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. Here’s Part 4 of the application process!
Check out Part 3 here.
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.
Do You Japan?
My favourite slogan and example of Engrish fails from Japan was Kyoto City’s slogan for promoting tourism–Do you Kyoto? My Uni friends and I always had a good laugh over making nouns into verbs after this. I’m probably just very lame but to this day I still love this bloody thing.
Anyways, the next section will have you focus on your Japanese knowledge–both as a language and country.
First, you’ll list any formal Japanese language courses you have taken and then any University level Japan-related courses. I believe there was an addendum in the instructions where you could list any informal language studies as well; however, my finalised application does not have this mentioned anywhere on it.
Next up, you’ll rank your Japanese language skills from 0-5 (None-Advanced) for Reading, Writing, Speaking, and Listening.
ALTS–not having Japanese skills cannot hurt you, only help you if you do.
CIRs–not having Japanese skills will hurt you. You are required to have Semi-advanced to advanced skills
If you are applying as an ALT, lucky you! You don’t need any Japanese skills whatsoever to apply and be accepted into the program. Of course, you should try to learn the language, or at least the basics, if you get into the program. However, you do not need it to get accepted. Having Japanese language skills as an ALT applicant can do nothing but help your application.
If you are applying as a CIR, you need Japanese language skills. Particularly, you should be around the N2, Semi-advanced, level. This is overall skill level. As a CIR, pretty much everything you do after submitting your application will be in Japanese, including during your time as a JET. You’ll be working in a government office most likely and will be actively reading and speaking in Japanese. Keigo is bound to come up at some point and become a staple. If you apply as a CIR, you will have to take a detailed written language test during your interview process, and your interview will also be primarily conducted in Japanese. Furthermore, if accepted, your entire handbook will be in Japanese, whereas for ALTs, the handbook is in English/your native language. Additional resources will also all be in Japanese, including future conferences and events.
If you have ever taken the JLPT or JETRO, or any other formal government Japanese language test, and have successfully obtained a certificate/passing mark, please list it in the next section. If you have taken such an exam and did not pass it, do not list it here. This is only for those will an actual certificate. Will be required to submit copies of certificates.
After this, there’s a small section on any international experience. This could be both abroad or at home, such as exchange programs or clubs. I ended up condensing my 3 sections to the max due to my experiences, while still attempting to be explicit. I discussed major events and work I did in Japan, Europe, and the US.
Last bit for this section is what your first language is. If you have two mother tongues, and English is one of them, it is advised for you to put English there if you are an ALT. If your mother tongue(s) include Japanese, put that if you’re applying for CIR. Tailor it to your specific application.
Lastly, you’ll list up to three additional language skills on a scale of 1-4 (Intro-Adv). I listed my second mother tongue here, along with two other languages that I am most fluent in after mother tongues and Japanese. This language section cannot hurt you, only help you get more points.
More chances to hype yourself up! Yay!
First, you’ll discuss any honours and awards you’ve gotten. This is starting from High School until the present time.
If you’ve gotten any scholarships or achievements during Uni, at work, or in your community, now is the time to list them. I listed out my Japanese government and Uni scholarships and awards. I know some people received awards in their community, such as Miss [City] or teacher of the year. Anything goes here if you can provide a date of the award and proof if requested.
The next part which is the perfect place to show yourself off is in the extra-curriculars and hobbies sections. You can list pretty much anything here. There are 3 spots for extra-curriculars and 3 for hobbies/interests/sports. If any of these are Japan related, even better.
I am an original volunteer of TEDxKyoto, which has grown significantly over the years and in the community. I made sure to list important information on what I did, including any guest speakers I worked with–such as George Takei. Man is he cool!
You could list Model UN, school clubs, any additional volunteer work, or NGOs you worked with. Anything goes. Bear in mind that the textboxes are smaller in this section, so you’ll have to condense your achievements.
For your hobbies and interests, list to your hearts content. I focused on foreign language (mentioning how many I’ve studied), my background in film and photography (from skills to companies I’ve worked with) and reiterated my background and expertise in IR/foreign relations/politics (mentioned youths, exchange, and diplomacy).
You could mention sports you play, instruments you love, reading, etc. What makes you, you. What is different about you from the other applicants–many of whom may have put similar categories/interests. You want to be as explicit yet concise as possible.
Program Related Qs/Placement
If you’re applying to any other international programs/exchanges/scholarships, you’ll list them here. If you are, it will not affect your application, it is just for their reference.
If you’ve ever applied to JET before, you’ll list the information here. The application is straightforward on this bit. Mostly Yes/No questions.
Are you married? Tick the box.
Note: This is only for officially recognised marriage and not domestic/civil partnerships.
Same-sex marriage is not officially recognised in Japan yet–at least not on the national level. As such, if you are in an SSM, you may face difficulties bringing your spouse with you on a dependant visa. Check with your embassy/consulate for more details.
If you plan on brining over dependants, you must indicate it now. This is to assist in visa matters, as JET takes care of your own visa and assists with family.
If you have a driver’s licence, check off.
Be aware: if you have a licence in your home country, you will be essentially strong-armed into applying for an international driver permit or a Japanese licence (depending on your country’s agreement with Japan. There is a bigger percentage of you being placed in a more rural/suburban setting if you indicate that you are legally able to drive. While it is not 100% guaranteed, a decent amount of JETs who have indicated such in the past, tend to get placed in such locations. This means you may be required to obtain/operate a car during your placement to get to/from work.
Queue the moment you all have been waiting for… Your placement selections.
If you have any placement requests, now is the time to do so. During my interview they did ask me once again if I had any requests, do you might be able to reiterate or change/add this later, but there is no guarantee. More so, there is no guarantee regardless, even if you put down a placement request.
You will also specific if you have a living area classification, such as urban, suburban, or rural. I did not put a request for this one. Looking back, I probably should have put suburban, just to try to avoid direct cities (read: Tokyo). I mentioned in my interview that I was okay anywhere but would like to be somewhere with subsidized/cheaper rent.
You can specify up to 3 placement choices, all of which can be broken down into either region, prefecture, or specific cities.
My requests were:
- Kinki (Kansai)
- No Preference
While I personally would love to be in the Big 3 for Kansai, Osaka/Kyoto/Hyogo, I just really want to be placed back in Kansai. The bulk of my personal connections are still in the region and I love the region overall.
The same can be said for Kanto. I have a lot of friends in the Tokyo/Chiba/Saitama areas and I know the area relatively well. It does come 2nd best to me after Kansai.
I probably should have put a more specific prefecture in Kansai as my third choice, but I wanted to try to show that I was flexible.
JET wants to see throughout your application that you are flexible and adaptable. I was going for that type of vibe by putting regions rather than specific locations but who knows if that will help me at all… I will be sure to keep you all updated on my placement as it results comes out.
You will also be asked to briefly explain the reasoning for each section next to each one, along with a more detailed specific request in the next section.
If you are applying as a CIR, you can choose if you are interested in specific topics/areas to work with.
Additionally, for CIRs, you can choose to be considered for the ALT position if you do not get selected for the CIR position. Again, this is a one-way street. ALT applicants do not get this option/consideration.
You can opt into being considered for Early Departure in April (or before normal departure in July/August). It does not hurt you either way, but if you wish for ED, you must select it now. If you do, you will have earlier deadlines for paperwork before your interview date (if selected for an interview), as well as an overall expedited timeline. Most people who select ED do not get selected for it, as there are even more limited positions open.
Bits and Bobs
At the final stretch of the general application, you’ll have standard job-hunting questions that are for JET’s reference only, such as how you heard about JET. This is purely for their own statistical purposes.
Finally, you will have to list two emergency contacts. Please check with them before listing them, to make sure they are okay with it and that the information is correct. These should be two separate households. I listed someone in the U.S. and someone in Japan.
You’ll have to submit certain documents with your application for consideration. We’ve already touched on a few of them, such as degrees, transcripts, proof of graduation, and certificates.
You’ll also have to provide a self-reported medical form. This is very basic that you can check off–any allergies or known illnesses. If selected for the program, you’ll have to get a detailed one filled out by an M.D., but this one is just for initial records.
Please list anything here, otherwise there may be problems if your doctor reports anything on the detailed form later that you did not initially list. This once again falls into the category of better safe than sorry. You don’t want to be considered to have [accidentally] falsified any information on your application and risk your position.
On top of these, you’ll have to submit two references. You will designate two people that JET will contact for them to submit their references in their own online portal. Pick your references carefully! You can track the status of these any time before the application window closes. Your references must be received by the day the application closes! I will go into detail about references in another post.
Lastly, and possibly the most important part of your application is your Statement of Purpose. Your SOP is the meat of your application. You let yourself shine here. This will be a 2-page essay, so to speak, answering a few questions that JET provides you with. They usually are the same, or roughly so, every year. They focus on the 3 Whys: Why You? Why Japan? Why JET?
As stated earlier, your brief little synopsis you gave earlier in your application should relate somewhat to your SOP. It could even serve as an outline to help you out. You need to sell yourself here to the max and this is where most of the selection committee will make their ultimately decisions about you and whether you move onto the next stages or are selected. There will be a detailed post on the SOP in the future!
The JET Programme application process is a long one and the entire process lasts roughly half a year, from the time it opens until selection results are announced. Will have a lot of waiting after you submit your application till you hear back about interviews, and then you’ll have an even longer wait until you hear back about results. JET is pretty much 90% waiting around and desk warming.
The application itself can be done in one sitting, outside of your SOP and references, if you prepare yourself ahead of time. Get all your documents ready well in advance. Know your skills and achievements. Know how to market yourself. Reach out to your references ahead of time. Give yourself plenty of time to get the application in and for the unexpected to happen. Also, know the JET Programme–know what it does, what your position encompasses, and what it may do for you and vice versa.
Have all your stuff ready, know yourself, know what you want, and give yourself plenty of time to breathe/panic. It’s okay to complete the application in more than one sitting and to keep coming back to it. You should check it over multiple times, and if you can get someone else to check it over with you–even better. I printed out a copy of my application draft beforehand to review physically. Studies have shown that we tend to miss more mistakes after reviewing things multiple times digitally, because our eyes/mind become tired, so try to print out a copy and go over it again. I usually catch a few more mistakes that I missed the first time or two when I do this. You want to avoid any typos and mistakes as much as possible in a professional/job application.
It’s also ok if you don’t pass the first time around. Most JETs don’t get in until their 2nd or even 3rd try. The program is extremely competitive, and their needs vary year by year.
Good luck to all you prospective JETs and don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions!