Scholarships are competitive. In the beginning, it was scary for me to fill out the application forms. The student support division and my department at Tohoku University helped me a lot in finding new scholarships but I do feel that there is not much information out there about tricks for landing a scholarship in Japan. So, here are some of the top 5 lessons I have learned!
Don’t Take Your GPA Lightly
As a student with newfound freedom and endless social engagements, it is very luring to focus less on certain classes especially in the first few semesters. There are several scholarships available to study in Japan. However, a large number of these applications screen students based on GPA. If there is an internal selection in your university, there are high chances that it would also be based on your GPA. Though this may sound non-holistic, this aids the system in focussing only on a selected few applicants. Therefore, take those exams seriously and avoid scoring many B’s or C’s. A GPA higher than 2.6 out of 3.0, increases your chances significantly.
Don’t Focus Only on Academics
Focusing only on your GPA can potentially spoil your growth as a student and affect your experience in Japan. Nearly all scholarships require a recommendation letter from your supervisor where he/she would write about your club/circle activities, volunteer experiences, or internship history. These extra-curricular would also help in shaping a positive experience for you as a student in Japan. Therefore, do not miss out on these activities as scholarships prefer a well-rounded individual rather than someone stuck in the library all day.
Do try to ace the JLPT N3 exam
Some scholarships require no Japanese skills at all. However, a large number of scholarships (especially if they are from private foundations) expect conversational fluency in Japanese. Many of them also have an interview round and essays in the initial application. This would require certain level of proficiency which is usually anything equal to or above JLPT N3 level. I personally did not take the JLPT exam but I have learned skills equivalent to N3. However, that becomes a challenge because there is no document to prove your proficiency. Therefore, it is rather helpful if you could clear the JLPT N3 exam.
Don’t Wait Until the Deadline
Scholarship applications may appear short but it is always a healthy practice to give the authorities extra time to check your application and get back to you if they would want you to make some changes. Similarly, plan to receive your recommendation letter in advance as professors tend to be busy and travel extensively. Set personal deadlines and submit your application well in advance. You can also check out the MEXT Scholarship timeline here.
Do Not Lose Hope
Scholarship applications are tiresome and may not bear favorable results each time. I have seen many of my friends lose hope after which they stopped applying for them. This is something you must avoid. Have faith in yourself, lift yourself up, and look for the next opportunity. Ask your professors where you could potentially improve and this act of perseverance will help you travel a long way. It helped me in getting one scholarship after other for all my 4 years of undergraduate in Japan in spite of failing several applications (You can check my scholarship acquisition story for Kaneko Foundation Scholarship here). It is all about the few rays at the break of dawn!
JASSO has a great list of scholarships that international students can apply for. You can access it here. Try looking for scholarships that you are eligible for and have fun during the application process. Be confident about yourself!