This is by no way an official guide if you plan to apply for Japanese language programs in Japan. I am just writing this from my perspective and sharing my experiences to any future students if they want to apply for Japanese Language programs in Japan as I found information in English was pretty limited. Please always check with your prospective schools for the most up to date information. The information is mainly on the application/admission for CJL, Waseda Univeristy
The idea of heading to Japan for studies had been bouncing around for about 1.5 years but I never really sat down to really think about it mainly due to procrastination. I was very comfortable in where I am today be it for home or work related. I knew I had to head over to Tokyo at some point of time and I was alright with the idea with either studying in the Japanese Language Program (also known as Bekka) offered by the universities or Japanese classes by private language schools. Just 3 weeks before the wedding, Sushi san told me that if I really want to apply for school’s Spring 2013 admission, I have to do it immediately as the cut off for application was first week of October. Then it was a mad flurry of activities to get all the documents and study plan ready (amidst wedding planning).
The main difference between studying in the Japanese program offered by the universities verses Japanese language school is the way Japanese is taught. From my understanding, you have a more rounded program if you join a university as you pick your modules, get to use the university facilities like a full time university students and you get to join in university activities to meet with both Japanese and international students. Joining a language school, the main focus is to let you pass your JLPT and all of your classmates would be foreigners.
I did surf around for information but I feel that information for privately funded students were a little limited as most information were for currently enrolled university students finding a school for their exchange program. I found most of my information from Chinese websites from Taiwan, China and Hong Kong. JASSO would be a good place to start off with as most of the information needed for schooling in Japan can be found there. (including scholarships)
My Plan A was to apply for the Japanese Language program from a university as I wanted to relive my university days again and if I am not accepted. Plan B would be to try for a private language school whenever I head over to Tokyo. Since I have to choose a Tokyo school so I did not look around at other universities/schools out of Tokyo but looking at my Google search I found 3 schools to be pretty popular – Doshisha (Kyoto), Waseda (Tokyo) and Keio (Tokyo).
For anyone interested Doshisha Bekka, you can head over to Knocking Around Kyoto who wrote about her experience with Doshisha.
I do not have too much information on Keio Bekka since I did not apply for it but these 2 Taiwanese girls’ blogged (in Chinese) about their experiences in Keio: 咻咻扣 and Cafekoi. I did manage to find some information for the Waseda Bekka through Asuka’s blog who wrote much about her application/experience with the Waseda Bekka.
Click on image to get the full resolution.
Here is a brief summary table comparing the application steps for both Waseda Univeristy and Keio University‘s Bekka program. In general, both schools required about the same documents but Keio University needed a medical certification and their study plan had to be written in Japanese. Do start to get your materials needed about 1 – 1.5 months ahead so you would have time to get everything ready. I did not apply for Keio University as I did not have enough time to prepare the material for it and just applied for Waseda since they accepted English documents (main reason why I only applied for Waseda’s Bekka). If school fees matter, Keio University is at least 20% cheaper compared to Waseda University.
1 month after (Around Nov 2012) I submitted all my forms, I received a courier from Japan. I have to admit that my heart raced when I opened the envelope and I was in all highs when I saw the word “Notice of Admission”. Truthfully, I wasn’t too confident about the whole application since it was done so last minute and with an average acceptance rate of 25% from the applicants I felt that my chance was low. Plus I got a feeling that I was going to be one of the oldest students in the course. With this letter, I started my route officially towards becoming a full time student again.
In the package, you would find a thick stack of documents and forms both in English/Japanese. Do not worry as the explanation were very detailed and you just need to follow the instructions thoroughly. You have about 1.5 weeks to complete all the documents needed and mail it back to the school.
You would be surprised in the technologically advanced country like Japan did most of their applications by hand. No online applications of any sorts, everything have to be in paper and HANDWRITTEN. This is just 1 page of the many many pages I had to fill up. In the return package, they were mainly applications forms for school and for the application of the Certificate of Eligibility (COE). For a privately funded student, you have to prove that you have enough funds to cover you during the year you would be in Japan.
If you need accommodation arrangement, in the admission package were also the application forms for school hostel or school recommended apartments. You just need to fill up the form to request for a room or get a housing agent to help you with it.
On average, you need to pay about 70,000 JPY per month for a small hostel room and about 100,000 JPY for 1 time entrance and deposit fees.
2 months (around Feb 2013) after you submitted the admission forms, the school would mail the approved Certificate of Eligibility to you. This is not a visa! You must bring this certificate of Eligibility to your local Japan embassy to apply for the student visa.
Inside the mail, you would also find the information needed when you report to school for the first day. For Spring 2013, the general orientation day is on March 29 2013 and collection of student ID card is on April 1 2013. Students start registering for classes during that period and classes start officially on April 6 2013. Students have to register online for a online placement test in early March so to allow the school to know which level of Japanese class you can get admitted.
When you head to the Singapore Japan Embassy to apply for your student visa, do bring along a photo with you. Fill up a 2 page visa application form when you arrive at the embassy. At the counter, you need to present the visa application form, 1 photo, your COE and the copy of the “Letter of admission” from the school. You can refer to this link for the documents needed. Visa fee is S$47 payable when you collect your visa. It took about 3 days to process my visa. Do take note that the port of entry written on the application does not matter, you could still enter via other ports of entry. For example, I wrote that I was entering via Narita Airport but in actual fact, I could still enter via Haneda Airport if I want to. However it was too late for me to make any changes to my flight ticket so I have to go via Narita Airport.