is also fantastic. Anything you want to buy can be found here! It is extremely convenient.

If you are worried about student life in South Korea, don’t be. It’s a very exciting and thrilling place to live, and you will never be bored.

Again, there’s a reason that Seoul was recently rated one of the top 10 student cities in the world!

Course Registration

Classes at Korean universities are quite hard to keep track of at times. Let me begin at course selection.

Selecting courses is competitive! Very, very, competitive. There will be a set time before each semester where you will pick all of your classes. The catch? Nothing is guaranteed, and you might not even get your major REQUIRED classes.

The best part? Since everyone is fighting to get the classes as fast as possible, the site will lag due to the sudden traffic spike. Popular classes will be gone in a matter of seconds. Not 10 seconds. Not 5 seconds. I am talking under 3 seconds before the popular classes are full.

Since the site is also notoriously slow at this time, it is a very stressful time. Everyone hates the course registration time.

The only upside is that more senior years get to pick their classes in advance. So 4th years will pick their classes a few days before 3rd years. 3rd years, in turn, pick a few days before 2nd years and so on and so forth.

This means that while the 1st and 2nd years rarely get the classes they want, you do eventually get a chance to pick the classes you want with less competition. If you miss a class that you really need you can also talk directly to the professor – sometimes they will let you join their class.

There will be a period a few weeks later where you can add and drop certain classes, and after this, you can’t change your classes again for the semester.

Class Rules

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Classroom at the University of Seoul.

Every class has different rules (even if they are the same course, just with different professors). If you have a beginner English 1 class with X professor and beginner English 1 with Y professor, the classes won’t be equal.

Professor Y may have extremely hard exams and professor X might not even have exams! Make sure to read the (usually incomplete) syllabus and professor reviews so that you know what to expect.

Some classes are relative grading and some will have absolute grading. This means that some classes will be far easier than others. Often you won’t know which type of grading the class has until you ask the professor.

Generally, the syllabus will also list the rules of the class, and this is something that is vital to read. Some professors won’t allow electronic devices while some will. Some won’t allow absences while some will.

At least at Korea University, there seems to be no consensus on rules. Every professor has vastly different rules and there seems to be no universal basis.

Some professors will upload course materials and some won’t. However frustrating this may be for you, you will have to put up with it.

Some professors will have fantastic English, and some may be quite poor. It is essential to read the professor reviews before picking classes if you care about all of these points I have made. There is no other way to know exactly what you are in for.

All of the professors and classes are quite different, frustratingly so. However, if you are careful then this won’t be a problem for you. Just be wary and learn about what you are signing up for before you do.


Class attendance is far stricter than in most western universities. In some classes, you will lose points for every class you miss (5 absences will make an A+ impossible), for some classes you will fail when you miss two lectures, and some you can miss 20% of classes.

I have never had a class where attendance doesn’t matter. If you come to Korea, you should attend most of your classes, don’t expect to be able to miss them.


Gyeongbokgung Palace Winter

Korea has two very long vacations. One to enjoy the winter, and one to enjoy the summer!

Korean universities have two very long vacations! One is usually from mid-June to the start of September, and the other from mid-December to February. This means that in total you will have about 5 months of vacation in the year! It’s fantastic. This gives you a lot of time to explore Korea and get the most from your time.

Daily Schedule

Daily schedules can be vastly different, but the earliest classes usually commence at 9 am with the latest being around 7-9 pm.

Typically one class will have two sessions per week. These classes will be for one hour and fifteen minutes each. However, some classes will just have one three hour session per week. If you are taking an average amount of credits (18) you will have 6 classes. This means around 12 classes per week, each of which is 1:15.

University Facilities

One thing that I quickly noticed in Korea is that the universities tend to have MUCH nicer campuses and facilities than universities I have visited in other countries. At many of the more prestigious universities, it seems like the campus is a matter of pride.

There are many different cafes and restaurants located around the campuses as well as nearly anything else you could want as a student. From banks to mobile phone stores, they can often be found on the campus.

The bigger universities will also have lots of sports facilities ranging from basketball courts all the way to ice-skating rinks. Even for ‘less prestigious’ universities, the campuses were far nicer than anything I’ve ever experienced in New Zealand.

University Clubs

What is student life without a few university clubs? This is another aspect which Korean Universities do very well. In fact, they have some of the largest varieties of clubs that I have ever seen!

Most of the clubs are open for anyone to join and many are also free. However, some clubs will have membership fees.

While there is a massive variety of clubs, it’s also worth noting that some of them won’t be possible to join. Since it is Korea, many of the clubs will be in Korean and this can make it hard to participate in as a foreigner.

Generally, there are clubs for international students also, and these are great to join if you are interested in making new friends and meeting people.

You can find all of Korea University’s clubs on the club page.

Study in Korea Scholarships

Did you know that it is possible to study in Korea for free? I’m here to say that it most definitely is!

There are so many universities in Korea and they all offer different scholarship options. Since it would be impossible to list them all, I will be listing some general scholarships (where the university doesn’t matter) as well as some scholarships from KU (Korea University).

Korea University has similar scholarships to many other universities in Korea and I recommend checking out the scholarships at the university that you are interested in. I am just using Korea University as an example as it is where I personally have the most experience.

Korea University Scholarships:

GPA based scholarship (Graduate) | Undergraduate:
100% of tuition costs – GPA above 4.0/4.5
60% of tuition costs – GPA above 3.5/4.5 (for humanities and social sciences)
65% of tuition costs – GPA above 3.5/4.5 (for natural sciences and engineering)

Need-Based Scholarship:
50% of tuition costs – students who need financial support

Academic Improvement Scholarship:
50% of tuition costs – students who show a significantly improved GPA

Other scholarships:

National Institute for International Education
Study in Korea 

There are many many more scholarships on offer also. This website is a fantastic resource for many of the most popular universities for non-domestic students. There are hundreds of scholarships on offer!

Should You Study in South Korea?

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If you still want to study in Korea after reading this post, then go for it!

Studying in Korea has its upsides and downsides. If you want the best academic education then don’t come to Korea. Even if you go to Seoul National University, you will be getting a worse education than you would at many ‘lesser’ western universities. However, if you want to get a decent education and have an amazing time then Korea is great.

I think that the academic aspect is a major part of university, but it isn’t everything. It is important to also have an enjoyable university experience, and coming to Korea will make that certain.

Of course, there is a lot more to studying in Korea that I couldn’t possibly list here. The post is long enough as it is and there are so many different aspects to consider when choosing to study abroad. However, if you have any further questions or comments please don’t hesitate to contact me with the comments below. I am happy to answer any further questions!

Is Seoul a Fun Place to Study?

Korea is an amazingly lively and dynamic place. Seoul is the epitome of this. In fact, Seoul has recently been identified as one of the best student cities in the world. It’s far from perfect, but it is exciting!

Can I Get a Scholarship to Study in Korea?

Korea offers many different scholarships for international students. While I can’t list them all here, here are some of the common ones. The first few are for Korea University, but general scholarships can be seen at the bottom.

Korea University Scholarships:
GPA based scholarship (Graduate) | Undergraduate:
100% of tuition costs – GPA above 4.0/4.5
60% of tuition costs – GPA above 3.5/4.5 (for humanities and social sciences)
65% of tuition costs – GPA above 3.5/4.5 (for natural sciences and engineering)
Need-Based Scholarship:
50% of tuition costs – students who need financial support
Academic Improvement Scholarship:
50% of tuition costs – students who show a significantly improved GPA
Other scholarships:
National Institute for International Education
Study in Korea

Is Student Life in Korea Stressful?

It can be. Koreans take education very seriously, and around exam periods life can become very stressful and difficult. However, if you can manage the stress studying in Korea can feel extremely rewarding.

Is Studying in Korea Expensive?

Living in Korea as a student usually costs around $800-$1000 per month. This includes rent, food, and all other essential costs. Depending on your lifestyle, you might find that your costs differ, however.

Tuition can cost anywhere from $2000 to $5000 per semester depending on your major and the university you attend. However, scholarships can be found that decrease or remove the cost of tuition.

Does Studying in Korea Have a Large Workload?

The workload is comparable to that of universities in other countries. However, it is highly dependent on your university, major, and professor.

68 thoughts on “Studying in Korea – Everything You Need to Know”

  1. What are the job opportunities for students studying International Relations in South Korea?

  2. Hi! I wanted to know if I have my Korean government scholarship then I don’t need to pay the amount in the starting of the 1st academic year right? The scholarship will cover all the expenditures and tuition fee ?

      1. Hello! Can you give some idea about studying majors in electronics and communication engineering in korea? Is this major beneficial for future job aspects in Korea? And which universities will be the best for this major in korea?

  3. Hii if I go for korean government scholarship through University for a PhD do I need to pay my tution fee first to the university or they will forward my application and get it from government if approved??

    1. Unfortunately, I am not certain about this as I haven’t had the scholarship myself. However, looking at the time schedule it seems that the results (and therefore funding) will be released before the university tuition fees are normally released. For that reason I would assume that they will cover the tuition fee first.

  4. Hi ! I wanted to know if it’s possible to choose 2 majors from the same department in Korean universities or at least if I can go for a major and a minor. Thank you !

    1. It depends on the university in question, but at my university (Korea University) I believe it is possible. I know people who do both international relations and international studies.

  5. Is there any scholarship, that helps with all the financial stuff including living expenses and tuition fees for undergraduate.

  6. Hii if I go for korean government scholarship through University for a PhD do I need to pay my tution fee first to the university or they will forward my application and get it from government if approved??

    1. Hello Doland,

      I believe that the scholarships are received before the usual tuition fee payment date (which is usually less than a month before the beginning of the semester). For this reason, I am pretty sure that your tuition should be covered.

      If not, you can usually explain your situation and ask for a delay on the payment. Monthly payments are also an option if you can’t get the scholarship before you are expected to pay. That might make it a bit more manageable.

  7. You said that for the proof of financial stability with 30,000 USD sometimes there’s a way to avoid it when applying in a university in korea, but I remember reading online not long ago that to receive a student visa for full time students you still need do prove your financial stability (with 20,000$ i believe), i could be wrong but if you still need this to get a visa it is not avoidable right? Otherwise if you do know a way to avoid it it actually would be pretty amazing if you’d tell me 🤣 Also does your GPA really need to be high to get into SKY universities?

    1. I believe that you can skip the financial proof if you have a scholarship. Or if it’s unavoidable, the amount required should be lower. However, I also have some friends who didn’t need to submit proof, so I am not entirely sure how it works.

      In regards to GPA, I don’t think it needs to be that high. I know people who made it in with a B- average. While your chances are lower with a lower GPA, it’s still very possible to be admitted!

  8. I wanted to do my PhD in finance or business as IAM from commerce department but many people said that there is only scope for medical and technology based studies is there good future for students who want to study business in Korea?

    1. Hello Percy,

      Actually one of the most popular subjects for international students to study in Korea is business. Currently, Korea is rated as one of the best countries in the world for startups and business innovation so it’s definitely a good option of business degrees!

  9. If I want to apply for Govt scholarship. Do I have to give my Topik exams before hand? Due to corona exams have been cancelled for this year. And I want to apply as soon as possible for next year. And even if I get scholarship do we need to show bank statements?

    1. I believe that you can apply even without TOPIK. If you get the scholarship you will not need to show bank statements – just point out that you have the scholarship and that they are funding it.

      You may still need to show a bank statement, but the amount required should be much lower.

  10. How is your Korean language proficiency? Is it possible to study a graduate programme with just very basic Korean (say, TOPIK 1)?

    1. My Korean is not great at all. It’s definitely possible to study graduate programs as many of them are in English. The ones that aren’t will require at least TOPIK 4 (usually).

  11. If I apply with my TOPIK 3 certificate but I don’t have an English proficiency certificate like TOEFL etc., will I still be able to have English classes, at least at the begging, or I will be able to study only in Korean due to having only a proof of Korean proficiency ?

    Thank you. 🙂

    1. I believe once you are admitted you can take whichever classes you want. The TOPIK/English test results are only needed for admission.

  12. Hi. I want to pursue PhD in Psychology. It would be very helpful if you could walk me through the whole process especially the requirements needed to fulfill to get accepted as a PhD research scholar and the procedure to apply for scholarships. Also which universities in Seoul will conduct lectures in English.
    Thank you 😊

    1. Hi Shivani. We’re you able to gain any information on graduate school in Sk for the area of Psychology?. I’m also interested in doing both my masters and doctorate in Korea.

  13. Hi. I want to pursue PhD in Psychology. It would be very helpful if you could walk me through the requirements needed to get accepted in a university in Seoul as a PhD research scholar and also the procedure of acquiring scholarship.

    Thank you 😊

    1. Hello Shivani,

      I would highly recommend contacting the universities that you are interested in as they will be able to provide much more accurate information than I can 🙂

    1. I’m not sure about civil engineering, but I have a lot of friends who studied mechanical engineering. While I know they are different subjects, my friends enjoyed it. Some aspects are very hard (especially the required math classes) and the fact that many classes are Korean only, but otherwise it’s okay. In regards to the value of the degree it highly depends on what university you attend as each of them have different rankings.

  14. Hey!!
    I am planning on doing my post graduation in Law from South Korea. Can you give me a brief if its worthwhile or not or whether the PG course for Law is available in English in Korea or not?

  15. Hey Ethan, love your blogpost. Thankyou. I am planning my master’s from south Korea so i am researching for all the possible information i can get. Do korean universities require certain level of percentage for master’s and scholarships?
    I will be glad if you could answer this for me. 😊

    1. I’m sorry for the late reply – I missed your comment somehow 🙁 If you’re still wondering, I’m happy to help. What kind of percentage are you referring to?

  16. Hello, I would like to have more information about the postgraduate program in Dentistry. Or some specialty of that career and if there are scholarships for this. It would help me a lot to have this information.

    1. It really comes down to the university in question. However, there are always scholarships available, both from the government and many universities also offer them.

  17. hi, thank you so much for all the info.. i wanted to ask if i can pursue fine arts in SNU through KGSP, what would be the requirements? do they pay for visa? or dormitories? i actually have so many questions, can you help me out please?

    1. I would love to help but unfortunately I don’t really know anything other than what you can find online since I didn’t attend SNU 🙁 I would recommend reaching out to them to ask!

  18. Hi Ethan,
    First of all, thank you so much for writing these blogs – reading about your experience has been incredibly helpful to me. In the part where you talked about the class rules, you said that it is important to read the professor’s reviews before choosing our classes. I was wondering, where can we find such reviews?

    1. Hello Annabelle!

      Thanks for asking. Unfortunately, there aren’t any great websites to do this in English. However, you can download the app Everytime or use Naver to see the reviews in Korean (you can then translate these if needed). If there is an international community/club at your university those can also help as there are sure to be some students who have attended the class prior.

  19. Hello, I was wondering if you could clarify about the fees for courses. I’ve been researching the courses i want to do but i cannot seem to find the tuitions fees for those courses… So i was wondering if there is some sort of other system? Do i need to contact the school directly to know the fees? Thank you!

    1. I would definitely recommend contacting the school directly to know the fees. Often the fees vary per course and per university, so they vary greatly.

  20. This might be a very dumb question, but if you choose to do a double major would you have to pay double the tuition or just the normal amount you would pay taking 1 major?

    1. No dumb questions 🙂 I believe it is the same price! Although, it may depend on the university.

  21. Thankyou so much for the information. Will you please help me when I’ll apply for the scholarship?

    1. Unfortunately, there isn’t much that I can help with. Do your best and I hope that you can get a scholarship! 🙂

    1. They can be quite competitive, but there is definitely a good chance of making it in! I recommend at least applying if you are interested.

  22. I’m planning to study in Korea for my undergraduate degree the course I choosed is korean studies does it have a good scope pls tell me in detail about it if you know…I want to konw whether it also has a master’s degree in it!

  23. Hey, I’m planning to do my master’s in South Korea and even planning to stay back and earn. So my question is, how’s the job opportunity for the international students? Like, do they immediately get a job or do they have to struggle for it?

  24. Hey, I’m planning to do my master’s in South Korea and even planning to stay back and earn. So my question is about the job opportunities for the international students. Like, do they immediately get a job after graduating or do they have to struggle for it?

  25. Hello I am from India and I am doing my 1st year of BCA (Bachelor of Computer Application )
    I just wanna know that how can I go south korea after my graduation of BCA because I love South Korea and I want to do job , is there any opportunities ??????

  26. Hello, my name is Monalisa. I have completed my bachelor’s in business administration in India and would want to know if masters in HRM / organisational behaviour is available or not in SK. I have checked the websites of different universities for the course details but could not get a proper idea,could you please help me for the same.

  27. Hi I’m planning to study in Korea and I still have this year and next year to go but I thought planning for this from now so do you think that is a good idea?

    1. I agree with you. I graduate I 2023 but I’m planning to do my masters and doctorate in Korea and I’m making the preparations from now

  28. I want to do my master’s from SK that also from a reputable University(SKY if possible). But the tuition & living cost is too high and I literally can’t afford it. My current CGPA is 4.65/5.0, What are my chances of getting accepted into the top three universities and getting a scholarship there?

  29. I want to study korean language, so waht are all the requirements, cost and colleges and what is the duration of that language course. And is it now possible to come and study korean language….

    1. I also want to collage in Korea and I will come to Korea in 2025 But I do not know Korean language but my coming to Korea is final.

  30. Hlw maam my name is Gulshan and I want to study in South Korea 🇰🇷for masters how I collect all information about study in seoul plz help me ma’am I will waiting you reply..

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