Hi everyone! It's the middle of May, and I thought I'd reach out to all of you. I know that you're probably on tenterhooks waiting for a call or email or SOMETHING that will let you know what you're doing for the year ahead! Truth be told, even though it probably FEELS like a lot of time has gone by, it really hasn't. We haven't even been told about JET placements yet! Meanwhile, though, I know this is rough for all of you, and I want to offer my own insights and suggestions.
There WILL still be JET upgrades throughout the summer and into the fall and winter (there were even a few in early 2012 this year!). But if you do nothing except keep waiting... and waiting... and waiting for something that may not happen, then you'll only end up wasting your time and becoming depressed. Keep reminding yourself that to have made it as an alternate means that you WERE accepted, but there were insufficient spots available to include you into the initial short list. The reviewing and interviewing panels felt that you had the qualities and abilities to make you a good JET, so don't allow yourselves to feel like you weren't good enough. That won't help anything, and it would just be a waste of time and create unnecessary bad energy.
So, here are my recommendations (because I do care about you all and I don't want you stewing in a pile of negativity!):
1. Fold a piece of paper in half and make two lists. The list on the left is the things you would be doing right now if you WERE on the JET short list (or if you had been upgraded at this point). On the right, make a list of things you'd be doing if you had been rejected.
2. My advice is to go back and forth between the two lists and pick certain things. Did you have "study Japanese" on your list on the left? Then make a schedule and a plan for studying Japanese every week. Did you have "look for other jobs" on your list on the right? Then look for other jobs. The goal is to keep moving and to keep being productive. Looking for another job doesn't mean you're giving up on JET. And if you start to carry out some of the goals you had in mind if you WERE accepted, then you'll be prepared in case an upgrade happens.
3. Set goals and targets for yourself. When is the latest you're willing to remain on the alternate list? For JET's purposes, it's best for us to have you on there for as long as possible, but that may not be the best plan for you. Keep in mind that it is true that the longer you remain on the waiting list, the better your chances would be for getting an upgrade, but it may not be healthy for you mentally. Make the decision - are you going to wait until JET tells you that there will no longer be upgrades, or are you going to set a date (or a circumstance) after which you will ask to be removed from the list? Even if you decide that you're going to wait until the last possible moment - which is completely fine - you're giving yourselves a sense of power because you are the one making the choice to be on that list.
4. Start thinking about next year. I'm shocked at how few alternates I see reapply the next year. I think that they forget about the application date and deadline because they know they're already on a waiting list. Let this be one of your contingency plans - don't forget to consider reapplying.
5. If you do decide to reapply next year, be smart amount it. You remember what a crazy mad dash it was to get all of your documentation in on time? Well, now you're more experienced. You know what the application looks like, and you know what sorts of things are asked in the interview. Don't waste that knowledge. If you decide that you will be reapplying next year (and yes, you can stay on the alternate list AND reapply for the next year), then take advantage of your summer and start planning for it now. Whatever you do, do not stay stagnant. If we see you again next year, we want to see what's different about you. How have you grown and changed over the course of the year? Have you started making plans towards accomplishing the goals you put in last year's application? If you use the same reference writers, let them know what is new with you. Be on top of the situation and give them loads of time to get new letters ready. Reference writers like to reuse their old letters (especially when rushed), but that means they could still be referring to you as a student even after you graduated and they may not even change the date of the letter. Give them new fodder to use for their letters. For example, I recommend giving them a copy of your new statement of purpose so they know how passionate you are about this program.
6. Don't allow yourself to get depressed or give in to self-doubt. If you decide now that you are absolutely going to be reapplying for JET next year if you are not upgraded, then you should fully embrace the idea. There's no question of "if" or "but" - it's just a question of how and when.
My final note is not to take this message as a sign that it's all over for this year. It's not! There's still plenty of time left and, again, there will still be upgrades made. I'm only writing to you now because I know that this is around the time when the concept of not getting upgraded is really starting to sink in and there could be some depression and desperation. Don't give in to that emotion, but balance your hope of an upgrade with the reality that it might not happen. Imagine as if you were on a crazy seesaw of emotion; if you move from the furthest end and into the center, you can find your equilibrium much more easily. That comes by taking charge of the situation and deciding for yourselves what you are going to do. That does NOT mean you should turn around and withdraw from the waiting list (I'd get in trouble if MOFA or CLAIR thought I was encouraging alternates to do that!!!) but rather it just means facing what might or might not happen and making some basic contingency plans. The last thing I would want to see is a group of really qualified and capable people who develop bitter feelings towards JET because they spent their entire summer simply waiting for someone else to make a decision that would impact the next year of their lives. Be proactive, be active, take control of the situation, and keep moving forward... even while waiting