The MEXT (Monbukagakusho) Scholarship is one of the most popular scholarships for international students who are seeking further studies in Japan. This article contains information about the MEXT Scholarship and some advice from Arsen, a current MEXT scholar. Continue reading to find out more about MEXT!

Still don’t know what the MEXT Scholarship is all about? See our latest information for 2021 applicants here!

About the MEXT scholarship

The MEXT Scholarship is offered by “Monbukagakusho”, also known as the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology of the Japanese Government (MEXT). There are several types of MEXT scholarships and all of them are grant-type, meaning that recipients have no responsibilities to pay back the scholarship.

Today, I will mainly focus on introducing the MEXT program for undergraduate students. However, you can find more details about all the different kinds of MEXT Scholarship from this SchooLynk article:
MEXT Scholarship 2020 | Master the Basics with This One Article

MEXT Scholarship for Undergraduate students

Here is some basic information about the required qualifications for MEXT:

  • Nationality: Applicants must have the nationality of a country that has diplomatic relations with Japan (and must be other than Japan)
  • Age: Students who are within 17-22 years old and have completed (or expected to complete) 12 years of school education
  • Scholarship grant: ¥117,000 per month (Additional stipend for the designated area)
  • Duration: A grantee who studies at a preparatory educational institution before enrolling in a university: 5 years (7 years: Medicine, Dentistry, Veterinary, Pharmaceutical Sciences)
  • A grantee who enrolls in a university through direct placement: 4 years (6 years: Medicine, Dentistry, Veterinary, Pharmaceutical Sciences)
  • Other rules: The recipients are NOT allowed to take another scholarship at the same time.

For further information, refer to Guideline for Undergraduate Students 2020 from the official MEXT website.

Meet Arsen: A MEXT Scholar’s story

Arsen, who comes from Nepal, is now in his third year at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, majoring in System and Control Engineering. In the following interview, Arsen will talk about his personal experiences of preparing for MEXT and how his studies in Japan have been going.

Figure 1. Sakura in Tokyo Institute of Technology. April 1, 2019

How did you find out about the MEXT scholarship?

“I know this scholarship from my cousin. I actually went to university in Nepal, and I had no idea about Japan at that time. My cousin was in the same university as I am, both living in the dorm. He told me about the scholarship and his application story inspired me immediately. After that, I searched for further details of MEXT’s requirements and also read several stories of MEXT Scholars. I became more interested and I knew that I must grab this opportunity. Also, I just finished the application procedure only nearly a month before the deadline.

Can you share with us your experiences of applying for MEXT? Any requirements that need special consideration?

The MEXT application usually starts in May, and it was April when I received information about the scholarship. The test for MEXT is in July, and the result is two weeks after that. After I passed the test, I had to join an interview, which was notified via mail several days after.

Regarding the required documents, I think that every submitted paper should be taken seriously, especially the certificates that will make you an outstanding applicant. The description of the required documents was straightforward on the university’s website. There were also the designated forms for me to fill in, so I didn’t encounter much stress at this stage.

When it comes to the examination, my field of study was Natural Science, so I had to take several tests including English, Mathematics, Physics, and Chemistry. These tests were purely in English, so there’s no need to worry if you know nothing about Japanese.

How did you prepare for the MEXT test and interview?

I basically read high school textbooks and searched for the question papers from previous years. I found the past tests for language proficiency and undergraduate subject tests on JASSO’s website. I also tried to ask several of my senpais for tips and advice. I believed the test has a larger percentage of the whole grading, so I was really dedicated to reviewing all of the knowledge and reading various kinds of materials that were related to the subjects.

As regards the interview, it took about 20-30 minutes. I must admit that I did not prepare much for the interview rather than always bear in mind the clear focus on the academic and practical goals of my research. I also tried to sketch out several questions that might appear in the interview and practice answering in front of the mirror. Finally, a small tip for applicants is that when you first enter the room, you should bow to the interview panel. As far as I remembered, I knew nothing about Japanese at that time but still tried my best to say よろしくお願いします (yoroshiku onegaishimasu) before the interview began and ありがとうございます(arigato gozaimasu) when it was over.

Here is the list of basic questions that I was asked during the interview:

  • Why do you want to study in Japan?
  • Why do you want to study that topic?
  • What university do you want to study in Japan?
  • What do you know about Japan?
  • How do you think you will be able to handle living in Japan?
  • What do you plan to do after your studies?
  • What is your plan if you do not get this scholarship?
Campus of Tokyo Institute of Technology. April 1, 2019

What did you do after you found out that you were accepted as a MEXT scholar?

I quit my university in Nepal and started learning Japanese from scratch. Every grantee will be placed at a preparatory educational institution to learn a sufficient amount of Japanese before taking the major courses. For me, I went to the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies. Every scholar has to take another Japanese test after a one-year study at the preparatory educational institution. Therefore, I also had to take physics, chemistry, and mathematics tests in Japanese. After I passed the second test, there was a consultation session in which I had chances to discuss my priorities of universities with the admissions committee. I wanted to stay in Tokyo, so I chose the University of Tokyo as my first priority and the Tokyo Institute of Technology as my second priority. After all, I got accepted by the Tokyo Institute of Technology and started preparing for visa documents afterward.

Can you tell us how you plan to use the MEXT scholarship grant?

In my case, I receive a monthly stipend of ¥120,000. At the moment, I live by myself in an apartment, and most of my scholarship is used for house rent. My housing rent comes to ¥50,000 per month. I spend about ¥40,000 for food and around ¥10,000 for transportation per month. I don’t cook because the kitchen in my room is pretty small. However, if you cook by yourself, I believe that you will save a big amount of money every month. There are also other entertainment fees, which may be variable according to personal interests, but mine is usually ¥40,000 including club and organization’s fees. As I want to make the most of my university life to expand my network, so I tend to join various circles in different cities, and that’s why I spend quite a high amount of money on this section.

Though I can’t apply for other scholarships while being a MEXT scholar, just like other MEXT’s scholars in Japan, I can work part-time jobs within 28 hours per week. Before working as an engineer intern in a venture company at the moment, I used to work several part-time jobs at the restaurants.

Figure 3. View near the campus of the Tokyo Institute of Technology. April 1, 2019

What is your overall thoughts about the MEXT scholarship?

It’s a great and prestigious scholarship, I am glad that I could become a MEXT scholar. MEXT Scholarships always come up as the most desired form of financial aid as it has enabled me to do my studies in Japan. For those who are trying to apply for MEXT, I suggest working hard on the tests. They are tricker than high school tests, so put more effort into them, and your hard work will be paid off!

Thanks for sharing, Arsen! Wish you all the best for the rest of your journey in Japan!

 To answer commonly asked questions, take a look at this report by MEXT.

To see more articles on specific aspects of the MEXT Scholarship, you can visit Schoolynk’s MEXT Scholarship page!

Want to hear from actual MEXT scholars? → Check the community page for MEXT scholarship!