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How to Apply to Universities in Japan (8 Steps)

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Japan boasts of a robust educational system that has made it the world’s cleverest nation. Although it’s only sixth in terms of IQ at 104.2 (Singapore is at the number 1 spot), it is fifth in terms of school test ranking. Add to that, it has the country with the sixth most number of Nobel laureates at 26 (a tie with Switzerland).

With the excellent track record of Japanese universities, the country continues to attract students from all around the world. If you want to be one of the 312,000 foreigners honing their minds (and skills) in Japan, then make sure to follow this guide on how to apply to Japanese universities.

1. Know what subjects you want to study at Japanese Universities

Picking the subjects you want to study in Japanese universities is crucial to applying to universities in Japan. Knowing this before submitting your application will help you to decide which universities are best for you. We’ve listed some of the most popular courses for international students.

Since Japan is a technologically-advanced country, most international students opt to take up Engineering courses in the country. With companies like Sony, Nintendo, and Toyota needing Engineers on the daily, such a degree can pave the way for possible employment in Japan.

Education is another hot course for foreigners in Japan. In fact, those who teach English in Japan are considered some of the highest-paid educators in the world.

Another popular course for international students in Japan is business, especially its MBA degrees. Compared to other countries, more women are taking up MBA in Japan, thus balancing the male-centric world of business and finance.

2. Fulfill the Japanese Language Requirements (if needed)

Since most universities teach their undergraduate courses in Japanese, you will need to have Japanese Proficiency in order to apply to Japanese universities and study in Japanese. If you are studying in English medium, you will need English Proficiency instead.

At Kyoto University, for example, applicants need to demonstrate proficiency in both Japanese and English. The former is screened through the Examination for Japanese University for International Students (EJU), which is a combination of the Japanese proficiency test and the general exam for foreign students. This is administered twice a year – once in June and another one in November.

As for Masters students, the need for Japanese proficiency will depend on the degree you wish to take. At Keio University, a high level of proficiency is required in the Schools of Letters, Law, Human Relations, Business & Commerce, Medicine, and Health Management, to name a few.

3. Meet English Requirements for Universities in Japan

For undergraduate students, proficiency in English are determined through IELTS and TOEFL. Other institutions may allow other tests such as the Cambridge Exam or Duolingo test. You will need English Proficency Exam if you are enrolling in English medium.

For Master’s students, schools that offer English courses such as the School of Science & Technology, proof of English proficiency is not necessarily required. Depending on the student’s knowledge of the Japanese language, he/she may opt to take some courses in Japanese.

4. Prepare to meet application prerequisites for Japanese Universities

The basic requirement for undergraduate applicants is a certificate of high school education. However, certain schools may ask for more documents according to the requirements of the program.

At the University of Tokyo, applicants also need to submit the following:

  • Grades/transcript of records
  • EJU results
  • TOEFL/IELTS results
  • Statement of purposes
  • Scores of any standardized test taken

You will need to meet the application requirements for Japanese universities before applying to universities in Japan.

As for incoming Masters students, the foremost requirement is the completion of a bachelor’s degree. At Keio University, admission is permitted granted that the applicant has finished 15-16 years of schooling – including that of his/her undergraduate degree. A record of exceptional grades is required as well.

In institutions such as the University of Tokyo, preference is given to applicants who have finished schooling in the last 2 years. Entrants will also need to take the Special Selective Examination for International Students, which is given every February. Admission is based on the results of the said exam, the other submitted documents, and the applicant’s performance in the interview.

5. Research and pick Japanese universities to apply to.

To be the best, you need to study at the best Japanese university you can get into. Fortunately, for many foreigners, there is no shortage of reputable universities in Japan. Two of them are even included in the World Ranking’s top 100 list – the University of Tokyo (rank 36) and Kyoto University (rank 54). You should consider applying to these excellent universities in Japan.

Completing the top list are Tohoku University, the Tokyo Institute of Technology, and Nagoya University.

Other noteworthy institutions include the University of Occupational & Environmental Health, Osaka University, Kyushu University, Tokyo Medical & Dental University, and the University of Tsukuba.

And while you may want to seek admission at any of the top 5 schools, you need to consider the field you wish to pursue as well. As certain universities have their own specialties, the top 1 school may not necessarily be the best school when it comes to a certain discipline.

For example, in the field of Clinical Health and Life Sciences, Kyoto University ranks better than the University of Tokyo. Coming in next for Clinical Health is Tokyo Medical and Dental, which is only included in the top 10 list. The same goes for Life Sciences, where seventh-seed Osaka University is considered the third-best school.

As for most fields, the University of Tokyo continues to be the best-performing school. According to the World Rankings, it is the top 1 Japanese University in the disciplines of the Arts & Humanities, Business & Economics, Computer Science, Education, Engineering, Physical Science, Psychology, and Social Science.

6. If you are concerned about your finance, look for affordable universities

International students in Japan can expect to pay anywhere as much as $20,000 a year. This is outside of your monthly cost of living, which on average, costs about $1,324. The cost may be cheaper – at Shikoku, for example, where you only need to spend about $998 a month. In Kanto, however, you will need to more as the cost of living is bigger at $1,477 a month.

Although Japanese universities have cheaper tuition fees in comparison to that of the United States and the United Kingdom, they may still prove to be expensive for some students. If you are one of these individuals, worry not as you can apply to many affordable Japanese universities. Here are some of them:

  • Osaka University – $4,000 a year
  • Kyushu University – $4,000 a year
  • Tohoku University – $4,000 a year
  • Nagoya University – $4,000 a year

A great thing about cheap Japanese universities is that they boast of excellent quality. Take the case of Tohoku University and Nagoya University, which are included in the top 5 list of the best universities in Japan. Osaka and Kyushu University, on the other hand, are ranked 7th and 8th in the list. That being said, even if you don’t pay a lot of money for your studies, you can still get a quality education right at the heart of Japan.

7. Apply to Japanese Universities

The next step is actually apply to universities in Japan! You’ve prepared everything and now, it is time to submit them!

8. Finally, research scholarships provided in Japan

If you still can’t afford to study in Japan – despite gaining admission to affordable universities – then you should try and apply for any of the scholarships given to foreign students. One good example is the Japanese Government MEXT scholarship, the details of which you can learn from the Japanese embassy in your home country. Apart from deferring some of your tuition, this also provides a monthly stipend, with the cost varying according to the level of study.

Privately-financed international students may also apply for the Reservation Program for Monbukagakusho Honors scholarship, which is given to students who fare well in the EJU.

There are 17 organizations and local governments that provide scholarships too, which means you have lots of chances to apply before you get admitted – even after you arrive in Japan.

I hope that this article on how to apply to universities in Japan was helpful. If you are interested, visit the Asia Scholarships Category!