If you have read my previous articles, you will know that I am currently studying at the University of Tokyo under the MEXT(Monbukagakusho) Scholarship and that I was under the preparatory course at Osaka University (Minoh campus) last year. Prior to coming to Japan, I did not have any information about the program or the surroundings of the MEXT Osaka program and thought it would be a great idea to share my experience and some misconceptions about the program with you.

Before I dive into the details, I would like to explain (for those who are not familiar with the MEXT scholarship program) that if you pass the grueling application process, you will be sent to study in a preparatory course for a year; either in Osaka University (Minoh campus) or the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies (TUFS), and you are not able to choose which course you want to go to (However, students who applied for the MEXT Scholarship under direct admission to a university will not need to attend the preparatory course).

Firstly, I would like to clear up some misconceptions and misunderstandings that many students have about the MEXT scholarship program.

1st Misunderstanding: Students are not allowed to change majors

Source: http://www.osaka-u.ac.jp/en/news/topics/2015/06/20150618_01

I understand why many people think that once they submit their major of choice, they are unable to change their major once they arrive in Japan; even I was a victim of this misunderstanding. When many of you receive your letter of confirmation for your scholarship, you will see a line bolded in red stating that you are unable to change your major. However, this simply means that you are unable to change your major only after a period of time during your preparatory year. Although there are certain restrictions such as not being able to change from the Social Science and Humanities to the Natural Sciences, or vice versa, or not being able to change majors such as law, business, and economics, other majors are flexible. To explain in detail, you will be given time to change your major until a day around August (it changes every year), in which you will have to submit a form stating your major.

2nd Misunderstanding: The location

Osaka University Minoh Campus
Source: http://www.osaka-u.ac.jp/en/news/topics/2015/06/20150618_01

There is a reason why I keep typing “Minoh campus” after the phrase “Osaka University” in every sentence, and it is because when told “Osaka University”, many people believe that it is in the middle of the city. However, Osaka University has three campuses: Suita, Toyonaka, and Minoh, and the campus for the MEXT preparatory course is in Minoh, the furthest from the city. The nearest train station and supermarket is a fifteen-minute walk away, and since the campus is on a hill, occasionally you will see some wild animals. That being said, coming from a city-country, it was a refreshing experience.

Now, I would like to talk about the program in slightly more detail.

(1) Subjects
Students majoring in Social Sciences and Humanities A will have to study Japanese, Japanese culture, Japanese History, Politics, and Economics while those majoring in Social Sciences and Humanities B will have to study Mathematics additionally.

(2) Class rank
You will have to take a few tests (regarding Japanese) and submit them online prior to going to Osaka. The class which you will be assigned to for a year will be determined by these test scores. In the Osaka preparatory course, classes are divided into U1~U7 (again, the number of classes depends on the year); with U1 being the most proficient in Japanese. Those who are in classes U1~U3 (or U4 depending on the year) are able to choose if they want to take kobun and kanbun (old Japanese literature) as an additional subject.

(3) Universities
Those under the MEXT scholarship program are only able to enroll in national universities. For example, enrollment into private universities such as Waseda University or Keio University is not permitted.
In addition, there is a university talk once a year in which national universities from various prefectures gather at the Osaka University Minoh campus, and explain in detail the various programs they offer. This helps students to understand the national universities in Japan and to choose which universities they want to apply to.

(4) Examinations
There are three important tests throughout the preparatory course in Osaka. Your grades on these tests (especially the first two) will heavily determine the university that you will go to.
In addition to these tests, there will be a mini-essay that you have to write stating why you chose to study your major. This essay plays a part in determining your university of choice as well.
On top of this essay, you will have to fill in a form stating seven universities of your choice as well; most people receive their first or second choice.
To elaborate further, if the tests and essays stated above go well, you receive a letter stating that you have passed the document screening of your first university of choice from MEXT.  However, you will still have to go through an interview or a written test (depending on your university of choice). If you fail the interview or written test, you will be assigned to a random national university, so please study hard to avoid this risk!

Above are some misconceptions and information about the preparatory course at Osaka University, and I hope it has helped!