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College Recommendations in Japan?

Toastiee

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Hello! I'm a bit curious about colleges in Japan, and which ones would be most suitable for what I offer and what I want to learn.

For some background, I'm an American with a 4.01 GPA weighted ( A-B student, with a few Advanced Placement/Honors courses. This is on a 5.0 scale, if not clear before) with ~1450 total on the SATs. I have experience in several academic clubs (i.e. Debate, Student Council, Model United Nations) and I played in my school's Tennis team for two years. Without a doubt, my passion is in the liberal arts ( history, government, etc. ) and I intend to study in that field.

I am also a dual national (as of present, I have not renounced any citizenship yet) of both the United States and Japan. I'm not sure what exactly this means in regards to admissions and enrollment, but I feel like I should say this beforehand. My Japanese is certainly not perfect (my kanji and vocabulary pool is somewhat weak, as to be expected from someone who has never lived in Japan) but I'm fairly confident that I know enough to get around, and if that's not the case, I'm a quick learner.

I'm making this post because I'm curious as to what Japanese universities do people think I would be able to apply to, which ones would be the best suited for me, and which ones would offer the best experience for my qualifications and intentions. Preferably, I would like to go to a college in the Kanto region since I have family there, but I am open to suggestions. I have already heard of some of the major universities like the University of Tokyo, Meiji University and Waseda University, but I haven't looked into them. Would someone with my qualifications even stand a chance in admissions? Are there much better options on the table?

I also feel like I should put a disclaimer at the end of this. I am well aware that there are probably many more options open in the United States, and I am not saying that I believe all Japanese Universities are inherently better than those in the US. I'm just very interested in the prospect of studying in Japan and learning about Japanese culture.
 

Buntaro

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Hi Toastiee and welcome to the forum.

Regarding your studying at a top university in Japan, there are two possibilities.

Quite frankly, I think you don’t have a chance to get admitted to a program in Japan that provides instruction in Japanese to native speakers of Japanese. The admission exams are extremely difficult. Many Japanese high school students spend years going to special after-school ‘cram schools’ to prepare for the tests. You would be competing against these students and I think you would find the competition harsh. (Believe it or not, I do not think you could even pass the English language part of the tests, mostly because the English tests are for ‘Japanglish’ not ‘English’. )

Second option: You could study at a program that is taught in English and is meant for western students like yourself, who speak English fluently. Several top universities in Japan have such programs. The first one that comes to mind is Sophia University a top-notch university in Tokyo. Here are some videos about their programs. (Note that the man in the third video is not happy at Sophia University.)

(By the way, I am not connected with Sophia University in any way, I am just familiar with their International Studies program. I used to teach at an English language ‘community college’ near Sophia University.)










 

johnnyG

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Look at ICU in Mitaka (west tokyo). Lots of foreignness there, and I think they have a special entrance policy/track for applicants from overseas (also reduced costs). Actually, other schools, probably incl sophia, often have a separate entrance track for foreign students.

 

shhlyn

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I'm actually in the same situation as you, looking to apply to japanese and american colleges as a dual citizen. So far, I applied to Waseda SILS, Sophia FLA, and ICU, all for September 2021 admission. All three of these universities have an english based program, but if you're looking to go to the school in the city, I would recommend either Sophia or Waseda. Waseda has the highest number of foreign students and they have more english based programs outside of SILS such as TAISI, SSS, etc. This can all be found on their website. I have a friend that goes to Waseda TAISI program, and I know that her sat score was below yours. I'm not sure about what her gpa was on a 5.0 scale, but she was pretty smart. (At TAISI, you interact with Japanese students more than you would at SILS).
Anyways, coming from a fellow applicant perspective, I think you have a very high chance at getting into Waseda, Sophia and ICU (making Waseda your target and Sophia and ICU as your safeties). If you're planning on applying for September 2021 admission, I would get started on Sophia and ICU asap, since you have to get some of the materials at their University by the deadline ( which is coming up really soon).
Another university you could look at if you're looking for schools with strong english programs would be Keio GIGA program, or maybe even the PEARL program. The giga program is specifically for international students, but the PEARL program is open to anyone ( economics based).

Also you mentioned you were in several clubs... As far as I know, I think only Waseda University only takes your extracurriculars in account ( and you need to prove them too by having your advisor/ manager sign the form and upload it lol), and the rest look at your grades and SAT scores.
 

lunatuna

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Hi! I'm a senior in high school and our profiles actually have a lot of parallels so you're in luck. We both performed well in high school– for the Japanese colleges, these stats will arguably put you at a much higher advantage compared to American colleges. You have to go to a school outside of Japan for 12 years to apply, but if that's not the case for you, be aware that there are exception to this condition. I would just directly contact their admissions to clarify that part. I chose to apply to both American and Japanese colleges, just in case, but I am planning on going to International Christian University in Mitaka (which is actually right next to Tokyo). I applied for an English-language based degree, which I highly suggest based on your language background and your profile. This factor actually changes a lot of things because going for a Japanese-based degree while living outside of country is insanely difficult. For an English-language based degree, it's significantly easier. As a side note: based on your academic profile as well, I would only apply to the best name universities because you have an amazing profile in admissions and it puts you at a higher advantage for grad school and getting hired.

If you aim to learn in college with parallels to American colleges, I would choose ICU mainly because its curriculum is more rigorous compared to Waseda, Keio, etc. Just like you, I prioritized going to a liberal arts college and ICU essentially is an American liberal arts college fitted to be in Japan. Public schools don't have a lot of programs, like how UTokyo only has Japan studies and EnviSci. I don't know much about the public schools, but Waseda, Keio, Sophia, etc.'s English-based curriculums are subpar and receive a lot of criticism for being not rigorous enough. Also, financial aid-wise, none of them offer scholarships besides ICU.

Also, I plan on going to graduate school in either Europe and the US, so my goal is to actually learn from a degree rather than just getting one to check off a box. If you don't plan on going to grad school/extend your studies and plan on diving into a career after getting a BA, Waseda, Keio, Sophia, UTokyo, and Kyoto U have good brand names for finding jobs at big-name companies. I know that Sophia has a close connection with United Nations, and Waseda has a dual degree program with Sciences Po in Paris. There's probably more opportunities that I don't know of as right now. But ICU also has an amazing brand name for global companies for its status as a bilingual college. So, it's more of a matter with how rigorous of a curriculum you want to go into, what school environment you'd want to be in, and what you plan on doing after undergrad. The name brand for a lot of these schools are stellar.

Personally, I think it's an amazing idea to go this route. I don't have enough money in my college fund, don't qualify for FAFSA, and aim to go to grad school, so my dream colleges (Vassar, Columbia University, etc.) were off of the table. You get a top notch degree from Japan for a LOT cheaper compared to an American one, and can push you for great grad schools and great careers. A common path that I see is that people get these degrees, then work at great global companies (United Nations, Goldman Sachs, etc.). I am Japanese but raised in America and I know that I probably won't come in contact w/ another opportunity to live in Japan for four years without the risks of changing careers/doing it not young enough. I hope that this helps! I know how tough it can be, so don't be afraid to ask more questions or reach out.
 
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