Couldn’t resist the title.
First of all, I changed up the look of my blog so I could include a picture of a sunflower field from Yamanashi. I’m sure the look will change again once I get to Japan.
But I thought I would start talking about the whole JET application process and how my own experience went. This will be the first entry in a series I’m starting call “JET Ready, JET Set, Go!” where I’ll talk about applying to JET from the application all the way to getting to your placement (which I have yet to do).
If you’re reading this, maybe you’re thinking of applying to JET or planning to apply next year. Maybe you’re confused about how this whole crazy process goes. There are tons of other blogs and YouTube videos about it, but here’s my account of my own experience. Plus a few pieces of advice.
This was my second time applying to JET. I applied to JET in 2013 for the 2014-2015 year. But I didn’t get an interview. There were several reasons for this. The main one being that my application was late. For JET, a deadline is a deadline. So my first piece of advice is get your application in on time. Honestly, I half-assed the application on the first try because I wasn’t sure if JET was something I really wanted to do.
When I didn’t get an interview that first time, I was devastated. It was then that I realized how much I actually wanted to go on JET. Thankfully, I could stay at my job one more year. So I applied again, and this time, I did it right.
When the application opens, typically in late October or early November, you’ll have to get several things in line before mailing off that packet.
You can check here for how to apply.
- Application Form
You fill this out online and submit it both online and with your actual application packet. It’s got the basic stuff about you, your education and work history, any Japan or study abroad experience, etc. When you start the application, you’ll get a number and PIN number that you’ll use to sign in. Keep these where you can find them. I kept a folder for all of my application stuff, and I wrote my sign-in number and PIN number on a sticky note and stuck it on the inside of this folder. I always knew where to find it.
The main part you should really think about is where you’d like to be placed. Here’s the thing about placements: you probably won’t get your first choice. But then, you might. JET is increasing the amount of JETs in Tokyo in preparation for the 2020 Olympics, so don’t be afraid to ask for Tokyo or another larger city. But know that you might not get it.
My advice for placements is either pick places you really want to go and have good reasons for it or else just say you’re fine with going anywhere. I’ve never heard of a JET being dissatisfied with their physical placement. Sure, if you’re in the inaka (countryside), you won’t have to access to things like Starbucks or even trains, but your tiny village might be famous for something or have really nice people. It’s an adventure! Basically, put some thought into that part.
- Self-Assessment Medical Form
This is needed if you have now or have ever had a physical and/or medical condition. Basically, go to a doctor, take the form with you, have them check you over and fill out the form.
I had to do this because I’ve had to be treated for severe acid reflux in the past. I almost didn’t do it because it was several years ago and only occasionally flares up now, but I didn’t want to risk it. If you get into JET, you’ll have to get a physical anyway. Do you really want to risk it coming out in your health form later? Better get it done now.
- Authorization and Release Form
This the form you sign–you have to actually sign it, and please do it in blue ink so they’ll know it’s legit–at the end of your application. MAKE SURE IT’S DONE.
- Transcripts for all College/University Courses
For a lot of you just graduating from university, this won’t be a huge deal. Don’t worry about not having graduated yet. Just get your university transcripts that are current at the time you’re applying, and you’ll be fine.
This is kind of a pain for those of us (namely me) who have been out of school for awhile. Thankfully, I worked at my university, so getting my undergraduate transcripts wasn’t a big deal. But I took one graduate course from an out-of-state university online, and I had to get THAT transcript, too.
Get official transcripts. Don’t make copies unless you have no other way. And if you do have copies, they have to be officially signed and have your school seal. Basically, just get official transcripts. It’s easier.
- Proof of Graduation
If you’ve already graduated, make three copies of your diploma. Done.
If you haven’t graduated yet, have proof of expected graduation date or proof of current enrollment. You can get this from your registrar’s office.
You DO NOT have to have graduated before applying to JET. As long as you will have a bachelor’s degree or equivalent by the time you have to turn in your acceptance documents for JET, you’ll be fine.
- Two Letters of Recommendation
For my letters of recommendation, I got one from my Japanese teacher who had known me for six years and taught all of my Japanese classes. He had written JET recommendation letters for others in the past. So he knew how to do it.
For my other recommendation letter, originally, a friend and coworker at my internship who was also a JET alum offered to write a recommendation for me; however, at the time, she was changing jobs and moving to Texas. So she said she would do the letter once she got there so she could write it on official university letterhead. It got down to the wire for me, and her letters still hadn’t arrived from Texas. I don’t know what happened to them.
Thankfully, I had a backup. A coworker of mine had written a recommendation for me for graduate school a few years ago, and he still had it. All it took was a little updating, and I had my other recommendation letter.
Don’t wait on recommendation letters. Ask people to write them even before the application is open. Then once the application is open, get those people the forms they need to fill out to go with the letter and tell them when you need the letters.
Also, give your rec letter writers a thank you card afterward. It’s just a nice gesture.
- Statement of Purpose
This is all you, bud. This is your chance to tell them exactly why you want to be on JET. I partly used a statement of purpose from graduate school and tweaked it. Here’s my advice for this part.
Answer all of the questions. Focus on what YOU can offer THEM. Remember, this is for an actual job. You’re not applying for school or for a study abroad trip. They’re interested in what you can offer the program. Just like any job would be interested in how you can make the company better.
Talk about why you love Japan. Don’t expound on how you saw Bleach and it changed your life forever, but you can say you like anime or TV shows. A huge part of this program that people tend to forget is that it’s also an international grassroots cultural exchange program. What do you want to experience in Japan? Do you want to learn more about history or food or dance?
What do you hope to gain? Some of you may just want to go to Japan for a year, hang out with some Japanese kids, travel, eat food, and go home. And that’s fine, but how is this experience going to help you professionally? How can you use it after you get back?
Think about all of these things. Once you’re finished writing, write it again. Because your first draft is crap. Then have people look it over. Make sure you’ve got the grammar and spelling down and that it makes sense and sounds good.
- Proof of US Citizenship or Citizenship in Your Country
Easy enough. A copy of your passport, birth certificate, or naturalization certificate is fine. I’m not sure about other countries’ requirements.
- Self-Addressed Envelope with Postage
Super important! Make sure this is in there! Once your application is sent off, the consulate will send you a slip of paper in this envelope. It’ll have your name and your application number on it. This just means they received your application. It doesn’t mean you have an interview.
In January, when they post the interview list, you’ll use this number to look at the list. If your number is on the list, you’ve got an interview! If not, sorry, Charlie. Better luck next year.
- Proof of Study Abroad, Teaching Certifications, JLPT Certification
These only apply if you have these. I studied abroad in 2006, so I just stuck a little sticky note next to that class on my transcript and put “study abroad” on it.
I also included copies of my JLPT N4 certification.
If you have a teaching certification or TESL/TEFL certification, include copies of those required documents.
Don’t skimp on these if you have them. They will definitely help your chances of getting an interview.
- Required Documents for Early Departure
If you want to apply for early departure (leaving in April), you’ll already need to have your FBI background check and your Certificate of Health filled out by a doctor. Like I said before, if you get into JET, you’ll have to do these anyway.
These aren’t required if you’re applying for regular departure.
A few last bits of overall advice:
- Get everything in on time!
- Put thought into your application.
- Check and re-check that everything is there and that it’s in the right order.
- Don’t staple anything. Use paperclips. SUPER IMPORTANT.
- This is the easiest part of this whole process. Don’t stress about it. Just get it done and get it in on time.
- Make sure everything is there! Yes, I said this again because once you submit it, the first thing they do is check your application to make sure everything is there and you followed directions.
- Follow directions.
- No, seriously, follow directions.
If you guys have any questions about the application, leave me a comment. The application part is pretty straightforward. Like I said, this will be probably be the easiest part of this whole process.
So that ends the first entry in “JET Ready, JET Set, Go!”
I have to think of a good ending for these posts.