or “Tips for the 2nd time JET Program applicant”
*note* This post is for people who are applying to JET again after an unsuccessful attempt. If you have done JET and wish to do it again, check out the comment section.
It’s about that time again; the JET application is out soon and people are getting ready to subject themselves to the tortuously long process of applying to the JET Program on the promise of being to whisked away to the exotic land that is Japan. Many JET applicants will be bright-eyed first-time applicants, likely in the final year of their bachelor’s degree, having no reason to believe they won’t get the good news in April that a few short months after their graduation, they will be heading to Japan!
Then there are the 2nd time applicants, you know who you are. You sent in your carefully reviewed application last fall, were reasonably confident you would be selected over the multitude of ya-hoos that apply to the program, and then failed to get an interview. Maybe you still lurk around the message boards, filled with rage and/or sadness as you wondered how on earth all these people got in ahead of you. Maybe you flirted with going to Japan with Interac, or one of the eikaiwas. Never the less, here you are, planning to apply again.
The good news is you’ve already been through the whole application process, which does give you a leg up in some regards. But there’s probably plenty of room for improvement, here are a few tips.
Tip 1 – Review you old app: If you still have your application and statement of purpose (and didn’t trash it in a tearful rage), take it out or print off a copy and reread it. Be as objective as you can and write down what was good about the app and what wasn’t. Pretend you are a reviewer reading a stranger’s application and honestly ask yourself “Would I hire this person?”
Tip 2 – Fill in the gaps: There’s space to list experience in three different areas; international, teaching, and Japanese. As I’ve written before, do your best to put something in each of these sections. Now perhaps last year you didn’t write something down because you didn’t think it was significant or formal enough, maybe a quick trip to a neighboring country, or infrequent tutoring, or that you self studied Japanese for a while. Don’t hesitate this year, write it down!
Tip 3 – Think about revising your SoP: On message boards, I’ve seen some concern about reusing Statement of Purposes (and references, more later), with people worried that the application reviewers will deduct points for not trying hard enough or something. First off, these reviewers have to go through hundreds of applications in a few short weeks. The chances of someone specifically remembering your essay from last year is very slim. I personally worked very hard on my essay, and decided it’d be a shame to redo the whole thing, so I didn’t. And I got an interview. Now just because reviewers may not realize you reused your essay doesn’t mean you should. As per tip 1, reread the essay as objectively as you can. If you think it’s still strong and only needs small tweaks, then revise, if you think it’s beyond help, put it away and start fresh. If there’s one sentence in there that you still think is the best, most awesome sentence you’ve ever written, that could be a great jumping off point for your new essay.
Tip 4 – Go ahead, reuse references (but use caution): Like the SOP, I see people concerned about having the same people that wrote their letters of rec last year do it this year, and again, no one is going to remember you used those same references. And guess who got her reference letters from the same two people as the first time she applied? Yup, yours truly. But before you rush to get those letters from Mr. Whoist and Ms. Whatsit again, ask yourself if these are still the best two people to get letters from. It has been a year, your relationship may have changed, and it’s possible these people didn’t write you a great letter to begin with. If you still want to go with the same people, go over the directions with them, and try to assure they don’t just print off last year’s letter.
Tip 5 – Don’t overthink it: You’ll never know why you weren’t selected for an interview, which unfortunately could make you second guess every choice and agonize over things like placement requests, or should you write that your Japanese is “beginner-intermediate” or “intermediate”, or what paper clips you should use. Not that you shouldn’t put some thought into all this, but you have to find the right balance between attention to detail (good) to simply sweating the small stuff (not so good). Maybe sure you’ve done everything you can in the “big” sections (SoP, Japanese/teaching/culture experience) before you worry too much about whether to check “semi-urban” or “rural”. If you really find yourself agonizing over a part of the application, put it away for a little while, go take a walk or watch a movie. Try to feel refreshed before you tackle that app again.
I’ll probably think of more tips later, but that’s all for now. Good luck to you 2nd time applicants!