Today, I am excited to bring you a guest post from an Embassy-Recommended MEXT Scholarship applicant who passed the Primary Screening in 2020, Johnny Navarro. Johnny has been a frequent commenter on the blog and has been generous in sharing his experience in those posts, as well. Here’s his story about the Primary Screening from start to finish!
Hello! My name is Johnny Navarro and I was selected as a MEXT 2021 candidate in my home country, Panama. In other words, I was able to successfully pass the Primary Screening this year!
I was kindly invited by Travis to write a guest post in his blog in hopes that by sharing firsthand information on the scholarship process, we might be able to help future applicants.
Do keep in mind this year was extremely special considering the COVID-19 pandemic, many things changed about the scholarship process, but I hope some of this information can be useful to you! Also, the dates mentioned in this post are specific to my situation, but I mention them to give you an idea of how much time every step took.
Start of the Application Process
Note from Travis: If you want to check out my books on the MEXT Scholarship, but can’t afford to purchase them yourself, you can request your university or local library to order them! They are available in the catalogues that most libraries use to order physical or ebooks, and I have the information you need to give the library in the individual pages for those books!
The MEXT scholarship process can be overwhelming, it is not easy by any means, but don’t let that get to you. If you can, get Travis’ books, I cannot recommend them enough. If you can’t, then just going through Travis’ blog can get you to a whole different level giving you the chance to have a stronger application and hopefully get the scholarship!
Now getting into my actual experience, I started preparing my application about 4 months before the deadline, which is something I wouldn’t recommend. As Travis has mentioned before, in an ideal scenario, you should aim to start preparing at least 6 months before your deadline. I was able to make it in less time, but I had to put in a lot of work to make up for all that lost time. So if you want to be able to prepare your application and review it properly without being in a rush, start at least 6 months before the deadline!
In fact, if you plan to participate next year, you should probably start preparing soon!
Submitting the Application Documents
While the original deadline for submitting the documents would’ve been at about late March/early April, it wasn’t until July that the embassy started accepting the documents, at least in Panama.
The submission was in-person, despite the COVID situation, and the documents were delivered as per the MEXT instructions. If you want to know more about these instructions, you can find them in the Application Guidelines, but basically you have to print out all the documents, number them by hand (each document has a particular number shown on the Guidelines) and put them within an envelope.
Note #1: When I delivered the documents I didn’t have my graduation diploma yet, but I was able to participate just fine with an official letter from my university showing that I had already finished my bachelor’s degree. The same should work if you haven’t finished yet but expect to do so before the application process ends. You will be asked for your actual diploma upon passing the first screening though.
Note # 2: My embassy did not have any additional requirements for applying to the scholarship. It could be possible for embassies in other countries to ask for additional documents so be careful!
Getting the Confirmation
After you deliver the documents they must review them before giving you the chance of taking the exams and doing the interview. A lot of applicants are discarded at this point, that’s why it’s important for your application to be as strong as possible!
My embassy’s deadline was on August 31st and I was confirmed to have passed the document review on September 2nd, so it took about 2 – 3 days. Only about 7 people were chosen after reviewing the documents. They contacted us through email, it could be different for you but just in case be sure to provide them with an email you check regularly so you don’t miss it!
It is worth mentioning that originally the exams and interview were supposed to be taken on September 7th but were moved to September 14th. The reason I mention this is because had the exams remained on the original date, we would have had only 5 days to prepare.
In the end, I had almost 2 weeks to prepare for the exams and interview, but this was an exceptional case, so don’t be surprised if next year you only get less than a week to prepare after being confirmed you passed the document review!
Exams and Interview
Usually the exams and interview are done in separate days, with the exams being first, but this year I had to take both on the same day.
The exams were taken first and only those who passed were told to return to have the interview. The same applies for the “normal” application process, only those who pass the exams can move on to the interviews usually held the next day.
In case you didn’t know, for the graduate version of the MEXT scholarship you must take English and Japanese exams. With emphasis on the English one since the Japanese exam is not taken into consideration when selecting the candidates, you don’t need to know Japanese in order to win this scholarship. If anything, performing well on the Japanese exam could influence on whether you need to take the six-month language program upon arriving at Japan.
The exam was just as you would expect it to be if you practiced with the sample tests found on the Study in Japan website. In my case, I also practiced with TOEFL sample tests, particularly weird vocabulary you don’t usually find in day to day conversation and reading comprehension.
The English exam is not complicated so you should be able to pass it just fine. Considering most people that win the MEXT scholarship take English-taught graduate programs in Japan, you should probably be already proficient enough in English to pass the embassy’s exam without problem.
Note from Travis: While the Japanese exam is not critical to your evaluation in many cases, do not leave it blank! In the 2019/2020 application cycle, several applicants reported that they did not pass the Secondary Screening because they had left the Japanese language exam blank during the Primary Screening process.
This is the most important part of the whole primary screening. This is when you “sell” your research idea to the embassy officials and show them why YOUR idea matters and not the other applicants’. Might sound a bit cruel but this is a highly competitive process and you want to make sure you stand out.
In my case, the interview committee consisted of 3 people: one Japanese embassy official and two former MEXT scholars. My entire interview was done in my mother language (Spanish), although I’ve heard applicants being asked a couple of questions in English before, even a couple in Japanese if you tell them you know the language. Of course this wouldn’t matter if your mother language is English, but in case you are from a non-English speaking country keep in mind you may be asked questions in English.
Regarding the actual interview questions, my interview was a little bit peculiar. If you have read Travis’ guide on how to prepare for the interview you’d remember that the committee usually ask you several “generic” questions about your interests on studying in Japan. They usually don’t dive too much into questions about your actual research, in fact Travis recommends us not to talk too much about it ourselves in case we end up hurting our chances to get the scholarship, however in my case almost all of the questions were related to my research idea!
They only asked me 3 of the “generic” questions and then moved on to talk about my research idea for the rest of the interview. I did not expect that at all. In fact, the former MEXT scholars from the interview committee were not even from my area of study and they still asked highly specific questions about my research. So I guess you should just in case prepare for something like that.
Interview questions may vary between applicants, but for reference here are mine:
- What do you want to study and why in Japan?
- What sort of cultural activities would you do once in Japan?
- Have you travelled to Japan before? If not, how have you been exposed to Japanese culture?
After that, all the other questions were about my research idea. I won’t get too much into them since they were very specific to my idea and area of study so it would probably not be useful for everyone, but to give you a general idea, the committee was interested in things like:
- Where would I get the input data for my research.
- If had my research idea been done before in either Japan or my home country.
- In what ways my idea could benefit the general field of study.
- How could I benefit my home country with the results.
- How would I apply the results of my particular research from a Japanese setting to my home country considering cultural differences.
I was not prepared for that last question! So I had to come up with ideas right on the spot. Expect the unexpected, they might ask you about scenarios you haven’t particularly thought of before, but what matters is that you don’t get anxious, come up with a creative solution!
Fun fact: when they asked me about my exposure to Japanese culture I mentioned about my love for Japanese literature and we ended up discussing our favorite Japanese authors and books, that was quite interesting!
If I had to give a single advice regarding the interview, it would be to always show them clearly that your idea is not for yourself but rather to help both your home country and Japan. Show them you are not doing this for you, but to help others. The outcome must be beneficial for both countries, otherwise what’s the point.
Note: If you are asked about why you chose Japan as your destination for graduate education, please don’t mention that your reason is because you love Anime or Manga! Even if you are a diehard fan, talking about Anime or Manga in your interview is only going to hurt your chances of winning.
First Screening Results
I had my exams and interview on September 14th, after that I was notified to have been chosen as a MEXT 2021 candidate on September 16th. Only 2 days later! I’m not sure if they deliver the results that fast every year, but originally they told me it could take up to 1 week.
They notified me through a phone call (the best phone call of my life!) and sent me an email after. I’ve been in contact with embassy officials through email ever since.
And that’s it. That’s how my MEXT 2021 application process finished (at least the primary screening). It was a quite long and difficult process, I really think I couldn’t have done it without the help of Travis’s books and blog, so I owe him a lot, thanks Travis!
As of the time of writing this post you could say I’m still in the application process, namely the Secondary Screening. I have to start contacting universities to get their letters of acceptance and then everything will be sent to Japan to double check everything is OK before they assign me to a particular university (they are the ones who decide where to send you in the end in case you didn’t know). And that’s pretty much it.
If you feel like keeping in touch with me for any reason, you can visit my website www.johnnynavarro.com, there you can find my contact info, LinkedIn account and other stuff!
You can also find me at www.kikure.com, a small blog about different ways of going to Japan! I am a writer/developer there so please check it out if you are interested! We post content both in English and Spanish. Kikure also have social media accounts: @kikureblog on Instagram and both @EspanolKikure and @KikureBlog on Twitter, were we post about useful and interesting Japanese words and we also notify whenever a new blog post is uploaded to the website.
That’s all from me, thank you very much Travis for allowing me to write this guest post! Hopefully this information can be useful for future applicants, みんな頑張ってください！
Thanks for taking your time to read about my experience, feel free to leave any questions you have!
Many thanks to Johnny for sharing his experience! I hope this has been helpful for all of you. Please feel free to leave any questions below.
Ads by Google:
As always, thank you for your useful information about the scholarship application process.
I have a small question about the written exam.
I’ve tried all 3 published previous exam questions, and got around 77/100 for English and 72/100 for Japanese. I’m worrying that I may fail the written exam with those score.
So, what I want to ask is, do you know in which manner they decide who pass and who fail the written exam? Is it competitive-based, which they will choose X number of highest-score participant, or is it threshold-based, which anyone scored higher than XX will pass the exam?
In most cases, the exams are not treated as a separate elimination step, independent of all other criteria. (Unless your score indicated that you didn’t have the language ability to pursue a degree – but that doesn’t sound like a problem in your case). Usually, they are considered in conjunction with your “score” from the document review and the interview, so it’s a more holistic evaluation.
But in the end, it is a zero-sum game and they will choose the best applicants over the course of the full screening.
– Travis from TranSenz
Hi Travis, hope you’re safe and well there in Japan. I am a 2021 scholar, hoping to enter this October 2021. Just wanted to check in with you (I don’t know how else to ask other than commenting in one of your posts, so I hope it’s okay) if you have any news or hunches if our October entry will push thru? I understand you’ve been working with international students for quite some time already, and maybe you have some idea or guess how MEXT or MOFA will handle the situation?
I also would want to consult my situation – my online language classes are set to start on Oct 4 (confirmed it’s to be held via zoom), and I guess by that time I still won’t be in Japan nor have any flight details yet since it’s just 2-3 weeks away. Should I resign from my work in order to focus on my language classes? Or do you think it’s okay to double hat (studying and working at the same time)? I fear that if I quit my job, I’ll quickly deplete my savings and related to my first question, I won’t have enough funds to get me thru the quarantine expenses and the first month in Japan (especially if say, the entry gets delayed up to December or January? Is this likely?) Maybe you have had experience handling similar cases last year or with another MEXT scholar? Any advice would be very helpful to me! I just wanted to share my situation and vent a bit over the uncertainty of my life right now. Thanks for understanding and for your noble and dedicated support to us international students! I wish you more power and good health…
Commenting here is the best way (really, the only way) to reach me!
Unfortunately, there really is no precedent that applies to the current situation. A year ago, Japan opened its borders in October and some MEXT Scholars were able to get in during that time, but they closed again in January and have stayed shut since.
The borders are not going to reopen in general, but what I have heard from MEXT is that MEXT Scholars are going to be considered to be a special exception to the border restrictions and allowed into the country, anyway. Last time I heard a projection, it was to be “sometime during the fall semester” and students in the language program in the Fall 2021 semester are going to be the first priority. So, I do not think it is likely that you will be able to enter Japan in time to start your studies, but you should be able to move during the semester.
Japan will choose a new Prime Minister by the end of September, which will likely result in a reshuffling of key cabinet ministers, including MEXT and the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare, which controls border measures, so I do not suspect any significant changes or movement until that election is over.
If I learn anything new, I will certainly share it here.
In the meantime, I am not sure how intense the language program is in its remote delivery, so I’m not sure if you would realistically be able to manage that and a full-time job at the same time (perhaps someone with experience can comment), but if you are concerned about the financial side, I suspect it will still be at least a month or two before you are able to travel to Japan, so you would have to do what you need to secure your own finances during that time.
– Travis from TranSenz
Wow thanks for the super speedy reply! I really appreciate it. I’ve been reading up and it seems that there are still some 2020 and April 2021 scholars who have yet to enter Japan. Do you have an idea how many they are still remaining? Because understandably, they said that MEXT will prioritize those first, before they can get start dealing with us Oct 2021 scholars.
Additionally, do you think it’s likely that once they starting processing the Oct 2021 scholars, we would go in by country, and that scholars from countries with low risk of COVID get to go in first? Because our country is a bit on the high side, currently in a big wave, so I’m worried that we will fall to the bottom of the priority list and only get in by December. That’s something I should prepare for, if ever. Maybe you just have an idea or guess of how MEXT will arrange entry.
Anyway, I understand how new and unprecedented all these happenings are, and that most of it cannot really be verified, but I truly appreciate your inputs and comments so much! Thanks for your patience and understanding.
Unfortunately, I don’t have access to any official numbers about how many scholars are waiting to arrive in Japan. However, the comment I heard from MEXT was that they were planning to prioritize students in the language program in the Fall 2021 semester. My assumption is that it is easier to transition those of you in the language program into the country mid-semester and that they might try to move the other scholars who are stuck in limbo between the semesters. That’s just my interpretation, though.
I can’t be sure about how they will organize it when they do start moving scholars. Japan currently has different quarantine and testing requirements in place for different countries, including some countries with a mandatory stay in a government designated facility and multiple PCR tests during that time. (These requirements are for returning Japanese citizens at the moment). They may try to minimize the stress on that system by bringing in students from those countries in waves.
I’m sorry I don’t have anything more clear!
– Travis from TranSenz
Hello Travis! So in May 2021 I applied for MEXT (PhD in Aerospace). Due to the COVID-19 pandemic the outcome of the document screening was significantly delayed. In fact, by mid-July I totally gave up on MEXT and applied elsewhere and actually got admitted into a world top-100 university. Despite this success, Japan was still my first choice as my master’s degree is from Japan and I am already familiar with Nippon. Fortunately, the Japanese embassy staff phoned me in the last week of July to inform me to prepare for the interview in early August. The written tests were favourably cancelled. While preparing for the interview I stumbled upon this website and it heavily influenced my preparations. I was so prepared that I even predicted some of the judges just by analysing the pictures on the Embassy website. For instance, I knew in advance that the interview panel would comprise a certain Professor who is actually a MEXT alumnus, and a certain government official from the Ministry of Education. Accordingly, my approach was centered on how my research will mutually benefit both countries and most importantly how it would enable my country to achieve the UN sustainable development goals and Industry 4.0 (4th Industrial Revolution). Consequently, the interview was a tactical masterclass and at one point I frankly felt for the judges because all my answers were ruthlessly befitting. The reason is because I meticulously studied this website. I was shocked because most interview questions came from this website under the comment sections. Carefully pay attention to the information provided by past MEXT candidates on this website. So after passing the preliminary screening, I submitted my application materials to my 1st and 2nd choices. I received a positive LOA from my 2nd choice within 5 days, unbelievable considering it is a top-8 university in Japan. TODAI, my first choice, will respond in early September 2021 as expected. Things really happened at lightning speed in a similar fashion to the Taliban regaining power in Kabul (LOL). I think it’s because I have already published journal articles and presented papers related to my research plan at two premier international conferences and numerous local conferences in Japan during my masters. My advice is that you must submit full journal articles to the embassy if you have ever published. Do not just submit abstracts. Another trick is to attach your papers when you contact potential supervisors in addition to the certified documents. When applying to a top university you must leave nothing to chance. Use every unfair advantage to beat the competition. For instance, if you ever won an award as the best final year student in your department, submit it. If you ever completed an internship at a world-leading company, submit the certificate of completion to the Embassy. I had some of these unfair advantages but for some reasons I failed to submit the certificates to the Embassy. I was under the naive impression that MEXT did not ask for them unlike IELTS, etc so they are unnecessary. When you apply to a top university, these little things can make a big difference. It is better to overkill than to underestimate. Another lesson is that if you can upgrade your research plan/field of study, do it by all means. Initially, my research plan was technically sound but it did not conform to the conventional template of a research proposal. This spelled “rejection on arrival” so I found a way to fix it and ensure it is appealing to both the admission committee and Professors. Another lesson, if possible avoid contacting Professors directly, especially 2nd choice. I say this because my 2nd choice Prof is very excited to work with me and we are communicating a lot. My fear is that if TODAI accepts me he will be very disappointed after his efforts. We are in the same field, we will meet at conferences and one day he might peer-review my articles. Japanese laboratories collaborate a lot and do not be surprised if one day you end up visiting your 2nd choice Prof to conduct an experiment in his lab because maybe only his lab has that specific facility or equipment. That being said, thank you for your time and good luck to all!
Thank you for your feedback and for sharing your advice for future applicants!
Some of your suggestions here are different from what I recommend, but it sounds like it worked for you, so it’s hard to argue against! It sounds like you had a very strong research proposal and application.
The only comment I have is about contacting professors: I do not think it is a problem to contact your second choice professor. Yes, he or she might be disappointed if you are placed somewhere else, but they should also know that with the MEXT Scholarship it is not your choice, it is MEXT’s, so there should be no hard feelings. Plus you will have strengthened your network in Japan and may still have opportunities to interact, even if you are enrolled elsewhere.
Thank you again and Good Luck!
– Travis from TranSenz
I want to sincerely thank you for this blog and I can’t recommend this enough to the future applicants.
I passed the first screening and obtained 2 letters of acceptance (1 national and 1 private university). The results of the second screening started to come out on June 10. In my country 3 people are nominated/selected to/by MEXT. The other two people received their final screening acceptance on June 10, however I did not hear back from the embassy. I called them and they said that they contacted MEXT and that “I have to wait” and that applicants were informed before because it’s “University dependent”. I am really anxious, have you ever heard of applicants of the same country being informed at different times?
I hope I hear good news soon !
Keep up the good work Travis!
Thank you for your kind words.
In usual years, as far as I know, the embassies inform all of their applicants at once. However, the schedule has been very different this year due to the delayed start, so they could be doing things differently and rushing out the answers they have, rather than waiting for everyone to be finalized. That would be unusual, but not impossible.
However, the good news is that they haven’t told you that you’re rejected. It does sound like they may be having some trouble placing you at a university, though, or that the university is being slow with paperwork. Did you submit two LoAs?
– Travis from TranSenz
Thank you so much for your kind reply. I instantly felt better when I read it. Yes, I submitted two LOAs, 1 from a national university and 1 from a private university.
I still didn’t hear back from MEXT. I will make sure to update you once I get an answer.
First I want to thank you for your support during these difficulties and tension we all have been through. Your comforting messages always worked for me. I wanted to tell you the good news.
Although the embassy still hasn’t called yet however, 2 weeks ago my professor told me that the university allowed him to accept me as his student and I was placed in his lab.
The embassy also told us to wait until the end of June for the results. I’m wondering if there are any other steps I need to take or any specific documents I need to prepare and do you think we will be able to arrive Japan in designated time?
Thank you very much
Hi Aida Safari,
Thank you for your kind words!
Congratulations! While it isn’t the official word from the embassy, if the professor has reported that you have been accepted and assigned to his lab, then it is just a matter of time before you get the official acceptance!
There is nothing that you have to prepare for the MEXT Scholarship at this point. They will provide you with further instructions for the next step (visa and travel) once you get your official acceptance. In the meantime, if the university contacts you with any further instructions, such as applying for housing, I recommend following their directions.
– Travis from TranSenz
hi!! i am from india
i was reading the guidelines and it said you must of 12 years of education before applying. The application deadline being start of June and the departure date being April of the next year (June,7,2021-April,2022) I was wondering if it’s possible to apply during my 12th year. Since the school year starts September and ends at the end of June (although 12th graders will finish exams in March). Thanks in advance.
the issue is that i will pass/get result at end of April whereas you need to complete /finish your education by the end of march….so if i get selected, will i be forced to withdraw as i didn’t get my report card even through all the exams are finished by mid march…
When you apply, you need to submit a certificate from your school saying that you are projected to graduate no later than the end of March (or August if you apply for Direct placement). Without that, you would not even be eligible.
– Travis from TranSenz
You would need to have finished your education and graduated by the time the scholarship starts. The application guidelines say that you would need to graduate by the end of March to apply in general.
However, there is also an option for “Direct Placement” and if you apply for Direct Placement to a program that starts in the fall semester, then you would need to finish your high school and graduate no later than the end of August, so that could be an option.
– Travis from TranSenz
Hi Travis, thanks so much for all your valuable content in this blog. I, among many others, truly appreciate your generosity in knowledge.
I am a successful applicant so far for the 2021 intake (thanks to you!) but so far no word yet from the embassy whether the results are final. It seems that there is still a ban on foreigners entering Japan which includes MEXT scholars. As you know, our schedule is to arrive at Japan on Oct 2021. Assuming that doesn’t push thru due to COVID-related flight restrictions, I heard that some of the 2020 scholars started their education already (under the MEXT program) online while still remaining in their home countries. In that arrangement, I understand they don’t receive any stipend since they’re not yet in Japan. If this happens to our batch also, do you think MEXT will agree if I request that I defer my scholarship commencement to Apr 2022 (or whenever flights are finally allowed)? The reason is that I will not survive here in my home country without a source of income if I am just studying full-time online starting Oct 2021. What do you think I should do? Thanks again so much!
Congratulations on making it this far in the application process! I know you are still waiting on final results, but that last step should really just be formal approval, as long as MEXT is able to place you in one of your universities from your list.
You are right that the borders remain closed. As someone who works with international students in my day job, I hope they will open in time for the fall semester, but I cannot be sure.
My understanding is that so far, when applicants have not been able to arrive in Japan to start their scholarship because of the border closure, they have been given the choice to start online (no stipend, as you said) or to defer. However, the applicants who were supposed to start in April 2020 would have had to defer three times by now, so I’m not sure how MEXT is handling that.
If MEXT continues to give you the choice, then it should be no problem to defer, but if they do not offer that choice, you can still ask, but they may not accept (especially if they think it’s possible that you might be able to arrive in the middle of the semester, etc.)
In the event that you are forced to start online, hopefully you would have the chance to start as a research student so that you can take a relatively lighter load of classes and possibly work part-time at the same time.
– Travis from TranSenz
Thank you for your reply and stay safe and healthy in Japan! 🙂
Thanks for the post, it helps a bit, I’m going to apply for the 2022 Research student, I have a doubt, should I need to contact potential supervisors before giving their names in the “Placement Preference” section of the preliminary form??
Hi Biswanath Saha,
It is not mandatory to contact professors before putting their names in the form, but in general, the earlier you can start getting in touch with your potential advisors in Japan, the better. After the Primary Screening, you will need to contact those professors/universities for Letters of Provisional Acceptance, and you may find that some cannot accept you. If you are in contact with them ahead of time, you will know in advance if they can accept you or not.
– Travis from TranSenz
I want to apply for the undergraduate scholarship
I will be 18 next year August but still 17 by April but the application guidelines said you have to be 18 before entering the Japanese university. However since I will first be enrolled in a language learning institute I would be 18 before my entrance to the university. I don’t know if this will affect my application.
Thanks in advance
Hi Faith Olumodeji,
The requirement to be 18 years old only applies if you have not completed high school and instead earned your high school qualification by taking an exam to prove that you have equivalent ability to a high school graduate. If you completed 12 years of formal schooling (or whatever the requirement is in your country), then your age will not matter.
But even if it did, as you said, you need to meet the age requirement by the time you enroll at the university, so if you turn 18 during the language program year, that would be fine, too.
– Travis from TranSenz
Hi Travis, i hope you will allow this question. How often are MEXT students allowed to return to their home country during the duration of their scholarship? Is there like a usual 15 days of leave per year given to the students? Sorry, i dont have much experience with foreign graduate schools. Thanks!
There are no rules about frequency of trips home, as long as you do not miss any coursework or other academic activities. You do need to be in Japan to sign in at your university once per month on the designated date in order to receive your scholarship stipend for that month, so even during vacation periods, you cannot be gone for more than a month.
After that, it is just a matter of how often you can afford to travel home.
– Travis from TranSenz
I hope you are doing great. I have few questions regarding the scholarship expiration period. I am an embassy recommended scholar and my scholarship period is from 10/2020 – 03/2022.
1. The problem is that in the most unfortunate event that I failed to get an admission to any university in 2021, will I get my last chance in 2022 for the Autumn/Fall 2022 admission?
2. For example, Tokyo University has a deadline for an application for Autumn/Fall 2022 Admission in January, and will notify with the result around March 2022 (right when my scholarship is set to end), will I be able to apply for that admission?
I have another article all about the scholarship extension application which you might find useful.
1/2. If you are a Research Student with a period of study ending in March 2022, then your last chance for admissions is the 2022 April Admission. You cannot have a gap between the end of your Research Student period and the start of your degree.
– Travis from TranSenz
Thank you so much for all the useful ìnformation you’vs shared. I intend to apply for Mext 2022 and I am now struggling finding the suitable major as well as research topic. I also have few questions I hope you can help:
1. Now I have already got N2 JLPT and Toeic 950 points. I want to study Master in Japanese. So should I fill in my application form by English or by Japanese? Will I be interviewed with the same language as I used in the application form?
2. I am studying at Japanese Department, major Japanese Language at the University, and my thesis topic is about Japan Society. However I want to change to other field to study Master (I haven’t decided yet, it would be so nice if you can recommend some few majors that will be useful for working in Japan, in which field do Japan need labour resouces,…). So will it be a problem if my research topic is not connected at all to my thesis topic at the university?
Thank you so much for your sharing. I am looking forward to your reply.
Hi Thanh Van,
I would suggest that you are going about this in the wrong order. Before you consider applying for the MEXT Scholarship, you need to know what you want to study/research and what you want to do with that knowledge and degree to benefit society afterward. I don’t think you should consider applying to graduate school until you clearly understand those two things. In order to create a compelling application and give yourself a chance in this process, you need to have a clear research topic that you are passionate about and a way that you will use it to benefit society. That is what reviewers will be looking for.
1. For your interview, I would assume that parts will be in English, Japanese, and your native language. Even if you speak Japanese at the N2 level, some members of the interview panel might not speak Japanese, so you would have to conduct the interview in a language that works for them, as well.
2. I cannot suggest a field of study, major, or research topic to you, since I do not know what your research passion is. It almost sounds like you are just trying to use the MEXT Scholarship as your ticket to move to Japan so you can get a job here, but the reviewers are likely to be able to sniff that out. That is not what they are looking for in the application process – they are looking for people who can become leaders and connect Japan and their home countries – so it will be to your disadvantage if they think you’re only out to benefit yourself.
Your field of study in Japan does have to be related to your previous studies, though, so that is one important restriction to keep in mind. However, if your research was about Japanese society, that gives you quite a range of possible topics to choose from.
– Travis from TranSenz
First of all I’d like to thank you for your great help. I’ve followed the structure of your research plan and I could pass the document screening, I’ve passed the language examination as well but unfortunately I’ve not passed the interview.
So my question is if I’m to apply again this year is it okay to use the same application form and research plan or should I do some modifications in them? And what are the possibilities of me passing the document screening for the second time?
Hi Esraa Thabet,
It is fine to use the same Field of Study and Research Program Plan for a second application. But you should be continuing to read and study in your field in the meantime, so if you have any updates to make based on those studies, I would recommend improving the plan, if you can.
Even though you made it as far as the interview, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you shouldn’t be trying to improve the rest of your application, as well. It is not a system where each step of the application is evaluated separately. As you clear each step, your score from that area is considered together with your score from previous steps, so any place that you can improve your application will help your final results!
For the application form, most of the information will be the same, but you will have to fill in the new version of the application form next year, so make sure you are using the appropriate year’s form.
As for your chances of passing the second time, the MEXT Scholarship Application is always a competition among applicants for a limited number of places, so your chances always depend to some degree on your competition. All you can do is to make your application as strong as possible, but I really can’t say one way or another what your chances will be in the end. I do know of people who have earned the scholarship on their second or third application, though, so nothing is impossible!
– Travis from TranSenz
Hi, I currently have alot of questions to ask because I can’t understand what google gives me.(heres my background incase it helps: I belong in a filipino family who migrated to a country known as Qatar and im turning 15y.o this year)
1.) Is it possible to get the MEXT scholarship with 85(Probably B or A grade)consistent grades in every subject?
2.) Am I still an undergraduate if I finished Grade12 on K-12 system?
3.) Do I need alot of money to get the scholsrship?
4.) How can I know if a university has the MEXT scholarship in it?
5.) Where can I find the requirements for the MEXT scholarship?
6.) I am decent at english language but I am terrible at japanese, do I need to master japanese first?
7.) How can I know when the MEXT scholarship will start?
8.) How can I know the deadline?
Sorry if I have too many questions, you sharing your experience was extremely helpful, Thanks and goodluck!!
Hi Paul Wennaldz,
That’s a lot of questions, but I’ll try to answer them all at once.
1. I would recommend that you convert your grades to the MEXT 3.0 Scale and see how well they look under that system. It doesn’t matter so much what your grades are in your home country system, just the converted values.
2. An undergraduate is a student in a bachelor’s program in university. So, if you finished grade 12, you are not an undergraduate yet. You are able to apply for the MEXT Scholarship for Undergraduates, though, since you will be starting your undergrad degree.
3. In general, no. However, your situation is a little unique. In almost all cases, the only way to apply for the undergraduate scholarship is through the Japanese embassy in your home country (your country of citizenship), and during the application process you would need to appear in person at the embassy for tests and interviews, so that is going to mean traveling back to the Philippines for your application. That part could be expensive. You will also need some of your own funds when you first arrive in Japan, since you will not get your first scholarship payment for about a month or two.
4. If you are applying for the undergrad scholarship, then in general you apply to the embassy and you do not get to have any input in the university where you are assigned.
5. The website of the embassy of Japan in your country (the Philippines) will have the application instructions, including the requirements, during the application period. Generally, the application starts in April.
6. No. For the undergrad scholarship, you will spend your first year in an intensive Japanese language program to help you get your ability level up. But it certainly wouldn’t hurt for you to try to start learning on your own, now.
7. Keep checking the website of the embassy. In general, it starts in April each year (though there was a delay last year due to COVID-19).
8. Again, this will be listed with all of the application requirements on the embassy website.
– Travis from TranSenz
You’re a big help, Thank you so much for answering my questions!!
I have a question about English language qualifications. Currently, I have a CPE certification (C2) which is the highest level certification of CELA. I’m wondering if it would be better to have another English certification like TOEFL or IELTS, or if It’s fine to have a CPE.
I have this question because in the English language qualifications sections of the application form there is no reference to any of the CELA, but there are only references to TOEFL and IELTS.
Hi Stefano Daniele Puller,
According to MEXT’s chart of accepted English language proficiency tests (*the chart is in Japanese, but the leftmost test column is the various CELA tests), they will accept CPE scores, but you would also need to make sure that the university that you are applying to will accept them.
If you are applying for the Embassy Recommended MEXT Scholarship, then you are not even required to submit language proficiency test scores (of course, it doesn’t hurt if you do!). You will take a language proficiency exam during the primary screening. However, if you are applying for the University Recommended MEXT Scholarship, the university will likely ask you to submit your scores, so you would need to make sure that they meet the university’s requirements.
– Travis from TranSenz
first of all thankyou so much for sharing your experience with us Johnny navarro and Travis for deciding to make a post about this,this is very helpful for us. I want to apply for the graduate and research MEXT scholarship next year. Currently I am student of Masters degree 1st year of Japanese Language in my home university in India. My question is after finishing my Masters course here can I apply again(for Master
degree) for graduate and research course of MEXT scholarship?
Hi Bithika Das,
Yes, under the MEXT Scholarship you would be able to apply for a second Master’s Degree or a PhD. If you are applying for a second Master’s though, you would probably need to justify at some point in your application why a second master’s degree would be more valuable to your future goals than a PhD would be.
– Travis from TranSenz
Hello Dear Travis
I am wondering what documents will be checked in the second screening and how? I would specially want to know what do you mean by ethnical grounds? Can you explain this a little more please?
I am asking because one of professors rejected me saying that some parts of your proposal was copied and you should not copy anything even one sentence. Since I wasn’t aware of this fact that they would be so sensitive about this matter I apologized him and told him that I would rephrase and review my proposal again. Although the idea of the proposal is something very unique and new, I unintentionally copied a few sentences by only making little changes. However, the second professor who accepted me told me that he would help me to rewrite my proposal and I don’t have to worry about it. Since the main field of study and research proposal has already been submitted and stamped by the embassy and I can not change it , does this mean that I will be rejected in the second screening because of this?
When I referred to “ethical” considerations in the previous comment, I meant the ethics of your research itself (e.g. whether or not you are researching weapons technology or your research can be used for weapons of mass destruction, etc.), not the ethics of your proposal and plagiarism.
I have never heard of MEXT checking for plagiarism, etc., during the secondary screening.
– Travis from TranSenz
Regardind the documents screening made by MEXT, I think that if the documents was approuved by the embassy and also by the universities that we received LOA’s (double checks transcript, diploma, research plan, recom letter, etc..) stated that there is nothing to worry about Right? And if we intended to conduct research on weapon of mass destruction, we will be already rejected by the embassy or universities. I think the checks MEXT care more about is the past record of the person (criminal record, flight interdiction, etc..) can you tell me your opinion about that? Thank you!
In past years, I would have agreed with you completely. But last year, there was a situation where several applicants were rejected during the Secondary Screening and it had nothing to do with WMD, deportation history, criminal records, etc. The ones who told me their story said they were told that they were rejected because they had not attempted any of the questions in the Japanese language proficiency test during the Primary Screening.
That same year, there was an issue where MEXT seemed to reduce the number of slots available to each country in the midst of the Primary Screening, so my suspicion is that the practice of rejecting students during the Secondary Screening was a one-time thing to reduce the numbers where necessary, but until I see that the same thing doesn’t repeat this year, I cannot be 100% confident.
This year, I have not heard anything about reducing numbers during the application process. As far as I know, you should have nothing to worry about.
– Travis from TranSenz
Thank you Travis for your answer. I also have another question about my letter of reccommendation that was sent by the dean on my university, due to the covid-19 situation, he seal it and sign it but sent me the scanned document. I submited the printed scanned document to the embassy they didn’t tell nothing about that, see that in a post you said that japanese people tend to don’t trust electronic signature, but my dean put is mail address also where he signed. Maybe if they want to be sure they can email him. should I be worried about that?
If your embassy accepted the document without comment and you have passed the Primary Screening, then I would say that you have nothing to worry about at this point.
Due to the COVID-19 situation and disruptions to the postal system, Japan has had to get used to digital signatures this year.
When in doubt, I would say always check with the embassy for their guidance, but it sounds like you are past that point!
– Travis from TranSenz
Dear Travis , hope you are doing fine.
I have checked my documents again with my potential supervisor professor. He told me that only a few sentences are needed to be changed however, there is nothing wrong with the main idea and original concept of my proposal. Even my research plan form is completely OK. But I can’t stop worrying about the second screening and if they may reject me because of plagiarism.
My consulate from the embassy also said that since this is only an initial proposal not the final one, I shouldn’t be concerned about it. What do you think?
I am also wondering if our documents are sent by email to the MEXT or by post? I am asking this because I may need some of my original documents again for the university application and I don’t want to go with the trouble of translating my documents again.
I appreciate your kind guidance.
Thank you for your reply.
I think that if you have already passed the Primary Screening and received the LoAs from the universities, you are passed the stage when anyone would be concerned about plagiarism. That is something that they would catch at the embassy or university level. I do not think MEXT is going to be looking at your plan in that level of detail, so you should have nothing to worry about at this point.
Regarding the documents that you submitted, in general, any document that you submit for the application will not be returned to you. The Japanese government (either at the Embassy level or the MEXT level) has a legal requirement to keep all of the application documents on file. So, unfortunately, I think you may end up needing to retranslate some of those documents if you do not have copies with you.
– Travis from TranSenz
I thought that after 2nd screening MEXT will send our documents to the university that accept us. So MEXT will keep our documents? will we need again originals of these documents to apply again through the university or they will automaticaly accept us if MEXT select us?
After the Secondary Screening, MEXT does reach out to the universities directly and you should not need to submit any more documents after that point.
The universities will not necessarily automatically accept you, but the entire acceptance process is between MEXT and the university. You will not be involved.
The only documents I am aware of that you may need after this point would be a Certificate of Graduation (if you submitted a Certificate of Expected Graduation during the application process and need to prove that you did indeed graduate before coming to Japan) and possibly an updated academic transcript if you had not finished your degree at the time of your initial application. However, if you need either of those documents, you will be contacted separately.
– Travis from TranSenz
Hello Travis! This is Soumitra Pathak from India. I also qualified the first round of screening by the embassy.
My experience was quite similar as Johnny’s, except in India there was no written test this time due to the pandemic. Currently I have successfully obtained one LoA and waiting for the second one.
Travis, I want to sincerely thank you for this blog and I can’t recommend this enough to the future applicants. The application process was very confusing at times and this blog has saved me each time.
Keep up the good work Travis!
I would also want to know whether the authority check anything else apart from the ethical grounds of the proposed research in case of the research students in the second round of screening?
Hi Soumitra Pathak,
Thank you for your kind comments!
With regards to the secondary screening, the only specific factors I am aware of that MEXT checks are the ethical grounds (especially military dual use and whether or not you are associated with weapons research) as well as any possibility that you might be unable to obtain a visa, due to a history of deportation from Japan, etc.
Last year, there was a situation where several students were rejected at the point of the Secondary Screening with the reason being that they had not attempted to answer any of the questions in the Japanese language written exam during the Primary Screening. But since it sounds like you did not have a written screening at all, that would not seem to apply in your case. Besides, last year, there was a unique situation where MEXT reduced the scholarship places after the application process had already begun, so I suspect they needed to find a reason to reduce scholarship numbers in that case.
– Travis from TranSenz
Thank you so much for the information.
I was reading somewhere that MEXT has announced that they won’t be able to extend the period of the scholarship for the earlier recipients who have applied for an extension this year due to budgetary issues. I could not verify how true this is. If you have information of something like this do you think this might affect applicants like us in the final round?
Looking forward to hearing from you.
Thanks in advance!
Hi Soumitra Pathak,
I have not heard that information or anything about extensions one way or another. There is no information on MEXT’s website about extensions yet.
Could you point me in the direction of where you heard that so I can try to look into it?
– Travis from TranSenz
Great to hear about your success Johnny. From a UK perspective the situation was as follows:
I applied (and have successfully passed the primary screening) in London this year. I have achieved the unusual (?) feat of applying for a very different subject to my original degree, and as an individual looking to return to education after a prolonged period in industry. I won’t bore anyone about that here, though feel free to ask if you’d like to know about the strangeness that caused.
The application documents were very late in being released, and the MEXT desk at the embassy actually advised me in May that they were unsure if they would be a MEXT intake this year.
However, come late June the details were released and the major changes were as follows:
– a short self assessment medical form, with the full form delayed until after primary screening
– no in person interviews (obviously)
– no Japanese exam (instead a comment that this would be specifically investigated in interviews)
And to top it all off, the deadline for submission was the 8th of August.
I genuinely believe that if I had not started planning and writing my application based on the previous years forms it would not have been possible to complete the application in time. Add to that the need to submit original transcripts, letters of approval, and degree certificates and it really would have been tight. I suppose this acts as a filter for people who didn’t start preparing a year or so in advance, though it hardly seems fair.
Interviews were on the 1st of October. It was online via Microsoft teams and with only two people – a representative of the embassy and a professor in the subject I was applying for from a local London university. We had a 45 minute interview which focussed mainly on what my intended research topic was, why I was suited to it, why Japan was the right place to study it, etc. Then there was a little discussion about how I coped with foreign countries/cultures, and finally a short self intro and chat in Japanese.
I did have a check and in the case of the London embassy they had recruited 5 professors from universities in the city to ensure they had a relevant subject matter expert in every interview.
Following the interviews there was a wait of 2 weeks for the results, and the announcement of the deadline for the medical form.
For applicants in the UK I think the medical form poses some unique challenges. The NHS is very slow moving at the best of times, and in the midst of a pandemic it was very difficult to schedule the necessary blood tests and X ray. I think the form is written assuming many of these tests are routine but in the UK they are very unusual. For example – since the 90’s the NHS does not record your blood type as trauma care always uses universal blood transfusions, and the blood type can be tested in 5 minutes at point of care delivery in hospital if needed. Indeed to get evidence of your blood type you absolutely have to book a private test (cost – £100). Additionally, as virtually all X-rays in the UK are now digital, my doctor was very confused about the request for a film number. In fact the process was so slow (I started it 3 months in advance) that I had to make a number of private appointments to have tests done in time to ensure I could deliver the completed form to the embassy before the deadline.
The MEXT representative was very helpful and understanding. However, I think UK applicants should be aware that it is probably cheaper and easier to simply pay a private doctor to conduct all the tests. I wish I had done this. When I started panicking about whether I could deliver the form in time to the embassy I asked a private clinic for a quote and was surprised to be told I could have all the tests done in a 2 hour appointment and collect the completed form the following day for only £450. A bargain considering that trying to do it via my GP had taken 3 months and still cost £375 in fees/urgent private tests. Sadly/luckily by that point I had finally managed to extract the completed form from my GP.
I’ve received the first letter of acceptance from my first choice uni and now waiting to hear from my second choice.
Hopefully I won’t get canned in secondary screening – it seems that last year’s intake saw quite a level of attrition during secondary screening. Though in most cases I have heard of this was because the universities they were applying to had decided they would be offering no in person classes.
Thank you very much for sharing your experience here!
Thank you especially for the information about the number of professors recruited, that is a new data point that I had not heard before!
I have heard from many past applicants about the challenges of the medical form in the UK. I don’t know if this will work for you or other UK applicants, but I have heard that one way some applicants have gotten a blood-typing test for free in the past was to donate blood at a blood drive.
As for the digital x-rays, as long as there is some reference in that blank (even if it’s your name and the date for the digital file), that should work. X-rays in Japan are almost all digital now, too, so I don’t know why it has taken MEXT so long to catch up with that (except that they’re rather slow to catch up to anything).
I wish you luck on the remaining LoA and Secondary Screening! I did hear about the attrition last year, but there was also a reduction in scholarship numbers during the primary screening last year that seemed to be the origin of that cut. I have not heard about a similar number decrease this year so I am hoping there will not be a repeat!
– Travis from TranSenz
Dear PrecautionaryL and Travis
Thank you for bringing the issue of the X-rays film number up because I am in the same boat. I ended up submitting my medical without a Film No ( The doctor just typed the date of the X-ray). Do you think this might cause me some issues in the second screening?
No, I do not think that having a date in place of a film number is going to be a problem for you. The secondary screening is not going to look at your documents that closely and claim “that’s not a real film number!” As long as there is some entry there, you should not have any trouble at all.
– Travis from TranSenz
Thank you for your kind response
here is how my Doc did it, he just put a cross line in the film no and typed the date above it. I was about to clarify this issue with the embassy but then thought of showing it to you first.
As long as the embassy accepted your form and you passed the primary screening, then you have nothing to worry about. The Primary Screening would have been when the documents were subject to the most scrutiny.
In general (for the sake of future applicants), I would not recommend a notation like the example you shared. A better solution would have been: “n/a – digital”. Again, I do not think you need to go back and get yours changed now. Your application is not going to be rejected over a doctor’s notation. (Probably the worst possible thing that could happen is that MEXT would ask you to go get the doctor to fill in something else in that blank, anyway, so you can just wait for their instructions.)
– Travis from TranSenz
Hello! Sorry for such a late reply, life’s being a bit of a mess lately haha.
Thank you so much for your words and also for sharing your experience and perspective from a very different country/situation to mine!
It seems my application process was pretty standard compared to yours despite the current world situation, I think this was very insightful!
Congrats on getting a LoA! I also got one myself, hopefully, everything goes right for us in the secondary screening! Haha.
Thank you for such an insightful post about your experiences. I’ve been following your contributions in the comments of Travis’s posts and they’ve been hugely helpful to me. I’d also like to share my experience to supplement and validate your post.
I was also able to successfully pass the primary screening this year as a MEXT 2021 candidate in USA. My local consulate was San Francisco – and during my interview, they had told me this year saw more than three times as many applicants! My embassy’s deadline was relatively late – September 11th with interviews conducted September 26th. I was given about 3 days notice that I had been advanced to the interview stage.
Part of my preparation for the interview was researching appropriate interview attire and consulting with a Japanese woman. She explained to me that what is considered acceptable in Western interviews would be considered sloppy and rude in Japan. For men and women, there is a very specific standard of hair styling and presentation and I took the time to copy that as best I could. I figured there was no harm – if there were any Japanese people on the interview board, they would likely be able to recognize this very specific look and see I have considered their culture in this interview.
It’s worth mentioning that given the state of COVID-19 in California, the interview was conducted virtually. I had no way of knowing how many were chosen to interview, but the ZOOM call seemed to imply the interview panel was on a tight schedule.
My interview committee consisted of 4 people: two Japanese embassy officials, a Language and Culture professor, and a Physics professor. They introduced themselves and mentioned that they would be interviewing both STEM and arts majors that day, hence the one Language professor and the one Physics professor. Both professors were from universities that ranked in the top 5 globally.
The interview was conducted in English, but there was an opportunity for me to introduce myself in Japanese since I had mentioned I had been self-studying the language. My interview had some similar questions:
– Why did you apply for MEXT?
– Research/academics aside, what cultural aspects/interests do you have about Japan?
-Have you ever been to Japan? How well do you think you can adjust to day-to-day life in a foreign country? Are you planning on going into academia, or getting a doctorate?
-Are you nervous about going to Japan? (A professor asked me this when I was stumbling about the previous question. I said I was nervous and excited, and he reassured me (and said I should be excited) that I would be fine navigating Japan. Japan had come a long way to making major cities much more English friendly according to him.)
-Are you planning on going into academia, or getting a doctorate?
-What kind of familiarity do you have with Japanese culture? (This question was asked twice, but rephrased later in the interview)
-Have I reached out to any professors – and have any responded?
-How will the results of your research be applied to your home country?
-What is your academic background – and how is that preparing you to conduct research?
They had also asked me to explain one of my projects in detail – asking for what challenges I faced and how I overcame them to succeed.
They gave me an opportunity to ask questions at the end, and I had asked them three questions:
-With what means will you notify interview results? (Mail, Phone Call, Email?)
Ans: By email, and you should hear from us soon.
-What kind of support or systems are established to help MEXT students navigate the academic world of Japan?
Ans: Each school has a department for international students that should be able to guide you and provide resources. You should always first ask your advisor.
-Do you have any other questions about my application? What feedback do you have on my documents – specifically my photograph pages?
For context, I had included an appendix to my application that included photos of my projects. I brought up with question because I had noticed during my interview, two of my interviewers had those pages in front of them and were flipping through them while speaking to me. I could tell they were asking some questions based off what they were seeing.
Ans: No further questions on the application, but the pages with photographs were very helpful because your topic was technical and it was hard to imagine what you were talking about.
My interview was September 26th and I was notified October 26th that I had passed our primary screening process and that we will be advancing you to candidacy as a semi-finalist. The consulate general explained to me that the San Francisco consulate had forwarded their interview results to the Embassy in DC, and that was one reason why our notification was as late as it was. The delay due to COVID and the late notification makes the process for the application for letters of acceptance more difficult – as the deadline to have applied is November 20th Japan time. Since I can only apply to two schools at once, having less than a month to apply means I have less time to hear whether a not a school rejects me, which gives me a better opportunity to apply to another university before the November 20th Japan time deadline.
I hope my experience here can be as helpful as yours, Johnny!
I wish you the best of luck in applying for your letters of acceptance for the second screening! Thank you Travis and Johnny for this invaluable resource!
Thank you very much for sharing your experience! It was very helpful to get another perspective, particularly about the interview.
Congratulations on passing the Primary Screening, as well!
– Travis from TranSenz
Thank you so much for taking the time to read my experience and also sharing yours! I can see a lot of similarities between our experiences and some interesting different points as well. Indeed, as you mentioned having less than a month to apply makes it quite difficult, even more, if you consider that certain universities might take weeks to reply, I too have had less than a month since they gave me the passing certificate quite late. Hopefully, though, you have had good luck applying with the amount of time we were given!
Hey there !
I would like to thank Navaro for telling us about his experience, mine is pretty much the same with different dates.
Annd of course I would like as well to thank Travis for his immense guidance, his instructions and pieces of advice all along the process, played a huge role in the success of my application. So “Thank you so much Travis”.
In case you’re a future applicant, I definitely recommend you to read every single article here, because It’ll help you and answer many of your potential inquiries.
Thanks a lot to Travis for allowing me to share my experience! Hopefully, this info will be useful for future applicants. If you have any questions regarding something I mentioned or even want to ask about something I didn’t mention. feel free to ask me! Good luck everyone!