Many plans have been altered worldwide due to the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). For some high school seniors, it meant cancelling plans to study abroad in Japan…but what if cancellation wasn’t really necessary?

At Schoolynk Media, we hope that every international student aspiring to study abroad in Japan has the opportunity to do so, even amid a global pandemic! In this article, we hope to clear some misunderstandings or uncertainties surrounding the following question about studying abroad in Japan:

  1. Can I still apply to study abroad in Japan for the 2021 school year?
  2. How are Japanese universities tackling the COVID-19 situation?
  3. What is the COVID-19 situation like for Japanese university students?

We hope that answering these questions will clarify some ambiguities regarding topics on studying abroad in Japan!

Can I still apply to study abroad in Japan for the 2021 school year?

YES! Since most classes are taking place online, the travel restrictions cannot stop you from pursuing your studies at a Japanese university!

Here are several of the top universities in Japan and their policies on international applications for the 2021-2022 school year amid the pandemic.

Applying to Keio University PEARL program

University of Tokyo (PEAK program)

  • Status: Accepting applications
  • Changes from previous years: ALL procedures of the application will be held online, including the interview
  • Application Submission Period:
    [First Screening] December 7, 2020 ~ January 7, 2021
    [Second Screening] February 2021 ~ March 2021
  • Official Guidelines: [PEAK]

Keio University (PEARL and GIGA programs)

  • Status: Accepting applications
  • Changes from previous years:
    [PEARL] Essay/Writing component of SAT/ACT not required.
    [GIGA] The Winter AO 2020 (Global) screening process requires no in-person interviews and still offers scholarships available exclusively for GIGA Program International Students
  • Application Submission Period:
    [PEARL] There are three application periods, first one starting on October 16, 2020 and the third one ending on May 21, 2021.
    [GIGA] Online application due February 5, 2021 AND Document submission due February 12, 2021
  • Official Guidelines: [PEARL] and [GIGA]

Waseda University (English-based Undergraduate degree programs)

  • Status: Accepting applications
  • Changes from previous years: Postponement of Test Scores and Test optional policy (depending on the department, English-based degree programs are allowing either a postponement or omission of standardized/entrance test score submissions from the application). However, proof of English proficiency must be submitted through options like iBT TOEFL Special Home Editions, Duolingo English test, or English-based standardized tests.
  • Application Submission Period: while the application period differs by each department, most submissions close at the end of February 2021.
  • Official Guidelines:
    [Political Science and Economics]
    [Social Sciences]
    [International Liberal Studies]
    [Culture, Media, and Society]
    [Science and Engineering]

International Christian University (English Language Based Programs)

  • Status: Accepting applications
  • Changes from previous years:
    Essay and Interview Exam (for students who cannot take the SAT/ACT, the admissions office is accepting an alternative essay and online interview option);
    IELTS Indicator or TOEFL iBT Special Home Edition as evidence of English language proficiency
  • Application Submission Period:
    [First Application Period] January 6, 2021 ~ January 25, 2021
    [Second Application Period] February 12, 2021 ~ March 2, 2021
  • Official Guidelines: [English Language Based Programs]

Osaka University

  • Status: accepting applications
  • Changes from previous years: none
  • Application Submission Period:
    [Web Application System] January 12, 2021 ~ February 2, 2021
    [Application acceptance period] January 25, 2021 ~ February 3, 2021
  • Official Guidelines: [General Admission]

How are Japanese universities tackling the COVID-19 situation?

With 137,000 cases of confirmed COVID-19 cases nationwide (as of November 2020), Japan has not experienced a massive outbreak of the virus, especially when compared with other nations. However, universities have been taking extensive measures to ensure the safety of their students, both domestic and international alike.

Online Courses:

Since the beginning of April, most Japanese universities have moved their classes online. This is especially the case for larger universities with many international students unable to travel back into Japan due to the pandemic. To combat the struggles of time differences and network connections, Japanese universities have engaged in various methods of conducting online classes.

  • On-Demand Videos: These are recorded lectures that are prepared by professors before the actual class for students to watch. They tackle the problem of students missing classes due to poor network connections.
  • Zoom Live-Streamed sessions: Some classes are live-streamed, and the professors host a video meeting for their students during the designated class time. These classes allow students to interact with the course material, the professors, and other students.
  • Discussion forums: Some professors set up discussion forums where students can submit reflections and questions based on the course material. It acts as a chat room for students in the taking the course.
  • Student surveys: At the end of the spring semester, Japanese universities sent out surveys for students to reflect on their university experience under COVID-19 restrictions. Answers were taken into account while planning for the autumn semester.

Hybrid Courses:

Some Japanese universities offer a hybrid of online and in-person classes for students residing near the university. Students can opt to take the classes in person or choose to watch the lesson online from home.

While hybrid courses were tested out in the beginning of the autumn semester, many classes are beginning to encourage students to take the lesson from home, since number of COVID cases are on the rise again.

What is the COVID-19 situation like for Japanese university students?

Of course, taking online classes and maintaining quarantine protocol is not the ideal ‘university experience.’ However, there are various opportunities for Japanese university students that are possible BECAUSE of the current pandemic situation. As a second year student at the Waseda University, I can share some insights on studying abroad in Japan under COVID-19.

For instance, during this pandemic, I have joined two new student projects that I engage in from home! One is called TEDxWaseda, where I am competing to become a representative speaker for the university’s official event held next year. The other is the Hult Prize Waseda competition for social business ideas. This one is especially exciting because I get to compete with my team of close friends! I also like to attend various virtual seminars hosted by student organizations, social innovators, and professionals in my field of interest. While everything is held online, the efficiency of the online platform has allowed me to engage in a wider range of activities offered at Japanese universities.

As for social life, I continue to keep in touch with my university friends. At Waseda, the international students have created various group chats to freely converse with each other. My friends and I often spend hours planning our ultimate trip through Japan once the pandemic settles down!

Please don’t give up your dreams to study abroad in Japan!

Yes, the current pandemic situation has made pursuing our dreams difficult. However, universities in Japan are still standing with arms wide open for prospective international students. Moreover, the faculty members and student organizers are taking advantage of the online platform by offering new ways for students to enjoy their studies. So please don’t give up on your plans to study in Japan, and let’s get over the pandemic blues together!

For direct inquiries regarding life as a university student in Japan during the pandemic, you can contact me at tamaki.hoshi@doorkel.com!