You’ve chosen to apply for the JET Programme. Good choice! I can’t even explain how amazing the opportunity is to get to live and work in Japan. It's a great and extremely reputable programme, and everyone I know has come out having had an amazing and unforgettable experience! So, let's talk about how to make sure you get accepted!
While other sections of the JET application deal
with government ID and formal documents, the
statement of purpose is your opportunity to let the programme coordinators
know exactly who you are and why you would be the perfect fit for the programme. This is the biggest determining factor of whether or not you will be accepted, so let's talk about how to write a good essay.
I applied to JET Programme in 2019 and the essay question was as follows:
"Describe why you are interested in going to Japan and participating in the JET Programme. What do you hope will happen as a result of your participation in the JET Programme? Please address your ability to adapt to life in Japan and what would make you an overall strong JET Programme participant.
Why are you interested in becoming an ALT? What skills and qualities do you have that would help you in this role? Briefly explain any relevant experiences you have had."
I would not recommend reading sample essays online. Your essay should be original and tell your personal story. Reading samples from other people with different experiences and ambitions will only make you start to doubt what you've written, so don't get caught up trying to compare your essay to theirs. Focus on whats great about YOU and how to get that across in the essay.
There are two parts to the job of being an ALT or CIR on the JET Programme. The first and most obvious purpose is to teach or work in English at a contracting organization. But the other very important part is to be a cultural ambassador and share your culture and perspectives with others. You bring something new and interesting to whichever community you become a part of in Japan, so in addition to writing about your relevant work/teaching experience, don't forget to highlight any interesting and relevant experiences in culture, travel, volunteering, language, etc.
It's also very important to remember that culture exchange goes both ways. While you want to highlight what you bring to the job and the Japanese community, it's equally important to know and express what you hope to take away from your time in Japan. So, while writing the essay and answering the prompts given, try to think of each point from both the perspective of, "What do I have to offer ?" and "What do I hope to gain?"
Follow the instructions
The JET Programme is very competitive and there are a lot of essays to read. You don’t want the person reading your essay to pass you by in favour of someone else because they know you didn’t follow the directions. The essay is supposed to be two pages long, so make sure you write two pages. Don’t write more in an attempt to show how keen you are; do what is asked of you. This doesn’t just go for the essay, but even for the little things, for example the request that you do not staple any of your application pages. Doing what is asked of you is what will make you look best, so make sure you thoroughly read the application guidelines.
Keep it clear and simple
This point is especially for you my fresh uni grads! This is something I really struggled with when writing my essay. Between me and my brother– a then masters student– proof-reading my essay, it had started to lose a lot of its personality to the formal business language I had become so accustom to using in all of my writing. I realized my essay was no longer a good representation of me, and distinctly remember crying on the phone to my mother, on a bridge late at night, my tears freezing to my face in the Ottawa winter air. I started over from scratch and was much happier with the results the second time around. So, keep in mind that you don't have to write the same way you would for school. Find the happy medium between academia and basic English. Just be clear and let your personality shine.
Get someone to read your work
You definitely don't want to apply for a job as an English teacher with a bunch of spelling and grammar mistakes in your essay, so get some friends or family members to proof-read your essay. They will catch the things that you missed and might even be able to think of something relevant that you forgot to include that could really help you stand out. If you know a current or past JET that can read over your essay, ask them! I guarantee they'd love to help.
In addition to the essay…
I highly recommend keeping digital copies of everything during the application process. This is necessary in the beginning anyways, since everything must be submitted online, but even after the initial application try to keep scans of all your documents before sending them in to the embassy or consulate. They could really help you along the way if you need an amendment on a document you sent in. I had to get the same form filled out 3 times due to my doctor's errors! Having a copy and being able to show the error may save you from having to pay that medical document fee a second time.
If you don't have a printer with a scanner, try genius scan; it's easy to whip out on the go. I used this app throughout my entire application process and university career.
Do everything as early as possible
This could really save you some extra stress later on. My post interview process was anything but smooth, and my police
check took me 6.5 weeks to receive even though the expected wait time was much shorter. I was lucky and received it the day before it was due, but I do know some JETs that were not as lucky. This didn’t stop them from
getting accepted, but it was definitely an added source of stress.
Double check other people's work.
This goes back to that doctors form I mentioned, but goes for any other form or process you have to depend on someone else for. People make mistakes, so try to catch them early on.
And that's it! If you have any more questions about the application process, statement of purpose, or JET in general, you are more than welcome to contact me here. I'd be happy to help. Good luck writing!