Congratulations, Future MEXT Scholarship Recipient!
Congratulations on passing the Primary Screening for the Embassy-Recommended Monbukagakusho Scholarship! (MEXT Scholarship)
At this point, if you can secure at least one Letter of Acceptance from a Japanese university, you are all-but certain to receive the scholarship for your studies in Japan!
So, let’s get started on acquiring that Letter of Acceptance.
Still Waiting the Primary Screening Results?
Each embassy or consulate releases the MEXT scholarship primary screening results on its own schedule. I do not know the schedule for your country, so please contact them for details.
If you have not yet passed the primary screening and want to get in touch with professors, please see the guidelines I wrote in my article on How to Get Started with the Embassy-Recommended Monbukagakusho Scholarship Application and my MEXT Scholarship FAQ on Contacting Professors.
MEXT Scholarship Letter of Acceptance Step 1: Know Your Professor
By this point in the process, you really should know who your target professors are. I recommend deciding on this before you even start writing your Field of Study and Research Program Plan. In many countries, you’ll have had to submit your target professors’ names on the Placement Preference Form when you started the primary screening.
But even if you don’t, it isn’t time to panic yet. It is time to get to work, though.
I have several suggestions in other articles about how to select your university and target professor. You can find them in the articles below:
- Embassy MEXT Scholarships: Choosing a University in Japan
- Embassy-Recommended MEXT Scholarship 2018: How to Get Started
- University MEXT Scholarship: Choosing Your University
If you don’t have three target professors (or more), I recommend reading through those, now, then coming back.
Is it Possible to Change Your Choices if You Already Submitted the Placement Preference Form?
Here’s the ultimate Japanese answer: It depends.
Your embassy will decide whether or not it is OK for you to change your preference form later. In most cases that I have heard of, applicants were allowed to change the list of universities and professors on their placement preference form after receiving their Letters of Acceptance.
Ultimately, you should obtain a Letter of Acceptance from each university on that list. If a university rejects your application – or completely refuses to reply to you (more advice on that below) – you should be able to remove it later. If, through your research, you find another university and professor better suited to your studies, and obtain a Letter of Acceptance there, you should be able to add that university.
But again, this all comes down to your embassy’s decision.
Some embassies (the ones who do it right, in my opinion), do not even require you to submit this form until after you have your Letters of Acceptance. So, if you haven’t turned it in yet, don’t worry.
MEXT Scholarship Letter of Acceptance Step 2: Prepare for Contact
We’re not quite ready yet to reach out to professors, so bear with me for a minute. First, you need to make sure you are reaching out in the right way.
Embassies may tell you that you need a letter of acceptance from your professor and that you should contact professors directly, but that is not always true. Here’s how you can make sure you are going about it the right way to maximize your chances:
If You Are Already in Contact with Your Target Professor
If you have a dialogue going with your target professor already, by all means, let him or her know that you’ve passed the primary screening!
But I still recommend that you read through this step to make sure that you don’t accidentally blow your chances by not applying through the proper route.
Find Out How to Apply for an LOA
The first thing you want to do is find out how your target university expects you to apply for a Letter of Acceptance. You will have to go through their process to get the letter.
Caution: When I handled these applications, I saw situations where students contacted a professor at our university directly and the professor replied “sure, I’ll supervise you.” But the student never submitted an application for a Letter of Acceptance through the proper channels and we didn’t find out until after the deadline.
Don’t let that be you!
Here’s what you need to do:
Search google for your university name and the words “embassy mext” (don’t actually use quotation marks). For example “University of Tokyo Embassy MEXT.”
I tried this with 7 different universities and in every case, the top result was the page with the instructions on how to apply for a letter of acceptance.
I also tried to go to each university’s website and use the search functions there. That worked too, in all but one case (Keio). Google is still king of searches.
Four of the seven universities said to contact their international office, one said to contact the administrative office of the graduate school, and only two instructed applicants to contact professors directly.
Just for reference, the universities I tried and their results were as follows:
- University of Tokyo: Contact the administrative office of the graduate school where the professor works
- Tohoku University: Contact the professor directly
- Kyoto University: Contact the professor directly
- Osaka University: Contact the professor to get their approval, but apply to the international office
- Waseda University: Contact the international office
- Keio University: Contact the international office
- Ritsumeikan University: Contact the international office
What Materials to Send
Each of the pages above also tells you exactly what you should send to the universities to apply, and how.
In all cases, you’ll need to send a complete set of the documents you submitted to the embassy, plus a copy of the Passing Certificate of the Primary Screening.
Some universities will have additional information sheets or materials that they want you to submit. Some may accept applications by email, some may require that you send them by registered/express post. Check on your target universities for details!
Do I Have to Send the Universities my Placement Preference Form?
Yes, if the university asks for it, unfortunately.
Before you say it, I agree that this is unfair. But since the MEXT application instructions require you to send a copy of each of the documents that you submitted to the embassy, the universities ask for it to make sure they are complying with the rules.
Will it affect your chances if the university sees that they are not your first choice? Maybe. It’s not likely that they’d reject you just on that basis, though. Of course, if a university sees that you have listed more prestigious universities above them in order, then they are likely to understand.
However, if you’re going to list, for example, Yamanashi Gakuin University (ranked 151+ in the Times Higher Education ranking of Japanese universities) above a school like University of Tokyo (ranked 1), then Tokyo might take exception to that.
I’ve also heard a rumor that Keio will only give you a letter of acceptance if they are the only university on your placement preference form, but I have not been able to confirm that.
In general, though, the only way we used this form when I handled these applications was to see which professor you wanted to study with and what your general field of study was, so that we could send your application to the correct graduate school for review. That’s it!
If you haven’t submitted the Placement Preference Form to the Embassy yet: If the university is still asking for it, please explain that you aren’t required to turn it in until after you receive your LOAs. If they university still insists you submit something, then you can create it just for their purposes.
MEXT Scholarship Letter of Acceptance Step 3: Contact the Universities
You are required to contact the universities to apply no later than August 31.
Some universities require that the application documents reach them by this date, others will accept your application if you at least have started exchanging emails by the to ask about how to apply.
When to Apply for the LOA
As soon as possible after you have your Passing Certificate of the Primary Screening. Don’t even wait a day if you can help it. Here’s why:
August in Japan in summer vacation, which is going to make it harder to get in touch with professors and get anything done. The end of July is also final exam week, so professors are very busy around then, too. (I have no idea why MEXT decided that this was a good time to have you apply for a Letter of Acceptance. It seems like the worst possible schedule).
Most administrative offices work through the summer and, when they are out of the office (i.e. if the whole university closes for a week or so), they should have out-of-office messages up. Professors may be gone and most, in my experience, do not put up out-of-office messages, so your email might just end up in a black hole.
Sending Follow-up Emails
If you do not receive a confirmation that your email/application was received, it’s a good idea to follow up after 2-3 business days. This is especially true in the case of contacting professors at this time of year.
If you reach out to a professor twice and still don’t get a response, try contacting the administrative office of the professor’s graduate school to politely ask them to help connect you. Sometimes you just get a professor who is bad about responding to email, but the admin office can reach out by phone and get things moving.
MEXT Scholarship Letter of Acceptance Step 4: Waiting
How long it takes to get a reply to your Letter of Acceptance depends on the university. Sometimes it could be a few days, but I have also seen it take over a month in many cases.
If your embassy has given you a deadline to submit the Letter of Acceptance, be sure to let the university know that when you contact them to send your application.
Why Does it Take so Long?
At my former university, for example, all Letters of Acceptance had to be approved at a faculty meeting. One professor could not approve and write it alone.
But remember, August is summer vacation. So, there were no faculty meetings from the end of final exams in late July until the professors returned to campus for the fall semester in mid- to late-September. It happened several times that Student A contacted us on Tuesday, for example, and had a response within a week. But Student B who contacted us on Wednesday missed the meeting and had to wait a month and a half to receive any word.
That’s why I encourage you to reach out right away!
Sometimes universities can scramble to get you a reply faster, even with professors away from the university, so don’t give up hope.
A Late Reply is Not a Reflection on Your Chances
If a university is taking a long time to get back to you, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are likely to reject you. Most often, it means that they can’t approve or reject your application yet, in any case.
If anything, rejection notices take less time than writing a Letter of Acceptance.
MEXT Scholarship Letter of Acceptance Step 5: Receiving Your LOA and Submitting it to the Embassy
In most cases, universities should let you know by email if you receive an LOA and will even send you a scan of it.
Most embassies require the original letter, but I have known universities that will only send your Letter of Acceptance by airmail (not EMS, DHL, etc.). Although you are almost sure to be selected as a MEXT scholarship recipient once you have passed the Primary Screening and received at least one Letter of Acceptance, some universities still think there is a relatively low chance MEXT will place you at their school, so they are not willing to spend the money on the express mail.
Deadline to Submit the Letter of Acceptance to Your Embassy
This varies from Embassy to Embassy, so please check with them! I do not have that information.
If you have any questions about this article or contacting professors in Japan, please read through the MEXT Scholarship FAQ on Contacting Professors and leave your questions there! I will update that page with more questions and answers as soon as I can!
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