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What you need to know before studying abroad in Japan

Studying abroad at a Japanese language school in Japan is a fun and rewarding experience. Here's what you need to know to get started.

If you want to study in Japan, the GaijinPot Student Placement Program is the best way to do so!  Our student coordinators will guide you through every step of the way and make sure your transition to student life in Japan is a smooth one.

In this article we will highlight some of the key things you need to know about studying abroad in Japan.

How do I find the right school?

Choose the right school for you is the first thing that our student coordinators will think about. Finding the right study intensity, friendly environment, location and student support will all play into choosing the right language school for you.

Things you should think about:

  • What city do you want to study in?
  • What are your goals for studying Japanese?
  • Do you want to work after you finish your studies for continue on to higher education?
  • What kind of support or activities can you expect from the school and outside of the classroom?

Our student coordinator will take all these factors into consideration when choosing the best school for you.

How to apply to a school?

While you can apply directly to the language school, many of them do not offer student support in any language besides Japanese. This can make the first few months challenging as you struggle to talk with the staff as you start learning Japanese.

The GaijinPot Student Placement service takes care of all this by acting as a go between you and the school. Our student coordinators are fluent in English and Japanese so we can quickly step in to help you through any challenges that you might have.

Can I apply with multiple schools?

Don’t do it!  There have been cases where a student applies to a “backup” school or even several schools to choose from later.  The problem with this is that only one school can sponsor a visa, and immigration might black list your profile if they receive your application from multiple schools.

The requirements for the student visa is set by the Japanese Immigration Bureau so the requirements and documents are the same for every school, so there is no difference between each school as to whether they can get you the visa or not.

If you have applied to several schools, you need to contact all of them and let them know as soon as possible.  It should be possible to cancel applications and still get the visa through one school, but you’ll have to move fast!

When should I apply?

Language schools typically have admissions 4 times a year.  They accept students for January, April, July, and October start.  The actual application deadline will be several months before admission.

SEMESTER START APPLICATION DEADLINE
January August previous year
April November previous year
July March same year
October May same year

Keep in mind that the maximum a student visa can be issued is for two years.  One thing to keep in mind is that if your goals are to do further study or work in Japan you will want to graduate in March as the bulk of the hiring in Japan is done by April.

If you do not care about graduating in March, then you can study up to 2 years regardless of when you begin.

When is the academic year in Japan?

Most Japanese academic years are from April to March.  Japanese language schools also follow this system, and even though you can enter the school 4 times a year, the biggest intake is usually for April.

Classes usually run for 3 months, although a certain level may take several classes to complete.

There are usually extended breaks between sessions, and also major breaks at the end of April/beginning of May for Golden Week, and also a summer vacation in the middle of August.  If at all possible, try to plan your trips around these breaks as being absent from school for leisure purposes will hurt your attendance record.

Do I have to attend every class?

In Japan, attendance is critique!  Schools will keep track of your attendance and take notice if you do not come to school or constantly come late.  Of course, they’ll also get worried if you stop coming to school without any kind of notice and may even pay a visit to your home or contact your family if you stop coming all of a sudden.

It may seem overly strict, but it’s really important for your future because if your attendance is poor, then it will cause problems for:

  • Advancing to the next class
  • Advancing to your next school after graduation
  • Scholarship opportunities
  • Visa extensions
  • Job opportunities
  • Recommendation letters

Typically immigration requires at least 80% attendance, if you drop below that then it may affect your visa status and you will need to give them a reason and proof of why your attendance is so poor (for example, a doctor’s note if you were absent due to illness, or details if you had to go home for a family emergency).  Your school may also have higher attendance requirements, since 80% will not be acceptable for many jobs or universities.  

Many universities and trade schools will give scholarships to people with good attendance at the language school

If you are looking for a scholarship or want priority for admissions try to shoot for at least 90% attendance.

In the Japanese thinking attendance is more important than grades, because even if you perform poorly, at least by coming every day it shows that you’re doing your best and want to improve. If you score high but don’t come to school, they’ll think you’re arrogant and consider yourself above the rules. This kind of thinking is the same for working in the country.

Scholarships

Most language schools do not have any kind of scholarships for incoming students, although some may give discounts if you have passed a certain JLPT level.  Many schools do have scholarships for second year students.  If you are a hardworking student in good standing with the school, then you should apply for them whenever you can!  There are also government scholarships available to language students that have similar criteria, and your school will be able to give you more details for those.

If you are planning to pursue further education in Japan, then your next school may also have scholarships.  The criteria depends on the school, but it is usually based on some of the following:

  • Attendance
  • Japanese level (either JLPT or EJU)
  • Recommendation letters
  • Nationality
  • EJU score
  • Performance in the school’s entrance exam or interview

Your language school will be able to give you details for any school you want to apply to.

How do I avoid the bad schools?

Of course, any school that is recommend by the GaijinPot Student Placement Service will be a good and reputable school!  However, there is occasionally bad publicity about language schools so we’d also like to give a little more clarity about the industry.

Language schools are strictly controlled by the government and immigration.  There is a strict set of standards that a school has to go through in order to be allowed to accept students, and the government keeps track of everything closely.  Everything from the teacher-to-student ratio to the textbooks used are kept track of.  New schools are subject to close scrutiny until they’ve proven themselves, which takes several years.

There are also criteria the government uses to determine if a school is trustworthy.  It is a combination of many things, including student attendance records, crimes committed by students, the kind of schools that the students go to for further education, and many other factors.  Schools which receive a lot of offenses get put on probation and have several restrictions placed upon them.  If their reputation does not improve, they will lose their ability to issue student visas.

For the most part, any of these questionable schools will not be focusing their marketing efforts towards English-speaking students, and of course we at the GaijinPot Student Placement Service will only work with schools in good standing with the government, so have no fear about applying!

If you are interested in studying at a language school in Japan, get started by filling out the application form here.