What is SKY and Suneung(CSAT)? And which school should I go to?

Study Blog Series | Inku

May 13, 2019

Hi! I'm back again with another blog about universities in Korea. Some of you might have heard the term ‘SKY’ or ‘Suneung’. In order to explain that term, I will introduce you to education in Korea and its structure. It's important to understand how Koreans perceive education and the society that revolves around it. While I can't choose what university you should go to, I hope this introduction to Korean education system will provide you enough information to put you in the same position as a typical Korean student.


Education is considered one of the most crucial and important parts of your life. Many Koreans believe that a good education is directly related to success. Getting into one of the top universities in Korea is often the most important goal of high school students and their parents. From as early as elementary school, parents prepare their children to go to the top universities. This issue was highlighted in a recent Korean drama called, “SKY castle”. It became one of Korea’s most viewed drama with 23.8% viewers in its last episode. Much of its success was because this drama shed light on the dark side of education in Korea where people put too much emphasis on their children’s university entrance. While it is true that such excessive interest is negative, it shows the competitive nature of education in Korea and its importance in the Korean community. Hence, the education standard in Korea doesn't fall behind compared to other countries in the world.


Just like many American schools, the typical education in Korea starts from kindergarten, 6 years of primary school, 3 years of middle school, 3 years of high school then to universities or college. The most important transition is from high school to university as mentioned earlier. Students take Suneung (수능) or the CSAT (College Scholastic Aptitude Test) to decide which Universities to go to. In this CSAT, students are tested on their Korean, Mathematics, English, History, Second Language, Humanities/Science/Specialized Job. This test is so important that during the listening part of the test, all flights are delayed and if the students are running late, police motorcycles drive them to the test location. Number grades are given based on a certain percentile such as 1st grade (1 등급deungeub) followed by 2nd grade (2 등급deunggeub) and so on. Based on the grades, students are eligible to enroll in a university. You require an all 1st grade score to get into the top universities in Korea. These students who do make it to the top universities are considered the top 1~3 percentile of students in Korea.


People often mention ‘SKY’ when talking about the top universities in Korea (Hence, the title ‘SKY castle’). ‘SKY’ is a term for grouping Seoul National University (SNU), Korea University, and Yonsei University. These 3 universities are often the dream schools for many high school students. In terms of QS South Korea Rankings 2019 posted by topuniversity.com, KAIST is ranked first, followed by, SNU, Korea, SKKU, Yonsei, POSTECH, Hanyang, Kyunghee and many more. Though the rankings have shown changes over the years, SNU, KU and Yonsei University are still regarded as one of the best schools in Korea. Do not get me wrong, schools such as KAIST, POSTECH, SKKU, and other universities are all fantastic schools and are the best in their own ways. (In fact, KAIST and POSTECH are the best engineering schools in Korea and only the best of the best enter these schools) However, when speaking in general term, SKY remain the top universities in Korea and their CSAT score cutline proves this point. 


So how expensive are these Universities? According to the Ministry of Education in Korea, The current average tuition fee in Korea for Universities is 6,696,000 KRW (=5640 USD) per year, 5,789,500 (=4876 USD) for Junior/Community College and 4,212,700 (=3548 USD) for Graduate Universities. Each University has different tuition rates based on its courses. And it may range as low as 1,100 USD to as high as 10,800 USD and 20,900 USD for certain Graduate degrees. (this value was provided by NIIED).


In order to find out more about your school of interest, you may use http://www.academyinfo.go.kr/index.do and http://www.studyinkorea.go.kr/en/sub/overseas_info/request/universityList.do to search about your school. These websites will provide you with the type of scholarships available from the school, facilities, and the numbers of the school at a glance. I strongly suggest you look into this and also the respective school’s website to help you know more about the school. 


Although it may seem difficult for Korean students to be admitted to the top university in Korea, I personally found that it is relatively easier for international students to be admitted to prestigious universities. With such opportunities, I suggest you search more about the universities that might interest you and find out which school suits you best.

Thank you for reading this post! I will continue to put an effort to provide you with any useful information. If there are any changes or mistakes that you want to mention, feel free to email me at (wakandasian@gmail.com). You can email me personally if there are any questions as well and I will give a reply either through the blog or personally.



Life of an international student in Korea


Hi! My name is Inku and this is my blog for foreigners willing to study in Korea. A little something about myself, I am a Korean who studied in Indonesia for 12 years and in Singapore for another 7 years. Then, I came back to Korea to complete my university here. Currently, I'm studying at Underwood International College (UIC) in Yonsei University. Being overseas for almost my whole life, I understand the struggles of international students living in Korea. Luckily, thanks to my ethnic background and familiarity with the country's culture, I could find my way of adjusting to life in Korea. In this blog, I want to share with you my information that international students need so that you know what to expect from studying in Korea and to prepare and adjust.