JET Program Application Advice

The 2013 JET (Japan Exchange and Teaching) application was just release on Tuesday! Click HERE for the U.S. citizens application.

If you’re thinking about applying for JET, I would definitely recommend it. I first heard of JET while studying in Kyoto during my Junior year of college. But, it wasn’t until the following year when I actually thought seriously about it. I knew I didn’t want to go straight from school to a job where I would work until retirement, so I thought, “why not take a year to travel and experience a whole different way of life?” I loved learning all about the quirks of Japanese culture, and I loved studying Japanese history in school, so JET seemed perfect for me. After talking to a few former JETs who all had positive things to say about the program, I was convinced that I should apply. And here I am now…

I’ve already received a couple of Facebook messages from hopeful JETs who are seeking advice on the application. (I have to admit, I felt a little special when a complete stranger asked me for information regarding his JET application.) This time last year, I remember frantically scouring the internet for any helpful information that might give me an edge to get accepted into JET. So, this blog is dedicated to anyone who would like some advice on their application.

Deadline: November 21, 2012

1. Print out the forms on the home website labeled:

For me, it was convenient to have a hard copy of these important forms to easily refer to. All this information may seem daunting at first, but once you get it organized you’ll see that it’s not so scary.

2. Get your reference letters. If you are still a student, one must be from someone related to your school. This step is a little confusing. The application states, “Ask each reference writer to make two additional copies of his or her original letter with original signatures and the Reference Form.  Each reference writer needs to include the 3 sets of reference forms and letters in the same sealed and signed envelope.  All reference forms and letters should be returned directly to you and not sent separately to the JET Office.”

Essentially, this is saying that your references need to make 2 copies of their letters, and sign all three of them. Then, mail them to YOU. Make sure your references understand these directions. Also, make sure to give your references plenty of time to write and mail them to you.

3. Get your transcripts with your registrar’s seal. This is pretty easy to do, but it may take time, so make sure do get it done soon. While your in the registrar’s office, get a proof of graduation letter stating that you are on track to graduate this spring. And if you studied abroad, a proof of that too.

4. It’s never too early to start thinking about your Statement of Purpose. I spent some time surfing the web for example SOPs but I think that was a waste. Everyone is different, so we’re all going to write about different things.

You have to answer “Why do you want to participate in the JET Program?” This answer is different for everybody, but here are a few points that I would try to focus on:

  • How can I help GIVE to the Japanese school system?
  • Even though I may not be a teacher, what experiences do I have with working with children? You might have been a camp counsellor, youth sports coach, Boys and Girls Club volunteer, etc.
  • What experience do I have with adapting to changes?
  • Do I have any experience working in teams? Japan is all about group harmony, so if you played on a sports team, I would mention that.
  • Research some Japanese culture and try to tie that in. Mention how the purpose of the Japanese school system is to produce moral citizens committed to advancing the needs of the country. And you could mix in something about how you admire or excel in group work/team based things. Or, bring up how you admire the discipline, hard work, and selflessness of the Japanese.
  • What can I bring to the table that sets me apart from other applicants? For me, I mentioned that I studied in Japan, knew a great deal of American history/culture (I’m from Boston), would love to help out in after school clubs and events in the community, etc.
  • Make sure to include how you see this experience benefitting your future career. For me I mentioned how this experience would give me a stronger foundation of a second language and a better understanding of intercultural relations, which would both benefit me as I consider a future in international business.

They already know that you love Japan since you are applying to live there, so you don’t need to go into detail about how cool Japan is. Once you have some ideas down, began to organize them. Have a few people read over what you wrote. If you are at school, I would even have a professor/career center give you some feedback.

Japan is super strict on following directions, so remember to type your name and page number (1 of 2, 2 of 2) on each page.

5. Complete the online application form. (LINK) This application is simple but a little tedious. It takes time, so make sure you double check for typos. When it comes to the placement request question, keep in mind that you don’t always get your first choice; especially if you request Tokyo or Kyoto. If you do request popular cities like Tokyo or Kyoto, or if you don’t request anything, it may come across as you not doing any research into other parts of Japan. So I would advice not to do so.

I requested Hyogo prefecture first, and luckily I was placed in a town within Hyogo. But, it’s hard for JET to meet an exact town request. So if you want to be in Kyoto, maybe just request Hyogo, and mention why you want to be close to Kyoto (maybe your home stay family lives there). Every prefecture and town has something attractive about it. You really can’t go wrong about where you get placed. That being said, I remember how fun it was to research different places!

Finally, it is important to note that your statement of purpose holds the most weight, followed by your reference letters. Also, here are a few numbers for you:
  • There are roughly 4,300 JETs (4,000 are ALTs)
  • There were 1,500 new JETs in 2012

However, don’t try to calculate your odds and try to figure out which is the best consulate to interview at. That time would be better spent on preparing for your interview. Best of luck on your application!

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