International / Asia Pacific
Elite Korean Schools, Forging Ivy League Skills
By SAM DILLON
Published: April 27, 2008

Two rigorous South Korean prep schools have achieved a spectacular record of admission to U.S. colleges.

This New York Times article doesn’t really surprise me based on my experiences, the experiences of my parents’ and the experiences of other second generation Koreans who were academically successful. Koreans believe that getting into a top university will make all the difference in one’s adult life and while this is somewhat true in Korea, in North America not so much. Koreans are willing to sacrifice sleep and any form of pleasure to achieve this.

It is 10:30 p.m. and students at the elite Daewon prep school here are cramming in a study hall that ends a 15-hour school day. A window is propped open so the evening chill can keep them awake. One teenager studies standing upright at his desk to keep from dozing.

And, oh yes. Both schools suppress teenage romance as a waste of time.

“What are you doing holding hands?” a Daewon administrator scolded an adolescent couple recently, according to his aides. “You should be studying!”

Still it is quite amazing the success rate of these prep schools.

This spring, as in previous years, all but a few of the 133 graduates from Daewon Foreign Language High School who applied to selective American universities won admission…

Their average combined SAT score was 2203 out of 2400. By comparison, the average combined score at Phillips Exeter, the New Hampshire boarding school, is 2085. Sixty-seven Daewon graduates had perfect 800 math scores.

South Koreans seem to have a special affinity for the universities of the United States. I meet Korean students all the time and they are not here for just the elite universities, they can be found at all levels.

South Korea is not the only country sending more students to the United States, but it seems to be a special case. Some 103,000 Korean students study at American schools of all levels, more than from any other country, according to American government statistics. In higher education, only India and China, with populations more than 20 times that of South Korea’s, send more students.

Strangely enough this year Harvard decided not to accept any of these elite students.

This year, Daewon and Minjok graduates are heading to universities like Stanford, Chicago, Duke and seven of the eight Ivy League universities — but not to Harvard. Instead, Harvard accepted four Korean students from three other prep schools.

And finally many Koreans can relate to this.

Ms. Kim developed fierce study habits early, watching her mother scold her older sister for receiving any score less than 100 on tests. Even a 98 or a 99 brought a tongue-lashing.

“Most Korean mothers want their children to get 100 on all the tests in all the subjects,” Ms. Kim’s mother said.

Can’t wait to send my kids to these schools. 😉

3 Responses to “I’ve found my childrens’ dream school”

ckumarad wrote a comment on April 28, 2008

I should send Jacob here to learn Korean and to get him into Stanford. He can then live with his cousins.

essny wrote a comment on May 4, 2008

I think you meant to write, “I found my dream school for my children” with an emphasis on the first “my.” 🙂

jiseon wrote a comment on May 5, 2008

“This year, Daewon and Minjok graduates are heading to universities like Stanford, Chicago, Duke and seven of the eight Ivy League universities — but not to Harvard. Instead, Harvard accepted four Korean students from three other prep schools.”

parents and students must be furious!

Care to comment?