The JET Program Application – Tips and Advice to Make You Succeed

If you want to get accepted into the JET program, you’ve come to the right place.  I was accepted into the program as an ALT (assistant language teacher) a few years ago and loved every minute of it.  However, this didn’t come easily.

If awards were given out to JET applicants, I would definitely win the “Most Number of Times Applied” award.  I applied so many times that I actually lost count, but it was somewhere in the neighborhood of 6 or 7 times.  I only made it to the interview stage twice.  The first time I was put on the waiting list; the second time was when a miracle happened…I got accepted.

JET Program Teaching EnglishApplying and failing so many times made me see where I went wrong each time, and how to correct it.

To apply to the program, you must first submit an application along with an essay (statement of purpose).  If you pass this stage, you’ll be invited for an interview.  Do well on the interview and you’ll have a good chance at being offered a position with the program.




I’ll talk more about the interview in another post.  But first, here are 5 tips on how to ace the JET application.

5 Tips for the JET Program Application – ALT Position


1.  Do Not Take the Application Lightly – Double, Triple, and Quadruple Check It

JET Application Page 1Some people think that the application is just a formality that they have to fill out and then concentrate on the interview.  These people probably didn’t make it past the first round.

This seems like common sense, but I have seen many people, including myself, who took the application too lightly.  The application is long, arduous, and at times, frustrating.  This can make you want to rush through it just to get it over with.  DO NOT do this.

Take your time and fill each answer.  If you start to get tired or frustrated, take a break and go back to it later.

Also, treat it just like an English test.  This means absolutely no spelling or grammatical mistakes.  Be clear and precise.

Most applications can be completed online now.  However, if you have an actual hardcopy of the application, I highly recommend that you use a typewriter to fill it out.  Yes, I know typewriters don’t exist anymore.  Try checking your parent’s attic.  Maybe you’ll find one in a box along with their VHS tapes and cassette player.  If you have to fill it out by hand, make sure it is PRISTINE and NEAT.

And of course, check it until you know that it’s flawless.


2.  Tell the Truth for the Important Stuff (and Stretch the Truth for the Rest)

When in Doubt Tell the TruthIf you don’t have any teaching experience, working with children, and/or can’t speak Japanese, it is better to say this up front.  Don’t lie or exaggerate your experiences or language ability.  It is highly probable that they’ll ask you more about your Japanese ability and experience in the interview.  If you get caught lying there, you might as well start looking for another job.


You want to put your best food forward.  Definitely put a positive spin on your experiences and skills (or hype it up).   I’m not advocating you stretch the truth to the point where you are exaggerating, but on the other hand, marketing companies to this all the time.   You want to show them that they should choose you over everyone else.  So really play up your strengths and find things you can put down that relate with Japan and teaching.

For example, maybe you love sports and have helped children in your neighborhood improve their game.  Perfect.  You have experience in teaching, volunteering, and working with kids.

*If you have absolutely no teaching experience, working with kids, or anything Japanese, no sweat.  Turn this into an opportunity when you write your essay.

For example, you can put a positive spin not knowing any Japanese by saying that you’ve always want to know learn more since you are interested in Japanese culture, have many Japanese friends, etc. The JET Program is a great opportunity to provide you with the perfect opportunity to learn the language by being immersed in the local community and making friends there.  If you can relate this to your dream or goal for the future, then that would be perfect.


3.  Japanese Language AbilityJET Program - How Much Japanese Do you Speak

Back in the day (90’s – early 2000’s), it was said that if you have a high level of Japanese ability, this could work against you.  The reason behind this is that they wanted someone who would speak English with the students.  Someone with a high level of Japanese might only speak Japanese to the kids.
Well I’m here to tell you that that is totally not the case now.  The JET Program is definitely looking for people who can speak at least some Japanese.  You don’t have to be fluent, but it is a plus if you can speak at a conversational/daily life Japanese level.  This probably translates to an intermediate level of Japanese.  This is for the ALT position.  Of course, if you apply for the CIR position you need to have a very high level of Japanese.

I have met hundreds of JET’s during my time in Japan.  Out of all of them, only a handful couldn’t speak any Japanese or have never studied Japanese before.  The Board of Education in Japan where I used to work at told me that they want people who can speak some Japanese, now more than ever.

This is because elementary schools are increasing the number of hours and English classes they have each year.  Unlike junior high and high schools, there aren’t many elementary school teachers that can speak English.  So if you work at an elementary school, it will be VERY HELPFUL if you can communicate with the staff there.  You’ll also have a much easier time teaching your classes and communicating with the kids.  If you want to learn natural Japanese quickly, I highly recommend the lessons at Japanesepod101.

Can you do this with no Japanese?  You definitely can.  But your life will be much easier with some Japanese ability.  JET realizes this and will look for people who know some Japanese.  So if you can’t speak Japanese at all, I suggest you learn a few basic things (basic writing system, greetings, self-introduction) right now so you can at least put that you are a “beginner” on your application.


4.  The Most Important Part of the Application: Your Essay (Statement of Purpose)

JET Program EssayYour essay is where you should put most of your effort.  This is how you will stand out from all of the other applicants.  I’m here to tell you that you can be the perfect applicant for the job, but if you write a shitty essay, you won’t be going to Japan with JET anytime soon.

Each time I applied, I changed the content of my essay.

The first 3 or so times I applied I wrote a crappy essay that I put very little thought into.  Result:  I didn’t get in.

One year I tried to be poetic and tried to impress them with an imaginative and elegant writing style.   Result:  I didn’t get in.

The next year I tried writing creatively.  I made my reason for wanting to go to Japan into a story, with an interesting introduction, flowing plot, and a beautiful conclusion.  Result:  I got rejected again.

The next time I applied, I put a lot of thought into what they were looking for in a candidate.  There are English teaching jobs all over the world.  Why do I want to go to Japan specifically?  What are my REASONS for wanting to go to Japan over every other country in the world?  Why do I want to work for the JET Program specifically, and what will I bring to the table if I am hired?  How will working for the JET Program tie into my future?

I wrote, corrected, and rewrote my essay many times.  I also got smart.  I hired a professional to check my work for grammatical and spelling mistakes, as well as getting advice on how  to make it better.

Result:  I passed!  I made it to the interview stage.

However, I got placed on the waiting list that year.  I applied again the following year and wrote an even better essay.  I pretty much used my old essay but improved on it.

So the moral of the story is:  Concentrate on writing about your motivation and reasons for choosing Japan and the JET program.  You don’t need to make it overly elegant or fancy.  But you do need to use perfect English that is clear, logical, and flows nicely.  Above all, your essay should state your reasons for wanting to go to Japan with the JET Program, why they should hire you instead of everyone else (skills, experience, motivation..what makes you special), and what you will bring to the table if you got hired (building relationships with the community, coaching kids in sport, etc). If working for the JET Program can help you with a future goal or dream, that is even better.   This essay is a maximum of 2, double-spaced pages.

Here are more questions you might want to ask yourself.  The answers to these questions might be able to help you write your essay:

  • Are you flexible?
  • Can you adapt to new situations easily?
  • Do you like getting involved in the community?
  • How will you teach people about your culture and build relationships with the community?

If you think that don’t have any experience in teaching or the Japanese language and culture, you probably aren’t thinking hard enough.  As I said before, you should be honest, but I’m sure you have experiences that JET is looking for.

Maybe you moved far away from home to attend university.  That means you adapt well to new situations. Or maybe you coached kids in sports.  That means you have experience teaching and working with children.  Experiences such as these can be used to show your strengths.

You can also turn a weakness into a positive thing.  If you don’t know much about Japanese culture and language, you can express your desire for doing so, and say that working in Japan would be the perfect opportunity to help you achieve your future goals.  Also be sure to give reasons and examples of what you would plan to do with your time in Japan.


5.  The Worst Part of Your Application – The References

Begging for JET Program ReferencesThe application and essay was bad enough, but at least you have 100% control over both of them.  Now you have to find 2 people to write you a letter of recommendation, and why they think you would be a good candidate for the job.

Your references cannot be family members or friends, so you’ll need to find professional or educational references who you know will write you a good recommendation.  Unless you have 2 references already lined up, this can be a real pain in the ass for both you and the people you ask.

The person who writes you a recommendation has to put it in a sealed envelope, so you won’t be able to see it.  So make sure you ask someone who you know will write you an excellent recommendation and has good writing skills.

Also, be sure to give your reference crystal clear instructions.  Not only do they have to put it in a signed and sealed envelope, but they have to make three copies of their recommendation, and sign each of them individually.

Make sure to ask your references ASAP.  I cannot stress this enough.  It’s a lot to ask someone to write an recommendation for you, so give them lots of time.  You never know how long it will take for them to finish.  I missed the deadline twice because I didn’t get my recommendations in time.



The best thing you can do is start early.  Start working on the application when it first comes out.  You will also have to get lots of other documentation:  2 professional references, official school transcripts,  proof of graduation or copy of your diploma, proof of qualifications (JLPT, TEFL, study abroad, teaching certification, etc.), and proof of citizenship.

Put A LOT of effort into your essay.  It probably is more important than the answers you give on your application.  The essay gives you the opportunity to say what your motivation for living and teaching in Japan is, and why you would be the perfect candidate.  Write and revise it until you feel it is perfect.

I know the application process is long, tough, and stressful, but don’t give up!  Getting into the program could be a life-changing experience.  If you want to live in Japan, JET is probably the best way to do that (unless you have specialized skills, like a Masters in biochemistry).

If you want to know what a typical day of work looks like on the JET Program, check out this page:  Working for The JET Program – A Typical Day

If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below and I’ll try to help you out the best that I can.  Good luck!

Photo of author

Dallen Nakamura

Dallen was born and raised in Hawaii and never had a passport until he was 24. His first trip outside of the US was to Japan. He loved it so much that when he got back home, he immediately quit his job and moved to Japan without a plan. While he loves the people and culture of Japan, his true love is food. He is convinced that Japan has the best food in the world and is slowly eating his way around the world to prove it.

24 thoughts on “The JET Program Application – Tips and Advice to Make You Succeed”

  1. Hi there! this article was quite helpful. I’m currently in the process of applying for the program. There is one thing that bothers me though regarding the application form. There are some items that aren’t applicable to me. Must I leave it blank? or write “No” or “N/A”?

    Hoping for a reply. Thank you!

    • Hi Inday. I know the application changed a little from the time I last did it, but I do remember answering N/A for a couple of questions. I would just make sure to double check all of the instructions. It might say what to put for questions that are not applicable to you.

      Would you mind sharing the question(s) that are not applicable to you? I might be able to give you a better answer based on the question. Thanks and good luck on your application!

  2. Hi, Dallen, thanks so much for your article! I do have a few questions if you have the time.
    1) I have a lot of university professors who could be my reference, but I also wrote a play with my middle school teacher. We put the play on when I was 13 and again this year. I co-directed with him this time, instead of acting. I’m also directing a community play with him now. I know Japan values prestige, so I’m trying to figure out if one university professor with my middle school teacher is a better reference or 2 university professors, since they technically have “higher education”.
    2) There’s probably not an age limit on the program since they didn’t state one but is there a mature student quota as there sometimes is with programs?
    3) How much in advance will they notify me about an interview? I’m traveling around the time it stated the interviews are. Is there some way to confirm the exact time?
    4) Does applying multiple times hinder your odds of getting in?
    5) Do I have to submit a Certificate of Health if I have no health problems?

    Thanks so much in advance! And I’m sorry for all the questions. Good on you for not giving up on your dream!

    • Hi Sara! That’s awesome that you’re applying for the JET Program! I’ll try to answer your questions the best that I can.

      1) For your recommendation, I say go with the person you think will do a better job. Who can write more professionally and highlight your best qualities? It would help a lot if the person who is writing your recommendation knows about the JET Program and what they look for in their candidates. Of course a university professor does have a bit more “prestige” than a middle school teacher, but usually the person who knows you best will have an easier time writing about all the good qualities you possess. But if your middle school teacher and university professor are equally skilled at writing and know you well, I probably would go with your university professor. Just my opinion.

      2) When I applied (multiple times), there was an age “limit” of 40 years old. The way they worded it made it sound like it’s possible to get in if you were over the age of 40, but highly unlikely. The last time I checked the application, I believe it said that the applicant should be less than 45 years old. But again, if I recall correctly, the way they worded it made it sound as if you could still get in even if you were older than 45. I’m not too sure what you mean by mature student. Do you mean a quota for applicants who are considered “mature?” If so, I don’t believe that they do. Well that could be possible, but I’ve never heard about anything like that before. Just my opinion again, but I believe the JET Program would prefer younger applicants to more “mature” ones. But not too young. Back in the day, I think the JET Program liked candidates who were just out of college. But now I’ve seen a lot of people who are on JET who are in their late 20s to early 30s. I also notice that there has been more married couples and even families coming to Japan with JET. But if you really want to go to Japan, don’t think twice about this no matter what age you are. Just go for it!

      3) The answer is…I have no idea. The JET Program sends out their notices when they are good and ready…and we just have to sit and wait anxiously by the mailbox (or computer) until we get their mail! When I applied, they gave me a date of when I should get a reply by. So you could get a reply before that date, but you never know exactly when they will let you know the results. I’m not sure if they will inform you by e-mail or by snail mail, but definitely find a way to check it even when you’re traveling. I think I had to reply pretty quickly about accepting the interview or not.

      4) As someone who applied multiple times, I feel that doing so neither hinders nor helps you get shortlisted. I would be surprised if they even remembered you since they receive tons of applications every year. Unless you did something that really stands out, they probably wouldn’t even notice if you apply multiple times. However, if you get to the interview stage multiple times, it’s very possible the interviews might remember you. I did the interview twice, and there was a couple of people there for both years. But unless you did or said something totally crazy, doing the interview multiple times shouldn’t hurt you as well. If anything, it gives you an advantage since you’ll know what kind of environment to expect and what kinds of questions you’ll be asked.

      5) I don’t recall if I had to send in a certificate of health with my application. However, when I got accepted to the program, I had to go to the doctor for a check-up/physical and submit medical documents saying I was in good health. I would expect that this hasn’t changed.

      I hope this helps! If you have any other questions feel free to ask away!

      Good luck on your application Sara!

      • Hi Dallen, thank you so much for your quick and thorough response! I’m taking you up on your offer for any more questions if that’s okay! Would you recommend writing about scholarships I’ve won in the past in the essay or just the section in the application that asks for it?

        Thanks again,
        Sara 🙂

  3. Hi Dallen!!
    Really loved this article, super insightful and relevant as I’m applying for the JET programme for this coming deadline.. November 2019.
    I have a question about the essay style personal statement, i don’t know whether its me being dumb or just not reading it right.
    It asks for 800-1000 word essay, but how many of the stated questions do I need to answer? They say to answer the “following questions” but do i answer 1,2 and 3a? (3a as i want to be an ALT.) All within the word limit of 1000 words, or do i write 1000 words for each question (meaning 3000 words max over all) or do i just answer 1 from the list! Very confused! Fear i am just overthinking it all… please help a very hopeful future JET out!!
    Thank you so much,

    • Hi Phoebe!

      Thanks for the comment. This 1,000 word limit is new to me. When I applied, they had a few questions/topics that you had talk about in your essay, but back then there wasn’t a strict word count limit. I just remember the limit being 2 pages, double spaced. I don’t have the 2019 application, so I’m not sure how they worded those essay questions. Could you copy what is written in the personal statement part of the application? Maybe I can point you in the right direction if I can see how it’s worded. Thanks Phoebe. Good luck with the application!

      • Hey, Thank you for the quick reply! Perhaps, 2 pages constitutes to 1000 words double spaced?
        Here is the exact wording of the personal statement section of the application….
        “””The Personal Statement will be used to assess your suitability and motivation for applying for the UK JET Programme. You must ensure that it is between 800 and 1000 words, printed on A4 paper, font size 12 and double-spaced. The Personal Statement should be in an essay format, and answer the following questions:”””
        And then it lists 4 question options such as
        “”””(Both ALT and CIR)

        1) Why do you wish to participate on the UK JET Programme and what can you contribute to your host community?

        2) If you have any experience of living abroad for an extended period, what aspect did you find the most difficult to adapt to? Was there any specific problem you had to overcome?


        If you have not had any experience of living abroad, do you consider yourself to be adaptable to new circumstances and people? What situations have you found yourself in that have required such adaptation?

        3a) ALT applicants only: Teaching Ideas
        If you have some teaching experience, what methods of teaching (classroom approaches, etc.) have you used, and which have you found the most valuable?


        If you have little or no experience, imagine you are in front of a class of 40 students, many of whom are not interested in studying English. How would you go about motivating them? What methods or approaches do you think you might use? What advantages do you think your methods might have?””””

        Thank you!! Sorry for the big copy and pastes

        • Hi Phoebe!

          Wow, that is confusing. I wonder why they labeled question 3 as “3a” but didn’t do the same for question 2? But this is still pretty similar to the essay I had to write when I applied to the program. The only thing that changed is the question about teaching ideas for the ALT position. It seems like you should answer all 3 of the questions in your personal statement. Definitely put in a lot of effort to answer question 1. I believe the reason and motivation behind why you want to apply to the JET program is very important in the selection process. This was also one of the questions that I had to write about in my essay when I applied back in 2009.

          Of course, the other questions are important too. Just remember that this is an essay, and should flow very well. I think many people just answer these questions in paragraph form, treating them as individual questions and not as a complete essay that connects all of your ideas and points in an organized manner. Your essay should be highly organized and very precise while making sure everything flows together nicely. The first few essays I wrote (where I didn’t get accepted to JET), I think it was way too wordy and didn’t answer the questions succinctly enough. OF course you want your essay to have creativity and style, but remember that the point of the essay to show the selection committee why they should choose you. What will you bring to the program and to the community you live in? If you want to be an ALT, what will you do to connect with the kids? When you read your essay, does it answer all of their questions?

          Just a heads up…if you have some “shortcomings” such as a lack of experience with teaching or living abroad, that is okay. Just be truthful about it and show them why you would excel anyway. Give them other examples in your life of how you adapted to unfamiliar situations or concentrate on your personality/skills that you have.

          One more thing…if you are applying for the ALT position, I believe that they want someone with good energy. The kind of person that just walks into the room and makes people smile. Someone that is friendly, approachable, and outgoing. You don’t have to be a super extrovert, but you should be okay with approaching and talking with children and other co-workers. Although this is a teaching position, keep in mind that they also want someone who can relate and connect to the children. You want to be someone who isn’t going to teach standard English lessons like a robot, but someone who will breathe life into the subject and have fun with the kids.

          Does that makes sense? Sorry if I started rambling! If you have any other questions please let me know! Good luck on the essay!

  4. Hi there Dallen!

    First of all I’d like to say thank you so much for the super informative article you’ve written up here (though it is over 4 years since it was posted it still holds so much weight to it) it has given me a lot of insight into what the most important parts of the application process are and what can be done to improve how I execute each of them.

    I do have a couple questions I hope you can give me some advice or answers to though; I was firstly wondering what preparation I can be doing up until the application is opened next month, I have elected my two referees already and should have my references soon so this is not an issue.

    I was also wondering how I can put my best foot forward in terms of my essay writing, I’m a University Graduate who has no teaching experience, I have a deep interest in Japan and its culture (I recently took a 2 week trip to Japan and had the best holiday experience of my life as I was able to see and do so many things within such a short space of time), I have been studying Japanese for around 5 months and hope to advance my studies to a higher level in the near-future, I’m also lucky enough to have met a Japanese girl online who I have been dating for around 7 months (I spent time with her and her family for a portion of the time I was on my Japan trip), and finally I have been partaking in the Art of Aikido which has been more than enjoyable for myself as of late.

    JET for me would be the experience of a lifetime so I want to put myself out there for the application reader in the best light possible!

    If you read this thank you very much for your time.


    • Hi Lewis! Thanks for the comment. I’m really glad the article could help. Yep, I wrote it a while ago, but the information still holds true for most of the application.

      I’m glad to hear you found your 2 references…I hated finding people for my references.

      For the essay, I believe it is the most important part of the application. Of course, the actual application form needs to be error free and show off your best qualifications. But I believe that if they like what they see on your application, your essay will then be the deciding factor of whether they offer you an interview or not. So definitely put in a ton of effort into writing the best essay you can.

      Some bad news first…in my experience, JET is now favoring people with teaching experience. If you don’t have any, that doesn’t mean you are automatically rejected. But it really helps if you have some experience working with kids or teaching in any capacity. This could be coaching kids in sports, tutoring people (helping friends study, teaching others anything, etc.), or any interaction with kids. Do you have experience with working with children? If you worked with elementary school kids, that would be awesome. Elementary schools in Japan are making English a required subject for students from grade 3 and up, which means the demand for ALT’s in elementary schools is increasing. So I know JET is looking for people who have experience with elementary school children and who is willing to work in in elementary schools in Japan. If you don’t have any experience with kids or teaching in any capacity, there are two options. The first one is to be truthful about it. Mention that you don’t have any teaching experience, and focus on your qualities that they would want as an ALT in Japan. They are looking for someone who can adapt to living and working in Japan, will work hard, is willing to learn and work with other teachers, and of course, someone who brings a good energy. It does help if you are a genki person, but as I mentioned in the article, you don’t have to be. As long as you bring a good energy to class (and the interview), that is what’s important. Good energy is someone who smiles, is friendly, someone you can approach and have fun with…just someone who you know is fun when they walk through the door. Also, if you can explain things simply and clearly, and show that you have no problem communicating in a foreign language (using written notes or gestures when you or a co-worker doesn’t understand one another), be sure to mention that as well. Just be sure to put your best foot forward, without sounding boisterous or make it feel like you’re compensating for something. As with any job, show the company that you are the best person for the job.

      The second option, if time allows, is to go out and get some experience. Call up schools to see if you can volunteer by tutoring kids or helping out teachers. Or maybe if there are children in your Aikido class, you could help them. Any experience you have would be awesome.

      Also, I want to give you a heads up on what NOT to put in your essay. Definitely don’t mention your girlfriend in the article UNLESS it’s focusing on the culture and experience of being in Japan with her family. If they were speaking to you in Japanese the whole time, that would be a good way to mention you can communicate with others and can adapt to the culture. But I wouldn’t say anything around the lines of “I am dating a Japanese girl and have learned a lot from her.” I think the selection committee are weary of this because they think you just want to go to Japan to be with your girlfriend, and if you don’t get a good placement you’ll drop out (both of which happens).

      If you have any other questions feel free to drop me another line. Good luck Lewis! I’ll be rooting for ya!

  5. Hi! Thanks a lot for this info! It’s helping me a lot in my current application.
    I’m currently on my application stage, and the form can get really confusing. I wish they’d publish a sample of it.
    Are you still in Japan, by the way? Did you have the opportunity to further your stay in Japan after the program?

    • Hi Leandro! I’m glad the article could be of some help to you. Yes, the application form can be very confusing…I honestly believe they make the application long and somewhat complex to filter out applicants. So please be sure to triple check everything.

      I’m still in Japan. The JET program allows you to work up to a maximum of 5 years (depending on your situation of course… I know of people who couldn’t stay for the full 5 years due to their work performance or some areas decided to cut back on ALTs), which I did. I wanted to stay in Japan after JET, so I ended up getting other teaching jobs, a game tester job, and even worked in factories. I’m thinking of writing an article about what it’s like working at these different types of jobs in Japan. But if you did want to stay in Japan after JET, it’s pretty easy if you move to a big city and want to continue teaching.

      Good luck with you application! I hope you get in!

  6. Hi Dallen!

    Your write-up is extremely helpful. Thank you so much for sharing some of your experiences. May I ask how long did you work as an ALT in Japan? I have read the period of participation is only for 1 year. Do you know someone who was able to renew and was allowed to extend the period of participation for an additional year?

    • Hi Iris! I’m glad the article was helpful! I worked as an ALT with the JET Program for 5 years, which is the maximum at the time of this writing. Your working contract is for one year, so you’ll need to re-contract every year (a maximum of 4 times for a total of 5 years). However, I heard that this can depend on the area you work for, as some local districts might only allow you to re-contract one or two times despite what the official guidelines say. But for most places, renewing as an ALT with the JET Program is pretty easy. In most cases, unless you do a horrible job or do something illegal, you’ll most likely be offered to re-contact another year. This of course will depend on other factors like their budget, politics, and what not, but generally speaking, most ALT’s who do a good job get offered to re-contract another year, especially you first year.

      This is just my opinion, but I think most schools/BOE’s prefer to keep the same ALT for as long as they can, assuming they do a good job. I had the opportunity to get to know ALTs on the JET Program all over Japan, and I’ve only heard of a few cases where the ALT wasn’t allowed to re-contract for another year. So more than likely, if you want to stay another year with the JET Program, the opportunity should there for the taking 🙂

  7. Hi! This article is very informative. Thanks for this Jack. I will be applying this year. I’m a bit worried because I do not have nor degree in teaching nor do I have a teaching experience. I’m a nurse by profession. So for my essay, I highlighted my strengths as being in the health sector for 10 years I have encountered different types of people which broaden my perspective, enriched my communication skills and increase my cultural sensitivity.

    I also pointed out that I’m into cultural exchange saying that in every country that I’ve been to, I include some cultural activities to participate in. I also include my motivation that I want to study and language and experience the culture more. I’ve been to Japan twice and I was mesmerized by the place.

    I added also some of my hobbies such as outdoors: hiking, camping etc and that I am inclined in music. I also play the piano. Also, I indicated that a positive cultural exchange further creates positive economic exchanges, something that is invaluable in our globalized world.

    Hoping for the best!

    Any more tips?

    • Hi there!

      It definitely seems that more people with formal teaching qualifications are getting hired for JET. I think this is probably due to the fact that the amount of English classes in elementary school is increasing within the next few years. elementary school teachers can’t speak English, and they have never taught it before. But don’t worry about this at all. I think that most ALT’s on the JET program don’t have formal teaching degrees or training.

      That being said, I do think it’s important that you have experience with teaching, working with kids, and/or international cultures. Sounds like you wrote a very nice essay. Here’s a couple of things that might help.

      1. As a nurse, have you ever played with or took care of children? If so, that would be a great way to expand on your experience with teaching and interacting with children. I believe they look for this type of experience and qualities when hiring new JETs.

      2. I’m not sure if the essay question changed, but it appears to be the same as when I applied (what are your motivations for going to Japan, what you plan to get out of the JET program, etc….basically why you want to go to Japan and what you can offer to the program). You want to make sure to be clear and concise with your essay….PUT A LOT OF EFFORT into your essay. It should be as perfect as you can get it. It is your one chance to negate any shortcomings on your application, and to highlight your best qualities.

      It seems like you added a lot of stuff at the end (hobbies, positive economic exchanges, etc.). Ask yourself…”does this add any value to the main point of my essay, or am I going off track?” I think a lot of people start listing all the qualities and good things they have, and their essay starts to turn into a random sounding resume. I know I did this too.

      Focus on the questions that they asked you. And when talking about how you will experience Japan, or how JET will help you in the future, be sure to include how YOU and JAPAN fit into that picture. You said positive cultural exchange creates positive economic exchanges….how does JAPAN and YOU fit into that picture?

      Basically, answer their questions clearly and include personal experiences and best qualities where you can. Of course, it should be easy to read, and completely free of errors. Not only should you re-read and revise it over and over, but you should also hire someone to proofread it. There are a lot of online services you can use for this. I did that, and it really helped me to create the best essay possible.

      Hope this helps! Good luck with the application!

  8. Hi! Is it really required to have the recommendation letters sealed in an envelope? I was checking the application guidelines for 2018 and this is the only information they have related to that –
    “Letters of Reference
     from two referees in Japanese or English
    If you have not graduated yet, one of the referees must be someone related to your university and must contain a reference to your expected date of graduation.”
    Thanks in advance!

    • Hi Marvin!

      It seems things have changed since I applied to the JET Program. All I can say is this….Double check, triple check, and quadruple check EVERYTHING! Read all of the instructions and documents that is available over and over. For the recommendations, it looks like it’s all done online now. The documentation says you send requests via the online portal. It also says that 0 hardcopies are required. So be sure read this section over and follow the application instructions to a T.

      This is not a fact, but from what I know and what I’ve heard, the JET Program is so competitive that they are looking for ANY reason to reject your application, especially during the first round. One of the ways I believe they do this is by checking to see if you followed the application guidelines and instructions. I think that if you even missed one on their instructions, they won’t even look at the rest of your application. So be 100% accurate and follow EVERYTHING they say to do to a T.

      Also, as a I mentioned in the article, have your essay proofread and edited by a professional. Even a small spelling mistake or confused grammar can make or break you. You want it to be as perfect as you can get it.

      Other tips: You want to convey that you will adapt to the culture in Japan, and you’ll love the adventure and challenges of living there. You want to come off as friendly with a good energy, but don’t be fake about it. Qualities of a good JET ALT are: friendly, fun, adaptive, open-minded, responsible, sociable, and just brings positive energy to the room. You don’t need to be bouncing off the walls or super energetic, but you do need to show them you have a passion for Japan and that you can play a positive role at your school and the community.

      Good luck with your app! Hope this helps! If you have any other questions feel free to ask away!

  9. Hi! Your article helped me out a lot. I don’t have any teaching experience and background but Im pretty confident about my english. Im in the middle of working on my essay, and I really am putting a lot thoughts in it because that will be my only hope of making my personality show. If luck is not on my side this year il be sure to take those certifications and try again next year! Yay for perseverance!

    I have a question, in the application form there is a part that they are asking if ever you have someone that you plan on taking with you to Japan, is it a disadvantage to answer it? To whom did your referees address their letter?

    • Hi Taly,

      Thanks for the comment! Yes, definitely put a LOT of effort in to these essay. Remember to spin your lack of teaching experience into something positive. If you have English teaching credentials, that’s cool to write about (a little), but if you don’t have any, I would spent a lot more time concentrating on the “why” part of the essay. Why do you want to go to Japan specifically? What will going to Japan do for your future, and what will you bring to the table if you live and work in Japan?

      Hmm the part about taking someone to Japan…how is it worded? If you are married, and your partner is apply to JET as well, then definitely put it down. If you just have a boyfriend/girlfriend, it’s only my opinion, but I wouldn’t put anything down for that section…especially if your partner wasn’t applying as well. I feel that by not being married, showing that you want to bring a significant other with you to Japan has more negative connotations that positive ones. In the minds of the interviewers, they might wonder what will happen if you break-up…will it affect your job? Do you only want to come to Japan as a long vacation…and so on. Just my opinion though.

      As for as my references..I don’t know who they addressed their letters of recommendation to….they need to put their letters in sealed envelops so you can’t see it. So make sure you ask someone that will 100% write you an outstanding recommendation letter. When I applied, there was a form I could print out that gave instructions to my reference. There may be information on there about who to address those letters to. If there’s not, I sure hope that you reference can figure it out…most professional references should know how to address their letters. So make sure you find someone very reputable for your recommendations too…I feel it’s a very important part of their selection criteria.

      If you have any other questions, feel free to ask!

      Good luck!

  10. Hi I’ve been applying to various agencies getting interviews and then regrets. I’m sure I’m doing something wrong but I don’t know what. I’M pretty good at interviews , I have a tefl, a degree, native English speaking . I’m enthusiastic and open in my interviews and I speak clearly .
    Any further tips?

    • Hi Eve,
      Sorry to hear about your job hunting situation. What kind of positions are you apply for? The type of position your apply for makes a difference for sure. Let me know what kind of jobs you are interested in and I can give you some advice on what those kind of companies look for in potential candidates.


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Send this to a friend