Uneven tweaks to college admissions irk studentsUniversities in Korea have begun to announce revised guidelines for their admissions processes next spring as high school seniors struggle with the effects of monthslong school closures, but many students and teachers are complaining about the inconsistency of the changes.
Grievances so far have been concentrated on an admissions program dubbed hakjong in Korean, which focuses on applicants’ extracurricular activities, rather than relying on their score on the College Scholastic Ability Test (CSAT), a chief barometer for college applicants trying to gain admissions through the normal track.
Hakjong is part of the early admissions track.
It wasn’t until May 20 that 12th graders began going to school for face-to-face classes after weeks restricted to online learning in their homes, which is why students had hoped universities would take that into consideration when revising their admissions guidelines for the spring of 2021, when the next batch of college freshmen start the school year.
During a radio interview on June 9, Education Minister Yoo Eun-hae said the government was asking universities for “cooperation” in making sure high school seniors aren't disadvantaged by the coronavirus pandemic.
Several major universities in Seoul have recently begun to announce their revised guidelines for hakjong, but they barely seem to reflect the difficulties high school seniors have coped with this year, some critics say.
Yonsei University, based in Sinchon, western Seoul, said it wouldn’t grade hakjong applicants on the volunteer work they did in their senior year, the awards they received or the “creative activities” they were involved in. The same valuation criteria will be applied to those who already graduated from high school and are planning to apply for hakjong this year, Yonsei said.
Seoul National University said it would relax the minimum CSAT score for hakjong applicants to be admitted to the school.
But many other major schools have been far more vague with their criteria for hakjong applicants, and have been accused by students of stoking confusion.
Korea University in Seongbuk District, central Seoul, for example, only said it would “thoroughly consider” the fact that hakjong applicants this year had limited opportunities to participate in extracurricular activities due to disrupted classes. Other schools including Kyung Hee University, Sungkyunkwan University, Sogang University, Ewha Womans University and Hankuk University for Foreign Studies have all relayed similar statements.
A faculty member from Kyung Hee University in Dongdaemun District, eastern Seoul, said the school “already has a system that can reflect the circumstances of [each] student and school.”
An official from Sungkyunkwan University in Jongno District, central Seoul, raised the possibility of discriminating against students who placed extra emphasis on extracurriculars during the pandemic if the school decides to completely ignore extracurricular activities held out this year.
“It’s really difficult to shape new strategies for college admissions right now because we’re faced with many new variables,” said a high school teacher in Seoul, who requested anonymity. “I’m just waiting for other universities to announce their guidelines, too.”
Lee Yeong-deok, head of a CSAT research center, said the most anxious part of this all was that universities have yet to finalize their admissions processes. Lee added that the Ministry of Education or the Korean Council for University Education should compile all the changes from each school and make an official announcement on them as soon as possible.
BY NAM YOON-SEO [firstname.lastname@example.org]
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