Nerves and fears aside, I dove into the application almost immediately once it opened up.
Once applications open you typically have about 3-5 weeks, depending on your home country, to compile everything and send it to the Japanese Embassy. There is a large online portion to fill out - everything from education and work experience, travel and language experience, medical information, questions about tattoos and piercings, and placement requests and limitations, and much more. In addition to the online form, there are number of other forms to collect both in physical and digital form. These include:
- Transcripts or proof of graduation
- Letters of Reference (x2)
- Copies of Passport or other citizenship documents
- Medical Self-Assessment/Doctor Assessment
- Criminal Records Check (in some cases)
The biggest and most distress-causing piece of the application by far though is the Statement of Purpose. This short, 2 page essay usually because the one part of the application that everyone freaks out over, and I was certainly no exception. The rest of the documents probably only took me about a week to fill out and gather between a busy school schedule, but the essay took me right up to the deadline, tweaking and making all kinds of changes and revisions.
My biggest piece of advice for this portion of the application process is to get started as soon as you can. Once the applications are open, fill out the online form and figure out what you need to print out and fill in. Some stuff you can even get started on before applications even open, such as your essay and asking around to see who might be willing to write a reference for you (wait for the detailed reference instructions in the application package though). You would be surprised how fast a month flies by when you have a mountain of paperwork to fill out and mail off. I started immediately and I still didn't send my package off till about 5 days before the deadline.
My second piece of advice is to ask as many people as possible to edit or proof-read your Statement of Purpose. Look for grammar and spelling especially, but also look for overall cohesion. The SOP should explain to the reader that you fully understand the purpose of the JET Programme *cough* cultural exchange*cough* as well as convincing them of your ability and how well you can bring the goals of the programme to life. It should NOT be about how much you love or miss Japan, and how much you know about Japanese culture or how much you will be able to 'fit in'. Yes, touch on any interest in Japan you might have. Yes, touch on any prior travel experience that will help you adapt in a new country. However, they want you to be an ambassador for your country while you are in Japan - explain to them why you think you can be that ambassador.
Once you have physical and digital copies of everything, it's finally time to submit the online portion and mail the package of physical documents to the Embassy.
And wait some more.
Oh, and try not to go too crazy.