Japan · JET Programme

JET Programme Application: SOP (Statement of Purpose essay) (2014)

So, the application forms for the 2015 JET Programme are out! The deadline is sometime in November (dates vary according to country). But, the important thing is that they are out!

This post may be a bit late in writing, as I was planning to have it done by the end of September, but perhaps this could still be of use to those of you who are applying for the JET Programme for 2015. Having said that, if any readers out there know of anyone who might be interested in the JET Programme (see their website here), or are currently applying, then by all means feel free to point them to this post as here I will give some tips, based on personal experience and what knowledge I have, about writing your Statement of Purpose essay and filling in your application form.

Remember that this is purely from my own experience and perspective. There are honestly hundreds of posts out there on the net that provide the same sort of advice, so feel free to do what you wish with this info. Though I do hope that it can be of some help to potential JET applicants.

Also, I am writing from a South African perspective. Every Japanese embassy around the world tends to have a slightly different approach to the application form, especially when it comes to the Statement of Purpose essay. So be sure to find out your embassy’s specific requirements, as they might differ to what I had to do.

Right, so let’s get started and jump straight into the Statement of Purpose (SOP) essay:

This, I believe, counts quite a bit towards your overall application, so writing up a few drafts is recommended. My first draft was approximately 6 pages of what seemed like important facts. However, 7 edited drafts later and I was able to whittle all those facts down to the required 2 A4-sized pages, double spaced, with the heading “Statement of Purpose’ and my name at the top of the page.

Tip #1: The trouble with page limitations…:

Try to make every sentence count. If a sentence does not contribute to the reasons as to why you want to teach, or why Japan specifically, or at least something to do with teaching, Japan, English, etc – then I suggest you take it out as you will start to notice how precious line space is when you only have 2 pages to work with.

Tip #2: Ask yourself the following:

When I wrote my SOP, I always tried to remember four important questions that I believed the interviewers, or people reading my essay, would want to know. Those questions were:

Why do you want to live (temporarily) in Japan?
Why do you want to teach English?
What are your strengths?
And, what could you bring to the programme, coming from your specific country and culture?

Obviously it is up to you as to whether you want to answer these questions, but just mentioning something similar, or along those lines, would be beneficial to your application.

Tip #3: Spelling and grammar:

Your SOP should be free from spelling and grammar mistakes, especially since you are applying for an English teaching position. If you are unsure, use spell check, look online, or ask others to read through your essay and have them check for any grammatical errors. Even I started doubting my grammar after reading through my essay a few times. So having a ‘fresh’ pair of eyes to read it through helped.

Tip #4: Repetition:

When I was writing my SOP, I did a lot of research online, looking at other people’s posts about the SOP and application form. The one thing that tended to stand out what the case of repetition in your essay and application form. I read that whatever you wrote in the actual application form, such as things to do with work and volunteer experience, does not necessarily need to be repeated in great depth in the SOP. For example, if you wrote under volunteer experience that you worked at a specific school volunteering as an assistant teacher, then in your SOP you do not need to repeat the same information about which school it was or what you specifically did. Instead, you could go straight into an example of your experience at that school and what you learnt or gained in knowledge while working there. Basically what I am trying to say is to avoid repeating the same facts that you have written down in your actual application form, and use that potential sentence space to provide actual example or thoughts on your experiences.

In regards to providing facts and experiences in your SOP, remember that when you get to the interview stage (if your application has been successful) then the interviewers will be looking closely at your SOP and will most likely ask you for reasons behind certain statements, or have you explain something more in detail. So…

Tip #5: Facts:

Know your facts and be prepared to give solid answers as to why you said certain things in your SOP when it comes to the interview stage.

And lastly,

Tip #6: Proofread, proofread, proofread…:

And then proofread some more. This goes for your whole application in fact, but in particular your SOP. Definitely have other people read your SOP if possible. I remember being apprehensive about others reading mine, but I was glad I did as they pointed out some basic grammar mistakes that I had been overlooking the whole time, and also came up with alternative suggestions for some of my points, which helped.

Also, every SOP will be different in terms of content. What I wrote in mine is quite different to what my friends wrote, yet we all got into the programme. Your SOP forms just part of the whole application, though I believe it does play a big part in successfully making it through to the interview stage.

In the meantime, good luck to those who are applying for next year! Gambatte kudasai!


6 thoughts on “JET Programme Application: SOP (Statement of Purpose essay) (2014)

  1. I’m thinking about applying for JET in 2015 (in other words to go in 2016). I too am South African. I have a BA in Languages and Literature with English as major subject and am considering getting a TEFL certification before I apply. English was my strongest matric subject too. Currently I work as a computer programmer. What counts against me is that I am a second language English speaker. Do you think I have a Hobbit’s chance in Mordor of making it? Would getting a TEFL certificate and having a BA give me a slight advantage over, say, a native speaker without them? Would appreciate your opinion!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Kobus,

      Thanks for your message. Glad to hear you are interested in the programme. All you need is Sting and the ‘precious’ Ring and you’ll be fine! 😉

      But seriously, you have some pretty strong qualifications right there, more than what I had when I applied. One of the main things one needs in order to even be considered for JET is any university degree, no matter who or where you are in the world. So that is one thing to tick off your list 😉

      Secondly, JET specifies on their website that an applicant should be “adept in contemporary standard pronunciation, rhythm and intonation in the designated language”. So basically what they are wanting is someone who can speak English clearly and properly enough for students and teachers to understand.

      From my perspective, I think you have all that it takes to be a successful candidate. I didn’t have a TEFL certificate when I applied (all I had was my BA degree in English and a passion to live and work in Japan), but if you have the time on your hands between now and this time next year, then it would be a great idea to get a TEFL certificate. It definitely won’t hurt to strengthen your application in any way possible.

      May I suggest that if you are still in doubt, then you could e-mail the folks at the Japanese Embassy in Joburg in regards to English being your second language. Perhaps they could provide some clearer insight to your concern.

      Hope that helps, and please feel free to contact me again if you have any more questions. Best of luck! Gambatte kudasai!


      1. Thanks so much for replying to me. Based on what you said I contacted the Japanese embassy in Pretoria and they said that they have sent Afrikaans people to Japan as part of the JET programme before. They confirmed that as long as you have clear pronunciation and a bachelors you are a suitable candidate. They also confirmed that a TEFL certificate adds to the points on your application, so I guess it’s worth it. I’ll definitely check your blog every now and then because it has valuable information on the application process and a South African view on Japan in general. Hope you’re still having a blast!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. That’s very good news indeed, glad to hear that they do accept applicants with English as a second language. Thanks for reading and I hope I can prove useful to you in any way in regards to the application process and all that jazz 🙂

        I am still really enjoying it here, even though the rainbows and unicorns have up and left (part of the ‘honeymoon’ phase of moving to a new country). But I am treating myself to a weekend in Hiroshima city, so I am looking forward to some good ol’ retail therapy 🙂


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