So you’ve decided to apply for KGSP, and even have some schools you’re interested in. Now you have to decide whether to apply via a Korean embassy in your country or directly through the university in Korea.
There are some advantages and disadvantages to each, but first the basic process for each.
Early February – Download the application instructions from NIIED, and check with the university for the application deadline
Mid March – Application deadline. Make sure you send your application materials so that they will arrive BEFORE the deadline. Remember, your application is going to Korea, so especially for some countries you will need lots of time. Make sure you send it express, and it’s best to have a tracking number.
Late March – Deadline for universities to report their decisions TO NIIED. They may or may not inform you at this time. (This is the “first selection.”)
May 1 – NIIED chooses candidates based on the country quotas. (This is the “second selection.”)
If you apply through a designated university then you are guaranteed a scholarship at this point UNLESS you do not return your completed medical exam results by the deadline, or fail it for some reason.
Rest easy until mid-June when the final list is posted with language school assignments.
Early February – Download the application instructions from the NIIED website, and check your local Korean Embassy for the application deadline. You must apply through the Korean embassy in the country of which you are a citizen. Check the NIIED guidelines for the location of the appropriate embassy, especially if there is no Korean embassy in your country. If you are American you will apply through the consulate in charge of your state of residence. You can check at the Korean Education Center in DC for the list of which embassies cover which states. If you are an American living abroad then apply through the embassy that has jurisdiction over the state where your parents live. (Confusing right?)
Mid March – Application deadline. Again make sure you send your application with enough time to arrive before the deadline. Usually, the embassy will be in your own country, so it will probably take less time than sending your application to Korea, but still leave plenty of time, and again get a tracking number.
Mid April – Deadline for the embassy to send their choices TO NIIED. Again, you may or may not be informed at this time.
May 1 – NIIED publishes the list of “second selection” candidates, and sends those applications on to the three universities each person has chosen in their application.
You may be contacted by your universities for extra materials or interviews at this time. (Look in the university information and on their kgsp info website ahead of time so you aren’t surprised by a request for another recommendation, or something equally difficult to get in a pinch.)
Late May – The universities will tell you if you are accepted or not. (This is the “third selection” which only applies to embassy candidates. If you are not accepted by any of your three universities then you cannot get the scholarship.)
Early June – You will tell NIIED which university you choose. As long as you also return and pass the medical exam by the deadline, you now have a scholarship.
June 17 – NIIED will post the list of all scholarship recipients and the language institute they will attend.
The differences are:
1.) The number of schools you can apply to (only one by university but three by embassy).
2.) The timeline (university applicants are basically done after the second selection, but embassy applicants have to wait for the third).
3.) The quotas (each country has a different number of places for embassy versus university. Some countries have only one or the other, so those people don’t need to decide.)
So, if you do come from a country with both university and embassy quotas, which method should you choose?
I personally don’t think there is a one-size fits all, simple answer to that question, but I will talk about what I think are the major considerations.
First, regarding difference (1)…
If you have one school that you are really interested in, and you are reasonably confident about getting in, then university may be the way to go.
As mentioned in an earlier post, you should research this school, and your desired department thoroughly to see if you really are a match (specifically regarding language ability, undergraduate experience, etc.)
If you want to apply to a top-ranked university (SKY, POSTECH, PNU, KAIST, etc), you should either be very, very confident, or consider applying via embassy.
On the other hand, if you are undecided about your first choice, or want to go somewhere that might be more difficult to get in (for you), then embassy might be a better choice. You can apply to a high-risk school (or two) along with a less risky choice. You can also delay your final decision until later.
Second, about the timeline…
This is not as big an issue for most people, but if timing is an issue, here are some considerations…
If you apply via embassy and are accepted in the first selection, you have a reasonably good chance of going all the way (if you have chosen your three universities wisely), whereas the guarantee is less for university applicants (for reasons I will discuss later).
On the other hand if you apply via university and make the second cut, then you are guaranteed the scholarship (as long as the medical check goes well), whereas embassy candidates still have to wait for their university acceptance.
If you are considering going to Korea even without a scholarship from NIIED (and there are numerous other scholarship programs, along with money available from the universities themselves specifically for foreign students) then you should consider which timing will work with your backup plans, and how much you want to risk.
This would also apply if you have other things such as job opportunities waiting for you.
By far the biggest concern, however, is quotas, and it is a complicated one.
The advantage of applying through university is that you may have a better chance of making it through to the second round, especially if your embassy quota is small.
If you apply through your embassy then the embassy will choose 1.5 times their quota to send to NIIED. That is 3 people if the quota is 2, or 12 if the quota is 8. If you are not one of those people NIIED will never even see your application, and if there are spaces left empty because other countries do not fill their quotas then you will not be considered.
On the otherhand, each university can choose up to 3 people from any one country (and 20 people total), and there are 60 universities. This means that in theory, up to 180 people from your country could go on to the second round, and at least have their application read by NIIED.
SO, university candidates are possibly more likely to go from round 1 to round 2, BUT embassy candidates are potentially more likely to make it through round 2.
The odds for embassy candidates in round 2 will never be less than 66% because the embassies can’t choose more than 1.5 times the quota, and as there are currently a number of countries that don’t fill their quota, the chances are actually much better. There were 63 countries in 2014 that exceeded their embassy quota after the second selection.
University candidates, on the other hand, will be faced with the same issue embassy candidates faced in the first round, small quotas and an abundance of candidates.
Ultimately, you are probably facing very similar odds either way, and these will vary significantly depending on the country you are applying from. This is not an easy scholarship to get, and if your CV is not strong, you should consider other back-up plans. BUT in as much as you increase the chance of your application going to NIIED, the university option may be better for those less confident about their chances.
If, however, your application is pretty strong and you are looking to go to SNU, Korea University or Yonsei (along with other popular choices), applying through the embassy is a better option.
Annually over 50 KGSP students (each) end up choosing SNU, Yonsei or KU.
If they all chose to apply through the university, they would be caught by the university quota of 20 students each (and no more than 3 from any one country).
Through university, you are also limited to choosing just one school. At top schools like these, where most of the candidates will be strong, there is an element of randomness to the selection, so if it is important to you to attend one of them, it is better to apply to multiple schools, as you can by applying through the embassy.
Of course if you have some connection with the university, or great confidence in the strength of your profile, then university still may be the way to go. (But if you are that awesome it probably doesn’t matter how you apply…)
In the end, as much as you may analyze and agonize there is a large element of chance. The country you’re from, the number of people who choose one method or the other, the other people who choose the same universities, etc. Try to maximize your chances and find the method that fits your situation, but also stay realistic and consider your backup plan as well.
10 Most popular schools (2014 Final selection)
SCHOOL 2014# (2013#)
1. SNU 76 (86)
2. Yonsei 59 (50)
3. Hanyang 45 (38)
4. Korea U. 44 (48)
5. HUFS 35 (19)
6. Dongguk 32 (13)
7. Kyunghee 31 (30)
8. Ehwa Women’s 28 (21)
9. Pusan Nat. 27 (21)
10. Kyungpook 21 (23)
As you can see, the most popular schools all have more than 20 students each. Ultimately, no school admitted more than 12 people from the university selection (KU only had 3, Yonsei only 8).
There are several possible reasons for this. 1) Few people applied to popular schools via university because of the competition. 2) People were cut in the second selection by NIIED (although if someone is strong enough to be accepted at one of these, I find it unlikely they would be cut). 3) The schools only selected the strongest candidates at this early stage to leave room in their programs. I personally think it is a combination of 1) and 3).
4 = The number of people missing from the university quota between the 2nd and 3rd selection.
67 = The number of people missing from the embassy quota between the 2nd and 3rd selection.
The people who did not make the final cut for the university quota probably either decided not to take the scholarship and pursue other plans, or possibly had some problem with the medical exam.
Unfortunately, I think a lot of people missing from the embassy quota were not accepted at any of their three choices. This emphasizes the importance of making wise choices in your university selection. These were all people who had been selected as representatives of their countries, and should have been worthy of selection at one of the 60 universities.