I’ve been thinking about how I want to start this series of JET posts and figured that one of the biggest points in the early phases is The Essay. Filling out the application is pretty self-explanatory, but it’s usually the essay portion that can make the difference between not moving forward and getting that interview!
As an FYI, I am not an expert in essay writing but I did manage to get an interview so I’m sure I must have done something right (and that’s what I’m going to share)
1. Start as early as possible!
2019 was not the first time I applied to JET. I actually tried applying in 2018, and, luckily, got rejected (since some stuff happened with my graduation so I wouldn’t have been able to go anyway). Then , when I reapplied in 2019, I somehow got in! The biggest difference between these two moments was my essay. I still had the same experiences, except maybe one tiny change that really was nothing, so my takeaway is start early! Don’t do what I did (the first time) and try to write an essay two nights before everything is due (in my defense, I only learned about JET maybe two weeks before the application closed)
This is also true with all the paperwork you need to submit. Offices are not open late and/or on weekends and it takes time for people to snail mail you things. Not to mention that for many places, the doctor’s especially, appointments are needed and this can often require weeks of waiting. Start everything as soon as possible but especially your essay
You don’t even have to have an essay drafted. Just a simple outline can go a long way. Go to the JET website and you can find the essay questions there
2. Get as much feedback as possible
A lot of people don’t like getting constructive criticism on their work because of sensitivities, or they think I’ve always written good essays, how hard can this one be? And it’s not hard but there is one major problem, especially for ramblers like myself – a page limit. Essays cannot be longer than two pages, no exceptions. Because of this, I recommend getting feedback from as many people as possible so they can see what sticks out, what is too wishy-washy, and to give you tips on what to improve on.
And make sure these people are not your friends or family. Friends and family are not only biased (and may be too nice in their feedback) but may also have “insider information” on the experiences or points mentioned in your essay. They might accidentally fill in information not provided, meanwhile the people who look at the essays know nothing about you and may get confused if you are not clear. Not to mention grammar and spelling (yes, they are checking!) and just your usage of the English language in general. Go to your school’s writing center and/or ask a current or alum JET if they would be willing to look at your essay (some even advertise this service). This takes time so I once more stress the start early point
I probably had my essay looked at 4-5 different times and yes, I did rewrite it that many times. I spent nearly my last minutes (before the application closed) tweaking my essay. It was nerve-wracking
3. Don’t wait until the last minute
So many things can go wrong if you wait until five minutes before the portal closes. Your internet can fail, the times won’t be synchronized (this actually happened to me with something else), the nerves can get to you, etc. Try to get everything done at least the day before the application closes and, if you’re really cutting it close, an hour before. I don’t know about you all but my files on my computer are chaotic and I can spend a good few minutes trying to find things. This eats away at the time limit. I’d say don’t chance it. Get it done sooner rather than later
4. Outline your essay
I actually had a lot of trouble with my first drafts. I was way over the page count and I couldn’t really figure out where to cut down because I wasn’t sure where my essay answers were located. I’m used to being asked to write super long essays (like most of us I’m sure) and so I write a lot of fluff. I also intertwine my points because repetition gets you more pages. But you can’t do that with the JET essay. Around my third draft, I changed my method
Instead of writing that essay like a university essay, I sat down with a blank sheet of paper.
- I split the paper into quadrants and in each section I wrote down one essay question I needed to answer
- I made bullet points with my answers,
- then went back to choose some of my more favorite (and appealing) responses,
- turned them into sentences, and, like they showed us in elementary school,
- used these as my paragraph’s main/topic sentences
It added so much structure to my essay and, if I needed to cut down on words later, at least I knew what not to cut out! I don’t want to say this essay is “dumbed down” because it’s not. It’s just very basic. It has your topic sentence with maybe 3-4 sentences per paragraph, and both the introduction and conclusion were maybe 2-3 sentences
You have to be very direct, don’t beat around the bush!
5. Own the Anime
Use it and own it, but only if it’s relevant and fits. A lot of people have already mentioned that unless you are an animator or artist or designer (or other) who has had your work influenced by anime, don’t mention it. That everyone likes anime and it just makes you sound like all the rest (plus the stigma around otaku in general). I don’t especially agree with this sentiment. Did I mention I like anime and still get accepted? Yes. But I also didn’t spend a whole paragraph on mentioning this. In my introduction, I mentioned that anime was my gateway into being interested in Japan in general. That this interest then pushed me to take courses that eventually landed me on a trip to Japan. For me, anime is a big part of my life and while I don’t have plans to do anything professional related to it, it’s almost impossible for me to talk about my interest in Japan without mentioning anime
Just remember that you only have two pages to work with and you have other WAY more important questions to answer. Anime can be mentioned but that’s really only a miniscule point in the essay. I believe mine was only a 1 sentence mention and it was in the introduction
I hope some of this is helpful for anyone working on their essays