So You Wanna Be a JET: Application Part 1

Hey JETsetters!

Welcome to my JET Programme application series! Here you’ll find some tips and advice on how to go about applying for the JET Program.

Quick intro about me.

At the time of writing, I am a 24-year-old upcoming U.S. JET for the 2019 intake. I applied for the program in 2018 and got short-listed on my first time applying.

I spent months riddled with anxiety about my application and waiting for results to come out in March/April 2019. During those months where I was nothing but a bundle of nerves, I spent every moment I could scouring the internet about any information I could get about the application process–from the application itself, to the Statement of Purpose (SOP), to the interview panel. I hit up all my friends and colleagues who either are currently on the program or once upon a time were living the JET life. Pretty sure they’re all tired of my nonstop questions by now. #sorrynotsorry

I figured that it would be helpful to post a bit about my experiences so far on and what helped me get into the program (or what might have hurt me).

Disclaimer: I am by no means an expert on the JET Program or how its application process is done. All the advice and situations discussed in this series will be primarily based off my own experiences, as well as those of my friends and colleagues that are or were a part of the program.

The JET Programme has 3 different positions offered.

Wait, three? Yes, you head read that right.

While the bulk of potential applicants end up being either an Assistant Language Teacher (ALT) or a Coordinator for International Relations (CIR), there is a third and more…exclusive position–Sports and Exchange Advisors (SEA). The first two are common knowledge and are what you are probably looking to apply for. SEAs do not go through the normal recruitment process. Instead of applying like us commoners, these guys need to be recommended by their home country’s National Olympic Committee. I have only known 1 SEA personally and it is an exclusive club to get into. These bad boys are already well-established professionals in the sporting world and their skills and achievements have gotten them recognised bilaterally and Japan wants them to help train their athletes. If you are a SEA, please take pity on me and teach me your skills–because I sports and I? We got into a fight a while back and still hasn’t made up.

In 2018, there were only a total of 12 SEAs participating in the program.

Now, back to the main two categories. If you’re interested in applying as an ALT or CIR, you’re in luck. The application is open to the public if your home country (or countries if you are a dual-national) has a bilateral agreement with Japan to participate in the JET Programme. Even better? The application is the same for both positions, albeit a few minor differences in the focus on teaching credentials, and entirely online (if you are in the U.S. or a commonwealth nation).

In 2018, there were 472 total CIRs and 5,044 ALTs.

As of the 2019 application process, most countries have the entire application now entirely done online. In the previous years, applicants have had to submit hardcopies of their application and all preliminary supplementary documents. This could all add up to be a tad costly, as you would be recommended to insure/register your documents to be certain they were received. More so, you had to make sure that your references would send in their own copies in time. With the entire process now being online, it has made the application much easier to track–from what documents you still needed to submit, to which references were received, to which sections still needed attention.

I have heard rumours that most countries are attempting to shift towards being entirely online for future intakes; however, this has yet to be officially verified. As of 2018-2019, most commonwealth countries and the U.S. have digitalised their applications.

Now to the nitty-gritty. I applied as a U.S. applicant, so there may be slight differences to your country’s. However, from what I have heard and seen from mutual, it was all the same overall. Things got more altered the further along in the process you got–typically after acceptance results are sent out.

The JET program receives hundreds of thousands of applications every year and there have never been more than 6,200+/- JETs a year. The number of JETs decreased significantly in the early 2000s when the Japanese government was debating on whether to cut funding for the program. Luckily, the LDP fought for JET and we’re still here and strong. Yay.

In 2018, there were just over 5,500 total JETs. This number includes both re-contracted and new JETS. Each country also has a number of how many JETs it sends. Some countries have higher allocations, some only send out a handful. The U.S. and most of the Commonwealth have a higher number of JETs, with the US being the highest. JET’s general stats have grouped the bulk of countries outside of the previously mentioned together, which only added up to just over 700 last year. You can sort of get the gist of just how competitive the program is by that number.

Basically, the program is highly competitive. Roughly only 20% or less of applicants get in each year. As such, it is vital to make your application stand out from the start. Your country’s embassy selection committee will be reviewing and judging you entirely based off your paper application first. If they like what they read, then you might get called in for an interview. This is your final chance to sell yourself. Best part? It’s in person–so you can let your personality shine through directly and make connections with your interviewers.

But first you must capture their attention just by an 8-10-page application that has most of the same information for everyone.

Know how to market your skills and achievements. Take a look at LinkedIn and make one for yourself if you haven’t already. Hit up your advisor or career centre if you are still in school for help. If you’re not in school anymore, you can ask your employer/HR department (if you are okay with them knowing you are looking for employment elsewhere so early in the game) or go to your local community centre or unemployment centre. Even a quick google search will pull up thousands of results on how to sell yourself. There is an abundance of resources available to you for this and you should take advantage of it in order to make yourself stand out as much as possible.

The application starts off simple.

What position you’re applying for, your interview location, basic personal information–the likes. Please be sure that all your information is correct and up-to-date at the time of application.

Be aware: If you have dual nationality with Japan and another country, you will be required to renounce your Japanese citizenship before you can participate in the program if selected. Make sure that JET is something that you are truly serious about if you fall into this category. It is already not easy to become a naturalised Japanese citizen; especially so should you renounce your citizenship and wish to regain it in the future.


To CIR or not to CIR? That is the question.

Most people who apply to the JET Program apply for the ALT position. The reasoning varies person to person. Every Situation is Different (ESID). Oh god… I just said the one phrase you will hear for the rest of your time as a JET…

CIRs do tend to come from a wider variety of countries, particularly those that are not English-based, whereas ALTs tend to come more from English-based nations.

Some people do not qualify for the CIR position. Some love to teach and wish to make a career out of it. Others might not be sure what they want to do.

The one thing you do need to be sure of is if you are even the slightest bit serious about applying as a CIR, you do it then and there. CIRs can be considered for the ALT position should there be no more CIR positions available, the panel thinks the applicant might be better suited as an ALT, you change your mind somewhere along the way, or the Padres win the World Series.

But this is pretty much a one-way street.

Those who apply for the ALT position are not able to later transition into the CIR position unless you rescind your application/offer or you resign from your position. In very rare occasions does the JET Programme allow for ALTs to switch to CIRs after their placement has started. Bear in mind that if you do any of these, you will have to wait a certain amount of time before applying for the program again. Typically, 1 year.

So, if you think that you want to try for the CIR position, go for it. Reach for the moon for even if you don’t make it there, you’ll land among the stars.

Interview Location

Pay close attention to your interview location. You cannot change this after you submit your application. Only in very exceptional cases could you possibly change your interview location. The biggest reason for this is because you’re interview location will be your home location, so to speak. Should you be accepted into the program–either short-listed or alternate–you will be assigned to that embassy or consulate at which you interviewed at. This means your Point of Contact (POC), your JET Coordinator, your advisor, whatever term you wish to use, they will from your interview location. More importantly, you will be flying out with the group that your embassy/consulate is assigned to.

Note: some interview locations are not directly at a consulate/embassy. If you are in a bigger district/region, your local embassy/consulate might have a bigger range of area to cover. This means that you might interview at a satellite location because you are currently too far out from your closest embassy/consulate but will be assigned to the closest one that your location is attached to.

Japanese Consulates/Embassies in US

For example: If you are in Arizona, USA, the only interview location in the state is Phoenix. However, Phoenix is under the Japanese Consulate of Los Angeles’ jurisdiction. As such, you would interview at Phoenix and then be assigned to the LA consulate/group if selected for the program. Your contact will be entirely with that consulate and you will be attending any orientations and meetings with them.

The biggest thing to be concerned over is where you will be able to fly out of when you depart for Japan. There are two main JET departure groups; Group A and Group B. Early Departure is excluded from these two and has their own system. Alternates fall into Group C and all depart at the same time if they are not upgraded in time to depart with their respective group.

In the above Phoenix scenario, you would fly out of Phoenix to Los Angeles the day before/morning of departure to meet up with the rest of your consulate’s group before flying to Japan as a whole.

If you really need to change your departure location, you must notify your consulate ASAP (especially if you are selected). For the U.S., you will only be able to change your departure location if it is in the same group as what you are already assigned to. Again, there is no guarantee of this; however, it is not impossible given proper notice and reason–but they are strict on remaining in the same group

The application starts to get more depth from here on out, so buckle up and get ready for the ride.

Check out Part 2 of the JET application process here.


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