How to Apply for the Embassy Recommended MEXT Scholarship in 2021/2022

2021 Mext Scholarship Embassy Application

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

Please Refer to the Updated Article for 2022!

The application guidelines for 2022/2023 are now available and I have written an updated article for that year. Please refer to the new article: How to Apply for the Embassy Recommended MEXT Scholarship in 2022/2023.

Application Guidelines for the 2022 MEXT Scholarship

MEXT released the application guidelines and forms for the Embassy Recommended MEXT Scholarship on April 16, 2021. This year, the application schedule has returned to the normal timeline after the COVID-19 disruptions in 2020.

If you have applied for the MEXT Scholarship in past years, or studied application guidelines from past years, including on this site, you’ll remember that the application process was disrupted and delayed in 2020. This year, however, everything is back to the normal schedule.

If you have only seen the disrupted schedule from 2020, here are the major revisions you need to be aware of:

  • The Primary Screening at the embassies is back to the normal schedule. Check the website of the Japanese embassy in your country for specific details on application deadlines, but the primary screening process is once again between May and July in 2021.
  • The Deadline to apply for Letters of Acceptance from universities is August 27. In 2020, the deadline was in November, but it has returned to the normal schedule.
  • The deadline to submit the final Placement Preference Form and Letters of Acceptance will be around late September. Again, see the embassy’s website for specific details for your country.
  • The maximum Number of Letters of Provisional Acceptance remains 2. Starting in 2020, applicants are only allowed to be in contact with two universities at a time to request Letters of Provisional Acceptance and the maximum number of letters you can receive is two. This number has not changed this year.
  • Secondary Screening and Placement Results will be in January 2022. This is back to the normal schedule.
  • Spring and fall arrivals are possible again. Because of the delays last year, only fall arrivals were possible in 2021. However, for 2022, applicants can once again start their studies in Japan in either the spring or fall semester.

Aside from the change to the maximum number of Letters of Provisional Acceptance, all the 2020 changes have reverted to the normal schedule.

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 you are applying for the MEXT scholarship for Research Students for the first time, or whether you are a veteran applicant, this article will explain 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 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.)

There are two reasons that applicants apply as a “Non-Degree” student (Research Student). The first, and most common, is many applicants start as a non-degree student for their first semester, only. During that time, they start preparing their research for their thesis, take some courses to catch up on their academic work, and also take the entrance exam that is required to officially start the program. In this case, a “Non-Degree” student is like being a “Pre-Graduate” student. You are just in that position short-term before applying for the degree (and simultaneously applying to extend your MEXT scholarship to cover the full degree).

The second reason to apply for a “Non-Degree” student status is if you are already enrolled in a degree in another country and want to come to Japan for a short amount of time to conduct research for your thesis or dissertation at your home university. In that case, you would not plan to earn a degree from a Japanese university.

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 clear and compelling relationship between your past studies and what you will study in Japan. It is up to you to explain the connection and convince your reviewers!

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 English 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.
  • International flight ticket from your country of residence 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, etc. MEXT will only arrange travel from your country of residence, not from a third country.
  • International flight ticket from Japan back to your country of residence upon successful completion of the scholarship. The same conditions apply as for the flight to Japan. Additionally, you must travel by the date specified by MEXT. You will not receive a flight ticket home if you lose the scholarship due to your own actions.
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Scholarship Period

The maximum Scholarship period is:

  • Non-Degree (research) students: Up to 24 months, from arrival in Japan until March 2024. The maximum duration of 24 months is only available if applicants arrive in April 2022, since the end date is fixed. If you arrive in the fall semester and your university’s semester starts on September 1, 2022, 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 2022 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 24 months!

As of the time of writing in 2021, your scholarship stipend only applies after you arrive in Japan. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, borders in Japan have been closed to new foreign national arrivals in general since spring 2020 and remain closed as of April 2021. Since MEXT scholars have not been able to come to Japan during that time, MEXT has not been paying their scholarship stipends. (Students have still been able to start their studies online and have been able to receive the tuition exemption during that time). If you cannot travel to Japan for the start of your degree due to COVID-19 and border closures, then your stipend would be paid from your date of arrival in Japan through the end of your degree, only.

In that case, please look for separate instructions from MEXT when it becomes possible to travel to Japan again.

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 published a separate article that covers the Embassy-Recommended MEXT Scholarship eligibility requirements for 2021/2022.

In addition to these requirements, you should also pay attention to any additional eligibility requirements established by the Japanese embassy in your country. You will have to meet all sets of requirements in order to apply!

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, 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. For example, in 2021, some embassies are accepting submission by email, since applicants are unable to travel and the postal service has been impacted. Please be sure to check the details for your specific embassy or consulate!

Your embassy or consulate may also have additional eligibility restrictions (such as additional GPA requirements in your home country’s system) or required paperwork (for example, pre-screening procedures) that you can only find on their website.

Application Timeline

Step Dates Notes
Submit application to embassies April – May, 2021 See the website of the Japanese embassy in your country for specific deadlines, requirements, and submission methods!
Primary Screening May – July, 2021 Includes review of submitted documents, language proficiency tests, and interview.
Apply to Universities for Letter of Acceptance July – August 27, 2021 August 27 (Japan time) 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 Late September 2021 See the website of the Japanese embassy in your country for specific deadlines!
Secondary Screening and University Placement October 2021 – February 2022
Notification of Results February 2022
Arrive in Japan April 2022 or September / October 2022

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 (for example, you may not be required to submit all of the documents with your initial application), 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 2022 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 the form from 2020, 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 bonus.

  1. Application Form with attached photograph* (Fillable PDF format from the 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!
    Click here for my article about how to complete this 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 coverings), and be 3.5 cm wide by 4.5 cm tall. The photograph must be printed on photo paper with your name and nationality written on the back, and pasted to the form. Never use staples to attach a photo!
  2. Placement Preference Application 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. The transcript(s) must show the grading scale, all grades earned in each course, and the year in which classes were taken. If you are enrolled in, or have already graduated from, graduate school, you must submit your transcripts from your undergraduate and graduate programs. 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.
    *If you are still enrolled in a degree program and will graduate before the end of the screening process, they you will also be required to submit your final transcript for that program when it is released.
  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 and must submit the final certificate of graduation later once they have completed the program and graduated.
  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 I do not recommend you use it, since a freeform letter can be accepted, instead. Just make sure that your freeform letter covers the questions indicated in the template. The template letter is from previous years and includes out-of-date instructions that say that the letter has to be submitted in a sealed envelope. That is no longer a requirement, though your recommender can choose to submit it sealed if they want. Remember, though, that you need to submit one original and two copies, so if your recommender does prefer to seal their letter in an envelope, be sure to ask them in advance to also make two photocopies of the letter and include them in the same envelope.
    *In 2021, some embassies are calling for applications to be submitted by email, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and they may ask for recommenders to submit their letters of recommendation directly to the embassy by email. Be sure to check the instructions on the website of the Japanese Embassy where you will apply for specific instructions in your case!
    *If you have already received a letter of recommendation in a sealed envelope by the time you are reading this and there is only a single original in there, please ask your local Japanese Embassy for guidance about what to do. They may instruct you to submit just the one original or may ask you to open the letter and make copies. This varies from country to country.
  7. Medical Certificate (also called the Certificate of Health in some cases) completed by a medical doctor (PDF format from Study in Japan website)
    *Please check the website of the Japanese Embassy where you will apply to see if they have specific instructions about this form. In some countries, they do not request this form at the start of the Primary Screening and only ask applicants to submit it later in the process. Be sure to check the requirements for your country!
  8. Abstracts of graduation theses or published articles, if available
    *If you have not written a graduation thesis or completed a similar graduation project (e.g. there is no thesis requirement for your degree), please contact the Japanese Embassy where you will apply to check what you should submit. In some cases they may say that you do not need to submit anything, but in others, they will ask you to submit an abstract of another major paper or presentation instead. If you have not written your thesis yet but will write one later, you can still submit an abstract before the thesis is complete, if your topic bas been determined.
    *You should also submit abstracts of all of the published works that you listed in your application form.
  9. Certificate of language proficiency (English or Japanese), if you have any. Typically, this refers to language proficiency tests, but if you do not have test scores but have other certificates of proficiency, such as a letter from your university attesting to your English language ability, you can submit those certificates, instead. This is an optional item, so if you do not have any scores or certificates you can still apply, unless otherwise indicated by the Japanese Embassy where you will apply. In most years, you will take language proficiency tests during the Primary Screening process that will be used for your official evaluation. However, due the COVID-19 pandemic, some countries have cancelled those tests and made submission of proficiency test scores mandatory, instead. Please refer to the embassy where you will apply for specific details in your case.
    *If you have mentioned language proficiency test scores in your application form, you should be sure to submit copies of those scores.
    *No original is required for this item, only 3 copies are needed.
    *Even if the embassy does not require you to submit proficiency test scores, there is a chance that Japanese universities will ask you to do so when you apply for Letters of Provisional Acceptance (Note: The article is from last year, so the dates are different. I will be updating it soon). It is a good idea to check in advance if the universities that you want to attend will require scores or not, if you can.
  10. Recommendation letter from present employer, if employed. The same sample format can be used as for the letter of recommendation from your university, but as mentioned above, I do not recommend that you use the template!
  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 2021/2022! 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!

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