How to Get into a Japanese University

Exams and Processes of Entering Japanese Universities

How to Get into a Japanese University

There are many reasons people come to live in Japan. Some people come to experience the unique culture while others come in search of a job opportunity.

Another of the main reasons is to study at a Japanese university.

Japan offers several different types of post-high school education, and many of the institutions that provide these kinds of education have special programs or entrance exams to make them more accessible for foreign applicants.

In this article, I will show you what are these post-high school education institutions as well as what kind of programs and entrance exams they offer for foreign students.

In other words, I will introduce to you different ways hot to get into a Japanese university.

*Note: In this article, we will mostly discuss the system of a regular 4-year university.

Why study in Japan?

tokyo tower image

There are various reasons that make Japan a popular place to study.

First, there’s the aspect of the environment. It is said that there are over 220,000 international students from over 170 countries studying in Japan. This makes it a good place to get to know people from all around the world which helps to expand your worldview.

Another reason many people like to study in Japan is to learn about Japanese culture and to find an opportunity to get into a Japanese company to work. Japanese companies are famous for having good services and good business manners, so many people are interested in learning these company cultures to take back to their home countries.

Another attractive point is that you will be able to visit some of the best tourist spots during weekends and vacations. You can also get to experience the unique cultural aspect of Japan such as the different events that come with every season.

It is also a big plus that Japan is one of the safest countries to live in in the world.

*According to a survey, 92% of foreigners who come to study in Japan said that they are satisfied with the experience of studying in Japan.

Educational System in Japan

attending university class

Now, let me explain how the education system works in Japan.

In Japan, in general, there are 6 years of elementary school followed by 3 years of middle school (lower secondary school) and 3 years of high school (upper secondary school). After these 12 years of education is when post-high school education starts.

As I previously stated, there are various types of institutions where you can get various types of degrees. The following are some of the types of post-high school education in Japan.

  • University (大学): Generally 4 years (6 years depending on the faculty) of study to get a bachelor’s degree.
  • Master’s Program (修士課程): Generally 2 years of study to get a Master’s degree.
  • Doctoral Program (博士課程): Generally 5 years of study to get a Doctoral degree.
  • Junior College (短期大学): Generally 2 to 3 years of study to get an Associate degree.
  • Professional training college (専修学校・専門学校): Generally 2 to 3 years of study to get a diploma or 4 years of study to get an Advance diploma.

There are actually more types of post-high school education institutions, but these shown above are the main ones. You can also divide these entities into National Universities, Public Universities, and Private Universities.

Ways of getting into a Japanese university

youg student

There are several ways you can apply to a Japanese university.

Japanese Government Scholarships (国費外国人留学生制度)

First, there are the Japanese Government Scholarships that you can apply to. These scholarships are conducted through Japanese embassies, consulates in your home countries, or universities in Japan.

As you might guess, these scholarships are limited in numbers compared to the spots available for private expense international students.

For more information, check with Japanese embassies or consulates in your country. You can also ask the university you’re thinking of applying to.

Depending on the university, there are cases where you can first apply as a private expense international student but can get a scholarship due to your grades. You will need to ask the university if they have such type of system.

Private expense international students (私費外国人留学生)

This will be how most people will apply to a Japanese university. Major Japanese universities will mostly have a certain amount of spots reserved especially for foreign students.

Depending on the university, the requisites and required documents for applying vary, and even the entrance exams can be very different. I will explain this later on.

Also, there are some universities that have “English-taught Degree Programs” where classes are all taught in English rather than Japanese.

The process of entering a Japanese University

reviewing documents

From here, I will explain how the process of entering a Japanese university works. This process may differ depending on the university or faculty that you’ll apply to. But in most cases, it works as follows.

1. Send the application form:

  • Payment of the entrance exam
  • Submit the necessary documents (I will touch on the details later in this article)

2. Take the test:

This might be done in a single day, or in some cases, it might be done in 2 or 3 steps.

3. Confirm their acceptance/rejection

4. Entrance Procedures:

  • Payment of the fees
  • Submit the necessary forms

Required documents and requisites

filling in documents

Requisites for applying to a Japanese university will vary depending on the institution.

However, in many cases, you need to have completed or be expected to complete 12 years or more of formal education in schools accredited by the institution or an entity that the university has mentioned. Either this or you will need to be recognized individually by the university as having qualifications equivalent to this.

In some cases, the university will ask for you to submit your scores for SAT, ACT, or other similar tests.

Some universities will also ask for one or several letters of recommendation.

Japanese University Entrance Exams

taking a test

Here is where things can vary the most depending on the university you’re applying to.

Japanese university entrance exams can consist of several or all of the following; standardized exams, screening of the documents, interviews, oral examinations, short essays, practical exams, and written examinations.

Standardized Exams:

In the case of standardized exams, the most commonly required are the following.

  • EJU: “Examination for Japanese University Admission for International Students”. This test serves to evaluate the Japanese language proficiency and the basic academic abilities of international students.
  • JLPT: “Japanese Language Proficiency Test”. This test is also used for evaluating and certifying the Japanese proficiency of non-native speakers.

*Some universities will have a required minimum score while others won’t.

Also, universities that offer English-taught Degree Programs will ask you to submit your scores for TOEFL, TOEIC, or other similar tests. Some universities will have a required minimum score while others won’t.

Screening of the documents:

Practically all universities will indicate that you need to submit a variety of documents when you first apply for the entrance exams. This is done to be sure that you are eligible for taking the exam. Some of the documents that they will ask you to submit include your passport, high school diploma, medical examination results, and letter of recommendation.

Here is also when you need to submit the score of your standardized exams and/or English exams.

Interview / Oral examination:

In most cases, an interview will be part of the entrance exam of Japanese universities. In some cases, instead of an interview, the entrance exam might be an oral examination such as a presentation.


Along with interviews, short essay is another very common entrance exam. This is to check not only your knowledge of the Japanese language but also your interest and knowledge of a particular theme.

Practical exam / Written examination:

This is the most straightforward type of entrance exam. Depending on the university or faculty you’re applying to, the subject may widely differ. From Japanese or English language to math, science, or other specialized subjects.

Other details

student group walking

Visa status

One of the most important things you need to do before you can come and study in Japan is to get a visa.

Be careful about the type of visa you get, since there are various types and not all are valid for studying at a Japanese university. The most common status is “college student status of residence”.

There are others such as a “diplomatic status”, “official status”, and “dependent status” which can also be valid. However, be sure to check with the university beforehand to be sure about this.

Other things to do in order to live in Japan

Also, although not specifically for entering a Japanese university, the following are other important things you need to take into account when living in Japan.

  • Find a place to live (dormitory, apartment, etc.)
  • Register at the city hall
  • Open a bank account

I hope this article was helpful for you.

Let me remind you that all the information that I have provided in this article is general and may vary depending on the institution or faculty you’re planning on applying to. Be sure to contact and ask the institution of your interest directly about the requisites and how to apply to be completely sure.

For more information regarding studying or living in Japan, be sure to check out our other articles!

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Written by

Born and raised in Costa Rica, I started living in Tokyo from college. I love traveling within Japan & around the world. Since I wasn’t born in Japan, I know the cultural impact that you can get when visiting Japan for the first time and what you might be worried about before your trip. And I’ve lived long enough to somewhat understand the nuances of the Japanese culture that make this country such an attractive place to visit. Hopefully I can provide to you both the information you’re looking for and the information you didn’t know you needed to know.