Contacting Professors: MEXT FAQ (Embassy-Recommended)


how to contact professors Embassy recommended MEXT scholarship email

Reaching out to a Japanese professor for the first time can be intimidating and confusing. Hopefully these questions and answers should make the process easier.

Embassy-Recommended MEXT Scholarship: Contacting Professors FAQ

For the Placement Preference Form, you are expected to list three universities and three professors that you want to study with. I’ve written before that you do not need professors’ permission to list them on this form, but I still get a lot of questions about it.

I’ve answered some of the most common questions below and will keep this page up to date with new questions, as well. If you want to know whenever there are updates to this (or any of the FAQs), I recommend that you join my MEXT Scholarship Mailing list.
I’ll also send you a copy of my sample Embassy-recommended MEXT scholarship application form (2018).

Here are the questions:

Where can I download the MEXT scholarship placement preference form?

It’s available on MEXT’s website, but that’s written entirely in Japanese. So here’s a direct download link. (2018 version, excel file)

When should I start contacting professors?

I recommend contacting them for networking purposes as early as possible, but I do not recommend mentioning the MEXT application or a letter of acceptance until you have established a bit of a relationship or you have passed the primary screening.

I can’t get in touch with a professor. Is it still OK to list him/her on the Placement Preference Form?

Yes. Once you pass the primary screening you’ll have to get in touch with the professor to request a letter of acceptance, but it’s OK to list them on the form in advance.

How should I contact professors?

The method varies by university, so you’ll have to check the university’s website. Look for scholarship-based admissions for international students (or if that fails, general admissions for international graduate students in your field). They should have instructions on how to contact professors for each university.

Some universities will give you the email addresses to contact professors directly. Others will direct you to go through and administrative office.

How should I write my emails?

I covered this subject in detail in Embassy-Recommended MEXT Scholarship 2018: How to Get Started

I contacted a professor, but he never wrote back to me. Does that mean he’s not interested in my research? (Before passing primary screening)

Not necessarily. There are dozens of reasons why a professor might not respond. Chief among them: Professors are very busy and typically don’t spend much time on email. Replying to you, especially if they don’t know you, or especially if you’re asking for a Letter of Acceptance before passing the primary screening, is probably not that important to them.

It’s nothing personal, but most applicants don’t pass the primary screening, so professors don’t want to invest time before they know you’re a serious prospect.

You can list that professor on your MEXT placement preference form, anyway!

I contacted a professor to request a letter of acceptance, but he never wrote back to me. Does that mean he’s not interested in my research? (After passing primary screening)

Not necessarily. Check that university’s website and see if you are supposed to contact professors directly. Some universities want you to, others collect all Letter of Acceptance requests through a central office. Make sure you’re approaching your request correctly.

Is it OK to list an Associate Professor (or Assistance Professor) as a supervisor, or must it be a full professor?

It’s OK to list junior ranked professors, but you should check the following points:

  • Does the faculty member have at least the degree you are applying for? (Obviously, a faculty member with only a Master’s cannot supervise a PhD candidate)
     
  • Does the faculty member oversee his/her own research? (If the professor is a junior member of another professor’s lab, you should probably go after the senior member as a supervisor)

Is it OK to list an undergraduate professor as a potential supervisor?

You should try to find out if that professor is also associated with a graduate school at the university. If their main responsibility is teaching undergraduate but they also work with the graduate school, that should be fine!

Do you have questions about contacting professors that I haven’t answered above?

Ask them in the comments below and I will update this page as soon as possible. (Please keep in mind that it may take some time for me to catch up).

I’d also recommend signing up for my mailing list, below, to get notified whenever I have updates to any of the FAQs or new articles about the MEXT scholarship!

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