The Monbukagakusho Scholarship

Recently, I was awarded the Monbukagakusho scholarship from MEXT, Japan (Ministry of Education Sports Science and Culture) for graduate studies. This scholarship covers basically everything while you’re conducting your studies in Japan and it even allows you a monthly stipend. Today, I will be sharing with you my process of applying and obtaining the scholarship.

Things to Know

  • Applications open up somewhere between late February and early March.
  • This is a global scholarship, each country, represented by a consulate or an embassy.
  • There are two categories for collegiate studies:
    • Undergraduate – This is the same as when you graduate high school and go to college, only in Japan. You are expected to WANT to learn the language and focus your studies at the same time. In addition, you are expected to do research on schools you want to attend and which ones offer degree programs in English if you are not up to standard in Japanese.
    • Research Student- This is the one that I applied for and got; and its essentially the same offer as the undergraduate but at the graduate level, and you start as a 研究学生 (research student) and have the opportunity to extend the scholarship into your doctoral studies. The way it works is that while conducting research on your area of focus you will have a chance to take your universities exam to test into the master’s program, if you pass and the embassy still favors you then your scholarship will be extended. The doctorate follows the same pattern.
  • There are other opportunities with this scholarship too, such as: Language schools, technical schools and teaching opportunities, but the two categories, which are, focused the most are the Undergrad and Research.
  • You will be expected to show an interest in the Japanese language in culture, even if you do not expect to be fluent in the language, there as to be at least a spark.
  1. The application process: As stated earlier this began in March 2017 for me, but I was aware of this scholarships existence about 2 years in advance. With that being said my #1 tip here is preparation. Have all your documents and identification together, my mother always told me make copies of everything, even if you don’t need them, to this day I still carry at least 5 copies of every official document I have with me (but that’s another story). The application seems long and scary at first but it is really just a lot of information you need to give up. This is a lot of money they are giving you after all (free +stipend +the opportunity to get a part time job).
    1. If you are a research student and have not written your thesis yet, you need to write a detailed well mapped out proposal of what you are going to research and how your research is relevant to Japan AKA is your research worth going to Japan “WHY CAN’T YOU RESEARCH THIS IN ANOTHER COUNTRY? Is the question you should be trying to answer at all times when writing this?
    2. Finding your schools of interest (I will talk about the hard part later): So this is just the part when the embassy ask your first, second and third choices for education. This can always be changed later on in the process but this part is somewhat stressful early on…because it is freakin’ Japan.
    3. You are going to want to get some SOLID letters of recommendations; I am talking about SOLID, ROCK HARD, CONCRETE, “I LOVE YOU” recommendations. They really take a good look at these – I have a story later about this.
    4. Health Certification: They require a detailed, and I mean DETAILED physical, from your doctor/clinic and it must be stamped and no older than 6 months. However, they will not ask for this unless you have passed the interview stage, but since you need all of your documents by the time of the exam, you should aim to have it by then (and it never hurts to get a physical done). If you do not happen to have it by then you can contact the embassy and explain that you will turn it in later.
  1. The exam(s): This is the part where the stress kicks in; in my scenario I was applying as a research student with the proposal of exploring the cultural barrier in SLA, with future plans of pursuing a masters/ doctorate in Japanese language & Culture – So studying for me really wasn’t an option. However, in general they usually do not pay any close mind to the Japanese segment of the exams if you are major or field of research is not pertaining to it, but you do have to get above a 75/100 on the English exam. There are also topics other than Japanese and English if you are going into a field of science etc.

*Music/Art majors have to submit a recording (music) or their portfolio (art)

*But all applicants must take the English exam (no exceptions)

  • During the exam, they examine your application right in front of you, and they will call you up to the desk if there are any errors on it or incomplete sections. One person barely had anything in his application folder and the exam overseer simply said “No.” If you are wondering, how many files should be in a complete application, your folder should feel like a decent sized book. The person I mentioned earlier had about eight sheets of paper and his photos.
  • TIP: During the Japanese portion of the exam, even if you do not know anything do not leave until you finish that entire paper. This shows that you have guts and a sincere intention to obtain the scholarship- I was the last one in that room and used up the full 3-hour time slot. This in and of itself is like a secret interview.


  1. Interviews: If the panel (panel as in whoever oversaw the exam) approved of your marks/effort then you will be called to schedule an interview- I received my call the very same afternoon that day. During this interview, they will try and BURN your research topic to the ground, your primary goal in this interview is to prove that your research is worth it. Keep your cool and show them that you know what your goal and purpose. If they even sense a fiber of weakness or doubt in your body, they will instinctively pounce on it. Your secondary goal in this interview is to demonstrate your knowledge about Japan (however as mentioned, this is secondary do not focus on it too much.) Thirdly, they want to get a sense of how independent you will be once in Japan. They do not want to give the scholarship to someone and then have him or her breakdown in Japan. Overall the interview will test three things:
    1. Purpose
    2. Independence
    3. Experience
  1. Contacting Schools (LOA): So if you have managed to pass the interview you will be required to contact the schools of your choice (this is when you can change things up a bit). You will be mailed tamped documents from your embassy as proof that you have passed the secondary screening. Your job here is to ensure that you have a spot at your school. As a research student, the goal is to go to your school’s website get faculty and graduate school information and contact them ASAP. The difficult part is that usually the faculty you will be speaking to will be speaking in Japanese , so this is where you may need an interpreter or manage by yourself (if you can). On the other hand, you can send the professor you want to study under an email explaining your situation and that you have passed the interview, in need of a Letter of Acceptance.
  • Once you get a Letter of Acceptance, send it to the embassy right away, as they usually need these before a certain date.


Rumors have it that once you’ve gotten your LOA(s) you have a 99.9% chance of the getting the scholarship.

I contacted about ten graduate schools by phone and email and out of ten, only two accepted me. In addition, you can only apply to three graduate schools at a time. Therefore, the game plan here is:

  1. Have a fallback school
  2. Apply early
  3. Contact by PHONE AND EMAIL (Using only one will slow things down)

The Long Wait: So after you have done all of that listed above, it should be around September at this point…remember you started in February/March. You have done all that is humanly possible and now your one mission is to wait for the final yes or no.  Depending on which country you are from dates may differ by a few weeks, but people hear back between Late December- Early March *this is a yearlong application* (I started my application in the month of March 2017 and received the final “Yes” in January.)

Final Contract Acceptance: As all scholarships have some terms of agreement, this one is no exception. Should you accept these terms (I know I will: /) you will be on your way to Japan to start your graduate/ undergraduate career.


Island Boy Dro

I forgot to mention throughout this whole post that undergraduate students do not have to sit in interviews.


For more information please follow the link


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