Seoul National is considered the best, by rankings and reputation, and Korea University and Yonsei University are second and third depending on whom you ask. (Yonsei enthusiasts will often tell you that the acronym is actually SYK).
Many children in Korea pin their hopes on attending these schools.
I visited an English class at Sindong Middle School in an affluent neighborhood in southern Seoul, during which the students stood up one at a time to give a short speech about where their lives would be 20 years from now. Their speeches went something like this:
First student: I was born in Seoul in 1995. I graduated from Sindong Middle School in 2011 and entered Seoul National University in 2014.
I learned about broadcasting and sports. I am living a happy life with my wife and family. My wife is a homemaker and my child is 11-years old.
Second student: I was born in 1995. I graduated from Sindong Middle School in 2011. I entered Korea University from 2014 where I studied pharmacy. Now I am living a happy life with my wife and child.
Third student: I was born in Seoul in 1995. I graduated from Sindong Middle School in 2011. I entered Seoul National University in 2014 and majored in management. I inherited my father's company. I have one wife and two sons.
In reality it's getting harder and harder to gain admission to these top schools. The rate of 25 to 34-year olds who have college degrees is 56 percent, the second highest among OECD nations. It's far above the OECD average of 34 percent and the U.S. rate of 40 percent. It's also the fastest growing: The portion of 45-54 year olds with the same level of education is less than half, or 21 percent.
So the portion of students pursuing higher education is exploding. While the number of colleges and universities has also increased, the pressure to reach for the SKY continues to grow.
|Admissions office at Seoul National University|