How to Apply to Japanese Universities | Guidable - Your Guide to a Sustainable, Wellbeing-centred Life in Japan

How to Apply to Japanese Universities

By Mandie Kukita Oct 5, 2019

Are you interested in studying abroad in Japan for the short or long term, but not sure how to apply? Read on to find out how to apply to Japanese universities!

There many excellent universities in Japan to study abroad as an international student or as an exchange student, that are well certified to teach a range of different subjects. In this article, I will teach you how to decide and apply to universities in Japan.

If you want to apply for a university in English, there are several that offer courses in English. To learn more about going to a university in Japan with English courses, please see the previous Guidable article titled, “4 Universities in Japan Where You Can Study in English.”


Deciding which university you want to attend


In Japan, it can be more of a challenge to get in to a university or 大学 (daigaku) than graduating as compared to western society, where graduating is more challenging than entering a university. However, it may not be so complicated for a foreign student if he/she is prepared.

Courses being entirely in Japanese may be a struggle of its own, yet as one person said from their study abroad experience: if you put in the effort in and have good attendance, passing is not all that difficult. This, of course, may vary from person to person and vary depending on the university you apply to.

Carefully considering what you want to study is an important aspect when applying to a Japanese university. Not only for the purpose of studying in Japan, but also taking courses that will help you in your career in the future. This is important, as future job placement in Japan is the goal of a large percentage of international students studying in Japan.

The link for the article posted above goes into various different universities that provide English courses; those same universities have Japanese courses for foreign students. The article lists a few of the many universities in Japan that have degree programs for exchange students in English.

One thing to note: where you are applying from can affect the difficulty of a university application. Please note, some of you reading may come from a country which make applying to a Japanese university difficult. For example, they may require you to come directly to Japan to apply, interview and take a test. Therefore, doing your own research on the application process of your country may be key.

Types of Universities


There are dozens of universities to choose from, even for international exchange programs. There are 3 types of universities to choose from. There is national (government based), public, or private (note: private being the majority in Japan).

(At the end of this article I will provide a link for students studying abroad that contains a list of universities and their programs, as well as which language you can study in.)


Types of Degrees


You can aspire to obtain variety of degrees in Japan as an international student from associates, bachelors, or masters, to more specific certification, such as doctorates and other specialized fields that include: technology, education, law, and many others. Most basic and specialty degrees that are common internationally are available in Japan. These degree programs generally take from 2 to 8 years.

If you want to attain a degree at a Japanese university, be sure to check first to see if the type of degree you want is attainable in Japan. Furthermore, it is imperative to check if there is an English program available for that type of degree if you don’t have the Japanese ability to take classes taught in Japanese.


Application Process


Once you have chosen the university, you can begin applying. Depending on the school and program you aim for, the application process may vary. The following is the common application processes for universities in Japan:

AO Enrollment: This is for universities to learn about their potential future students. Those applying for university as a foreign student are expected to give a good impression and follow the prerequisites of what the school is looking for in their students. In order to do this, here is what they will expect or require:
-Students are interviewed.
-Assessment is taken place of the student’s goals and interest in Japan
-Exemplary attendance record.
-Japanese or English proficiency. (Based on the program type)

General admission: To qualify to enroll in a university in Japan, you must have at least 12 years of basic education. You must also be over 18 years of age.

When applying to a university in Japan, you will need to have several legal documents. The university may request other documents to learn as much as they can about you and your education history. Finally, some form of identification is required.

Preparing and filling in forms are to be completed accurate and neat. No shortcuts should be taken. Japan is a country of order, and respecting that will make the whole process easier. If something is not filled out or prepared correctly, they may have you correct it or do it completely over (depending on what it is). Whenever you are confused about how to fill in something, always ask. It will save you a lot of headaches in the future. It is important to prepare in advance to help you meet the deadlines. If you are worried, you can practice filling out the forms beforehand to ensure there are no mistakes.

Foreign Admission: To apply as a foreigner you have some extra papers to prepare along with what is needed with the general application process.

-You need to have a valid passport (with more than 6months before it expires, if not longer).
-Documentation to show you have graduated with at least 12 years of basic education.
-Financial proof showing that you can get by as a student in Japan (either that you can provide for yourself financially along with following the labor laws for students in Japan, or someone can vouch for you financially).
-Other documents may be requested from the school before or during the application process, such as a copy of your birth certificate and/or language school certificate.
-Finally, if you plan to study in Japanese, you will need a certain level of Japanese as the part of AO enrollment language proficiency requirement. Next, I will explain further about the level of Japanese necessary to get into university.


What Level of Japanese Do You Need?


Those of you that are applying for Japanese degree programs should be aware that in order to study in a university in Japanese, a language assessment test is a requirement. Most universities require a minimum JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test) N2 (the second-highest level in the JLPT examination system) certification. If you have passed N1 (the highest level), that is even better.

Anything lower, such as N3 is not enough to study in a Japanese-language degree course for foreign exchange students. However, if you apply to certain vocational schools, a large number of them accept at least N3.

Sometimes even if you want to learn Japanese at a university, some universities may still ask you to pass at least N5 in order to study in their school. However, there are several universities that have exchange programs that require no Japanese at all.

International students that want to study in Japanese at a university have to take and pass a specific test for foreign students to be accepted into university. The test is called the Examination for Japanese University Admission for International Students or EJU. You are required to have a passing score of over 200 points to be accepted in university.

They may also expect a student to have attended certain Japanese language schools for 6 months to 1 year. An approved list of these schools is provided by The Association for the Promotion of Japanese Language Education and/or the Japanese School Education Act. This is also a requirement under the AO enrollment procedure. If this is something you need when applying to a university in Japan, check the provided link at the end of this article which may provide some information on such language schools.


Study Abroad


There are different types and lengths of study abroad options for those looking to study in Japan. In some cases, it is possible to study abroad while studying at your current university. This is called an inter-university exchange agreement that some universities have. This is usually set up to promote an international community at both universities and encourage an inter-cultural exchange.


Japanese Language School :


If you don’t have enough language ability to get into the Japanese programs at university yet, you can go to a Japanese language school or 日本語学校 (nihongo gakkou), and then move to a university once you qualify linguistically.

A majority of foreign students that come to Japan are keen to learn Japanese and usually go to a language school. This is the cheapest way to get an education abroad besides receiving a scholarship if you are interested in learning something in another country and on a budget.

There are hundreds of language schools across the country. You can come to Japan on a short-term visa and learn for 1 month, or there is also the option of a longer-term visa which is usually up to 2 years. If learning for 2 years is not enough for you, schools sometimes have possible extension options.

If the course is less than 3 months you may not have to apply for a student visa. However, courses over 3 months require a student visa. You will have to research your countries visa agreements with Japan to see what type of visa you will need if you apply for a Japanese language course in Japan.




There are two scholarship programs in Japan for students wanting to attend a Japanese university. First, there is the JASSO (Japan Student Services Organization), which started in 2004. The second scholarship program is MEXT or 文部科学省 (monbukagakushou). They both provide financial aid to students wanting to study in Japan.

There are different scholarships within each program that are either age or curriculum based. For the MEXT scholarship, there are 4 types of scholarships: undergraduate student, Japanese studies, research student (higher education level such as doctorate), specialized training college (such as vocational schools).


I hope that this article was informative and helped you figure out how to apply to Japanese universities. It’s time to plan one of the most exciting experiences of your life!


Mandie Kukita // USA