Rock That JET App

What up ya’ll.  As many of you know, October is JET application season, so today I bring you a breakdown of all the components of the JET program app.  Buckle up kids, it’s a doozy.

(Disclaimer: this is based on the application for the USA. Things may be slightly different for the applications from other countries)

The application itself is mostly pretty simple and self-explanatory, just basically filling in information about yourself.  The app is pretty lengthy, though, so starting as early as you can is best.  However, if you haven’t started yet, don’t stress!  You still have plenty of time.  Don’t rush through it, you don’t need to be like this guy:

JET Program.PNG

That guy is obnoxious, tbh.

Anyway, let’s get started.

1. Position Type

There are two types of positions available to you as a JET program applicant: ALT (Assistant Language Teacher) and CIR (Coordinator for International Relations).  I’m not going to go into much detail about it here, because there’s plenty of information out there for you to look up for yourself (and because I don’t super know what a CIR does, if I’m being honest), but here’s a breakdown:

ALT: is a teacher, works in a school, plans lessons and interacts with students

CIR: more of a community outreach type situation, from what I understand.  Requires some serious Japanese language skillz.

The majority of you will be applying for ALT positions.  All you have to do here is select which position you want.

2-4. Interview Location, Contact Information, and Criminal Record

These sections are really self-explanatory.  What consulate are you closest to?  What’s your address and phone number?  Have you ever gone to jail?  If you cannot answer these questions, I would reconsider trying to live on your own in a foreign country.


Again, fairly self-explanatory.  Just fill in where you went to school.  My one caveat here is that if you, like me, have completed more than one degree, write your most recent area of study under where it says major (this is the type of shit I lost sleep over last year. Don’t be like me.).

6.Work Experience

This section is for any work experience that does NOT include formal teaching experience.  However, you should include any informal teaching you may have done.  Worked at a summer camp?  Write that here.  Tutored kids?  Write that here.  Taught dance classes?  You get the point.

7.Teaching Experience

If you have taught in a school, have a degree or certificate in education, or have participated in a teacher training program, this section is all for you.  If not, keep moving.

Not having teaching experience will not hurt your chances of being accepted into the JET program.  I know plenty of people here who aren’t certified to teach and who don’t plan to be.  This is not a pre-requisite in any way.

8.Japan-Related Studies

If you’ve taken Japanese classes, or have taken classes about Japan, write that here.

If you, like me, have never taken any type of Japan-related class in your life, don’t stress–it’s clearly not an issue.  That being said, if you’re applying…start studying.  Don’t be like me and say “I’ll start tomorrow” every day.  If you get in, you’ll be glad you started early, trust me.  They’re pretty pricey, but I recommend the Genki textbook series–but don’t bother yourself about the workbooks because there’s plenty of practice in the textbooks themselves.  And if you do start studying, don’t forget to write in self-study in the Japanese language study box.
Also, I feel like this should go without saying, but be honest when you assess your own proficiency.  They WILL ask you to speak Japanese in your interview, so this is no time to get all embarrassed (or cocky) about your ability.

9. Intercultural

It doesn’t seem like it because its so brief, but this part is HELLA important.  The entire point of the JET Program is intercultural exchange (Japan Exchange and Teaching, duh), so you need to use this section to show that you are down with cultural exchange.  Here are my tips:
  • Pull out the receipts.  So you went abroad for a week when you were 16?  Cool, write it.  Seriously.
  • That being said, if you do write about a trip abroad, you have to prove how it enhanced your life through cultural exchange.  So, obviously don’t write “went to Germany and got shitfaced at Oktoberfest.”  Instead, write: “experienced the culture of Germany by taking part in their annual community festival, where I had the chance to exchange ideas with the locals.”  Get creative with it, ya’ll.
  • Lastly, try to write something about cultural experience you’ve had in your own country.  You live in America, so if you’ve never experienced a culture different from your own you either live in the deep South or you’re lying.  It can be something simple, like seeing a dance performance from another culture, just make sure to use your words creatively again to make it sound like you’re mad cultured.

10. Achievements

Again, PULL OUT THE RECEIPTS.  I graduated from college four years ago, but I still wrote about stuff I did at school.  You can even write about high school if you want to.  Write anything that makes you look good, and which makes you look like you enjoy getting involved in a community.

11-12. JET Program and Accompanied JETS

Just fill out those forms, ya’ll.

13. Placement Requests

This is where you tell the JET Program where you want to live if you get accepted into the program.  Generally speaking, the powers that be will look at this section, say “that’s nice,” and then throw it out the window.  Don’t let that stop you from requesting a placement, though, because you never know (but don’t get your hopes up too high).  However, if you request an area, you’d better have a real, legitimate reason you want to live in this prefecture, because they WILL ask you about it if you get to the interview stage.  You should also have a reason behind why you chose an urban, suburban, or rural area.

14. Alternate Contacts

Once again, self-explanatory.  Fill it out.

15. Self Report of Medical Conditions

In this section, you need to tell the program about any health issues you may suffer from.  This will not affect your application in any way, so be honest.  If they find out you’re lying in any part of your application, you will be disqualified from the program, so there’s no need to hide things you think that THEY think may affect your ability to perform the job or live abroad.
Everyone who gets accepted will need to fill out a Certificate of Health at some point, but some of you will need to have it filled out at this point.  It’s basically just a physical at the doctor’s office, but they do want a chest x-ray for tuberculosis. I was able to just have the blood test done for TB instead of the chest x-ray, but check with your consulate before going ahead with this.

16. Statement of Purpose

This is it.  The big one.  Your statement of purpose.  This is unarguably THE most important part of your application, so you better make it good.  You get two pages, double spaced, which sounds like a lot, but isn’t.  I cut A LOT from my statement of purpose, and had to rework it several times before I was satisfied.
Your statement of purpose needs to answer these four questions:
1. Why do you want to go to Japan on JET, and why do you want to be an ALT/CIR.
2. What will you do for the Japanese community?
3. How will your experiences help you be an effective ALT/CIR.
4. What will you gain from being on the program/how does this further your career.
  • Focus most heavily on numbers one and two, but especially on number two. Why do you want to go to Japan?  How you going to spread multiculturalism in your community?
  • Be as specific as possible.  Give me concrete reasons why you want to go to Japan, and actual actionable goals for how you want to spend your time there.  Saying “I want to participate in tea ceremony club at my school” is way better than saying “I hope to experience the many different facets of Japanese culture.”  It shows you have a clear goal, and an intent to interact with the culture of your community.
  • Don’t focus on what you’ve already done.  If they’ve read the rest of your application (which they have), they know what you’ve done and where you’ve been.  They want to know how all that is going to benefit Japan, so just briefly mention past experiences and then move on.
  • Write one paragraph at most on number four.  It’s worth mentioning (because they told you to mention it), but it’s really the least important part of the SOP.
Unfortunately I cannot share my own SOP (because for some reason I can’t find the version I actually ended up submitting, oops), but here are the resources I used when writing mine.  Hopefully they can help you as much as they helped me!

17. Upload Documents

This is where you scan in and upload all your documents, such as your passport, your transcripts, and your physician’s form (if applicable).  If you don’t have a scanner, don’t worry–the app Genius Scan allows you to take a photo of your documents (it snaps to the edges of the page) and converts it to a PDF for easy uploading.
Also note–in order to scan your transcripts, you must open them.  You just send in the opened transcripts with your mail-in app, so don’t stress over that (like I did).

19. Reference Letters

Hopefully you’ve already contacted the people you want to write your reference letters.  If not, here’s some tips for selecting the right people:
1. Teachers are best
Teachers are highly valued in Japan, and their opinions of you will be regarded a bit more highly than an employer.  If you’re not in touch with past teachers or professors, that’s okay, but if you think there’s a chance an old teacher will be able to write something about you, go for it.
2. Ask someone who knows you well
Choose someone who is intimately familiar with you and your work, who can speak to your abilities and who can provide specific examples of what you’ve done in the past.
Having good references shows that you have a good rapport with the people you work with, should hopefully showcase your abilities and work that you’ve already done, and show why you belong in the program.  You can’t control what your references write, but choosing the right people is the first step.
Of course, make sure to keep an eye on the references portal to ensure that your references have actually written and submitted the form.  If a few weeks go by and they haven’t submitted it, don’t be afraid to contact them and remind them when the deadline is (I totally stressed over whether it was annoying to email my professor to remind her to send it in.  Your reference probably just didn’t write a note for themselves, so just bite the bullet and send the email).

20. Mail in Application

Congratulations!  You’ve finished the app!  You’ve submitted it online, and now you have to mail it in.  The official list of what needs to be mailed is in the application portal, so look there to double (and triple, and quadruple) check that you have everything you need.  Remember to keep the documents in order, and don’t staple anything!
I hope this little guide was helpful, but feel free to contact me (or the facebook group) with any further questions!  Good luck, and try not to lose your mind during the two months of waiting to hear about the interview (spoiler alert: you’re going to lose your mind. Sorry, I don’t make the rules).

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