Before you start your application as an international student, you'll want to make sure you have everything you need to meet the requirements and fill out your application correctly. This guide has everything you need to get ready to apply to a Japanese university.
What do you want to study?
Like the US, but unlike in the UK, students at Japanese universities don’t necessarily need to know exactly what they’re going to study when they begin their degree. You’ll spend your first terms at university exploring a range of topics before narrowing down to your final choice of major.
That being said, you’ll want to have some sense of what you’d probably like to study, so you can be sure to apply to a university that offers programmes you’re interested in.
Where do you want to study?
Over 80% of Japanese school leavers go on to higher education, and there are a range of paths available to both domestic and international students.
Universities offer bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees. When pursuing your undergraduate degree, you’ll usually spend four years studying (though it’s more in some disciplines, like medicine). Your courses will often be theoretical and academic in addition to being practical, and you can study a wide range of disciplines.
Traditionally, Japanese universities have focused on specific entrance exams to evaluate applicants, be they from Japan or abroad. Increasingly, however, international students are being offered alternate forms of application to account for differing education systems abroad.
This is where students can qualify with an associate degree or diploma in just two years, rather than four. Junior colleges traditionally only taught Education, Healthcare, and Home Economics, but now they cover everything from Sociology to Business Studies. Some junior colleges, such as Teikyo University Junior College, are affiliated with a university.
It’s possible to find junior colleges offering programs taught in English, but the Examination for Japanese University Admission test (EJU) is often an entry requirement.
College of technology
Colleges of technology, also known as kosen, allow junior high school leavers to study a five-year program in engineering-related subjects. High school students, as well as international students, can join the third year of these programs and work towards an associate degree.
Specialist training college
Specialist training colleges are for students who want to study practical and vocational subjects. They teach hands-on training for certain jobs and careers, together with education in technology and other specialist subjects.
They have a high graduate employment rate, making them an appealing option for those looking to go into a profession. There are around 2,800 professional training colleges in Japan, many of which offer programs for international students in English.
In which language do you want to study?
Many universities are introducing programs taught in English to attract more international students. You will generally have to demonstrate English proficiency, either by being a native speaker or with TOEFL certification.
Most undergraduate programs taught in Japanese require international students to take the Japanese University Admission for International Students (EJU) test.
Do you meet the entrance requirements?
There is no centralised applications system, so exact entrance requirements differ between universities and programs.
Traditionally, Japanese universities focus less on international students’ subject grades and more on their performance in a university-specific entrance exam, such as the EJU test. Recently, however, there has been a move towards using academic transcripts and holistic assessments to evaluate international students, to adjust for the fact that they might be used to a different application system. An example of this is Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, which allows applicants to English-taught programs to submit application essays, instead of taking an entrance exam.
In general, you’ll require a minimum of 12 years of pre-university education for entry to a degree course. Often, you will pass through two rounds of application: first, submitting your qualifications, then undergoing an interview.
Some universities may also ask their applicants to take an entrance exam that is specific to their program. However, this is rare for international students as most universities don’t want to discourage those who can’t travel to Japan to sit the test from applying. It is more common for institutions to assess your suitability based on your EJU test score, academic performance, and an interview.
Ready to apply?
Check out our guide Study in Japan: making an application for the next steps!