“Continue the Glory of HAFS!,” the screen reads as applicants check their acceptance status to Hankuk Academy of Foreign Studies, now one of the most prestigious high schools in South Korea. This phrase is also told to students over and over again as they attend their freshmen orientations and start school life in HAFS. Living up to its respected reputation and ambitious motto “Put the World into Your Dreams”, Hankuk Academy of Foriegn Studies once again claims the throne for having the most acceptances into Seoul National University, widely considered to be Korea’s number one university.
This result was announced on January 15th in a study conducted by the education-focused newspaper Veritas Alphas. The results for scheduled admission to Seoul National University had been announced the previous day. According to the article, there are currently 79 accepted students from Hankuk Academy of Foreign Studies. This number includes 47 students accepted through both the nonscheduled process and 32 students accepted through the scheduled admissions process. Following HAFS are Seoul Arts High School (75 students), Seoul Science High School (74 students), Daewon Foreign Language School (70 students), Hana High School (61 students), Kyeonggi Science High School (58 students), Sangsan High School (55 students), Daegu Science High School (46 students), Korea Minjok Leadership Academy (41 students), and Sehwa High School. The data is pliable to change for there are graduates that haven’t been taken into account.
Why is this data significant? Though it only contains a small portion of a high school’s performance, it still reveals the competitiveness of a school and serves as one method of high school ranking by showing the acceptance rate into the nation’s most sought-after college. It also gives valuable information to students, parents, and schools regarding the changing trend in college entrance, allowing them to plan their college path more wisely.
This year, as the list of the top 10 schools that turned out students who got into Seoul National University shows, autonomous private high schools display great advantage over public schools. Even if the list is extended to top thirty schools, only four public high schools enters the list. Considering that there are around 2,500 high schools in Korea, and 1,500 public high schools excluding special-purpose high schools, private high schools, and vocational schools, public schools take up a very amount of the list. In fact, even the percentage of students from public high schools is shown to be below half (49.7%) as autonomous private high schools performed surprisingly well in the 2015~2016 school year.
The report also gives an insight into HAFS’ admissions strategy. Most schools on the list show lopsided strength in nonscheduled admissions, which looks into student’s GPA, school ranking, activities, and essays. These include arts high schools (Seoul Arts High School), science high schools (Seoul Science High School, Kyeonggi Science High School, Daegu Science High School), Hana High School, and Korea Minjok Leadership Academy. Some schools like Sangsan High School demonstrate strength in scheduled admissions, which regards scores from CSAT, South Korea’s nation-wide college entrance exam. Noting other school’s biased focus, HAFS’ distribution of the students, on the other hand, is quite even, with 47 acceptances through the nonscheduled process and 32 acceptances through the scheduled one. As colleges move towards selecting more students through the nonscheduled process with all top three colleges in Korea, Seoul National University, Korea University, Yonsei University (aka. SKY), recruiting over 70% of its students through the nonscheduled process, most private and special-purpose high schools are following the trend; however, HAFS is keeping a balanced focus on both application processes. Just like Mr. Park, a teacher and the director of Domestic seniors at HAFS, points out in his interview with Chosun Edu, “By (making use of both methods – nonscheduled and scheduled application), students are given a better possibility of getting accepted than they would have if they focus all-in on one process.” HAFS is making sure that students get both opportunities, and thus better chances of getting into top schools, through education, programs, and student activities.
Though HAFS topped the nation’s list for acceptance into SNU this year, whether or not HAFS will be able to keep this crown is uncertain. For many HAFS students, the highlight of student life is often regarded as “autonomous student activities.” It is also what gives private schools a certain advantage over public ones. The focus on student activities seems to be shifting, however, as teachers actually discourage students from participating in clubs. Last year, a freshman admitted that the head teacher told students to “not apply for student organizations but rather use that time to focus on raising grades up” during the orientation. While grades are important, so are student activities, especially when it comes to nonscheduled admission which is growing in importance. Rather than dissuade students from participating, teachers should present students with lessons on managing their time and selecting main activities that they actually need.
Currently, there is a growing concern among students as student organizations receive very few applications compared to the years before, making it difficult to continue the activity. In Facebook, many club leaders lament the lack of applications, calling for incoming freshmen to apply without feeling afraid or burdened. Though the promotion began on January 20th, even now, some student clubs report having no applications at all. HAFS prides in the diversity of its student organizations which now exceed two hundred. It’s now time for the school to encourage the culture, show support for it, and work together with students to make it more sophisticated. This way, students will truly be able to continue the glory of HAFS.
BY Jiin Jeong ’17