It’s October, which means the application for the 2011 JET Program will appear, and hundreds will start crawling the internet looking for tips and tricks to making their application stand out. As someone who went through the application twice, I thought I’d offer some word of wisdom.
Please keep in mind that I’m not any kind of JET insider and don’t have any secret info about the application process. I can only base this on my personal experience and stories I’ve heard from fellow JETs.
Tip 1, Get your sh!t together: The JET website already has a list of documents they want you to send with the application. Get going on this now, especially transcripts from study abroad (if you did). If you haven’t graduated yet, you’ll need some sort of “intent to graduate” form. My university told me to print out some BS thing online, and though I have no idea if that cost me an interview my first time applying, it probably didn’t help. Tell them you need a letter on university letterhead with a seal or signature from the registrar.
Tip 2, Your placement requests don’t matter (until they do): I’ve met plenty of people whose requests were Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto and still managed to make it on JET, so no, requesting big cities won’t earn your app an automatic trip to the round file. However if you get an interview, it’s very likely you’ll be asked why you picked a particular city or prefecture, so have a good reason for picking that place (or come up with one by interview time). Good reasons are: Did homestay there, hosted a Japanese person from there, your home town has a sister city/state relationship with that city/prefecture, your Japanese significant other is from there (by that I mean spouse, being engaged sometimes doesn’t cut it).
While I don’t think requesting a big city is gonna count against you, you can look at the data yourself (in the JET pamphlet) and see how likely it is you’ll be placed there. There’s 9 JETs in Tokyo (they ain’t in Shinjuku either, most of those JETs are on a tiny islands hundred of kilometers from Tokyo Bay), there’s also only 9 in Kanagawa-ken. Many major cities use private ALTs exclusively, so if you really have your heart set on Yokohama, JETs probably not for you. You might think you’re more likely to get your first choice if you choose a less “popular” prefecture, since not so many will request it. Not necessarily; I had a friend who requested Fukui, then ended up on Shikoku.
It’s just not worth stressing over placements since the Contracting Organization’s preferences (they can request that their JET be a certain gender and nationality) will take precedence over your requests anyway. Some towns always request a JET from a certain place because of sister city relationships, some placements are meant for couples, or for JETs bringing children.
So, pick wherever you want, try to have a good reason for that request, but be open-minded because they’re gonna place you where they place you. Or you can just not write down a placement request at all.
So there are your first couple tips. Come back soon for advice on what to write for international experience, and the dreaded Statement of Purpose, spooky!
I’m more than happy to answer questions, so please leave a comment if you have any!