Coto School Finder | Study in Japan

Applying to a Japanese university (daigaku; 大学) as an international student (ryuugakusei; 留学生) can be exciting and daunting all at once. With almost 800 universities in Japan, you may need help figuring out which ones you want to apply to. What do you need to qualify to get into a university in Japan? What are the different types of university? We’re here to help explain the general process as well as some tips to make applications smoother.

Choosing the Right University in japan

The first thing to know is that there are three types of universities: National (kokuritsu 国立), Public (kouritsu 公立), and Private (shiritsu 私立). National and Public universities are managed and funded by the country and the district respectively, and therefore cost lower at a standard rate of 535,800 yen per year, with some additional enrollment and other fees. On the other hand, private universities can cost between 1-2 million yen or more depending on the university and major.

Interestingly, national and public universities are generally regarded as more prestigious than private universities, with greater competition and difficulty in the entrance examination.

Apart from the type of university, location, and price range, you can also narrow down your search by the intake period, courses offered, and the ranking of the university.

The standard intake period of universities in Japan is in April (shigatsu nyuugaku 4月入学), which is why many people in Japan associate the start of a school year with cherry blossoms (sakura 桜). However, recently some universities have also opened some courses with an autumn or summer intake period for students graduating from non-Japanese schools.

Courses are generally categorized into the Arts (bunkei; 文系) and the Sciences (rikei; 理系), and universities may be stronger in one compared to the other. Some universities may even offer special courses completely in English, but in most cases, the entire application and course will take place entirely in Japanese. However, some universities may also offer an additional introductory Japanese program for international students, so make sure to check their websites for more information!

University rankings in Japan differ from how they are commonly ranked internationally, as it is based on how difficult it is to enter a university. This is also known as 偏差値 (hensachi), a number representing how the entrance examination scores of the university’s incoming students compared to that of the national average. A hensachi of 50 means the university is average, 60 means it is about one standard deviation above average, and 40 means it is about one standard deviation lower than average. This can help determine which universities are ‘reach’, ‘match’, or ‘safety’ choices.

Admissions process for a university in Japan

All universities in Japan have a separate admissions process for international students, often referred to as 外国人留学生特別選考 (gaikokujin ryuugakusei tokubetsu senkou). This process usually consists of two steps: 出願 (shutsugan) and 入試試験 (nyuushi shiken).

出願 (shutsugan) means application and involves submitting your application and other requirements such as EJU scores, JLPT scores, and maybe even English proficiency exam scores. 入試試験 (nyuiishi shiken) means entrance examinations, which usually consist of interviews with admissions officers and writing short essays.

This process and the necessary exams and requirements for each exam differ by university and course, so make sure to check the university’s website for the most accurate information!

Requirements and examinations often differ from the general process aimed toward Japanese citizens, to accommodate the differences in standard education curricula across different countries.

1. EJU (nihon ryu-gaku shiken 日本留)

The EJU, short for Examination for Japanese University Admission for International Students, is used to evaluate whether international applicants have the appropriate Japanese language proficiency and academic skills. As it is required in many universities in Japan, taking the EJU will open your opportunities to a broader range of universities.

A lot of international university students started off as Japanese language school students. This is because these schools act as preparatory programs, with curriculums specifically for students who want to take the EJU and JLPT.

At Coto School Finder, we partner with great Japanese language schools. Our goal is to match you with the right program that fits your needs and future plans — including going to higher education in Japan. If you are interested in our free study abroad support, contact us today!

The exam subjects consist of Japanese (nihongo; 日本語), Science (rika; 理科), General Subjects (sougou kamoku; 総合科目), and Mathematics (suugaku 数学). The Science subjects consist of Physics (butsuri; 物理), Chemistry (kagaku; 化学), and Biology (seibutsu; 生物). Generally, Bunkei 文系 applicants are required to take Japanese, General Subjects, and Mathematics Course 1, and Rikei 理系 applicants are required to take Japanese, Mathematics Course 2, and two Sciences.

The exam can be taken in either Japanese or English, except for the Japanese section which is only offered in Japanese.

Universities usually specify the required subjects and language of the exam, so make sure to check the admissions requirements for the specific university and course you are applying to! 

The EJU is administered twice a year in June and November and costs 10,000 yen for a single subject and 18,000 yen for at least 2 subjects. It is also offered in several other countries in Asia, so you may not necessarily have to visit Japan to take the exam.

To prepare for the exam, it is important to practice past papers to be familiar with the content and format of the exam. Official past papers (kakomon; 過去問) and textbooks can be found and purchased online, and you can even find EJU preparation courses to take online or in Japan.

2. JLPT (nihongo nouryoku shiken 日本語能力試)

Many universities also require proof of Japanese ability, which is measured with the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT). It consists of a Vocabulary (goi 語彙), Grammar (bunpou 文法), Reading (dokkai ), and Listening (choukai ) section, and has 5 different levels: N1, N2, N3, N4, and N5, in order of most to least advanced. Universities with JLPT requirements usually require at least an N2 level to apply.

The JLPT is administered twice a year in July and December, in almost 100 countries around the world. It costs 6,500 yen in Japan, but this may differ for other countries. Check out this article on how to register for the JLPT.

Getting to an N2 level will require an upper-intermediate to advanced level of Japanese, which would take a beginner 2200 hours of study with no prior kanji knowledge. An N1 level would take even longer – 3900 hours.

At Coto Academy, we offer online and in-person JLPT preparation courses as well as self-study courses, workbooks, and other resources. Check out our ultimate guide to passing the N1 and N2 exams to learn more about what it takes to ace these levels, and what Coto Academy has to offer you.

3. English proficiency exams

The next common requirement is proof of English proficiency, although this may not be mandatory for all universities and courses. Some universities may prepare their own English examination, but many universities ask applicants to submit scores from exams such as TOEFL, TOEIC, IELTS, and Cambridge ESOL.

If you have a separate certification or graduated from an English-speaking school and are not sure whether you can apply with those, it is always a good idea to contact the admissions office to clarify.

4. Submitting your application (shutsugan 出願)

After taking all the necessary examinations, it’s time to prepare and submit the application.

Most universities will have an online application method available for overseas applicants, but there is no unified platform in Japan for submitting university applications like in some other countries, so applicants will have to apply separately to each university.

This also means that you will have to pay a separate application fee (jukenryou ) for each application, which can cost around 10,000 to even over 30,000 yen each.

Applications will usually require you to submit the following:

  • Application form (shigansho 志願書)
  • Passport-sized photos (shashin 写真)
  • EJU examination voucher (jukenhyou ) or score certificate (seiseki tsu-chisho 成績通知書)
  • High school diploma (sotsugyou shousho 卒業証書) and transcripts (tsu-chihyou 通知表)
  • Scan or copy of valid passport and/or personal ID
  • Personal statement (shibouriyu-sho 志望理由書)
  • Letter of recommendation (suisenjou 推薦)
  • Proof of payment of the application fee

These materials usually need to be in either Japanese or English, and anything in other languages must be translated.

Double and triple-check the university’s admissions information to make sure that your documents meet the requirements!

5. Interview (mensetsu 面接)

Many Japanese universities conduct interviews with international students in Japanese in order to see if the students will be fit for their school. These interviews are usually individual, with one or many interviewers for each applicant. Often, universities will want to also confirm that students have the academic and financial ability to enroll in the university.

Some common questions that are asked are:

Please introduce yourself自己紹介をしてくださいWhy did you choose to come to Japan?
Why did you choose to come to Japan?どうして日本へ来ましたかDoushite nihon e kimashitaka
Why did you choose this university?どうして本校を選びましたかWhat are your plans for the future?
What are your plans for the future?将来の夢は何ですかWhat are your plans for the future?
What are your strengths and weaknesses?長所と短所はなんですか? Chousho to tansho wa nandesuka
What have you put the most effort into until now?今までで一番頑張ったことを教えてくださいIma made de ichiban ganbatta koto wo oshiete kudasai
What are your hobbies?趣味は何ですかShumi wa nandesuka
Who will be paying for your education?学費は誰が負担しますか?Gakuhi wa darega futan shimasuka

If you’re nervous about this or are not sure how to prepare, there are lots of resources online for interview preparation. Prepare answers for commonly asked questions and try to practice with family and friends.

More than anything, don’t forget to say よろしくお願いします (yoroshiku onegaishimasu) and ありがとうございました (arigatougozaimashita)!

6. Getting your results (goukaku happyou 合格)

It’s the end of the process, and you’re waiting for your results. The dates of the release of results are usually written on the admissions information, so make sure to have it marked on your calendar! Depending on the university, results may be uploaded online onto the application website, sent by email, or they may be sent by post to your house.

When you open the results, you will see one of the following:

合格 (goukaku) = Pass

不合格 (fugoukaku) = Fail

We hope everyone is able to see the shining words of 合格 (goukaku), and move on to the next step: enrollment (nyu-gaku ).

Follow the steps on your results page or check the admissions procedure guide for procedures specific to your university. This may include filling out some forms and will definitely include payment of enrollment and other related fees (nyu-gaku shohiyou 諸費用). Make sure to contact the admissions office of your accepted university department if you’re unsure about anything!

When making inquiries, here is a way you can introduce yourself:


Rainen/kotoshi kara 〇〇 gakubu ni nyu-gaku suru ryu-gakusei no (namae) desu. 

I am (name), an international student who will enroll in the School of 〇〇 this year/next year. 


Nyu-gaku tetsuzuki ni tsuite shitsumon ga arimasu.

I have a question about the enrollment procedure.

Scholarships (shougakukin; 奨学金) in japan

Since international students pay the same rate as local students, tuition fees (gakuhi ) in Japan can be relatively low, especially in National and Public universities. In addition to this, there are many government scholarships as well as other public and private scholarships available for international students. These scholarships are usually provided based on the financial situation and academic performance of students.

JASSO (Japan Student Services Organization) is a well-known organization offering different types of scholarships and support services to international students.

Please visit their website to learn more: 


Studying abroad is an amazing opportunity to take an adventure, experience an entirely new culture, and grow as an individual. Choosing Japan will mean lots of preparation with the language and the EJU, as well as understanding the university system and the application process. In the end, it will all be worth it to see the 合格 (goukaku) in your results!

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With so many things to explore, are you considering living in Japan — perhaps to go to university or work? Enrolling at a Japanese language school might be the perfect option for you, as it will prepare you to get to your next goal.

If you are ready, let Coto School Finder assist you in finding the right program in the city of your choice and applying for a student visa — for free! Contact us by filling out the form!

Contact Us to
Get Started

With so many things to explore, are you considering living in Japan — perhaps to go to university or work? Enrolling at a Japanese language school might be the perfect option for you, as it will prepare you to get to your next goal.

If you are ready, let Coto School Finder assist you in finding the right program in the city of your choice and applying for a student visa — for free! Contact us by filling out the form!