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How to Apply to a Japanese University

A step-by-step guide for international students who want to apply to a Japanese university.

By 12 min read

There are hundreds of private, public and national universities in Japan, and Japan has one of the most competitive admissions processes in the world. But how competitive would it be for foreign students? Do they also need to take the same tests Japanese students have to take?

Read on for information on how to apply to be a student at a university in Japan. You should also check out our GaijinPot 101 section on Higher Education and Studying Japanese.

Why study at a Japanese university?

Japan was recently ranked as the No.2 study abroad destination in Asia thanks to its low tuition fees, the high number of government scholarships given to international students and the positive employability prospects both in Japan and abroad post-graduation.

Both the current Japanese government and Japanese higher learning institutes are actively trying to increase the number of foreign students by offering scholarships and making the path to admissions much easier.

You will have to meet entry requirements, but in most cases, these requirements relate to attendance at a language school and overall language ability.

If you study at a language school and can get your Japanese to a suitable level, it’s possible to have Japanese universities contacting you with scholarship offers.

In addition, there are also several international programs at Japanese universities that are conducted in English and do not require any Japanese language ability to apply. These courses are typically combined with language lessons as part of the degree.

Types of universities in Japan

You will find three types of university depending on how they were founded.

  • National universities (established by the Japanese government)
  • Public universities (established by local public entities)
  • Private universities (established by educational corporations)

Private universities account for about 80% of all universities and have about 80% of all university students on their registers.

Types of degree in Japan

  • University Bachelor’s degree = 4 years
  • Graduate School Master’s degree = 2 years
  • Doctor’s degree = 5 years
  • Professional degree = 2 years
  • Junior College Associate’s degree = 2 or 3 years
  • College of Technology Associate’s degree = 5 years
  • Specialized School Specialist’s degree = 2 or 3 years
  • High-level Specialist’s degree = 4 years
  • Medicine, Dental Surgery, Pharmacy degree = 6 years

Quick overview of the admissions procedure for a Japanese university

The academic year begins in April and ends in March. Classes are usually divided into two semesters from April to September, and then October to March. Students normally enroll in April, but some universities allow entry at a different time such as October.

Most Japanese universities offer a special entrance examination for privately financed foreign students which is different from the one taken by students in Japan. This may be separate or in addition to the EJU and the university’s official entrance exam.

General eligibility for an undergraduate degree program for international students:

  • Have completed or will have completed 12 years of school education in your home country. You will need to submit a transcript
  • You should not have any immigration issues, which may interfere with your entry into Japan or with your study in a Japanese university
  • You will take the examination for Japanese University Admission for International Students (EJU) 

As for the application, some universities require a personal statement, the result of your Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) and the result of your TOEFL score. Letters of recommendations are needed based on the university you will be applying to, so check with the university website.

If you are receiving funding from the Japanese government, it is best to go to the funding organization’s website for specific instructions.

What is the EJU?

The EJU is an examination introduced in 2002 by the Japan Student Services Organization (JASSO) and is considered as a part of the entrance examination for international students who wish to study at universities or other higher educational institutions in Japan.

This examination is conducted in Japan twice annually in June and November and is scheduled to be held in about 17 cities outside Japan, mainly in the Asian region. The examination subjects are Japanese as a Foreign Language, Science, Japan and the World, and Mathematics.

Questions are available in Japanese and English. Applicants will take the examination on the subjects and in the language designated by the respective colleges or universities.

Some of the universities consider the result along with grades at a senior high school without requiring students to sit the university’s own entrance examination.

If you apply to such a university, you could receive permission to enter that university without even leaving your home country.

Find out more about the EJU here.

Getting a student visa for Japan

Once you get accepted into a Japanese university, you will be asked to apply for a student visa to study in Japan.

This involves completing a Certificate of Eligibility form, providing a copy of your passport, and also having proof of funds which demonstrates that you have sufficient money to pay for your studies and to live in Japan without a part-time job, at least for the initial few months.

The amount varies depending on your school’s tuition fees, the period of stay in Japan and your living circumstances after arriving in Japan, but it is recommended to show access to an average of ¥2,000,000 or more for the first few months of your stay. Read more about providing proof of financial viability.

The international student center at the Japanese university will then submit your application to the immigration authorities in Japan. It takes about 2 to 3 months for immigration to process the application and issue the Certificate of Eligibility (COE).

After you receive a COE from your Japanese university, you will need to visit the Japanese embassy in your home country and bring the following documents:

  • Application materials for your student visa
  • Passport
  • Student visa application form
  • One photo
  • Certificate of Eligibility (must be original)

The embassy will then issue your student visa in about 7 days, and you’re set!

For more information about the student visa visit our GaijinPot Study FAQ page on How to apply for a student visa to study in Japan.

Japanese universities that offer degree programs in English and Japanese

Students starting the spring semester at Tokyo University.

For English programs, you generally do not need to have Japanese language ability, although having some basic skills or being able to show some efforts in studying the language will strengthen your application.

Tokyo University

Programs in English at Komaba (PEAK)

Having a long history and status as the best university in Japan, Tokyo University or “Todai” offers a learning environment not only for native Japanese elite students but also for talented students around the world. The PEAK initiative consists of two programs: “International Program on Japan in East Asia” and “International Program on Environmental Sciences”, that are taught in all-English.

Global Science Course (GSC)

The Global Science Course is a bit unique in that it is not a four-year undergraduate program but a program designated for transfer students that have completed at least two years of undergraduate studies in a scientific field. GSC transfer students receive monthly stipends of ¥150,000 as well as accommodation fully funded by the university, and other privileges.

More information on international programs at Todai can be found here.

Sophia University (Tokyo)

Faculty of Liberal Arts (FLA)

Sophia University’s Faculty of Liberal Arts is known for its program taught entirely in English, which is the oldest and one of the most distinguished of its kind in Japan. Students can take courses from various fields, including Comparative Culture, International Business and Economics, and Social Studies, which examine modern Japan and its traditions in a global context.

Faculty of Science and Technology

Sophia University also offers English-conducted programs for more specialized fields in science. The Green Science program is designed to foster cross-disciplinary knowledge in chemistry, physics, biology, and their application to environmental issues. The Green Engineering program teaches the fundamentals of physics, mechanical and electrical engineering, as well as application of such knowledge to the development of energy conservation technology. As each program has an enrollment capacity of 25 students, students can communicate closely with their professors.

Sophia Program for Sustainable Futures

Selected as a “Top Global University” by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology (MEXT), Sophia has decided to launch a third English-taught program starting in September 2020. This new program allows students to take courses in English in existing departments that teach courses in Japanese.

Through this program, students can obtain a Bachelor’s degree in journalism, education, sociology, economics, management, or international relations, and there will be more opportunities for field research and internships.

More information on each program can be found here.

For those that wish to enroll in a Japanese-taught program starting in April alongside native Japanese applicants, information can be found here.

Waseda University (Tokyo)

Seven undergraduate schools in Waseda offer English-based degree programs where international students can take English courses and earn a Bachelor’s degree without Japanese language proficiency.

The School of Political Science and Economics (often referred to as Waseda Seikei) is known as one of the most prestigious schools in Japan and started their English-based degree program in 2010.

Unlike the other schools, Waseda only takes students once a year in September. Other schools like the School of Social Sciences Transnational and Interdisciplinary Studies in Social Innovation (TAISI), School of Fundamental Science and Engineering, and the School of International Liberal Studies (SILS) take students in both April and September.

More information on English programs for each school can be found here.

Information on Japanese-based degree programs can be found here.

Keio University (Tokyo)

English-based degree programs

The undergraduate degree programs offered in English at Keio are the Programme in Economics for Alliances, Research and Leadership (PEARL) under the Faculty of Economics and the Global Information and Governance Academic (GIGA) Program under the Faculty of Policy Management and the Faculty of Environment and Information Studies.

Japanese-based degree programs

A number of Keio’s undergraduate departments also offer all-Japanese courses with a special admission procedure designated for international students, which they call “Ryugakusei Nyushi.” Required documents vary among each department, and some departments are relatively demanding, such as the Faculty of Law that requires a short essay with a thesis statement that is separate from the statement of purpose.

More information can be found here.

Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University (Beppu, Oita)

Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University (APU) has two undergraduate programs under the College of Asia Pacific Studies focusing on tourism, international relations, and culture, and the College of International Management, focusing on finance and marketing. Students can choose between a Japanese-track program and an English-track one, allowing for a diverse group of people to study together on one campus.

Prospective students may also apply for a tuition reduction scholarship at the time of admission.

More information can be found here.

A more comprehensive list of “Top Global Universities” selected by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology can be found here.

A shared dormitory at Keio University (via Keio.ac.jp).

How much does it cost to study at a Japanese university

The cost for each university program obviously varies among each university, but for national universities (国立, kokuritsu), the tuition fee itself is fixed at ¥585,800. Private universities usually cost twice as much ranging from ¥1 to 2 million.

Each university has scholarships, some of which cover all of a student’s tuition fee based on their financial situation and academic performance. More than 100 kinds of scholarships programs offered by public or private institutions are available, and of these, about 60 are reserved for foreign students with a college student visa.

JASSO (Japan Student Services Organization) also offers scholarships which can be applied to through the university, giving out a stipend of ¥48,000 per month for one academic year.

Student housing in Japan

Most universities provide student dormitories, but oftentimes they are not located on campus and are a couple of stations away by train. In some cases, the commute time takes up to an hour, but the dorm fee may be cheaper. The monthly rent for student accommodation is ¥20,000 – ¥30,000 for a single room with water and electricity bills included.

This can go up to ¥60,000 – ¥90,000 depending on the extra amenities, such as a kitchen attached to each room or access to community space with table tennis and movies. Cafeteria meals in Japan are cheap and filling, with a lunch set of rice, miso soup, and a main dish like karaage chicken costing ¥500.

For more information on housing, take a look at the Moving In and Moving Out section on the GaijinPot 101.

Do I need to be able to speak Japanese to be a student in Japan?

In order to increase your chances of studying at a university in Japan, the most important thing is to have all the proper immigration documents and get the visa situation straightened. The application process may seem tedious but the better prepared you are the faster it will go.

The next thing is to start studying the Japanese language.

For English-based programs, as mentioned above having fluent Japanese language skills is not always a requirement though you can strengthen your application by being able to show efforts in learning the language before you get here.

For Japanese-based programs, you will need at least N2 of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) in order to keep up with lectures that are taught entirely in Japanese. For prestigious universities (Waseda, Keio, Tokyo), you may be required to have the top-level of N1.

Finding a job in Japan after studying at a Japanese university

Studying in Japan could offer the experience of a lifetime, whether you decide to stay on in Japan or not.

After completing a four-year university program, students can consider job hunting in Japan as companies are increasingly hiring those with an international background.

Career centers in universities often hold special sessions for international students, giving out information such as a general guideline on when companies start accepting applications, the types of exams that are commonly used, advice for interviews, and unspoken social rules and etiquette in Japanese business settings.

Check out GaijinPot Jobs for listings in a variety of industries to get a feel for what’s out there.

For any international student, it is important to determine what the purpose of your stay in Japan is, and to figure out the program most suitable for you, also keeping in mind financial costs of tuition and housing. Check out this article on the average cost of living in Japan in 2019 and the average cost of rent in Tokyo for further information.

Another great resource for international students is the JASSO Gateway to Studying in Japan website.

For more on learning Japanese

  • Concepción Cuadra says:

    Can you explain me more about Certificate of eligibility?

  • N.KHACHUK Debbarma says:

    I have applied for EJU and TOEFL scheduled to be held in november and december respectively..I am from India and currently studying in grade 12,i looked up some website of universities like waseda, tokyo Institute of tech,Tokyo university,Tohoku,osaka etc for admision in molecular biology undergraduate program…none of the website sites about what subjects to be taken during the EJU scienc test and about the maths courses…so can you please help me out.

  • Ryujatamurai says:

    I wanted to ask a few questions…

    I am from Dubai and currently in high school (grade 11), i plan to be a surgeon and want to study medicine in Japan. But, will the medicine courses all be in English? It would be fun learning Japanese but it will also take a while just to know the basics of the language. I plan to waste no time in my early years as a student. please provide an answer.

    much appreciation.

  • a s chohan says:

    i am a japanies national completing my a levels abroad in english in 2017 how i can get admistion in japan in enginiering course (english)

  • Lubo Loach says:

    Hey, I’m 18 years old from England, I am going to be going to a language school in Japan for two years (i saved up the money to pay for this). After Language school I would like to go to an actual university in Japan, is it possible to get a student loan in Japan or is that not something the government does?

    -Thanks

  • JPNfreak says:

    I’m 16 years old from Japan but now living in Finland cause my family’s circumstances. I moved to Finland about 8 years ago and I was thinking to move back in japan when I’m 18 or 19 because that is the time when I graduate from Finnish highschool. I was searching quite a while that witch Japanese university are good for me but I don’t understand a bit of there system. How they work? Many of Japanese university’s websites are explaining to foreign students how to apply to their universities but I’m not a foreign student and also I have Japanese passport. Am I foreign student? I don’t know what do and where exactly I can start? Also I can’t write or read kanjies only kanjies I can write and read are primary school level so I’dont know how can I manage. This is also huge problem for me. Please help me!! And I’m also aware of the cost.

  • Nihon Scope says:

    SEO doesn’t pass through disqus Google doesn’t even see the link.. just FYI 😀

  • Nihon Scope says:

    Dude from what I’m experiencing just getting into Fukuoka Japanese
    Language school I hope that getting into university well be easier..
    Also being I’m a horridly old person at the age of 31 I know I’m already
    going to get the looks. But I just finished apply for April 2017, I
    actually wrote a freak’n million word essay to get into school: http://wp.me/p7daX8-cp
    …. then I found out I didn’t need to do it! Then at the same time I’m
    going through Go! Go! Nihon (com). They’ve never had someone my age,
    married, have their own business (sponsor both himself and his wife) and
    not have a High School Diploma (I got my GED)… Crazy stuff man! …how bout engage isn’t of delete bro?

  • pratik says:

    hello Im Pratik.
    I wanna study msc in English in Japan.
    So when should I apply for Japanese universities and what is the requirements for it?

  • Average Mom says:

    well I just contacted Tokyo university and they stated that you have to complete 12 years of education prior to university to prove that you need a total of 3 A-Levels, the grades doesn’t matter much since you are going to take an entrance exam anyway

  • Hayatē Ziro says:

    You might wanna have to do “A2″…. Because Japanese Universities need 12 years of education..

  • MG Raymundo says:

    Hi I’m from the Philippines and I’m currently 15 years old. I’m a high school student and I’m on my 10th grade. I’m planning on studying engineering and I want to study it at a university in Japan. In addition, i’d like to a admit for a scholarship because I’m not really rich. You may think that it’s still to early for me to inquire but if there is somebody that could brief me in the things that I should prepare, it will be much appreciated. Thank you.

    • YURI says:

      i have a idea that if u want admit into japan university there is only option and it is pretty easier….at first why dont u go to japan and get nationality in japan and there is many option(legal and illegal)..then try ur best to learn japan as soon as possible….and if u dont have money take part time job…….that is the easir way i think….ur first option is to go to japan and take any part time job and try ur best learn japanese and other stuff GAMBATTE KUDASAI

  • Rabin Shrestha says:

    Hello Yumi, I m from Nepali and want to study the B. com what shall i do

  • JainaBlade says:

    It’s okay ⌒.⌒ thank you so much for the detailed reply. I definitely understand how hard A-levels are X_X But I was wondering, if they don’t require a specific grade, do they require specific subjects or a 12 tear education or can a home schooled student take the EJU, pass it and get accepted? And is this EJU in Japanese or English @_@ Also, hope you did well on your exams *^^*

    • To apply for any universities in Japan, applicants are required to have
      completed or scheduled to complete education that corresponds to that of
      12 years in Japan.

      If you get A-Level of the British System, you will have completed education that corresponds to that of 12 years in Japan.

      On the first examination of Class-1 in Special Screening Test, we will
      make a thorough study of your grades of official high school transcripts
      for the last three years, your EJU and TOEFL scores(or IELTS scores),
      and your other test scores.

      After you passed the first examination, you will write an essay and have
      an interview both in Japanese as the second examination. The second
      examination will be held only in our university.

  • Yeah all the guides n stuff is in Japanese and some universities require form to be filled in Japanese. As far as I know they don’t set minimum or maximum grades u just have to pass at the Entrance Exams that’s what they (In my case UTokyo) told me for A-Levels. You will also need IELTS or TOEFL but If you are a native speaker of English u might have to ask about that. Happy to Help!

  • Lalioui Mohamed says:

    Hello Yumi I’m Lalioui from Morocco, I’m so pationnate about the japanese culture, I have always wanted to go to japan, I also want to study there in a university, currently I’m studying in an engeneering school here in Morocco, I already have my high school diploma, truth to be told I can’t afford going there, same goes for the unoversity fees so a schoolarship will be really helpful and once I get there I’m thinking of doing a part time job. So if any of you have some idea that could help me please notify me here is my adress: mohamed.lalioui97@gmail.com , thanks in advance

  • Efua Odafen says:

    Hello Yumi, what services would you recommend to beginners hoping to master the language?

  • Jocelyn says:

    Hi! I’m Jocelyn and I am a high school freshmen from Michigan of the United States. I know I have a long way a head before thinking about college. But, I swear I’d love to go to university of Tokyo it seems soo new and interesting to me. I honestly love the food and the music in Japan. Like, I love sushi, fish, and all that other stuff. I am also currently listening to crossfaith, cold rain, and of course one ok rock. They are the best Japanese American rock bands the I have ever heard. Anyway, I’d just love to go to Japan for collage can experience all the cool things there. I am already learning abit of writing and speaking in Japanese but, I’m still in the basics of the language. But, in the collages are there dorms on campus like America? Also, what other things should I know about Japan and their collages? I’d really, appreciate it a lot. Thank you.
    – the one and only Jocelyn Underwood (:

    Oh and P.S. Have a fantastic and 2016

  • Kita says:

    Hi, Everyone………
    I am currently doing my A-Levels and had done IGCSE….So, I wanted to ask does Japanese universities accept A-Levels and what are the minimum grades they accept? I am taking 3 Subjects in A-Levels Chemistry, Physics and Biology and I want to become a Doctor.
    Do japanese universities need TOEFL, IELTS or GRE?

    Thanks.

  • Kita says:

    Hi, Everyone……….

    I would like to ask about Admission in a Japanese university (Requirements)…

    Right now I am doing my A-LEVELS and had done IGCSE… So, I would like to go to a Japanese university after I finish my A-LEVELS….. So, what are the minimum grades that would be accepted? (I have taken 3 subjects Chemistry, Physics and Biology and I want to become a Doctor)…. And do I have to give TOEFL, IELTS or GRE…

  • Zhuo Xin Yi says:

    Hello, I am Cindy from Singapore. I would like to ask, how many universities are you allowed to apply for as a foreign student? For example, from what I heard from my teacher, Japanese students are only allowed to apply to a maximum of 3 universities.

    Thanks.

  • dceylon says:

    Hello!I’m Deepthi from Sri Lanka.I earned my bachelor of Arts degree in 2013 with GPA 3.54.I studied Japanese as a subject for my B/A. Also I got JLPT N2. Then I have been Japan for 2 years as a company worker.My visa category was as specialist in human./transnational services.I worked there as a translator & interpreter . At that time I had some harassment from my boss and I decided to leave Japan.I really need to go to Japan for my higher studies. For my ambition I searched so many scholarships but some of them asked about working experience in mother land and some of them was for international students who already study in Japan.Please some tell me how I can get a scholarship to a Japanese university for my Master degree.

    Thank you.

  • NK says:

    Hello! I was wondering how the transition between an American high school to a Japanese university worked. I know that high schools in the U.S. end in June but the universities in Japan (most of them) begin in April. So if I do get accepted to a Japanese university, do I just leave high school early or do I have to wait until April of the following year?

  • Maungil says:

    This was very helpful, thank you so much. However, I need help finding the applications. On all of the websites I’ve been on so far they only give us admission advice and list of requirements but I cannot seem to find a place to acquire their application to apply for their school. Does this mean that I have already missed the deadlines or am I just not looking in the right place? Do all universities in Japan require an application? I would appreciate it very much if you could let me know ASAP. Thanks so much again!

  • Steven Yang says:

    I currently have a B.SC. and looking to get a second bachelors in Japan for IT. My question is, will the process still be the same? i can’t seem to find the right keywords to put on google.

  • Josh Evans says:

    I am so nervous about doing this now, I didn’t do very well in school could this affect my chances?

  • Jack McNamara says:

    Yes! If there could be an article about the G30 program soon, that would be great!! Things like 1st hand experience or 2nd hand knowledge of the program, it’s reputation, etc.

  • LunaticNeko says:

    Some more tips from grad student. I come to Japan “as a feral”: no scholarship, no financing, limited assistance, no Japanese language experience, and with other problems

    Language: Instead of TOEFL, some universities require TOEIC score which is easier and less restrictive. If you’re applying for non-International or non-English-program courses, you WILL need JLPT N1, which is remarkably harder than everyday (or specific-field academic) Japanese.

    Time frame: If you’re taking an exam privately (non-“program” stuff), you might be joining in something I would call “third round examination”. I don’t know about other universities, but in mine it’s on March, and the school year starts April. You have about three weeks from results announcement to beginning of school term to prepare visa documents. Time yourself well so you don’t need to rush or request expedition of your paperwork, which can incur fees or get nasty.

    Level of Japanese for Privately-Financed International Programs: Since you’re a feral rogue here and you may not need Japanese to do homework, they don’t give a damn about your communication. Ditch JLPT exams, you don’t need that. You need real conversational skills. Find out how to open bank accounts, credit cards, rent a home, send letters, etc. (GaijinPot of course helped me a lot!) If they offer senior natives to be your guides, then you’re in luck. If they don’t, find someone to help you.

    • Kaku Harikēn says:

      Do Japanese universities accept A-Levels??

    • Yumitolesson says:

      Hello! That is very interesting. the information posted in my article is based on the national university’s guidelines and requirements but I am sure that private universities have different guidelines and if you are attending Japanese university with your own funding, they have less restrictive requirements. I agree with you that JLPT N1 is extremely difficult even for native Japanese speakers. 🙂

  • Gaijinn says:

    You really have to figure important part by yourself. Although article and website gives you general idea. (Currently in japan,going to apply for university masters course in April). Even if you have Top class japanese you cannot get to top/National universities in Japan(unless you are exceptional student). I suggest getting a guarantor which is again is difficult part if you dont know any japanese people.

    • Yumitolesson says:

      that is very true. Getting into Japanese national universities is extremely difficult and although the universities offer different exams for foreign students, it is still extremely challenging to keep up with classes taught in Japan.

  • Benny says:

    For anyone interested in studying in Japan without having previously studied Japanese as a requirement, check out the G30 initiative

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