MEXT Scholarship Guide
General Info about the MEXT Scholarship
What is the MEXT Scholarship?
The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) Scholarship is a bond-free scholarship for foreign students who want to pursue their studies in Japan. MEXT Scholarships are available for both undergraduate and graduate courses. This guide will focus primarily on the undergraduate scholarship.
MEXT Scholars (Undergraduate) spend their first year in either Tokyo University of Foreign Studies (social sciences and humanities majors) or Osaka University (natural sciences majors). There, they will take intensive Japanese courses as well as subject courses related to their majors. It is only after going through this preparatory course that they will be sent to their actual university for the 4-year undergraduate course.
What are the benefits?
The scholarship covers the 1-year preparatory course fees as well as 4 years of university tuition fees. On top of that, you get a monthly stipend and one round-trip ticket from Singapore to Japan.
120,000 yen for Undergraduate students and Japanese Studies exchange students
147,000 yen for Graduate (Masters) students
148,000 yen for Doctoral (PhD) students
There is no bond for the scholarship, or any requirement to work in Japan after graduation.
The maintenance of good conduct and good academic standing is expected.
Singaporean students wanting to pursue a degree in a Japanese university (both undergraduate and graduate scholarships are available). Prior Japanese knowledge is not required, but is an advantage.
If you have NS liabilities, you have to apply the year before you want to head to Japan. There is no advanced placement or deferment available.
Japanese Studies university students in Singapore can also apply for a one-year exchange in Japan.
How to apply for the MEXT Scholarship?
The annual application deadline is usually in August, for students starting school in April the next year. Results of the first screening will be released in early September.
Academic transcript(s) for all school years of school/university attended
Certificate(s) of graduation of school/university attended (or prospective graduation)
Recommendation form written by either a teacher or principal of last school attended
Certificate of health
If you have cleared the document screening stage, you will be informed sometime around June. You will then have to take a set of written examinations the week after. Therefore, it is best to prepare early for the exams, rather than take a wait-and-see approach.
For science students, the exam subjects are: English, Japanese, Mathematics, and choose 2 out of 3 from Chemistry, Physics and Biology depending on your major. If you are a social sciences or humanities major, you only need to take English, Japanese, and Mathematics. Math tests intended for Arts students and Science students are different. All tests are conducted on the same day and last an hour each (except for Japanese, which lasts two hours).
Both the MEXT Written Examination and the EJU (Examinations for Japanese University Admission for International Students) are based off Japanese High School subjects. So if you need additional practice material, you can look at EJU practice materials as well (basically Japanese high school assessment books such as 理解しやすい and チャート式. There are also some MEXT Written Examination past year papers available below.
The English paper should be relatively simple for native English speakers. For the Japanese paper, it is recommended that you complete as much as possible without making random guesses.
The Mathematics paper may be quite challenging if you are not strong in math. Calculators are not allowed. For the Chemistry test, the Periodic Table will not be provided.
If you make it through the written examinations, you will enter the final round of screening, which is the interview. You will only have around a week to prepare for the interview.
The interview questions are the standard: "Why do you want to study ________?", "Why do you want to study in Japan?", "What do you plan to do after graduating?" and so on. While the questions may vary from year to year, the line of questioning is pretty standard, so don't panic too much about it. If you have indicated some Japanese proficiency, you might be asked some questions in Japanese.
If you've never done an interview before, get someone to practice asking questions and answering. Try to think about how you want to explain your aspirations, goals, and your background. Always remember to be truthful in your answers and not spin stories, it is often easy to pick out when someone is spinning a lie.
Try to make a good impression, be polite and dress appropriately. School uniforms or formalwear is acceptable.
Here is a guide for a job interview (not the same, but you get the picture):
All that is left is to wait for the results. If you pass the Singapore screening, you will most likely receive a notification in October. Then, all your application documents will be sent to Japan. Results of the Japan screening will only be announced in January or February of the next year. It is a painful waiting game, but be patient, and don't worry too much about the results. Once it has been confirmed that you have successfully received the scholarship, you will need to clear administrative procedures like a health check-up and visa application.
Before you know it, you will be flying off to Japan!
Your first year on the scholarship.
Depending on whether you are a social sciences and humanities major or a natural sciences major, you will do your preparatory year at Tokyo University of Foreign Studies or Osaka University respectively. During that time, you will take Japanese language classes on a daily basis, as well as additional subject-related classes. All classes are conducted in Japanese, but the teachers are highly-trained to teach foreign students.
You will be allocated to a dormitory in your university, usually with a small single room to yourself along with common facilities such as a laundry area, TV room, and common spaces. The dorm fees are paid out of your allowance, but these fees are heavily subsidised and much cheaper than the average rent in your city.
Towards the end of your first year, you will attend the Daigaku Setsumeikai (大学説明会), where different universities will give presentations introducing their university. After the presentation, you can mingle with the various professors from each university and ask them questions. Think of it as a university fair or open house type of event. While there is no dress code, it may be a good idea to dress semi-formally to make a good impression.
Each university will have their own sort of mini-booth, so it's a good idea to go around the various booths. If the one you want is busy, consider going to a less crowded one. You may end up discovering an unexpected choice that you had not initially considered.
Prepare questions that you want to ask the night before, so that you aren't caught flatfooted on the day itself. It's also a good idea to pen down your top choices, and the pros and cons you learnt about the university on that day.
Afterwards, do some more research on each university, such as their rankings and specialites. Not all universities will be present, so your choices aren't limited to those that turned up. You can apply for any public university in Japan.
After the university briefings, there'll be a consultation session with teachers from your current university. These teachers have seen many batches of MEXT students come and go, so you should give their advice some weight. They typically take into account your test scores, and give advice on whether or not your choice is realistic. That being said, there have been students who applied against the recommendation of the teacher and got into their top-choice university, so the level of risk you want to take is up to you.
Once you've decided and ranked your top choices, you will submit these choices, along with a personal statement, to MEXT. If approved, they will send your applications to the respective universities to be reviewed. Depending on your university, you might need to do an entrance examination, an interview, both, or neither. This information is available, so be sure to check it before you apply.
If all goes well, then you finally have your university that you'll spend your next four years in! Otherwise, you'll have to go through a second round of screening that the school will guide you through. Your choice selection will be much more limited the second time around.
For those looking to skip the language year
If you are looking to apply to an English program that does not require any Japanese proficiency at the time of enrollment, or if you are looking to apply to a Japanese-taught program and you have met all the Japanese and academic requirements stipulated, you could consider applying to MEXT scholarship under its direct placement track.
This can be a good or bad deal depending on how you see it - the good side of direct placement is that you can graduate a bit earlier than your peers for another degree/start work early, the bad side is you do not get to enjoy the 1 year adjustment period at preparatory school and the choices of courses is much more limited compared to regular MEXT scholars who have chosen to enroll in preparatory institution.
Depending on the course you are applying to, you might need to go for additional screenings and tests after clearing the tests conducted by the embassy.
If you are applying to a Japanese-taught course, EJU is not a must but it is highly recommended. JLPT N1 is definitely a must. At the end of the day, you would need Japanese high school academic knowledge to survive in the first year of university (especially for sciences).
The embassy will disseminate a list of universities permitting direct placement if you have cleared the first round of screening by the embassy. Do note that you will be advised against applying to some courses, as their release of application outcome will be later than the final decision date of MEXT, meaning that if you get rejected by the course you had applied to you will be forced to withdraw from MEXT scholarship altogether.
You will not be allowed to reject the course you had applied to under direct placement and enroll in preparatory institutions instead, if you decide to accept the scholarship.
Your quest for your degree.
Once you've secured your university, you are set for regular university student life. For a sneak peak of what that looks like, you can look at our Life in Uni page. Also, don't forget to sign up for SSAJ wherever you are in Japan, because there are regional groups that can help you figure out where you are and what you want to do!
Extension to Masters
Another 2 years in Japan yay!
Approaching the end of your 4 year undergraduate course, MEXT will poll a 進路調査 among its undergraduate scholars, and you can indicate your intention to extend your scholarship to cover another 2 years of Masters studies. Not all undergraduate scholars will be granted an extension, but if your GPA is decent enough chances should be pretty high.
You will not be allowed to jump to a completely different major, but slight changes in your specialization can be approved if you can substantiate your interest in that new field.
Usually, application to a Masters' program and indicating intention to extend your scholarship at MEXT go on concurrently. Be prepared to take entrance examinations for graduate school, and expect to be competing with other Japanese students and international students.
If you are accepted into Graduate school and given the green light to extend your scholarship by MEXT, you are off to another 2 years in Japan!