This is a post I have been meaning to write for a long time now, and I have finally found some time to do so. I will be detailing the entire application from beginning to end to give readers a good idea about how the application process works for JET.
The JET application was released near the end of the month. The due date was some time in November. There was an online portal for the application, but all applicants were required to submit a paper copy as well all other documents before the deadline. There are several Japanese consulates in the United States and other English speaking countries. I submitted my application to the consulate located in New York City. For the application, I mailed the application form, self-assessment medical form, authorization and release form, transcripts, proof of graduation, two letters of recommendation, statement of purpose, and proof of U.S. citizenship. Of those documents, arguably the most important is the statement of purpose. It is a two page essay outlining why you are interested in the program and Japan. This is all second-hand information, but I have been told my other successful applicants they were asked questions regarding their statement of purpose during the interview. I was asked one question about it during my interview. The letters of recommendation are also important, so make sure you have people you trust write them as specified.
Applicants are notified by e-mail whether or not they have advanced to the interview stage. You are given a number when you do the application, and a list of applicant numbers that were granted interviews is e-mailed to you. I found my number on the list and then I was notified a few days later by the New York City consulate of the day and time of my interview. We were asked to bring a sheet of paper with us that acted as a voucher ticket as well as passport photos.
I rode a bus to New York City the night before my interview. I arrived very early in the morning and was forced to change into my suit in a bathroom stall at the train station. When I arrived at the consulate, I was asked to go to one of the higher floors. I was greeted by a former JET participant who was sitting down and asking questions. There were also other applicants in the waiting room as I would be interviewing with some of the other applicants at the same time with a different interview panel. When the appointed time came, I was walked to the interview room by another former JET participant and my interview panel consisted of three men, the aforementioned former participant and two Japanese men. The former JET did the vast majority of the talking during the interview, but the other two men did ask some questions. In the weeks leading up, I prepared myself by compiling a list of all the possible questions I read about online, but I quickly realized that all of the preparation did more harm than good because I forgot about all the answers I prepared and I just answered normally. I sat directly opposite them with a table between us, and I was asked about my interest in Japan, my statement of purpose, and my former teaching experience in Korea. I was asked to give a lesson on any topic to a group of fifth graders, so I chose my favorite holiday which was Halloween. My biggest advice for the mock lesson, if you have to give one, is to be super energetic and smile even though you may be super nervous. They are looking for enthusiastic individuals so the more that shows, the better off you will be. You will receive a test of some sort regarding your Japanese proficiency if you indicated you knew Japanese on your application. I can provide no insight into this because I wrote down that I had no knowledge of Japanese on my application.
Very early in April, applicants are notified by e-mail about whether or not they passed the interview stage and are formally accepted into the program or not. There are three outcomes. You are rejected outright. You are short-listed, which means you are accepted with no strings attached. You are wait-listed, which means over the course of the next eight to ten months, you have the chance of being upgraded to short-listed status. Some of my friends were on the wait-list so it is definitely not the end of the world. If you are short-listed or wait-listed, you will be asked to prepare the remaining documents by specific dates. I was asked to obtain an FBI Background Check, a form signed by my physician, and a Korean background check because I formerly lived and taught in Korea. You will also be asked to obtain a tax form from the IRS that will make you exempt from paying Japanese income tax for two years, but the form is not mandatory. For the Korean background check I had to travel to New York City again and visit the Korean consulate to formally request it and have it mailed to the Japanese consulate. The physician’s form was fairly straightforward and I had no issues having that filled out. The biggest issue was the FBI Background Check. Last year there was a huge delay on the processing of background checks by the FBI and there were a lot of issues for the Japanese consulates in the United States and the applicants. I received mine only a week before I had to depart for Japan. I know that this year the consulates are asking applicants to apply after they have the interview so there should not be nearly as many issues this time around or in the future.
Applicants will receive their prefecture information via e-mail. If you are in elementary or middle school you will receive your exact school name and address. If you are in high school, you will receive that information at a later date because high schools make decisions later than the other schools because of summer exams.
I received my school information this month. I was also contacted by the person I was replacing. There are two departure groups for the JET program: A and B. When you fly out and when you have orientation all depends on what group you are in. The groups are sorted by consulate. So every consulate is placed into one of the groups. New York City was group A, so I flew out to Tokyo at the end of July. There was a required orientation for all accepted applicants from the New York City consulate so I had to travel a day before my flight to Japan to New York City for the orientation.
If you have any further questions, do not hesitate to contact me.