If you are preparing for the MEXT scholarship interview, you deserve to be congratulated for making it to this stage of the application process! Congratulations! You are only a couple steps away from a full tuition scholarship to study in Japan!
And in case you haven’t taken the MEXT written exam yet, visit Ace the MEXT Scholarship Exam: Past Papers and Analysis and come back here afterwards! For my successful post-examinees, let us continue.
As exciting as it is to be invited for an interview, there’s something about having to introduce ourselves to a panel of judges that leaves us feeling inevitably…intimidated.
But fear not! The secret recipe to a successful interview is proper preparation, and this article has assembled for you the key information that you can use before and during the MEXT scholarship interview!
Before the Interview
Let us first examine some key points that could help you decide how to tackle the preparation stage before the day of the interview.
1. Prepare for the basic questions
First, we tackle the fundamentals—the basic, all-purpose pie crust—to set a base for your interview. There is a selection of questions that are commonly used in the MEXT Interview, most often relating to your research topic, university choice, and future visions. Let us go over several of these possibilities.
Studying in Japan: What, Where, Why and How?
The purpose of this scholarship is to fund international students, like you, to study in Japan. Thus, it is important to have a clear mental map of your plans and motives, one that adds direction and reason to your desire of attending a Japanese university.
What do you plan to study?
Here, you can state your research details and future outlooks. The purpose of this question is to measure the level of clarity and direction in your research topic.
Note: not all, or maybe none, of the judges, will be professionals in your field. Thus, don’t go into complicated details of your research, and instead, highlight the importance of your academic studies in a relatable context.
Where do you plan to study in Japan?
In other words, which university do you plan to attend? To prepare for this question, it is important to do a little research on your prospective university, finding specific aspects of the program that connects your ambitions to reality.
Why do you want to study in Japan?
The purpose of this question is to understand your motivation. To answer it, you can take a general approach, gradually zooming into the specifics. What is a motive unique to you, and what distinctive aspect of Japan would help you to achieve it?
How will you handle living in Japan?
While this question seems insignificant to the application, it is crucial when deciding on your ability to carry out your studies in an entirely foreign environment. If you have experience living in Japan, then explain it. Otherwise, describe personal attributes that make you flexible with foreign cultures and lifestyles. Add examples that showcase your adaptability. Use this opportunity to state your knowledge of Japan and the Japanese language. Don’t be afraid to mention a possible challenge and to use it as a platform to state your practicality and problem–solving skills.
Past Accomplishments and Future Goals?
For these questions, showcase your unique story, relating it to your present situation of applying for the scholarship.
What are the highlights of your academic background
Here is the perfect opportunity to pay homage to your past academic efforts. But instead of verbally listing your top test scores, make it personal and relatable. Add that personal spice. Maybe there is an anecdote that explains the origin of your motivation in the field. Or perhaps you were inspired by an atypical event or source. In this answer, give past evidence for the identity you claim to possess in the present.
What are your future plans?
While this should be sincere and authentic to your actual desires, it is important to highlight aspects of your goals that contribute to relations between Japan and your home country. This ties your strong application to the visions of the MEXT scholarship.
What will you do if you do not get the MEXT scholarship?
Wow…threw us for a loop! If they ask you this question, do not be discouraged. The purpose of this question is to check the level of your determination in pursuing education in Japan. Is your heart set on studying in Japan, or are you simply in it for a free degree? It would be best to prepare a backup plan that you could briefly refer to in the case this question is asked.
2. Choose your unique strong point
On top of your demographics, grades, and test scores, what are the highlights of your application? What is the secret ingredient that gives your identity its punching flavor?
Having a reoccurring theme for your interview gives your application both coherence and a strong impact. Choosing two or three selling points about yourself will help you to stay on track, while also helping the judges to create a vivid mental picture of your strengths and distinctive qualities. If need be, you can use the following list to make a mental diagram of your unique strong points:
- Your academic interests and motivation
- Your specific research topic
- Your personal future goals and ambitions
- Your vision for the future of international society
- Why are you qualified as an ambassador to Japan
The Day of the Interview…
1. Dress for the occasion
We should never judge a book by its cover… unless it’s a student who dressed in pajamas for an interview. With all jokes aside, your first impression for the panel of judges is imprinted the moment you step into the room. Thus, making yourself appear presentable is a key component of the interview. Not only does it show your maturity in a professional environment, but it also helps them to formulate a mental picture of your characteristics.
First and foremost is the dress code. A simple, professional suit would be appropriate for the occasion, or the equivalent in your national dress code. Make it formal attire. Refrain from wearing distracting jewelry and thick layers of stage-makeup. For ladies and men alike, it may help to tidy your hair into a clean look.
In addition to the material that you dress in, it is important to keep in mind how you carry yourself. Be confident yet conserved in the way you sit and talk. It may be helpful to brush up on some Japanese codes of conduct to help you formulate your “interview stage presence”. And don’t forget to maintain a proper posture, which displays both confidence and professionalism to the judges.
2. Know the setup
So you dress for the occasion and make it to the interview hall. What can you expect to see the moment you walk into the room?
While the scenario can differ depending on the embassy, here is a typical setup for a Japanese-style interview. A panel of 3 to 4 judges will be stationed at one side of the room, facing inward towards a chair in the center of the room…your chair. The judges will sit behind a desk, most likely with your document application in hand.
It is important to note that the judges will most likely not all be professionals in your field of study. While maybe one of the judges could be a professor or researcher in a similar field, the rest may be ambassadors and other representatives from Japan. Thus, don’t go into complicated details of your research, and instead, highlight the importance of your academic studies in a relatable context.
3. All about the impression
The Japanese etiquette is very unique and worth looking over before the interview. While you want to seem confident, you should not lose the reservedness and calmness in the way you carry yourself. The challenge is to show your ability to adapt to Japanese moral conduct without seeming too shy or introverted. The best balance may be to incorporate Japanese etiquette into your country’s unique social manners.
Additionally, regardless of your Japanese proficiency, throwing in a couple greetings and words of gratitude in Japanese may give them the impression of amiability and flexibility!
Relax, just be you!
For a successful interview, proper preparation through some research and a little image training becomes essential. However, we must not let the nerves get to us, especially when standing in front of a panel of judges. What they are looking for is not a perfect robot that can recite memorized lines but students with vivacity and a desire to learn. Judging from the fact that you have already taken the initiative to submit an application for the MEXT scholarship (and so far, have succeeded), there is no doubt that you are a committed student with ambitions and big visions. So be you! And take the above-mentioned tips as mere guidelines to help you express your awesomeness for its entirety!