In most years, MEXT releases the official application guidelines and application forms for the University-Recommended MEXT Scholarship after universities in Japan have already completed their screening. That means that universities have to rely on the previous year’s instructions and forms during their screening.
This article is meant for applicants applying in 2023 for the University-Recommended MEXT Scholarship beginning in 2024, but if you are applying in a later year, the form should be almost identical. Of course, please use the most up-to-date form that you receive from the university you are applying to, as there are minor changes, like the year references!
Where to get the form
If you’re signed up to my mailing list, I’ve already sent you a sample filled copy of the form that I use for the examples below. If you aren’t signed up yet, then you can get your sample by signing up here. I’ll also write you as soon as I have any new articles or resources about the MEXT scholarship available.
There are only two minor differences between the forms, which I will describe in the appropriate parts of the explanation section below.
Unless otherwise specified, all sections of the description apply to both versions of the form. The sample form and the images in the article are from the PGP version.
Note: Form is for graduate studies, only
This article is about the application form for the Graduate-Level Scholarship Application. There are also a very limited number of University-Recommended MEXT Scholarship places available at some Japanese universities under the PGP program. I have not reviewed the form for undergraduate PGP applicants, but you can download it here if you are looking for it.
Instructions: Key Points
- You should fill in the PDF forms electronically, if at all possible. MEXT has finally made the forms into fillable PDFs! Not only is an electronically-filled form easier for evaluators to read, it makes it easier for you to make corrections, if you have to. If you are going to write by hand, use black pen and write in all capital letters.
If typing, do not type in all capital letters.
- The instructions say to use Arabic numerals, which means “1, 2, 3” etc. Do not write out numbers (e.g. “one”) in the application form, even if it would be grammatically appropriate to do so. You should also use numbers, not words, when writing out months. (e.g. “05”, not “May”)
- Writing year numbers: Be sure to write all numbers in the CE or AD calendar used in most of the Western world. Do not use the Japanese, Buddhist, Islamic, or Coptic Christian system of counting years.
- You have to write out proper nouns, including cities, states, countries, etc. Do not abbreviate. (e.g. Write “United States of America”, not “USA”)
- This is not mentioned directly in the form, but even if you are filling out the form in Japanese, write all non-Japanese proper nouns (such as names, places, school names, etc.) in English letters. Do not try to write them in Katakana and do not translate terms into English. (For example, if your language uses words that mean “city” or “district” in addresses, write the original word in your language, in English letters, do not translate it to the English word).
Page 1: Basic InformationPhoto: Your photo must meet the dimensions specified in the form, be clear and no more than 6 months old, and show your upper body.
You can insert a digital image directly into the form before printing or attach a physical photo afterward. If you decide to attach a physical photo, then as I described in my article about How to Apply for the 2023/2024 University-Recommended MEXT Scholarship it must be printed on photo paper and you should attach it with paste or a glue stick. DO NOT use staples, as that will damage your photo and make it useless.
Your name (especially in the “alphabet” line) has to match your passport, exactly. You must fill in both lines, even it they are identical. In general, the “Native language” line should match what is written in the top half of your passport, near the photo. If your country uses a language other than English, or uses English with special characters, use the appropriate characters from your language in “native language” line.
The “Alphabet” line should match the computerized text at the bottom of your passport, as follows:
To find your “alphabet” name and the correct order for the form, refer to the bottom two lines of your passport. On the second-to-bottom line, you should see a three-digit country code along with your name. For example:
Everything between the Country Code (USA in the example) and the first double “<<” is your surname. Everything after the “<<” is your given and middle name, in that order. It is your choice whether to list all of your given and middle names in the “given name” box or to split them between given and middle name, but you must include everything and cannot change the order, even if that’s not what you use in daily life.
If you do not have a “<<” because you do not have a legal surname or have only one legal name, then you should leave the surname block blank and fill in your name in the “Given name” (and “Middle name”, if appropriate) boxes.
You cannot enter any special characters, such as accented letters, in the “Alphabet” line. Those should go only in the “Native Language” line, only.
Yes, that’s a lot of instructions for a “name” line, but I’ve seen a lot of mistakes in the past.
This refers to your biological gender as stated in your passport, not your gender identity. Do not expect special treatment or even official acknowledgement of alternate gender identities in Japan.
On an individual level, I have found that Japanese people are accepting of non-binary genders–or, perhaps it would be most appropriate to say that most people don’t care about personal details one way or another. However, the government is woefully behind most of the developed world in terms or recognition and treatment, and universities will have to follow government guidance, so do not expect special treatment or accommodation for non-binary gender identities.
3. Marital Status:
This one is pretty straightforward! You should fill in your current marital status. It is not a problem if your status changes later before you travel to Japan.
Write the name of the country that issued your passport. (In Japan, your “nationality” is a noun, not an adjective. For example, you would write “Japan” not “Japanese.”) If you have multiple nationalities, choose your “primary” nationality, which should be the country where you currently reside or, if you do not currently reside in a country where you have nationality, than the country in which you have primarily resided during your life so far.
5. Japanese Nationality:
Japanese nationals are not eligible to apply for the scholarship, but if you have multiple nationalities, including Japan, reside primarily in your other country of nationality, and choose to give up your Japanese citizenship to apply, they you would be eligible.
Most applicants will check “No” and leave the rest of the line blank, but if you do have Japanese nationality, then you would have to check “yes” and complete the line.
6. Date of Birth:
The tricky part of this line is filling in your age. You need to enter how old you will be as of April 1, 2024. (Note: this changes every year, so if you are reading this article in a future year, you’ll have to calculate the difference.) In the downloadable example, you will see that the fake applicant has a birthday of Jan 1. That means that he is 21 when he’s filling in the form but will pass his birthday before April 2024, so he needs to enter “22.”
Note: In Japan, your age goes up on your birthday. It does not automatically go up on January 1 or on the lunar new year as it does in some other countries. Your age at birth in Japan is “0”. I am aware that in other countries, newborn babies are considered to be “1” at birth, but use the Japanese system for this form.
7.(1) Current Address:
Your address as of the day you submit the form. If you will move between when you submit the form and when you travel to Japan to start the scholarship (for example, if you will graduate from college and move home), you will fill in your address after the move in 7.(2).
If your current address in is Japan, you need to fill out your current visa status (residence status), too. This is important for confirming how you conform to the eligibility criteria. Remember you can only apply for the PGP Category University-Recommended MEXT Scholarship while living in Japan, not the General category.
Also, if you live in Japan at the time of application, you need to acknowledge that you are not eligible to receive MEXT-funded travel expenses from your home country to Japan at the start of your studies. This applies even if you plan to return to your home country after your application and before the scholarship starts!
7.(2) Your address before departure to Japan
In line (2), either check the box saying that your current address is your permanent address or fill your permanent address (e.g. your parents’ address, etc.), if you plan to move between when you submit the application and when you come to Japan. This is the address that MEXT will use to determine where you will apply for your visa and the flight route you will use.
You also need to acknowledge that you will not receive a plane ticket to Japan paid by MEXT if your permanent address (7.(2) or 7.(1) if you checked same as above) is not in your country of nationality.
7.(3) Phone number
For your phone number and email address, I recommend putting contact information that can be used to reach you at any time. If you’re living abroad, as in the example, and plan to return home before you start the scholarship, put a phone number in your home country.
Be sure to include the country code for your phone number!
For your email address, if you do not already have a professional-sounding email address, such as your first and last name, or a student email address from your current university, then I recommend creating one before you submit the application. This is particularly true if your current email address is something that could be seen as “silly”, like the name of your favorite anime character.
When I processed applications for my previous university, we saw some pretty outrageous email addresses, including rude references to anatomy, and those applicants became known around the office by their email, not the quality of their application. You do not want that happening to you.
Page 2: Scholarship Records
8.(1) Past awarded record:
The JASSO scholarship and MEXT Honors scholarship do not count for this question. If you are not sure about your past scholarship type, you can ask the embassy or consulate for more guidance. However, if you have never studied in Japan before, then this question does not apply to you and you can check “No”.
If you check “No”, you can skip to question 9. If you answered “Yes”, you have to fill out 8.(2) and 8.(3)
8. (2). Past MEXT Details
In 8.(2) fill in the start and end dates of your scholarship award and the name of the university in Japan. Then check the scholarship program in the section below.
If you checked scholarship types 1, 2*, 3, 4, 6, or 9 in 8.(2), then you need to complete 8.(3) as well. If you checked scholarship types 5, 7, or 8, then you can skip to question 9. Your past scholarship award is not in conflict with receiving another award.
*If you received an undergraduate MEXT scholarship (type 2) as a University-Recommended MEXT Scholar through a PGP program, then you can also skip 8.3. In that case, you are eligible to apply for a new MEXT scholarship immediately.
8. (3). Experience since last MEXT Scholarship
In 8.(3), if required, you would need to fill in your education and work experience since the end of your last MEXT scholarship award and up until the month before you start your scholarship in Japan. You should include any projected activities between the time that you fill out the form and the time you arrive in Japan, too. You have to show that you will have spent at least 36 total months either enrolled in degree programs or working as a full-time employee since your last scholarship award.
For the purpose of this table, count the actual years and months you spent in the program or employed, not the “standard years of study” as we will discuss for the Academic Record, below.
This question seems to conflict with itself in parts. The description in 8.(3) asks for “education or work experience” but the explanation under the table asks you to calculate the “total period of experience of education/research”. I think this is because the requirements were updated in 2019 to allow working experience, but the form was only partially corrected. The eligibility requirements clearly say that working experience counts, so you should include both education (full-time degree programs) and full-time employment in the table and in the calculation at the bottom.
9. Applying for Other MEXT Scholarship for 2024:
If you have already applied for the Embassy-Recommended MEXT Scholarship for 2024 and you have passed the Primary Screening, then you would have to tick “Yes” and you would not be eligible to apply for the University-Recommended MEXT Scholarship this year. However, if you applied for the Embassy MEXT and did not pass the Primary Screening, then that application would be considered to be over, so it would not count.
10.(1) Overlapping receipt of other scholarships:
MEXT does not allow concurrent receipt of other scholarships, so you must verify that you are not receiving or already approved to receive other scholarships that will cover the same period as the MEXT scholarship or that you will withdraw from any others upon receipt of MEXT.
If you are receiving a scholarship for your current degree, etc., that will end before your MEXT scholarship begins, you do not need to fill in that information here.
While receiving the MEXT scholarship, you are eligible to apply for and receive one-time research grants, etc., that do not duplicate MEXT coverage. For example, you could apply for a grant to pay the cost of travel to a conference, or for a specific research activity. But you cannot receive any other scholarships that cover travel expenses to Japan, tuition, or living expenses, including scholarships meant to cover the expenses of dependent family members traveling with you.
You are allowed to apply to other scholarships at the same time as a back-up plan. If you are applying for another scholarship, but the results are not yet released, then you would check “No” in the first line of 10.(1). If you have already applied for and been awarded a scholarship for 2024, but you plan to give up that scholarship if you are also selected for MEXT, then you should select “Yes” in line 1 and “Yes” in line 2, to indicate that you will cancel the other scholarship if you are selected for MEXT.
10.(2) Other Scholarship
If you checked “Yes” in 10.(1), fill in the name of the scholarship here. If you checked “No” in the first line of 10.(1), you can leave this blank or write “none.”
Page 3: Academic Background
Most of the instructions are straightforward, but there are a few items that can cause confusion, explained below.
- 3. If the applicant has passed the university entrance exam qualification, indicate this in the Remarks column: This refers to an exam taken instead of graduating high school. Usually, it is for home-schooled students, students who dropped out, etc. It will not apply to most MEXT applicants.
- 5. Attended Multiple Schools: As you can see in the “Primary Education” line of the example, I have included multiple schools for the sample applicant. You can fill it out the same way for your situation. If there is not enough space, you would write “See attached” in the Name line and explain the details in an attached sheet.
If you are attaching an extra sheet, you should still write the overall start and end dates and the “Period required for graduation” in the application form!
- 6. Total number of years studied: When you fill in the number of years for each level of schooling, it asks for the standard period of enrollment, NOT the amount of time that you spent to complete your schooling. So, if you skipped a grade and graduated early, etc., you would fill in the number of years that it was expected for you to take to finish according to the system at the school. The same also applied if you took longer than expected to graduate.
When calculating total number of school years, you should include extended vacations as part of the year! The simplest way to think about it is that you are counting “school years” not “calendar years.” If your school year goes from September to June, that is 1 full year (even though it is only 10 calendar months).
- 7. Attaching an Additional Sheet: If you attach an additional sheet because you attended multiple schools and cannot fit them in in the same column, then the additional sheet should include a full duplicate of the column you are replacing, with all fields. In that case, still include the overall start date, overall end date, and total years of study in the form, itself.
Typically, this would be your first 5-6 years of education. Do not include Kindergarten. If you attended a single school that covered elementary and middle school or elementary through high school, but these are considered separate levels of education in your country, then you should separate it into the appropriate lines. To find out what the “official” levels of education are in your country, Google “Education system in [COUNTRY NAME]”. One of the top results will usually be a Wikipedia article that describes the system, and this is usually good enough to figure out how to separate your schooling for this chart.
Lower Secondary Education:
Typically 2 or 3 years. As with elementary school, above, if you attended the same school from middle school/junior high school through high school/senior high school, separate it into the two lines, if appropriate for your country. This is the most common level of schooling to be absent in some countries’ education systems. For example, Bangladesh has no “Lower Secondary” school and goes straight from Primary to [Upper] Secondary. If your country (not just your town) does not have Lower Secondary Schooling, then fill in “n/a” for the name and explain in the Remarks line that your country does not have Lower Secondary School. Do not expect the university to know this without your explanation.
Upper Secondary Education:
This includes high school and any college prep school you might have attended, if that took place between high school and college. Do not count community college or polytech experience here, as those would be considered Tertiary Education and should be in the next column.
Enter college or university undergraduate education in the first line and subsequent bachelor’s degrees (if multiple) or graduate degrees in the second and third (if applicable). If you studied abroad, transferred universities, took longer or shorter than the standard years to complete your program, etc., provide details in the Remarks.
Details for Each School
For the dates, enter your actual start and end dates for your enrollment (year and month, only). If you attended multiple schools and are attaching a separate sheet to explain that, then you should enter the date you started your first school at that level and the date you completed your last school at that level, even if there were gaps in between.
If you are still enrolled in an undergraduate or graduate program at the time of application, fill in the expected date of graduation.
Period required for graduation:
For the “Period required for graduation”, you should enter the number of school years that it is expected to take you to complete that level of schooling, even if you took longer or shorter to do so. For example, if you skipped a grade, or repeated a year, etc., you would still enter the number of years that it is expected to take to graduate, not the time it actually took you.
If you are still enrolled in your undergraduate degree when you apply, you should still fill in the standard number of years for the degree.
If there is a difference, you should be sure to explain that in the “Remarks”.
Status (*As of enrolment in the university in Japan):
This entry appears for the tertiary education only. Check the appropriate box. Note that you should fill in the status as of when you start your enrolment in Japan, so if you are still enrolled in your current degree as of the application but will graduate before arriving in Japan, then you should fill in “Completed”.
Check the name of the degree you have earned.
Total Years of Education:
This should be the total years as of the time you enroll in the university in Japan, so it should be the total time of all the programs that you will have completed as of that time. If you marked “Withdrawal” from any of your Tertiary programs, indicating that you will withdraw from that program to study in Japan again, then you would not count any years in that program toward your total. Only count programs that you will have completed as of your enrolment in Japan.
Page 4: Academic Background (Continued)
12. Field of specialization studied in the past:
List your focus (subject of your thesis/capstone if you have one, or the area you chose to focus your studies), major(s) and minor, plus the department, faculty, college, etc., that you belonged to during all previous degrees.
For example, if you got a BA in History you wouldn’t write simply “History.” You would write something like:
Majored in Japanese history, with a focus on Bakumatsu-era industrial reform. (Department of Asian History, Faculty of History, College of Arts and Sciences)
13. Have you ever written a thesis?
This question refers to either a graduation thesis at the bachelor’s or master’s level or to published works, not to term papers written for a single class (unless they were later published).
If you have any publications, including articles or conference proceedings, or any works that have been accepted for publication but not yet published, write them here. You should also list your graduation thesis, even if it has not been published. In that case, you can format it as below:
Transenz, T.F. (2024). Post-Cold War Shifts in Japanese Foreign Policy: An Analysis of Official Development Aid Investment Changes in Africa (unpublished bachelor’s thesis). University of
Chicago, Chicago, United States of America.
Author Name (Year of presentation). Title (“unpublished [degree level] thesis). University name, city, country.
Don’t worry if you don’t have anything to list or if you have no graduation thesis. Many applicants, particularly those applying for Master’s degrees, do not at this point.
You must attach abstracts of all papers you list here in the “Abstracts of theses” section of the application documents.
Page 4: Your MEXT Scholarship Plans
15. The first course you plan to take in Japan:
*This question is different in the PGP and General Category application forms. PGP applicants do not have the option to select “Non-regular (Non-degree) course”.
In what status do you want to start your studies? (Note: you might not always get what you want. It depends on the university that accepts you).
- “Non-regular (Non-degree) course” (sometimes called “Research student” by universities): General Category applicants: This is only an option if you are applying to a degree program in Japan that only admits new students to start in the spring semester. Since all University-Recommended MEXT Scholars arrive in the fall, if your degree does not accept students until the spring, you would spend your first semester as a “Non-regular” student then start the degree program in the following April.
PGP Applicants: “Non-regular course” is not an option in the PGP application form, since there are no non-regular programs approved for the PGP!
- Master’s Degree Course: This would include MA, MS, MSc, etc. You might also see a reference to “Doctoral degree, first half”, which is another way of saying Master’s Degree in Japan. A Master’s Degree is a two-year course and, as a MEXT scholar, you would need to finish in two years or you would lose the scholarship.
- Doctoral Course: PhD program. In Japan, this is a 3-year program. The same time condition as Master’s Degree applies.
You might see some programs in Japan listed as “Integrated Doctoral Degrees” or 5-year doctoral degrees. These programs are essentially Master’s Degrees plus doctoral degrees rolled into one program, but with no Master’s degree awarded in the middle. If you are applying for one of these degrees and you want to start in year one, that would count as applying for a Master’s degree. (You would need to apply for an extension later to continue into year 3/the first year of the PhD level.) However, if you already have a relevant Master’s degree, it is possible to apply to start in year three of the program. In that case, you would select Doctoral course.
- Professional Graduate Course: This covers all non-academic graduate degrees, such as MBA, MFA, JD, MD, and programs such as Teacher Training programs. These programs can be at the Master’s or Doctoral level. Some doctoral-level medical degrees are 4 years instead of the standard 3 for a PhD. For those programs, all 4 years would be covered.
16. Term you wish to study in Japan:
This is only for reference, but you should be honest in your goals. Regardless of your entry here, you would only be accepted for the “first course” listed above and you would need to apply for an extension of your MEXT Scholarship later when you want to move on to a subsequent program (such as “Non-Regular” student to degree student, or from Master’s degree to Doctoral Degree.)
Page 4: Employment Records:
Fill in this information accurate as to the date that you submit your application. Will in full-time, paid employment throughout this section, not part time jobs, including teaching assistantships at your university, etc., or unpaid internships.
If you have are still a student and have no employment history, that will not be counted against you, so don’t worry about it. But if you graduated several years earlier and have no employment in the meantime, that might raise some eyebrows.
17. Do you currently have a job?
You should only fill in yes if you are working full-time. A part-time student job is not relevant.
Part of the intent behind this question is for the University to determine if you will be able to leave your current job to go to Japan if you are accepted. (If you’re working part-time, it’s assumed you can quit whenever you want).
If you check “Yes”, be sure to fill in the employer’s name. That is the company name, not your supervisor’s name.
18. Employment Record:
List your most recent two full-time positions here. The most recent position should be in the top line.
For the “location” of your organization, the city and country are sufficient.
The period of employment should include the year and month in YYYY/MM format. You do not need to include the day. For example, for November 2023, you would fill in 2023/11.
When you describe your “Type of work” you should use a general description, such as “clerical work”, “customer service”, “programmer”, etc. This is not a CV where you would be trying to impress the readers with statements like “Delivered high-quality responses to over 200 customer inquiries per week.” Instead of that mouthful, “customer service” would be better.
Page 5: Language Ability
19. Language Ability:You must fill in an answer in each block of both the Japanese and English line here, even if the answer is “0”. Note that while the English translation for “0” is “poor”, in Japanese, the term can also mean “no ability”.
For the “Others” line, if there is another language that is relevant to your research, fill in that one. For example, if you plan to reference Spanish-language sources, enter your Spanish ability. If you are doing a comparative study with your home country, then the language of your home country would be best to fill in here. You only need to fill in one language in this block, even if you are a polyglot!
20. Japanese language qualifications:
The question in Japanese specifically asks for your certifications. If you have passed the JLPT, fill in the level in the first block (N1-N5). If you have another official Japanese language proficiency test score, such as one conducted by your country’s foreign service office, you can list that in “other.” If you completed your qualifying degree in Japanese, that also counts as sufficient proof of Japanese language ability.
If you’ve taken Japanese classes in undergrad, etc., but had no official test score, that would not count as a certification, but you can list it anyway (e.g. “8 semesters of Japanese language education”).
Include a copy of your test results (“Proof of Linguistic Ability” in the required application documents) to the application, if available.
21. English language qualifications:
Similar to the question above, fill in your test scores for any official TOEFL (be sure to note the type) or IELTS test. You will probably be asked to produce the certificates from these tests when you apply to university. “Name of other qualification” can include CEFR ratings, O levels, TOEIC, and country-specific tests like GEPT, but understand that those may not be accepted by all universities, so the universities may ask you to submit formal test results when you apply for a Letter of Acceptance. Refer to the requirements for the university you are applying to. This is also where you would fill in “Native speaker”, if appropriate, or indicate “completed qualifying degree in English”, if that is how you plan to meet the eligibility criteria.
Include a copy of your test results (“Proof of Linguistic Ability” in the required application documents) to the application.
Page 5: Family
22. Accompanying Dependents (PGP Application Form, only):
For some reason, MEXT only asks PGP scholars about whether or not they plan to bring dependents, though in the past they asked all scholarship applicants.
MEXT (and universities) discourages you from bringing your dependents with you when you first come to Japan. (In fact, in terms of visa requirements, you may find it impossible to do so.) Neither MEXT nor the universities will take any responsibility for your dependents or provide any support for them.
If you do plan to bring dependents with you, list their names and relationship to you in this table. (Relationship should be from your perspective, so a son would be “son”, not “father-son relationship”).
If you plan to invite your family members to come to Japan, you will have to come to Japan first then apply for a Dependent Certificate of Eligibility for each family member you want to invite.
Anyone that you fill in in this section cannot be your emergency contact in the next question.
If you are filling out the PGP form, note that because of this additional question, all question numbers below will be off by one.
22. Emergency Contact in home country:
To put it bluntly, if you were to die in Japan, who should the university call to pick up your body and bring it home to your country?
I know that sounds morbid, but MEXT wants a point of contact that is that close to you.
The person should also meet the following criteria:
- Must have an email address and access to a phone
- Should, if at all possible, have English or Japanese language ability
- Be an immediate family member if possible
When I was reviewing these applications, any time an applicant wrote “friend,” “boyfriend/girlfriend,” “supervisor,” or anything other than a close family member, we would encourage applicants to choose someone closer.
You must complete every item in this section (although you can leave out the fax number).
Remember to include the country in the address, the country code in the phone number, and use no abbreviations in the address.
Page 5: Past Visits to Japan
23. Past visits or stays in Japan:
List your two most recent trips to Japan, if any. In the “purpose” section, the purpose of your visa is sufficient (e.g. “Student”). You do not need to go into detail. But if you were a MEXT scholar during that visit, you should indicate that.
If you have never visited Japan, then fill in “None” in the “Purpose” column of the first line.
Page 5: Certification
It is no longer required to sign by hand as in the past!
Fill in the check mark to indicate your consent to the application guidelines, then type the date in the bottom line.
Note: MEXT only provides the application guidelines in English for the PGP scholarship, but the important conditions are similar between the two. My article linked above has my detailed explanation of the guidelines, but that is not official.
Hooray! You’re finished!
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