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How to Get a Scholarship in Korea

Jason Park
Published by: Jason Park
Last updated:

Obtaining funding for the school is a huge undertaking, and nothing about the process guarantees you’ll receive it. 

Therefore, this article will detail the steps to getting a scholarship in Korea. 

This includes understanding how scholarships operate there, which ones are most popular for international students, finding the right ones and how to apply for scholarships.

This is an important and crucial step in affording school, so this part is serious. Any fault, misstep, or failure can result in not getting the scholarship.

That means you’ll have wasted all your time, money, and effort.

Overview of How to Get a Scholarship in Korea

But please keep in mind that each scholarship application is unique and individual. None will be the same process or have the same requirements. 

Therefore, use this as a guideline to help you research, organize and submit your application. Make adjustments or additions wherever you think it’s appropriate.

  • Understanding How Scholarships Operate in Korea
  • Locating the Right Scholarships for Your Studies
    • At the School/University of Application
    • From the Korean Government
    • From Your Home Country
    • From Your Current School, Employer, or Hometown
    • Scholarship Consultants & Agencies
  • Common & Popular Scholarships in Korea
    • Professors’ Projects
  • How to Apply for a Scholarship in Korea
    • Researching & Organizing
    • Begin with the Soonest Deadline
    • The Essay Is Most Important
    • Letters of Recommendation
    • Getting Your Application to Stick Out
    • Be Appropriate in Your Efforts
    • Send Your Application Early
    • Double Check Everything

Understanding How Scholarships Operate in Korea

While scholarships will help to lower costs, they are difficult to obtain in Korea. 

This is due mostly to the thousands of other foreign students also applying and the small number available for study-abroad students. 

Also, in the chance you do win a scholarship, it’s not likely to be a full one.

In fact, full scholarships are incredibly rare for undergraduates. The possibility does increase for master’s and doctoral degrees, but even that still comes down to the luck of the draw. 

One thing is clear, while Korea wants international students at their schools, they also only want those that are exceptional in some way.

The following list lays out the kinds of students most likely to receive a scholarship (either full or partial):

  • Proficient in Skills: If a student can display skills at things like music, art, science, math, sports, or other such subjects, many universities in Korea will give a scholarship. Some may even offer a direct discount on tuition and/or course materials.
  • Academic Talent: Anyone with an exemplary academic record has an excellent chance of receiving a scholarship. This will be especially true if the student excels on the entrance exams. Something to consider is applying to a school that isn’t at the top. They want outstanding students to help improve their image and are looser about their scholarship awards.
  • Experienced Students: Students who display superb academics and experience in their chosen field definitely have an easier time applying for a scholarship. Here, they’ll get a job as a professor’s assistant in exchange for reimbursement. However, this can vary& some cover living costs, others give an actual salary, and yet a few provide free/discounted tuition.
  • Impoverished Students: Many scholarships in Korea will inquire about a student’s economic status, which will often involve the family’s finances too. Anyone who fits these criteria may be able to get two scholarships to help offset the cost of tuition. These usually come from a current school and the one in Korea.
  • Minorities: If a student is already going to school in places like Canada, the US or Great Britain, they may be able to get a scholarship based on their minority status. But, these will be for brief educational experiences and not for entire degrees.
  • PhDs: Doctorate degrees have some of the best chances of receiving funding. Many Korean schools want to attract foreign students at the highest levels. These students can also apply for fellowship grants where the Korean government will support a specific research project. This is also true for companies, universities or other entrepreneurs.

Locating the Right Scholarships for Your Studies

There are several ways to find the right scholarship to match up with what you need. 

These will include the school you’re applying to, the Korean government, your home country, your current school or hometown, and/or scholarship consultants.

It’s in your best interest to look into all possible avenues to get as many as possible.

It will be a lot of hard work, but the more financial support you can gather, the better.

At the School/University of Application

Many schools in Korea welcome students from abroad, so it’s the best chance of getting a scholarship there. 

However, you must illustrate a real aptitude for your field of study and maintain excellent grades along with academic performance. Any failure in these will result in a loss of your scholarship.

It’s also important to understand that every school will have different requirements in order to apply for and win the scholarship. 

Some will require your proficiency in speaking Korean, while others may need a statement of purpose. In some cases, they’ll want both of these.

Additionally, some schools may not allow you to apply for a scholarship until after they’ve accepted you. 

This can cause some problems if you are on a tight budget and require the money ahead of time. Therefore, it’s ideal for applying for several scholarships at school and from other sources.

From the Korean Government

As will be discussed in more detail below, the Korean government has a couple of great for international students. However, you should know how to speak and read Korean well in addition to being able to offer something. Showing excellence in some way will definitely increase your chances of receiving a scholarship.

From Your Home Country

Many countries in the West offer scholarships to study in Korea. Several exchange organizations will set up your studies with schools, agencies, and other institutions connected directly to Korea. 

While there are often requisites attached to them, they do come in quite handy and are more accessible than you may think.

For instance, in the United States, there’s the Fulbright Scholarship along with the GI Bill that army vets can access. 

The US Department of Education also has a decent list of scholarships for studying abroad, some of which specifically mention Korea.

From Your Current School, Employer, or Hometown

Many high schools in places like Canada, the United States, and Europe have scholarship programs connected to Korea. 

If not, they may have resources for finding one suitable for your purposes.

Your employer may have something similar, as well as may your church, city, or other such association.

Because these opportunities will be more applicable to your location, not many people will know about them. 

This will result in a higher chance of receiving the reward since there won’t be nearly as much competition.

Scholarship Consultants & Agencies

A myriad of scholarship consultants, agencies, and databases can connect you to some money for funding your Korean education. 

Oftentimes there’s a fee involved, but it’s worth it in the event you’re having a difficult time trying to find enough qualifying scholarships.

However, you have to beware of scammers. One of the biggest red flags in this regard is when a company wants to charge a fee for applying to the scholarship of your choice.

Common & Popular Scholarships in Korea

Most scholarships available in Korea will come from an institution, organization, agency or the government itself. One of them is the Korean Government Scholarship (KGS), for any level of study, or the Korea International Cooperation Agency Fellowship (KOICA), for postgraduate studies/research.

Either one will require passing Korean Language Training and all accompanying exams before entering into a Master’s or PhD program. However, there is one other avenue and that is signing onto a professor’s project.

Professors’ Projects

University-level Korean instructors are under massive pressure to produce innovations in the field of which they teach. 

Therefore, they need funding from the government, and Korea provides many research opportunities. In some cases, they have to have a certain number and types of students in order to qualify.

It’s a much simpler process because the professor will agree to supervise the prospective student. 

If the student is successful in his or her participation, they’ll receive financial support for their studies. 

Plus, the student doesn’t need to pass Korean language training and exams before entering their studies.

How to Apply for a Scholarship in Korea

Once you collect around five to 10 appropriate scholarships, it’s then time to apply for them. But, it’s not as simple as filling out a form and just sending it in, although that will be part of it. 

The more scholarships you have, the more imperative it will be to organize your approach.

Researching & Organizing

While researching for scholarships, keep a notebook and pen handy. Make sure you write down the deadline and a brief listing of the requirements. 

These notes should also include the website address and the amount of the reward.

Make a notification of the upcoming deadlines on your smartphone, computer or another internet-connected device. 

Also, create a filing system to make things as smooth and flawless as possible. Then, for each scholarship, prioritize them according to the deadline – soonest to latest.

Next, print out all the instructions, forms and other necessary documentation to apply for the scholarship. 

Put these into the corresponding files. Create a checklist that will sit atop the information. This way, when you open it, everything you need to include in the application will be visible and immediately accessible.

Begin with the Soonest Deadline

Starting with the scholarship with the most recent deadline, begin satisfying the requirements. 

These will almost always require an essay along with school transcripts, letters of recommendation, a resume and any other financial aid you’re getting.

What’s great is that some documentation will be the same for several of the scholarships. So, you can cut corners in this regard. 

However, as tedious as it may seem, read the instructions several times before lifting a pen to paper or putting a stamp on an envelope.

It’s a good practice to understand thoroughly what the instructions are and be able to recall them without having to refer to them. 

Even still, read through them one more time right before you’re ready to submit so that you ensure you have everything.

The Essay Is Most Important

However, the essay portion of your application will be the most important aspect to secure it. 

This will not only display your personality but also your attitude, intelligence, and sincerity. 

Ensure you stay on the topic for what the scholarship is asking and within the word count requested (if any).

Also, hire an editor to look it over before you finalize and submit the essay. 

Using a separate set of eyes will put an unbiased touch on the writing, which will help clarify and flesh out your ideas. 

Taking a detailed approach like this will only glean the best results. Make sure the essay is passionate, engaging, personal, and revealing.

Letters of Recommendation

Your letters of recommendation will be the second most important aspect to your scholarship application. 

These should never come from a personal reference, unless the scholarship specifically asks for it. 

Usually, these will be from instructors, employers and/or coaches who know you and can discuss you in a professional way.

Of course, different scholarships will have varying requests around the specifics of such letters. 

Some have a particular word count while others will request personal contact information of the person writing the letter. 

It’s not uncommon for scholarship organizations to first contact your recommendations before they award you the money.  

If you have many scholarships you’re applying for, make sure you get enough signed copies from the person writing the recommendation. 

Remember, sending a thank you note or small gift to your recommendations shows your appreciation for their time and effort.

Getting Your Application to Stick Out

However, it’s not enough to simply satisfy the requisites of your application, you have to make it stand out. 

This will be especially true if you know many people are vying for it. Things like including a photo, using a special stamp or a brightly colored envelope are just some ways to do this.

Other things may include a social media presentation, like a YouTube video. Alternatively, you may want to include a slideshow presentation on a jump stick or other digital storage device. 

But, this will largely depend on the scholarship in question. For certain ones, it’s best to keep things formal and concise.

Be Appropriate in Your Efforts

Therefore, while doing your research on each scholarship, take notice of the company or organization offering it. 

What kind of image do they project and what is their mission statement? Are they formal and regimented or are they more modern and fun?

Having said all that, you don’t want to overdo it either. 

For instance, don’t put a handful of loose glitter or confetti into the envelope that will definitely decrease your chances. This may well annoy, frustrate or upset the recipient.

Send Your Application Early

Finally, make sure you apply to your scholarships well before the deadline. Not only will this provide you with peace of mind but it will also increase your chances of getting it.

Plus, other school formalities may request copies of such applications and these may have to happen prior to the scholarship’s deadline.

However, this is another point that many solely rely upon the scholarship. Some do not like to receive applications too far in advance of the deadline. So, pay attention to the instructions.

Double Check Everything

Before sending it off, review the individual checklist you created and the scholarship’s instructions to guarantee you have everything. 

This includes checking for signatures, contact details, and other finite items. 

Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for a prospective student to miss a minute detail like signing and dating the application.

Conclusion

Applying for a scholarship in Korea can be a long and painstaking process that will consume a lot of time and energy.

This is because most scholarships have thousands of people looking to get the same thing. 

But, this shouldn’t be discouraging quite the contrary. If you have something special and extraordinary to contribute, getting a scholarship can be an ennobling and confidence-building experience.

Even if you don’t get one in your first round of applications, keep trying until you do. 

Do not let perceived failure pave the way for misgivings or feelings that you’re not good enough. It’s merely a primer and introduction to the meaning of success and failure.

About The Author

Photo of author

Jason Park

Jason has been living in Seoul for over 4 years, and during that time, he has experienced many of the city's hidden stores. He loves to write about his experiences and share them with others. Jason has been quoted and referenced by different major media companies like Mashed, Distractify, ThePrint and TastingTable. In his free time, he likes to watch Korean dramas and learn more about Korean culture.

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