Overview of the Toshizo Watanabe Scholarship
The U.S.-Japan Council is a non-profit educational organization that is dedicated to strengthening ties between the United States and Japan. The Toshizo Watanabe Scholarship was made possible by Mr. Toshizo (Tom) Watanabe, who contributed a generous $10 million to the U.S.-Japan Council with the aim of helping students for whom study abroad would not be possible without financial support. The scholarship provides financial assistance to undergraduates/graduate students for a semester or a year-long study abroad program in either the United States or Japan. The scholarship will support up to the full cost of attendance to the study abroad program of the applicant’s choice and also grants awards to recipients in amounts determined by financial need and other qualifications.
In order to be eligible for the scholarship, the applicant must satisfy certain criteria as stated by the U.S.-Japan Council. First, the applicant must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. Second, the applicant must currently be in good academic standing at an accredited college or university in the U.S. Third, the applicant must be due to being enrolled in a credit-bearing course of study at a college, university or approved academic center in Japan in the upcoming academic year. The scholarship is NOT limited to exchange programs only and the following types of international study program types are also eligible for the scholarship. (see table below) Fourth, the applicant must demonstrate financial need for international study, that is, the applicant is unable to study abroad without financial support or assistance.
Besides the compulsory criteria stated above, applicants who fall under the following situations will be preferred by the U.S.-Japan Council during the selection. These include applicants who have been raised by a single parent or who have lost both parents, or applicants who do not have significant international travel or study experience and applicants who are the first in the family to attend or graduate from college (i.e. first-generation). However, these criteria are not necessary and even if the applicant does not fall under any of these categories, they are still eligible to apply.
Finally, applicants need to take note of the following situations where they are not eligible to apply for the scholarship. First, it should be noted that the priority for the scholarship is undergraduates who are studying abroad for a year or less. While graduate students and international degree-seeking students may also apply, the maximum amount granted is $25,000 for one year. Although the applicant can reapply for a second or third year, there is no guarantee for the scholarship award during the second or third application. Second, the scholarship does not support summer study abroad programs as the shortest study abroad duration is one semester. Third, the scholarship cannot be used for a program that is solely for studying at a language school. However, the applicant is still eligible to apply if the number of language classes taken does not exceed the number of academic courses taken during the study abroad program.
Lastly, while the Toshizo Watanabe Scholarship can be combined with other scholarships, this is only if the other scholarship(s) are unable to support the applicant’s full financial need.
The application for the scholarship is conducted via an online application portal which is available on the U.S.-Japan website during the application period starting from the first week of January. First, the applicant needs to visit the official application portal for the Toshizo Watanabe Study Abroad and register an account using either an email address or Facebook account. Then, the applicant must complete and pass the Eligibility Quiz (shown after you log in) in order to be eligible and apply for the scholarship.
In addition, the applicant must apply directly for the scholarship, submitting all their documentation via the online application portal by the deadline. It is not allowed for university offices to submit documents or applications on behalf of their students for the scholarship.
One unique feature of the scholarship is that applicants can apply for the scholarship even if he/she is not yet accepted to a study abroad program. In the scholarship application, there will be a section for the applicant to indicate what stage the applicant is currently in (see below).
– I have been accepted to and confirmed my attendance to a college/university in Japan
– I have been accepted to a college/university in Japan for study abroad, but have not finalized my attendance
– I have applied to a college/university in Japan for study abroad and am waiting for an admission decision
– I will apply to a college/university in Japan for study abroad
There are several documents required for the application and the best way to find out the exact documents will be to login to the online application portal. Here I list a few important documents for the application and the requirements for these documents which is taken from the U.S.- Japan Council’s official website.
1. The financial Aid Certificate Form
This is a document which provides proof of the costs of attendance and direct financial needs of the student for the study abroad term. This must be signed and completed by the appropriate school official such as staff from the Financial Aid.
2. The Study Abroad Certification Form
This is a document which provides proof that the applicant’s study abroad is a credit-eligible program and to confirm the program-related information entered by the applicant in their application form. This must be signed and completed by the appropriate school official with knowledge of the applicant’s study abroad plans, such as staff from the International/Study Abroad Office.
3. The Recommendation Letter
The letter must be in written in English. This has no required format or length and is up to the applicant and their recommender to decide. This may be provided by an academic advisor, a current or past professor or someone who knows you (the applicant) in a professional or volunteer capacity. The letter may not be completed by anyone who is related to you (e.g. – family, friends). The recommender will receive additional guidelines when they log in following receipt of their invitation to write a recommendation from the application system.
4. The Resume
The resume must be written in English and the content should focus on your education, extracurricular activities, achievements, and leadership experience. It is also stated clearly that applicants should not submit a Japanese-styled resume (rirekisho).
The Watanabe Scholarship covers direct costs such as tuition fees, room and board, transportation, health insurance, and books/materials. In the event of an exchange program however, the tuition of the applicant’s home university/college will not be covered.
As the scholarship is meant to support your financial need, which is the gap between the amount of money you need and the amount of money which you possess, it is crucial to calculate your financial need properly for the application. You can make use of the following formula. There are also specific examples given on the U.S.-Japan Council’s website which will help you better understand how the calculations should be performed.
Total Cost of Attendance – Amount of Confirmed Financial Resources you Have = Total Amount Requested From Watanabe // Financial Need
The average amount awarded by the scholarship is about $15,000. However, there is no set amount and the amount also varies significantly across recipients since this scholarship aims to meet the financial need of successful applicants. There is also no set number of scholarships to be awarded each year and varies depending on the funds available and the requested amounts. Just some statistics: For the 2018-19 round, the Council is supporting 39 scholars (21 Japanese, 18 Americans).
Regarding the method of payment, the scholarship will be paid in one lump sum installment at the start of the study abroad term to the school on behalf of the student. The student is hence responsible i ensuring that the scholarship is applied to direct costs for the entire study abroad term.
Finally, rest assured that there are no costs or fees associated with applying to the Watanabe Scholarship.
Application for 2019-2020 Academic Year
Applications for the scholarship will be accepted starting from the first week of January to February 17, 2019 and successful applicants will be notified via email in mid-May (between May 15 – June 1, 2019). Do note however that this schedule is subject to change. It is best to always check the Watanabe Scholarship web page for updates.
While the current application process is designed for those who are planning to study in Japan from Fall 2019 to Spring 2020, a side note for applicants planning to begin studying in Japan in Spring 2019 is that you may still apply for the scholarship to support half of your need for the study abroad year if your time abroad beginning in Spring 2019 will include the fall semester of 2019.
Finally, there is only a single application cycle for the scholarship every year and applicants who do not apply during the specified time frame can only apply when the opportunity re-opens next year in January. Do check out the U.S.-Japan Council’s official website for more details on the application of the scholarship if you are interested! You will not only find detailed guides for your application but also the experiences of past and current scholars under this scholarship.