How to Apply for the Embassy Recommended MEXT Scholarship in 2020/2021

2020 Mext Scholarship Embassy Application

The Embassy Recommended MEXT Scholarship is your best chance for a fully-funded graduate degree in Japan.

Article Updated for 2021/2022

The article below was for the application process in 2020/2021 and is out of date.
Please find the newest update about the scholarship application process for 2021/2022 here.

COVID-19 Impact on 2021 MEXT Scholarship Application Schedule

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, MEXT released the application guidelines and forms for the Embassy Recommended MEXT Scholarship over a month late on May 22, 2020. The entire application schedule has also been pushed back, including arrival time in Japan.

If you have applied for the MEXT Scholarship in past years, or studied application guidelines from past years, including on this site, here are the important changes that you need to know:

  • The Primary Screening at the embassies has been pushed back. Check the website of the Japanese embassy in your country for specific details on application deadlines, but the primary screening process is not between June and October 2020.
  • The Deadline to apply for Letters of Acceptance from universities is November 20. In past years, the deadline was in August, but it has been pushed back by three whole months to accommodate a later and longer Primary Screening.
  • The deadline to submit the final Placement Preference Form and Letters of Acceptance will be around January. Again, see the embassy’s website for specific details for your country.
  • Secondary Screening and Placement Results will be in June 2021. This is about five months later than normal years!
  • You can only arrive in Japan for the 2021 Fall Semester. Because of the later application period, spring semester arrivals are no longer possible this year.
    *This means that you can only be a non-degree research student for a maximum of 17 or 18 months.

It is too early now to know if these changes will be permanent or only for this year.

What this Article Will Cover

How to apply for the MEXT scholarship guide ebook

Want a step-by-step guide to the application process, including how to develop your application strategy? Click here to learn more about the first book in the Mastering the MEXT Scholarship ebook series.

Whether your are applying for the MEXT scholarship for Research Students for the first time, or whether you are a veteran applicant, this article will walk you through everything you need to know for the application process. I will also include links to other, relevant articles that will help you along your way. I will cover the following topics, so if you’re already familiar with a particular section, please feel free to skip ahead.

  • Available degree levels and programs
  • Scholarship benefits
  • Eligibility (*Separate article, linked below)
  • Where, when, and how to apply
  • What you need to submit
  • Application timeline

This article is focused on the MEXT scholarship for Graduate Students (a.k.a. Research Students, in MEXT’s terms). There is also an application process for Undergraduate Students, but I will not be discussing that in this article. Undergraduate applicants, college of technology applicants, and specialized training applicants can find this year’s guidelines on the official Study in Japan website.

What Degree Programs are Available?

MEXT uses the word “research student” to refer to all graduate level students. You can apply for any of the following programs:

  • Non-Degree Student (also called “Research Student” at most universities)
  • Master’s Degree Student
  • Doctoral Degree Student
  • Graduate-level Professional Degree Student (MBA, JD, etc.)

Fields of Study

You should apply for the field of study that you majored in at university or its related field. If you plan to change fields, you need to be able to show a concrete relationship between your past studies and what you will study in Japan. It is up to you to make this clear!

Your field of study also has to be available at the graduate level at a university in Japan in a language that you speak. If you can find at least one graduate program taught in a language that you are fluent in in Japan, you will be fine.

Programs that require practical training, such as performing arts or programs that require technical training at a factory or company are not permitted. You can study Japanese performing arts from an academic perspective, so long as no practical performance training is required.

Finally, for medical or dental fields, you would not be able to participate in any clinical training until you receive the relevant licenses from the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare. License exams are only in Japanese and involve significant technical language. This essentially means that you would need native-level fluency in Japanese.

MEXT Scholarship Benefits

  • Exemption from paying tuition, entrance examination, and matriculation fees.
    *You may be required to pay entrance examination fees in advance, if your MEXT scholarship award is not yet confirmed at that time, but the fees would be refunded to you after you are selected for the scholarship
  • Monthly stipend:
    • Non-Degree Students: JPY 143,000/month
    • Master’s Degree/ Professional Degree Students: JPY 144,000/month
    • PhD Students: JPY 145,000/month
    • (Undergraduate Students: JPY 117,000/month)
  • Cost of Living Adjustment: JPY 2,000 – 3,000 in selected areas, due to high cost of living or seasonal adjustments for winter utilities, etc.
  • Round-trip international flight ticket to Japan. Note: only the international portion of the ticket is covered. You are responsible for all domestic travel costs in your home country and in Japan, plus the airport usage fees and fuel surcharges.

Scholarship Period

The maximum Scholarship period is:

  • Non-Degree (research) students: 17 or 18 months, from arrival in Japan until March 2023. If your university’s semester starts on September 1, 2021, you will get 18 months of stipend (including September), but if the university semester starts on September 2 or later, your scholarship stipend will start in October 2021 and you will be eligible for a maximum of 17 months.
  • Master’s Degree or Professional Degree Students: 24 months
  • Doctoral Degree or Doctoral-level Professional Degree Students: 36 months
    *For doctoral students in 4-year programs in medicine, dentistry, veterinary science, or pharmacy, the duration would be 48 months.

For students in degree programs, you may also participate in a 6-month preparatory Japanese language program prior to the start of your degree. This program is designed to help you learn basic, survival Japanese, so it is primarily for students with little to no language ability. It is not designed to teach academic Japanese sufficient to study a degree program in that language. If you are assigned to this program, the six months will be covered by scholarship (as a non-degree student) prior to your degree. For students applying as non-degree students, these six months are part of your maximum 17 to 18 months!

It is possible to apply to extend the scholarship if you advance to the next level degree (from Non-Degree Student to Master’s or Doctoral Degree or from Master’s to Doctoral Degree). However, you cannot extend your time as a Non-Degree (Reseach) student and you cannot extend the scholarship period if you fail to complete the degree within the time limit above.

Who is Eligible?

I have written a separate article that covers the Embassy Recommendation MEXT Scholarship eligibility requirements in complete detail.

Where and When do you Apply?

You apply at the Japanese embassy or consulate that serves the area where you live. You can find the list of Japanese embassies or consulates around the world at:

I recommend using a Control-F search on that page to find your country. It may not be listed under the region of the world that you are used to.

While I will give the general application deadlines below (updated for the 2020/2021 cycle), each embassy or consulate sets its own deadlines, so be sure to check the embassy or consulate webpage for specific application instructions. Your embassy or consulate will explain exactly what you have to submit and how.

Your embassy or consulate may also have additional eligibility restrictions or required paperwork (for example, pre-screening procedures).

Application Timeline

Step Dates Notes
Submit application to embassies June-September, 2020 See the website of the Japanese embassy in your country for specific deadlines!
Primary Screening June-October, 2020 Includes review of submitted documents, language proficiency tests, and interview.
Apply to Universities for Letter of Acceptance October – November 20, 2020 November 20 is the deadline to apply to universities, not the deadline for them to get back to you.
Submit letters of acceptance and Placement Preference Form to Embassy January 2021 See the website of the Japanese embassy in your country for specific deadlines!
Secondary Screening and University Placement February – June 2021
Notification of Results June 2021
Arrive in Japan September – October 2021

What you Have to Submit

Each of the documents below is required by MEXT. However, embassies may ask for additional documents and may ask for each document at a different time, so again, be sure to check the specific instructions for your embassy!

For each document below, you will need to submit one original as well as two photocopies and they must be numbered in the top right corner. I will include direct download links to MEXT’s documents where available. Keep in mind that these are the documents for the 2021 Embassy Recommendation MEXT Scholarship Application for Graduate Students, if you are applying for any other kind of scholarship or at any other time, do not use these links!

I will be posting separate articles soon about the Application Form for this year (in the meantime, here is my guide to last year’s form, which is nearly identical) and about the other required documents. Be sure to subscribe to my MEXT scholarship mailing list to be the first to know when those articles are posted! I will also send you a sample completed application form as a special thanks.

  1. Application Form with attached photograph* (Excel format from Study in Japan website)
    As a special thanks to mailing list subscribers, I will send you a sample of the completed application form that you can use as a guide!
    *As of the time of posting this article, the sample form is from the 2020 application process, but the forms are very similar in content. I will be updating that sample file soon, as I write the updated article on how to fill out the form!
    * The photograph must be clear, without shadows, no more than 6 months old, show your upper body, facing forward with no hats (except religious head ocverings), and be 3.5 cm wide by 4.5 cm tall. The photograph can be printed on photo paper or digitally inserted into the application form prior to printing.
  2. Placement Preference Form (Fillable PDF format from Study in Japan website).
    Click here for my article about how to complete this form.
  3. Field of Study and Research Program Plan (Word format from Study in Japan website)
    Click here for my article about how to complete this form.
  4. Academic transcript for each academic year of university education attended, issued by your university or national government. This must show the grading scale, all grades earned in each class, and the year in which classes were taken. If enrolled in graduate school, you must also submit your undergraduate transcript. If you transferred universities or studied abroad, you will likely also be required to submit your pre-transfer transcript or the transcript from your study abroad university.
  5. Certificate of graduation or degree. A copy attested by an official at the university will be accepted as an original. Do not submit your original diploma as submitted documents will not be returned to you!
    *Certificates of graduation are required for all university degrees earned in the past.
    *Applicants who have not yet graduated must submit a certification of expected graduation, instead.
  6. Recommendation from the president, dean, or your academic advisor at the most recent university where you are/were enrolled in a degree program. There is a sample template available (PDF format) on the Study in Japan website, but a freeform letter is acceptable. Note: The template letter is from previous years and includes out-of-date instructions. You no longer have to submit the letter in a sealed envelope as mentioned in the sample.
  7. Medical Certificate completed by a medical doctor (PDF format from Study in Japan website)
  8. Abstracts of graduation theses or published articles, if available
  9. Certificate of language proficiency (English or Japanese language proficiency test scores), if you have any and have indicated your scores in the application form. No original is required for this item, only 3 copies are needed.
  10. Recommendation letter from present employer, if employed. The same sample format can be used as for the letter of recommendation from your university
  11. Photograph(s) or digital audio recordings of applicant’s works, if applying for fine arts or music programs.

Be sure to check with the Japanese embassy or consulate in your Home Country! They may have additional requirements or may require the documents above at different times during the process.

The embassy or consulate is also your only source of information about the application deadline and the means of submitting the application!

Good luck with the MEXT scholarship application in 2021! If you have any questions I didn’t cover, let me know in the comments, below!

Be sure to sign up for my mailing list below to be the first to find out when new articles about the scholarship are available, too.

Want to know more?

My book, How to Apply for the MEXT Scholarship describes the scholarship in detail, including the purpose and coverage, the eligibility criteria, how to develop a successful applicant mindset, and how to craft your application strategy for the greatest chance of success!

Special Thanks

Special thanks to the TranSenz supporters on Patreon, who help keep this site running through their generous contributions. Patreon supporters get early access to articles, discounts on coaching services/books, and priority responses to questions.

You can show your support for TranSenz on Patreon for as little as $1 (0.08% of a MEXT monthly stipend) per month. If TranSenz has helped you in your application process and you want to “pay it forward” to keep this site running to help future applicants, every contribution helps!

If you want to show your support but Patreon is out of reach, I’d appreciate it if you say hi on social media or in the comments below to let me know if you appreciate these posts. You can find me on facebook at @TranSenz or on Twitter at @tagsenzaki. I look forward to saying hi!

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