The perfectly symmetrical Gothic buildings of Korea University (KU) resemble a splendid castle, making students feel as if they just came out from J. K. Rowling’s renowned novel series. Throughout their college lives, KU students play hard and study hard; after graduation, seniors and juniors help each other with strong bond forged during their college years. Because of this distinct school spirit KU has been one of the dream schools for many high school students. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that KU’s introduction of a new admission system is quickly becoming a hot potato in high schools across the country.
President Moon Jae-in has brought drastic changes since his inauguration. Besides changes in employment policies, such as minimum wage increase and blind resumes, the administration has been enforcing new education policies as well. In particular, Moon promised to change College Scholastic Aptitude Test (CSAT)’s evaluation method, from relative evaluation to absolute evaluation. In addition to bringing the credits system used in colleges to high schools, the government also seeks to change the existing nine-grade scoring system to fivegrade scoring system. All of these measures have one thing in common; to weaken private education and CSAT, while strengthening the role of public education provided in high schools.
Changing Policy, Responding KU
▲ Provided by Korea University
In response, KU has recently introduced significant changes to its admission process, which includes abolishing essay-type examination, reducing special admissions and regular admissions. In essay-type examinations, students were given academic statements and had to write appropriate answers. Although 1,040 students were admitted last year this way, which makes it the largest among the various types of admission, it has been completely abolished this year. The quota allocated for special admission, which admits students who exhibit outstanding performances in academics or the field of arts and sports, has also been reduced from 616 to 460. Regular admission, which is mostly determined by CSAT score, is also going to admit 300 less students.
These changes in the admission system seem to have an underlying goal. The school is placing more weight on in-school activities. With such a huge reduction in the quota of aforementioned categories, it begs the question how the school plans to fill this gap. According to KU Admissions (KUA), the quota allocated for rolling admissions1 will be drastically increase instead. In rolling admissions, various aspects of student life, such as Grade Point Average (GPA) and extracurricular activities, which reveal one’s aptitude in a certain field, are considered holistically. Specifically, KU has come up with three kinds of rolling admissions1): Standard, High School Recommendation I, and High School Recommendation II which varies by the weight placed on GPA, student records, minimum CSAT grades, and interviews.
At the core of these three kinds of rolling admissions is student records, not CSAT scores, foreign language proficiency, or awards from outside competitions. “It is true that students in regular high school are in difficult positions to apply for special admissions. If KU admits more students through rolling admissions, they will have higher acceptance rate since GPAs and in-school activities are taken into account,” Lee So Yeon (’17, Statistics), who was admitted to KU through rolling admission this year, shows her optimistic view toward KU’s new admissions. “I assume that students will have more opportunities to discover their suitability for certain majors with rolling admission,” explained Lee.
Student Records, How Reliable Are They?
However, some raise concerns about the legitimacy of rolling admissions, especially regarding the credibility of student records. It is inevitable that all high schools differ in their locations and goals. This lead to qualitative and quantitative discrepancies in student records. Specifically, students in prestigious high schools argue that they are at a disadvantage to obtain higher GPAs and to be nominated for school’s recommendation. Meanwhile, regular high school students rebut that even if they try their best to dedicate themselves to their school lives, a large gap exists in scales and level of activities that are available in special purpose high schools compared to regular high schools.
What is more, although teachers are in charge of writing students’ strengths and weaknesses based on their observation, it is naturally impossible to write thorough records for 30 or more students. This is where the so-called self-student records creep in, the records that are written by students themselves, not teachers. “I also have experienced self-student record. The teachers gave out papers and asked us to write down the information that the students want to include in their records. Students writing the teachers’ comments by themselves is definitely not in line with the initial aim of rolling admissions of rolling admissions,” Kim Taeri, a high school senior spoke up when asked about the phenomenon.
Kim also showed his doubt toward rolling admissions, in that it requires the activities of a student to be relevant to a particular major throughout one’s entire school life. “I began studying hard for CSAT in my senior year, hoping to get into KU. However, with the KU’s new admissions, the door became extremely narrow.” With all these question marks, it seems that rolling admissions are in their transition period. To address these concerns, teachers and students’ integrity in writing student records is necessary.
The intended purpose of rolling admissions is surely constructive. In regular admissions, students had to study all day in study rooms, cramming for exams. When they apply for university, CSAT cut-off points were the major factor when choosing one’s major, rather than academic interest. In rolling admissions, students can engage in various activities to explore their career options and enter university to study majors of their interest. However, only when the institutional loopholes with regard to the credibility of student records are addressed can KU bring in the best and brightest minds.
1) Originally, rolling admissions include special admissions and student recordbased admissions. However, in this article, term rolling admissions is used as student record-based admissions.