Saturday, May 14, 2011

JET Program App: What you should know

A few of my friends have taken interest in the JET Program, and I couldn't be more excited! It really is worth it to apply, because you never know what could happen. I thought it was a shot in the dark when I mailed off my application, and yet here I am on the shortlist, awaiting placement.

There are things you should be prepared for in this application process, however!

1. Strict Deadlines.

When the application goes up, it will be due on a certain date, at a certain time. Not postmarked -- IN THEIR HANDS. Not the next day, not a week later. Because there are so many documents to obtain, it may be best to start preparing well ahead of time. I know I definitely would have been under less stress if I didn't have to put everything together in 3 weeks, but it is possible.

What can you do now? The application period isn't until October/November (or at least it was in 2010), but be sure to check the official website for your country often, just in case. In the meantime, you could consider the following:

  • Volunteering at community center, summer enrichment program, Japanese culture festival, etc. This would be especially beneficial if you don't have many leadership opportunities or teaching experiences under your belt. The JET Program seeks individuals that have good people skills and are active in their community.
  • Selecting reliable references to write letters of recommendation. You'll need 2. It wouldn't be a bad idea to mention the program to them, express why you're interested in doing JET, and in general putting in more effort to make them realize what an outstanding candidate you are.
  • Ordering your official college transcripts, if you've already graduated. I had to rush mine and it was a bit stressful.
  • Researching placement preferences for your application. You get to list 3. Although there's no guarantee, it's a good idea to be well-informed of Japan's geography and cities you would enjoy. I wish I took the time to do this on my app! Most people list Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka. I requested the latter two, plus Chiba. I'll be the bringer of bad news and say that most JET placements are rural, so drop your hopes of teaching in the midst of Shibuya.
  • Starting a draft on your Statement of Purpose essay. This carries a heavy weight of your application score, so take it seriously!

2. Waiting, waiting, & more waiting!

Sometimes several months at a time. You wait to hear if you'll get an interview. You wait to hear if you got short-listed, alternate-listed, or rejected. You wait to hear from your contracting organization. You wait for departure. It's a long process, and even more so if you have to apply multiple times. Patience is a virtue!

3. Lots of little costs that add up.
  • Copies of official transcript(s) $
  • Shipping your application -- I did overnight to be safe! $
  • Passport Photos $
  • Passport, if you don't have one $$
  • Business suit & attire, if you don't have them $$
  • Haircut, manicure, etc. for interview $$
  • IRS form, if you get short-listed $
  • ¥200,000 (about $2500 USD) for when you arrive in Japan $$$

Everything seems to cost money these days, but you definitely want to look your best and don't skimp! The ¥200,000 is extremely important for start-up fees upon moving, since you won't actually be paid for a few weeks.

I hope this post gives you a little more insight about the application process. I'd be happy to answer anyone's questions! Drop me a comment, send an email, or leave it in my JET formspring inbox.

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