Tips for the JET application: Part 3

As I lurk the message boards and see everyone frantically trying to get their materials together and asking questions about every little thing about the JET Program application, I am trying to think of more tips, and really only one come to mind.

Tip 6, Take all advice with a grain of salt: Okay, maybe not all, but at least 90% of the advice you’ll find online should be taken with a grain of salt. You see, since JET’s application process is so long and involved, it has this way of making everyone who has made it onto the program (and even people who didn’t) instantly think they’re experts on all JET matters. It also has a way of giving these new “experts” an undeniable urge to go online and dispense advice to JET hopefuls. All these people have may have good intentions, but that doesn’t mean their advice is sound. JET message boards and blogs are often a hodgepodge of conflicting information, half-truths, and downright falsehoods with the occasional facts and good advice sprinkled in.

So how do you separate the good advice from the bad? I say the best think you can do is consider who you’re hearing the information from.

JET Program Coordinators
Should you take their advice? Yes (most of the time)
In the last couple years, I’ve noticed an increased presence of program coordinators on message boards which I think is a great thing for JET hopefuls as they can clarify a lot of the misconceptions of JET and the application process. However it does make it clear that even within JET, some parts of the program are still a bit of a mystery and still vary greatly from country to country and even among consulates in the same country. I’ve also seen some of the coordinators dispense advices that’s based on their own personal preferences or pet-peeves about JET applicants and not based on anything official.

Current and Former JET Participants
Should you take their advice? Sometimes
Trust me, becoming a JET Participant doesn’t mean you get a book with JET’s selection secrets. You’re not told why your application or interview was better than others, or why you are placed where you’re placed. Just when you’re ready to say “I think this factor and that factor are very important to JET,” you’ll meet a JET who doesn’t fit the profile AT ALL. All a current/former JET can do is say “This was MY experience, and you may have a similar one or you may have something the opposite.”

Aspiring JET Participants
Should you take their advice? Um . . . probably not.
Seriously, every year I see a few know-it-alls dispensing advice on Statement of Purpose or how to chose their placement preferences and then I see they’re applying for JET as well! Aside from basic grammatical advice or general application advice, an aspiring JET who’s pretending they know anything about the JET selection process, well-intentioned as they may be, is usually doing more harm than good.

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Tips for the JET application: Part 1

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.

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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!