Long time no see… Yonsei GSIS

So I’ve been seriously remiss in updating this…

It’s been two semesters already since I started at Yonsei, which means I am halfway through my Master’s program, and more than halfway through this KGSP experience.

I had some requests (last summer… sorry!!!) to talk more about my experience at Yonsei, so here it is.

From talking to friends at other GSIS around Seoul (Korea U., SNU, Sogang) I can say that Yonsei is one of the bigger ones (300+/- students), if not by far the biggest. This has its advantages and disadvantages.

On the plus side, there is a fairly large selection of classes, comparatively speaking and the large number of students means that it is fairly easy to hold events such as academic conferences and social/sports events because there is always someone interested in participating.

On the minus side, more students and a higher student:teacher ratio means less individual attention. That means fewer TA opportunities and more difficulty in finding thesis advisors, for those who choose to go that route. (Indeed, at Yonsei it is not required to write a thesis, and the number of people eligible to write one is highly restricted to those with a 3.7/4.3 GPA. That’s an A- and the relative grading scheme limits the number of students who can receive any grade in the A range to between 40 and 60% of any given class.) This is not to say that professors are unwilling to help students, but you do need to make a concerted effort to approach them.

So far I’ve taken three core courses (required of most students regardless of major), one required course (of all Korean Studies majors, which I’m not, but everyone is allowed to take them), and four electives.

The core courses are all big lecture style classes. There were around 70 students in International Relations and Introduction to International Economics, and 30-50 students in Statistics and Data Analysis and Research Design and Methods (RDM). The professors for these classes vary a bit from term to term, and there are changes to the course content accordingly. Basically the grading is based on exams (often partly or totally multiple choice, sometimes with essays) and group presentations. Some have essay style take home finals, and RDM has a final research proposal.

The required class had around 25-30 people in it and was also lecture style. There are two required courses for Korean Studies, whereas other majors do not have required courses other than the core courses. In exchange, Korean Studies majors only have to take two core courses (IR or Economics and Statistics or RDM). This particular course may just be particularly popular with the general student body, in part because of the professor (it’s the one offered in the fall), and that accounts for the relatively high enrollment. This class had a midterm and final (identifications and essays for both) and a final paper.

The elective courses tend to be smaller with around 10-20 people (some may have even less). Of the three that I have taken, one was basically lecture style, two were seminar style with a large degree of student lead discussion, and the last one was kind of half and half. These mostly had midterm exams and final papers. Some classes have research proposals for these final papers due sometime midterm, but mine didn’t. Some classes have take home exams where you are given 24-48 hours to write essays on the assigned topics. All of these classes also had presentations (sometimes small group and sometimes individual), which factored into the grading.

For the most part I have found the professors to be not only knowledgeable in their fields, but to also to be active and respected beyond the university. Visiting professors can be a bit of a gamble, but the full time professors live up to the Yonsei name in reputation, and many of the visiting professors are quite good as well. Teaching skill can be another issue entirely, but how much you get out of a course depends on how much you put in. Even in my “worst” class, I feel like I gained valuable information and resources for future exploration. Whatever class you take there will probably be a lot of reading (anywhere from 50 to 150 pages a week per class), so the professor’s insight is important, but not everything.

There is a blog for Yonsei students to write professor evaluations (search for Yonsei GSIS faculty evaluations), so you can check out what people say there. It is for faculty evaluations, not questions, so don’t go there with questions. If you do have questions there is a facebook group for Yonsei GSIS, but try doing your own research online and in the past group posts first. Many questions have already been answered.

If you are choosing between GSIS, I highly recommend looking through course catalogs. At Yonsei, look under the notices section for the classes that have been offered each semester in the most recent semesters. There is also a place to find class descriptions, but I don’t know how recently it has been updated. Class schedules are also available for past semesters at the Yonsei Portal. These should be available without logging in (for non-students). Some classes will even have syllabi on record (though you will need to log-in to access a syllabus uploaded as a separate file). You can find similar lists and databases for the other schools as well. The most important thing is that there are enough classes that you are actually interested in taking. In a pinch you will be able to take a certain number of classes through another GSIS and transfer the credits (4 classes or 12 credits if you are at Yonsei).

Finally, about that relative grading thing…

Basically, Yonsei grades on a kind of curve, but how it works may vary by professor. “A” grades (A+, A0, A-) are limited to 40% of students in core classes (the biggest classes), 50% of students in other classes bigger than 10 students, and 60% of students in classes fewer than 10 students. An A+ can only be given to the top 10% of students. This is just a rough guideline limiting the maximum number of students who can get As. Some professors may choose to give a smaller number of students As, some might choose not to give any A+s, and in some cases it may depend on the ultimate distribution. For those who do not get As, there are no other rules or limitations, so everyone else could conceivably get a B-/B0/B+, or professors can choose to go lower. I haven’t found there to be a great degree of transparency in terms of distribution or curves or any of that (some professors do give that kind of information for the midterm exams, but not all, and after finals you’d have to ask directly for any kind of feedback).

For me, this system has worked out… So I’m not really sure what happens to the other half of the class…



23 thoughts on “Long time no see… Yonsei GSIS”

  1. Hi, your blog is truly helpful!

    I’m planning to apply for yonsei gsis 2016.
    I’d like to know if monthly allowance is enough for living. (rent, food, etc..)
    and did you pay dormitory fee in korean language course? or is it included in scholarship?

    1. Basically yes it is enough for living, but don’t expect something very glamorous. You are responsible for dormitory/living fees at every stage if the program (language and graduate school). Most of the language program dormitories are pretty cheap (around 100,000-150,000 won per month, but you should pay in a lump sum per semester). Some of the degree universities give discounts for dormitories to KGSP students, but I’m not sure if Yonsei does. Either way life in Seoul will be more expensive.

  2. Hi! I really appreciate the fact that you take the time to post on this blog about the GSIS program, it has been immensely helpful to me. I am about to begin the application process and I wanted to ask you a few questions. The official application notice doesn’t come out until Monday but I am trying to be preemptive so that I can be sure to get all my documents in time.

    Just for your reference I am a US citizen who is currently attending an accredited four year university in the US. I will be receiving my BA and my diploma in May 2016.

    1. Can you apply to both the KGSP program and also to Korean universities directly? For example, if I apply to Korea university through KGSP (Korean government scholarship program) via the Korean embassy, do I still need to also fill out a regular application to Korea university and submit it directly to the GSIS program? Am I even allowed to do this? My concern is that I might get rejected from the KGSP program but I would still want to attend these universities if possible, with or without a scholarship from the KGSP.

    2. I read your post on notarization and have a few follow up questions. If I am an American citizen and my documents are all in English, which one’s do I still need notarized? Specifically do photocopies of my birth certificate, passport, parent’s passport all have to be notarized? If I submit notarized photocopies do I still have to submit the original document? I’m not really comfortable sending out my passport, birth certificate, etc. to my embassy.

    3. I haven’t graduated yet so can i submit a certificate which says i will graduate in April, and does it have to be notarized?

    4. For the letter of recommendation does my professor need to fill it out four times or can they just do it once and copy it? and do i have to get those copies notarized?

    Thanks for your assistance! Sorry this post is so long.

    1. I’m going to reply in pieces because I don’t have time to answer everything right now.

      1. I was worried about the same thing. The deadline for most GSIS programs is after the date when NIIED announces its decision, so my plan was to wait for NIIED’s decision and to send in my applications separately if I wasn’t selected. I personally would avoid sending two applications to the same university (KGSP and regular), but that’s up to you. Basically, I prepared recommendations for KGSP and for the universities separately and enough transcripts and other required documents to send in May just in case. Any safety schools that you want to apply to in addition to the three KGSP ones you can of course send any time.

    2. 2. I honestly didn’t notarize anything… Definitely do not send your passport or original birth certificate. You can get an official copy of your birth certificate from the state where you were born. I did that for my wedding and had it lying around so I sent that in. I sent plain photocopies of my parents and my passports with no notarization. This worked for me.

    3. 3. I had already graduated (a long time ago), so I don’t have any experience with this, but I’m guessing whatever document your uni usually gives will suffice without extra notarization. It should include an official seal or stamp or something that makes it official.

    4. 4. First, you basically need 1 set of “original” documents. These are either real originals like the recommendations, or anything that is a notarized copy. The other three sets can be true photocopies without any notarization. For recommendations, you can ask your professor to write one and photocopy it 3 times. These can be sealed in 4 separate signed envelopes, or just one signed sealed envelope. Or, you can just have your professor write one letter and seal it in a signed envelope. Somewhere in the guidelines, or maybe the FAQ, it says that the embassy will open any signed sealed envelopes and make additional copies as needed. If it doesn’t say that this year, then the first option where your professor photocopies it is probably the best option. DO NOT open the letter of recommendation!

  3. Hello, I am currently working on the 2016 application, and I also wish to attend Yonsei. However, I have not yet decided whether to pursue Korean Studies or International Cooperation. I was wondering, if you are pursuing a degree in International Cooperations at Yonsei, can you continue to take Korean language classes as part of the degree credit requirement? I assume it would fall under elective credits, or would it not be possible as part of the degree, and would only be taken as additional credits just for fun? I hope this question makes sense, Thank You!

    1. 1. Choose wisely because, though not impossible, it is a bit of a hassle to change from Korean Studies to Global Studies (International Cooperation and International Trade, Finance, and Management) and vice versa.

      2. Whichever you do choose to apply for only determines what goes on your degree and not what classes you can take or even what concentrations you can choose.

      At Yonsei GSIS you have to take 16 classes (48 credits) or 14 classes (42 credits) and a thesis. There are 3 core classes (fewer if you have experience and can waive anything). Then in your degree field you need

  4. (Sorry clicked send by accident)…

    In your degree field (Korean Studies or PIC) you need to choose a concentration and take 4 courses from that one concentration. Beyond those 7 (or fewer courses) you can take anything you want. (Korean Studies is a little different with only 2 core courses common to all GSIS and 2 Korean Studies specific core courses, but it’s still only half of the total required courses).

    You can also choose a second concentration (and take another four courses from that one), and this one can be from any of the concentrations offered in either Korean Studies or Global Studies.

    I actually considered doing Korean Studies as my 2nd concentration, but I was interested in classes from both sub-concentrations and didn’t really find enough in one that I wanted to commit to.

    You don’t have to do two concentrations though. If you plan to take some classes at other Yonsei graduate departments or other GSIS in Seoul it makes it harder to do two because you can transfer the credits but can’t apply them to a concentration.

    The moral of the story is that anyone at Yonsei GSIS can take the Korean language classes and any other class at the GSIS.

    Also, I’d go look carefully at the courses offered. The lists of courses actually offered and the concentrations they belong to for the last several years were recently uploaded to the Notices section of the website. Korean Studies is great if it’s what you’re interested in, but it’s a smaller department and generally has a smaller selection of classes. That said, if the thesis option is one that interests you and Korean Studies is something you’d like to write about, fewer students means less competition for advisors.

  5. Hi, your blog is really helping me alot! Thank you~
    I just want to know your thoughts about this as I’m really getting confused. I am planning to apply this year via the embassy route – already have my top3 uni choices and all. Now, I have this exchange of emails with one of the head professors from Hanyang as I inquired about their department’s curriculum and if ever I’m qualified to apply due to the fact that my college degree is somehow not related with my proposed Master’s degree though I have work experience already that’s related to that field (the Master’s degree I’m trying to get). He was able to answer my questions and said that I’m qualified and just proceed in doing the formal processs of application AND that he can recommend me. So there, he said that he can help me and have him as reference. So now, I don’t know if I should go the uni route and apply directly to them or still go to the embassy route and have that uni as one of my choices. What do you think about this?? TIA ^^

    1. I’m not going to say one is better than the other because it’s really hard to say. If your embassy is very competitive then applying directly to Hanyang might be better. Some embassies have very strict selection processes, so it’s a good idea to find out as much about it as possible. But a professor recommendation like this is not a guarantee of getting the scholarship either. The university can only choose 20 students to recommend to NIIED and then you still need to be one of the top X number of students from your country. I have known of people who got similar support from professors who did not ultimately receive the scholarship (some being cut from the very first round despite the recommendation). Consider the quotas for your country from the embassy and from the universities and any information you may have about embassy selection.

  6. Hi!

    I’m currently halfway through my language year as a 2015 KGSP student. My first question is since you are now participating in your degree, is there still a sense of a KGSP community? I’m also enrolling at an English-language GSIS program so I’m also curious about how often and in what context do you find yourself using the Korean that you’ve learned. Finally, you were able to enroll at the start of the school year. Do you feel that there is any disadvantage to arriving in the second semester? If so, any advice on how to improve the situation?

    1. At my school there is not a lot of KGSP interaction. There are actually quite a lot just in Yonsei GSIS (about 40?), but unless I ask or it comes up I don’t know who all of them are. But I’ve heard that some do have some special gatherings or events. If you’re a GSIS then I’m guessing you’re in Seoul? The KGSP from where you are now will probably stay an important core group of friends, so your community will come with you.

      As for Korean I’ve never been forced to use it at school. There have been times when I was researching something about Korea and used some Korean to find local sources and very occasionally I talk to Korean students in Korean. Yonsei is 100% English, but not all GSIS are, so some people get some chances to use it for class purposes.

      At Yonsei there is absolutely no difference between arriving in March and arriving in September. I can’t speak for all GSIS, but I think normally core courses are offered in all semesters, so you’ll always be able to take intro courses in your first semester. And there are of course a lot of foreigners and Korean students who’ve studied abroad, so there really tend to be equal numbers entering in the spring and the fall. There may be some exceptions to this rule, but basically don’t worry about having any kind of disadvantage.

  7. Hi,

    Thank you for your blog, it was very helpful.

    I just have a question regarding the grading system as I am not accustomed to getting graded in such a manner.

    So this is not in relation to limit set on the number of A grades which are distributed but for those which are lower. Does this mean that if a lot of people just barely miss out on getting A-, then the requirements for getting a B grade becomes much higher as it is now inflated by everyone who barely missed out on the A grade category?

    Also, how difficult would you say it is to perform poorly in school? I understand that this will vary from case to case and from class to class but do you have to put in a lot of hours into studying in order to graduate with a 3.0 GPA? Or do most professors just let everyone slide with a B grade?

    Many thanks!

    1. At Yonsei, as far as I know, there is no quota for grades below an A- (B, C, etc). All other students can get grades in the B range (B-, B, B+) and I think in smaller classes they often all do get Bs. In larger classes, or when it’s clear that someone hasn’t put in the work necessary they will give lower grades.

      Other schools may have quotas for Bs and below. In that case, yes, the requirements for a B or C may be higher if others do very well. You can basically think of it as if your grade is based on class rank. The important thing is not the percentage but how many people are above or below you.

    1. Normally the TOPIK results are valid for two years from the day they are released, not from the day you took the test, so they would still be valid when you apply. If you are using the results to show your Korean proficiency and not to place out of language study (Level 5 and above) then this would almost certainly be fine. If you want to place out of language study they might be more picky, though I would think if the result is still valid at the time of application they should take it… If you’re unsure I would ask NIIED directly.

  8. wow, i just read your blog, you got KGSP scholarship. That’s amazing. How many times you apply for KGSP? I had apply twice, failed and still wanna try to apply again in 2017. I had apply twice by embassy track and didn’t make it. Do u think i need to try by university track? I don’t know we can applying in GSIS. You are apply in GSIS, so you don’t need to take 1 year Korean Language Program? And did you have and send published papers or awards when you applied?

    1. So many questions 🙂

      I applied once, so I was lucky. Some countries have more competition than others, so it doesn’t hurt to try a different method.

      You can apply to any school/department in the KGSP list. That includes several GSIS. But whether you need Korean for your studies or not, you still need to do the language year before you start.

      I did not send published papers, but send them if you have them. It’s less important for a Master’s degree and more important for a PhD.

    2. and one more question what major do you take? if I’m an IT bachelor, do u think its okay if i take GSIS such as International management? I wonder if it will affect the selecting process, because it’s not related.

      1. Mine is International Security and Foreign Policy, which is unrelated to my bachelor’s degree. All you have to do is convince them that you are interested in the new major, and possibly that you have some relevant experience.

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