KGSP Updates – 2017

I’ve been responding to people’s comments, but I haven’t written in a long time. There have been some significant changes, so I do want to update some of the things I’ve said in the past. If you are applying to KGSP yourself, you should make sure you read the instructions for the year in which you are applying carefully and thoroughly yourself before sending in your application.

  1. There is still a regional university option for people in Natural Science and Engineering fields from certain countries. For more on this option see my 2015 post here.
  2. Always double check the available universities. They change slightly each year. (For example, this year Ajou University appears not to be on the list.) The same goes for countries and their quotas.
  3. Good news for people who have studied abroad in Korea! While there used to be a rule that people who studied abroad in Korea were not able to apply for KGSP, that rule no longer applies. If you were an exchange student at a Korean university you will be able to apply to KGSP (page 7 of 2017 guidelines). If you did a full degree in Korea (Bachelor, Master, or PhD) then you are still unable to apply, unless you were a KGSP scholar at that time. For former KGSP scholars, you may apply again for a higher degree program, but only through the Embassy quota.
  4. They seem to have strengthened the language on GPA. Those with GPAs under 80% or the equivalent will be automatically disqualified. They also require an official explanation from your university describing the “university’s evaluation system as well as the applicant’s academic achievement” (page 7) if either A) your transcript doesn’t include GPA info or B) your grades cannot be easily converted to a 4.0, 4.3, 4.5, 5.0 or percentage scale. This would seem to mean that you can’t use third-party conversion services, it must come from your uni.
  5. They specifically disallow use of the TOEFL ITP to show English proficiency. The ITP has always been for internal evaluation purposes and not for outside certification purposes. If you want to submit English test scores you will need to take the IBT (or PBT/CBT if those are what is available) or the TOEIC or IELTS.
  6. Other people who might get preference include the following. Remember, “preference” most likely means a couple points added to your score. (For example, the self-intro and statement of purpose are worth 10 points each. The other parts of the application are likely also worth some undetermined number of points.) So if you are an extremely strong candidate in a field that doesn’t get any preference then you still have a chance over a weaker candidate from a “preferred” field. Don’t give up just because you may have less “preference.”
    1. Applicants in natural science, technology and engineering
    2. Applicants for majors included in the Industrial Professionals Training Project of the Korean Government. This is a slightly more specific version of the STEM fields above and includes various high-tech fields like biotech, semiconductors and LED technology.
    3. Faculty from higher education institutions in countries to which Korea gives ODA.
    4. Descendants of Korean War vets.
  7. Changes to required documents:
    1. They give very specific requirements for the length of the Self-Introduction (or personal statement) and Statement of Purpose (including study plan and future plan). You must use Times New Roman size 10 font. Your self-introduction letter must be one page or less. Your Statement of Purpose should use the same font type and be two pages or less (including both study plan and future plan).
    2. You need TWO recommendation letters. (It used to be just one.) They should be able to comment on your academic abilities.
    3. You need an “original copy” of all diplomas or transcripts. That is kind of an oxymoron – it can’t be both original and a copy, can it? Remember never send your actual diploma, you will not get it back. You should get an official copy from your university (from my experience it should be in the form of a certificate, the closer to your actual diploma the better), or if that is not possible, have a copy of the original notarized or apostilled.
    4. Certificate of Korean Citizenship Renunciation and Adoption documents are “optional” in the sense that not everyone has to submit them, but they are a “must” if they apply to you (i.e. if your parents or yourself ever had Korean citizenship, or if you are a Korean adoptee).
    5. Notarize ALL photocopies. Including passport, etc.
    6. If you are applying through the University track, you only need to submit ONE set of original documents. If you are applying through the Embassy track, you still need one set of originals, and THREE sets of photocopies. You must get four sets of all sealed documents. This means that you should ask your professors or other recommenders to make three copies of their recommendation and seal each one, plus the original in four separate envelopes. Transcripts should also be in sealed envelopes and you should get four copies from your university.
  8. They have gone back to explicitly stating that students who get TOPIK 5 or 6 in the first six months may start their degree program in March. This was always the case, though they stopped talking about it briefly in the 2015 application guidelines.
  9. For the language year, they state that you can live off campus (outside the dormitories) if you have TOPIK level 3 or above.

These are just some of these changes. For other advice and requirements see my other blog entries and the comments. Good luck with your applications or future applications!

Starting a new journey

Sometimes timing is not on your side.

Along with moving to a new country, I decided to embark on a new journey of another kind.  After almost 11 years in Japan, nearly 8 of them as an “international exchange coordinator” at a private high school, I have decided to try to go back to school as a student myself.  So I am applying to graduate school in Korea, my new adopted country.  First, I am applying for a fairly well known scholarship there (which shall remain nameless for the time being).

I thought I was all prepared.  My transcripts were ordered last year, along with proof of graduation from my university.  I asked my former professor for a recommendation.  I finished filling out the forms based on last year’s application before this year’s application package was even available.  I got my TOPIK scores and even my JLPT scores for good measure.

And then I waited… and waited… and waited.

The recommendation did not come.

I emailed my professor more than once, and she assured me it would be fine.

But it still didn’t come.

I eventually realized that she was planning a big international conference set to take place the weekend before my deadline.  Bad timing.

And I was leaving to take students to New Zealand 10 days before my deadline, so I really needed to get that recommendation before leaving home for three weeks.  Bad, bad timing.

It didn’t come, but being the resourceful person I am, I sent my whole application to my parents, and had the professor do the same.  They put the whole thing together and sent it off to New York, and the first selection committee.  Better than having everything sent once to Japan, and then sending it back to America.  Crisis one averted.

I got confirmation that the application had arrived on the Friday before the Tuesday deadline.  Phew!

This was quickly followed by an email saying that the proof of graduation I had requested from my university was not suitable because it was in “letter form” and not “certificate form.”  Something about making sure the credentials aren’t fake and all that.  Not that certificates can’t be faked.  And I submitted a signed, sealed transcript from the university as well.

But if they want a certificate then I should send a certificate, right?  Only one problem… I’m in New Zealand.  And I have no idea where my diploma is.  (Okay, two problems.)  My first best guess is that the diploma is still at my parents’ house, where it was sent after I graduated.  This is also the best case scenario because, well, I’m in New Zealand, so if it’s at my house in Japan then there is no way to look for it until the end of the month.  I send my parents on a search of their house to look for the diploma.  And they come up with nothing.

My mom has no recollection of the diploma being sent to them (it was) and asks, “Didn’t you get your diploma at graduation?”  To which I reply, “No, I just got a translation at graduation.  They sent the real ones later.”  Wait, what?  Translation?  Sh**!  My diploma is in Latin!!  So I have to get a copy of my diploma, which has gone AWOL, and I have to get it translated?  And I’m in New Zealand.  And as if this all wasn’t bad enough I am leaving to take the kids to the wilderness, with no phone or internet for a week.  Bad, bad, bad timing.

A replacement diploma will take 4-6 weeks, and still be in Latin.  Now it’s the weekend and I can’t get any answers until Monday, and by that time I’ll be incommunicado.  So I send email to my uni about the translation, and email to the scholarship committee explaining the situation, and I leave for a week.  (Though fortunately for me, with the time difference it’s actually still Friday in New York when I get back.)

When I do get back I find a pdf of a nice notarized translation sitting in my inbox, and an email from the selection committee saying that they’ll send my application to the main selection committee in Korea, and if they need more they’ll contact me.  Just in case, I ask my uni if there is anything more certificate-y than the letter, but not quite as work intensive (or Latin-y) as a true copy of my diploma, and they agree to make a certificate for me.  (Thank you, GU!  Though I feel like that will look just as fake as the letter… really frustrating because it’s real…)

All I can say is that so far this experience has been more frustrating than anything else.  The instructions were in English, but not overly clear (am I the only native speaker who has no idea what “confirmation of collation” is?  Collating is something my printer or copier does, putting pages in order…)  It said “documents should be presented in their original form,” so rather than trying to locate and copy my diploma, I sent an original document from my uni… and that turned out to bite me in the butt. I tried to ask questions early to avoid just such a situation.  When I emailed Korea they said ask the US.  When I asked the US they said email Korea.  I called DC once and they said call New York.  I called New York and they said call Korea.

But if it all works out it should be more than worth it, and at the moment I’m still hopeful.

And just in case the scholarship doesn’t work out, I am trying to prepare my applications for the individual universities, and I’ll hope for private scholarships from them.  I’ll find out about the scholarship the day after I move to Korea, and then have another two weeks to make their deadlines.  Hopefully timing is on my side from here on.

The pictures are from New Zealand.  This is my seventh and last time bringing kids here, and I have to admit I will miss it.