How to Apply for the Embassy-Recommended MEXT Scholarship in 2024/2025

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

Application Guidelines for the 2025 MEXT Scholarship

MEXT released the application guidelines and forms for the Embassy Recommended MEXT Scholarship on April 2, 2024.

What this Article Will Cover

How to apply for the MEXT scholarship guide ebook

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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 looking for specific information, please skip ahead.

This article covers 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-Regular Student (also called “Research Student” at some universities)
  • Master’s Degree Student
  • Doctoral Degree Student
  • Graduate-level Professional Degree Student (MBA, JD, etc.)

You can only apply as a “Non-Regular” student (Research Student) if you intend to extend your scholarship later to earn a degree. It is common to start as a Non-Regular student for a semester, particularly if your university requires you to pass an in-person entrance exam to join the degree program.

A Non-Regular student is kind of “Pre-Graduate” student. During the semester or semesters in this status, you will likely take classes, start on your research for your degree, and take the entrance exam. In addition to the entrance exam, you will also have to apply to extend your MEXT scholarship to cover the full degree.

You cannot apply as a “Non-Regular” student (Research Student) if you have no intention to extend your scholarship to earn a degree in Japan. It should always be just a stepping stone to the degree.

Available Fields of Study

You should apply for the field of study that you majored in at university or its related field. This is one of the eligibility requirements! If you plan to change fields, you need to show a clear and compelling relationship between your past studies and what you will study in Japan to prove they are “related”. 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. You must find at least one graduate program taught in English in Japan in your field of study and enter that program and a prospective advisor in your Placement Preference Form.

The scholarship does not cover programs that require practical training/apprenticeship, such as performing arts or programs that require technical training at a factory or company. 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 cannot 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 if you intend to pursue a degree in any of these fields that requires clinical training.

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MEXT Scholarship Benefits

  • Exemption from paying tuition, entrance examination, and matriculation fees.
    Note: You may be required to pay entrance examination fees in advance if your MEXT scholarship award is not yet confirmed, but if you pass, you will receive a refund of the fees after you are selected for the scholarship.
     
  • Monthly stipend:
    • Non-Regular 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)

    MEXT reviews the stipend amounts above annually and may change them. However, they have never changed in the 12 years I have been working with the MEXT Scholarship.
    Note: You will not receive your stipend payment for any months that you are not physically present at your university.
     

  • Cost of Living Adjustment: JPY 2,000-3,000 in selected areas, because of high cost of living or seasonal adjustments for winter utilities, etc.
     
  • International flight ticket from your country of residence to Japan.
    • MEXT only covers the international portion of the ticket. You must pay all domestic travel costs in your home country and in Japan, plus the airport usage fees and fuel surcharges, baggage fees, etc.
    • MEXT will only arrange travel from your country of residence, not from a third country. So, if you are living abroad prior to the start of the scholarship, you would have to pay for your own ticket. (If there are no direct flights from your country to Japan and you need to transfer in another country, MEXT will pay for the entire international flight, including the transfer.)
    • If there is no Japanese embassy in your country (or if it is closed temporarily) and you have to travel to another country to apply for your visa to come to Japan, MEXT will pay for an international flight to that third country and then an onward international flight to Japan. But all domestic travel expenses within that country (e.g. airport to embassy) and lodging costs on your way would be your responsibility to cover.
    • MEXT will not pay for your flight if you arrive in Japan earlier than the designated arrival period for personal reasons.

     

  • International flight ticket from Japan back to your country of residence upon successful completion of the scholarship.
    • In order to qualify for the MEXT-funded ticket home, you must complete your research in Japan.
    • The same conditions for what part of the flight costs are covered apply as for the flight to Japan.
    • You must travel by the date specified by MEXT.
    • You will not receive a flight ticket home if you lose the scholarship because of your own actions or if you decide to withdraw and return home before finishing the scholarship. Also, if you extend your stay in Japan, for example, to work in Japan after graduation or continue your studies, MEXT will not pay for your plane ticket home, even if you are going home for a short visit before starting work or your next degree. (If you extend your MEXT Scholarship to cover a subsequent degree, you will get a flight ticket home at the end of the scholarship, just not between degrees.)

     

  • Cost of Living in Japan: Can you afford to live on the stipend alone?

    According to a 2021 JASSO survey, the average cost of living in Japan for international students was 93,000 yen per month (though it was 108,000 yen per month in Tokyo). You can find an overview of that survey on the Study in Japan website, including a breakdown of the costs.

    Although that is the most recent survey, Japan has experienced significant inflation since then and, as I write this, the yen is extremely weak, so anything imported from outside Japan is much more expensive. Expect your food and utility costs to be at least 1.5 times what the survey says. Still, you should be able to afford to live in Japan on just the scholarship stipend alone, though it may not be a luxurious lifestyle.

    (By way of comparison, I found figures stating that the average monthly salary for a full-time waiter in Japan in 2023 was 163,000 JPY/month and the average salary for an English teacher was 200,000 JPY per month, so you’re really not far off those figures.)

    If you want to bring your family to live with you, then your finances are going to be somewhat stretched. Your MEXT stipend along should be enough for you to apply for a Dependent CoE for a spouse to join you. I knew of one scholarship recipient who was able to get CoEs for his wife and three kids using just his MEXT scholarship as proof of financial resources, but that was many years ago in a rural area. Practically speaking, you should probably have another source of income, such as your own savings in your home country, and expect your spouse to apply for a work permit and work part time to the maximum 28 hours per week after arrival in order to supplement your finances.

    Scholarship Period

    The maximum scholarship period is:

    • Non-Regular (research) students: Up to 24 months, from arrival in Japan until March 2027. The maximum duration of 24 months is only available if applicants arrive in April 2025, since the end date is fixed.
       
    • 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 take part in a 6-month preparatory Japanese language program prior to the start of your degree. This program helps you learn basic, survival Japanese, so it is primarily for students with little to no language ability. It does not teach academic Japanese sufficient to study a degree program. If you join this program, the scholarship will cover the six months (as a non-regular student) prior to your degree. For students applying as non-regular students, these six months are part of your maximum 24 months!

    When Do You Get Paid?

    If you arrive in April, your first scholarship payment will be for that month. If you arrive in the fall semester, then your first scholarship month depends on the date the semester starts at your university. If it starts on September 1, then your first payment will be for the month of September. If the semester starts on September 2, or later in the month, then your first payment will be for the month of October.

    In any case, you will not receive your first payment until at least 1.5 months after you arrive in Japan, because of the time it takes to establish your bank account and and for MEXT and JASSO to complete the payment processing paperwork. MEXT recommends that you bring at least $2,000 USD of your own funds when you come to Japan in order to cover your expenses until that first payment arrives.

    In order to receive your scholarship stipend each month, you must be present at your university in person and show your Residence Card with your “Student” residence status once per month on the designated day. If you do not appear during a month, you would not receive the payment.

    Extending Your Scholarship

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

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    Who is Eligible?

    I have published a separate article that covers the Embassy-Recommended MEXT Scholarship eligibility requirements for 2024/2025.

    Besides these requirements, you should also pay attention to any additional eligibility requirements established by the Japanese embassy in your country. You must meet all sets of requirements in order to apply! For example, in some countries, applicants have to complete a pre-screening by a government office in your country. Or some countries limit the eligible fields of study, add academic eligibility requirements based on the local grading scale, etc. Check the website of the Japanese Embassy or Consulate nearest you for details! (See below).

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    Where and When do you Apply?

    You apply at the Japanese embassy or consulate that serves the area where you live. You can find a list of Japanese embassies and consulates at:
    http://www.mofa.go.jp/about/emb_cons/mofaserv.html

    I recommend using a Control-F search on that page to find your country. It may not be listed under the region 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, during the pandemic years some embassies accepted submission by email, since applicants could travel and the postal service was disrupted. 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-June, 2024 See the website of the Japanese embassy in your country for specific deadlines, requirements, and submission methods!
    Primary Screening May-July, 2024 Includes review of submitted documents, language proficiency tests, and interview.
    Apply to 2 Universities for Letters of Provisional Acceptance
    Note: Article is from the 2023/2024 application cycle. I will update it as soon as possible.
    July-August 9, 2024 August 9 (Japan time) is the deadline to apply to universities, not the deadline for them to get back to you.
    Submit Letters of Provisional Acceptance and Placement Preference Form to Embassy Mid-September 2024 See the website of the Japanese embassy in your country for specific deadlines!
    Secondary Screening and University Placement October 2024-February 2025
    Notification of Results January-February 2025
    Arrive in Japan April 2025 or September/ October 2025

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    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 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 (except where noted below) and you must number them 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 2024/2025 Embassy Recommendation MEXT Scholarship Application for Graduate Students. Do not use these links if you are applying for other scholarship types.

    Each of the documents must be numbered when you submit them. Handwrite the numbers below in the top right corner of each document and circle them.

    1. MEXT Scholarship Application Form with attached photograph*

    (Fillable PDF format from the Study in Japan website)

    As a special gift for mailing list subscribers, I will send you a sample of the completed application form that you can use as a guide!

    Here is my guide on how to complete the MEXT Scholarship application form from the 2024/2025 cycle 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! Alternatively, you can insert photo data directly into the pdf before printing it out. If you attach the photo digitally, then of course you do not need to write your name on the back of it.

    2. Placement Preference Application Form

    (Fillable PDF format from Study in Japan website).

    Click here for my article about how to complete this form.
    *For this form, you only need to submit one original. You do not need to submit two additional copies.

    3. Field of Study and Research Program Plan

    (PDF format from Study in Japan website)

    In previous years, MEXT offered this form in MS Word format, so you could input text directly. In 2024, the website only has a PDF version that you cannot edit, but the previous Word edition is still available, just not linked. You can download the Field of Study and Research Program Plan (Word format) here.

    This is the most important document in your application! 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 you took each class. If you cannot get all of this information in a single document, then you might have to submit multiple official documents showing each part of the required information.

    Depending on your enrollment status, you must submit transcripts as below:

    Undergraduate Enrollment Status Graduate Enrollment Status What to submit
    Graduated Never enrolled 1) Academic transcript of the undergraduate program
    Graduated Graduated (not currently enrolled in a subsequent degree) 1) Academic transcript of the undergraduate program
    2) Academic transcripts for all graduate degrees
    Currently enrolled Never enrolled 1) Academic transcript for undergraduate program showing all semesters or years for which grades have been determined as of the application deadline.
    *You will also need to submit the final transcript after you graduate and before the final results are released.
    Graduated Currently enrolled 1) Academic transcript of the undergraduate program
    2) Academic transcripts for any completed graduate degrees (if applicable)
    3) Academic transcript for your current graduate program showing all semesters or years for which grades have been determined as of the application deadline.
    *You will also need to submit the final transcript for the in-progress degree after you graduate and before the final results are released.

    If you transferred universities or studied abroad, you will also be required to submit your pre-transfer transcript or the transcript from your study abroad university, as well.

    5. Certificate of graduation or degree from each university program attended

    MEXT will accept a copy attested by an official at the university as an original. Do not submit your original diploma as submitted documents will not be returned to you!

    Depending on your enrollment status, you must submit Certificates of Graduation as below:

    Undergraduate Enrollment Status Graduate Enrollment Status What to submit
    Graduated Never enrolled 1) Certificate of Graduation from undergraduate degree
    Graduated Graduated (not currently enrolled in a subsequent degree) 1) Certificate of Graduation from undergraduate degree
    2) Certificate of Graduation from all graduate degrees
    Currently enrolled Never enrolled 1) Certificate of Prospective Graduation* from undergraduate degree
    Graduated Currently enrolled 1) Certificate of Graduation from undergraduate degree
    2) Certificate of Graduation from any completed graduate degrees (if applicable)
    3) Certificate of Prospective Graduation* from current graduate degree

    *Certificate of Prospective Graduation: A Certificate of Prospective Graduation is an official letter or document issued by your university that shows the date that you are expected to graduate.

    This document often causes challenges for applicants. Their universities will refuse to issue a certificate saying that they guarantee students will graduate by a certain date before students have completed all the requirements. But this is usually the result of misunderstanding MEXT’s poor explanation! A “Certificate of Prospective Graduation” can be conditional! So, your university can say that you are expected to graduate by XX date, provided that you complete all graduation requirements by that date. Essentially, all they are doing is certifying that it is possible for you to complete your degree requirements and graduate by then. It is up to you to meet the requirements. (MEXT will cancel your scholarship if you do not graduate before coming to Japan.)

    6. Recommendation letter from the president/dean, or your academic advisor at the most recent university where you are/were enrolled in a degree program.

    The letter can be written by your academic advisor or by the president/dean/rector/etc. (whoever is the top official) at your university.

    I get a lot of question about this one, so I have a whole separate article about what the letter should contain, who should write and sign it, and how to go about requesting it. See the link above for more details!

    The template letter includes out-of-date instructions 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 prefer. Remember, though, that you need to submit one original and two copies, so if your recommender prefers 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.

    *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 (a.k.a. Certificate of Health) 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. Be sure to check the requirements for your country!

    If there are changes to your health condition after you submit the Medical Certificate, you are required to inform the embassy immediately.

    8. Abstracts of graduation theses or published articles (only if applicable)

    The meaning of the Japanese term encompasses graduation theses (even if unpublished), published articles, and articles presented at conferences. So, if you have any articles or theses that meet that description, you must list them in the application form and attach the abstracts. If you do not have any relevant articles because your previous degree didn’t require a thesis, that will not hurt you, but you should contact the embassy to see if they want you to submit something else, instead.

    If you are currently enrolled in a degree program and 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.

    9. Certificate of language proficiency (English and/or Japanese) (only if applicable)

    This refers to language proficiency test scores that meet the requirements described in the application form. Scores must be from official tests and must be no more than 2 years old as of the date of application (the date you fill in at the end of the application form). Note that the requirement is to submit “scores”. So if you are submitting documentation from the JLPT, for example, you should submit copies of the score report, not just the passing certificate.

    This is an optional item, so if you do not have any scores or certificates you can still apply, unless otherwise stated by the Japanese Embassy where you will apply. In most cases, you will take language proficiency tests during the Primary Screening process that will be used for your official evaluation, but English language tests may be waived for native speakers from an English-speaking country.

    *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, Japanese universities may ask you to do so when you apply for Letters of Provisional Acceptance. 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 (only if employed at the time of application)

    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 (only if applying for a degree in fine arts or music)

    Others

    The documents above are required by MEXT, but 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.

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    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 2025! If you have questions I didn’t cover, let me know in the comments below!

    Sign up for my mailing list to be the first to know when I release new articles about the scholarship.

    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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