Here’s everything you need to know about the Global Korea Scholarship
Studying in Korea can get expensive, but there are ways for students to get some financial help with a range of scholarships offered by universities, embassies or other institutions — the most coveted being the Global Korea Scholarship (GKS).
For students like Beata Silfvernagel, a new GKS scholar, the grant is their ticket back to Korea. Silfvernagel first came to Korea in 2020 for language studies and was excited about the opportunity to come back.
“I wanted to go to Korea, but I did not know how,” said Silfvernagel, “I was adamant that I would go, but I would have had to take out student loans to fund studying abroad.”
The GKS is a government scholarship created by the National Institute for International Education (Niied) and is offered to 200 prospective undergraduates and 1,080 prospective graduate students on average per year.
Silfvernagel is currently studying a year of language studies before enrolling as a full-time student at Ewha Womans University.
Currently, prospective undergraduates and graduates from 67 nationalities can apply for the scholarship. Applicants with a previous grade point average above 80 percent and adequate mental and physical health can apply for the grant through their Korean embassy or directly with the partnering university they wish to enroll at.
The GKS is competitive — the quota per country varies, with most only accepting one applicant. As such, students can apply multiple times before being selected for the scholarship.
“Sweden only has one spot,” said Silfvernagel. “The overall process is quite intense. When I finally got the email, I cried. It was such a relief.”
To get accepted, students pass two to three screening rounds. For those on the embassy track, a first selection round is done by their embassy, another by Niied, and a final one by the universities they selected. For those on the university track, there are two screenings, one by the university and another by Niied.
“The most important part, I believe, is to get selected by the embassy,” said Silfvernagel. “Once they selected me, I felt like I had the backing of the embassy.”
The grant covers 900,000 won ($660) in monthly living expenses and other costs throughout the stay, such as tuition fees, health insurance, a 200,000 won settlement allowance, airfare and additional fees.
GKS scholars’ monthly allowance differs according to their degree — associate and bachelors students receive 900,000 won, masters and doctoral students receive 1,000,000 won, and research program scholars receive 1,500,000 won.
The GKS program has strict regulations. Once accepted, students must spend up to a year in a Korean language institute and obtain Topik level 3. Failing to meet such requirements might lead scholars to lose their scholarships. Those enrolled in a degree program that have a Topik level 5 or above are granted the “Award for Excellent Korean Language Proficiency,” an additional 100,000 won to their monthly allowance during the period their Topik score is valid for.
“There is a whole rulebook — the first year, we cannot leave the country unless it is an absolute emergency,” said Silfvernagel. “We also are not allowed to work.”
GKS alumni like Isna Zakiah, who attended Seoul National University for a master’s in forest science, enjoyed their stay in Korea and feel like being part of the scholarship has allowed them to expand their professional opportunities.
“Receiving the grant shows future employees that you have worked in a multinational setting, highlighting your application,” said Zakiah.
The application period varies per embassy and university; applicants must inquire to their respective university or embassy to find out more. For 2023 GKS scholars, the application period announcement is expected by Sept. 17, with the application submission deadline anticipated by October.
Niied also offers exchange students financial aid worth 500,000 won per month, a settlement allowance of 200,000 won, and medical insurance and airfare coverage.
Exchange students at universities partnering with GKS for the foreign exchange program can apply for the scholarship and will be informed if they are accepted about a month before their departure. The exact application period is up to the universities, but the expected period for the 2023 program is scheduled for November 2022.
There are over 40 affiliated universities, but the list updates yearly, so it is best for students to contact the university they are interested in.
This year, Niied is also launching the Global Korea Scholarship Invitation Program for International Students, which invites undergraduate students from official development assistance countries to study in Korea for one or two semesters and financially supports them.
The program provides a 500,000 won monthly allowance and a one-time 200,000 won settlement allowance, as well as covers tuition, airfare and medical insurance. Students must be academically excellent and have shown interest in Korea, having taken at least one course relevant to Korean culture or language.
I have studied in Korea as an exchange student. Am I eligible to apply for this program?
Yes. You are eligible to apply. However, those with a high school diploma issued by a Korean high school (including international schools) or those with an associate degree issued by a Korean university are not eligible to apply.
I am planning to graduate from high school in early March. May I apply for the 2023 GKS-U program?
No, you are not eligible to apply. Only those who have already graduated or are expect to graduate by Feb. 28, 2023, are eligible to apply for the program.
My country is not listed in the application guidelines. Can I apply for the 2023 GKS-U program?
The quota allocation is decided based on mutual agreements on cultural and educational cooperation between Korea and the participating countries. Even though your country is not listed in the GKS undergraduate degrees program, your country may be listed in the GKS graduate degrees program. All applicants must hold citizenship of a GKS partner country except for applicants to the GKS-UIC program. GKS-UIC program is open to citizens of all countries around the world except Korea. Applicants of the GKS-UIC program must directly apply to their designated universities since it is only available under a university track.
The grades in my transcript/school report are different from the GPA scales in the guidelines. How should I submit my CGPA? Can I use the scores I converted from a grade conversion website such as scholaro.com?
If your grades do not belong to any of the accepted GPA scales (4.0, 4.3, 4.5, 5.0 or 100 point scale), then you must submit additional documents describing your grading system officially issued by your school/university or a government agency (e.g., Ministry of Education) and provide a converted grade confirmed by the school/university.
I meet all the application requirements listed in the application guidelines. Does this mean that I am qualified to apply to all GKS partner universities?
Not necessarily. The application requirements indicated in the application guidelines are the minimum requirement to apply for the GKS program. Some universities and departments may have additional requirements such as a certain level of language proficiency.
When is the deadline for applications?
Each embassy/university has their own application period. Please check the website of each institution to find out the application deadline. Since each embassy/university that conducts the first round of selection may have different application submission guidelines, please check with the embassy/university regarding any submission related inquiries such as application deadline, etc.
What can I do to increase my chances?
Since the grant is highly competitive, having a good portfolio and excellent academics is a must. In addition, it is important to show your enthusiasm when applying, whether it be in person or through correspondence. Showing high interest and enthusiasm for the program, as well as why going to Korea aligns with your future endeavors, will help your application.
Where do I get more information about GKS grants?
StudyinKorea.go.kr is where information is updated on the grant. You need to keep an eye out for the notice board. However, most deadlines are up to the embassy and universities’ discretion, so make sure to contact them directly for updates. Sometimes, information is uploaded on social media, but sometimes it is shared on the embassy or university’s official website. Keep an eye on the websites, as you might find yourself missing crucial information if you’re only watching social media.
BY LAURA SENIOR PRIMO [firstname.lastname@example.org]