Brushing up that Statement of Purpose

As I’ve mentioned a few times, I didn’t make it past the application round the first time I applied to JET. When it came time to apply again, I was faced with having to gather transcripts, letters of recommendation, and of course, the Statement of Purpose. After spending so much time on my first SoP, I decided it would be a shame to simply scrap it. So I didn’t. In fact far from it, I kept my intro and conclusion (and probably 2/3rd of the body) virtually unchanged and adjusted three things. Yep, three things.

The best advice I got was from a friend who got into JET the same year I was rejected; make it about the kids. It’s a bit misleading since the essay criteria says “you” or “your” 10 times, so naturally you think they want to hear about you! No, they don’t, they want to hear about them.

Here are the changes I made to my SoP.

Revision 1:

Before:
It will be a challenge to live in a different country, but I feel my education and my willingness to learn will help me to adjust to the Japanese lifestyle.

After:
I feel my education and my willingness to learn will help me to adjust to the Japanese lifestyle.

It’s a much more definitive statement without the “it’s a challenge” line, which I now feel probably set off the “this girl’s gonna freak out and quit” alarms in the reviewer’s head.

Revision 2

Before:

The Japanese Language program at my university provides students with great learning tools by bringing volunteer teachers from Japan to aid in our language studies. These teachers assist my classes in listening and speaking activities, as well as providing knowledge about the Japanese language and culture that we cannot learn from a book. In applying for the ALT position, I would appreciate having the opportunity to return the favor by helping Japanese students with their English studies, as well as teaching them about the culture of my country. As educators themselves, my mother and grandparents have passed on to me a love of learning and taught me to have a patient and positive attitude in working with people of all ages.

After:
The Japanese Language program at my university provided students with a great learning tool by hosting volunteer teachers from Japan who aided in our language studies. These teachers assisted with listening and speaking activities, and provided knowledge about the Japanese language and culture that cannot be learned from a book. I have had the opportunity to return the favor in tutoring Japanese exchange students and volunteering as a conversation partner at the university’s Intensive English Program. In applying for the ALT position, I aspire to further this intercultural exchange by helping Japanese students with their English studies, as well as sharing the culture of my country.

Eliminating this collective “we” business gave the sentence about the volunteer teachers a little more punch. “Tutoring” simply sounds more official than “helping”. As for the Intensive English Program, I only did the conversation partner thing for one month, but it gave me something concrete to list as “teaching experience”. If you can do anything like this before mid-November, do!

In retrospect, the whole “comes from a line of educators” thing only drew more attention to the fact that I had no real teaching experience, so I dropped it.

Revision 3:

Before:
Living in Japan would provide me with an opportunity to experience the language and art of the Japanese people first hand. As an artist, I would gain a new perspective that I am certain would be a positive influence on my future design work.

After:
Living in Japan will deepen my international perspective, and working with Japanese students will deepen their international perspective.

The before was me thinking that they when they asked what I wanted to “gain professionally” from JET, they actually wanted me to address what I can gain that would be directly related to my major in graphic design. Second time around, I determined they really don’t care, so I went with the much more vague “international perspective” then emphazied I will be working with students and deepening their international perspective. It’s all about the kids!

So that’s it, eliminated a few “me”, added a a few “Japanese students” and “Internationalizations” and I was gold. Good luck to you all, especially those of you trying for a second time!

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