The recommendation letters can either be one of the easiest steps, or one of the hardest ones. And I almost all depends on yourself.
You need 2 recommendation letters. If you have ever worked, one should be academic and the other one professional. If you have never worked, two academic letters.
The academic letters should be signed by the dean of the University or your academic director.
The professional letter one should be signed by your supervisor.
They are not just any recommendation letter, there is a MEXT form for this too. If you have already seen it, you know it consists of much more that just “I recommend J.I. Joe for the scholarship” part.
Both letters have tricks on them, and they depend on how much effort you put before requesting them.
By effort, I mean creating rapport.
In many occasion, a professional recommendation letter is the one that terrorizes the candidates the most. “How am I going to tell my boss I want to leave? He’ll fire me!”
Well… yes, if you out of the blank ask him for a letter to help you go to Japan, yes, it is very likely that scaring him like that will make him go mental.
That is why you should build rapport beforehand. It is something that takes time. Not a week or a month.
First of all, find out what your boss thinks about postgraduate studies. If your immediate supervisor is, sadly, one of those people that think that studying is a waste of time, then go one step further to his supervisor. You need to find someone that is directly related to your line of work and that is a good leader. A person that enjoys watching people grow and be successful. You should create a bond with that person. Talk to them, ask for their opinion, and more importantly, DO A GOOD JOB.
When the time comes to ask for the letter, he will most likely be very glad to write it.
The academic letter is not very different from the professional one.It doesn’t matter if you finished school 7 years ago, or if you are a recent graduate. In my case, my best friend was my academic coordinator, who was also one of my professors.
I visited him several times. The first one was just to tell him about my plans and ask for his opinion, recommendations and know about his own experience in postgraduate studies.
Visit that person 3 o 4 times a year, just to talk.
You can ask him to read your study plan and give you his impressión.
So that when the time comes to ask for the letter.
When the time comes, tell him about the requirements for the letters, and who you are being asked to get it signed by.
The dean is in much cases someone comepletely out of reach, but the academic director is much much doable, and, if you selected your contact carefully, is most likely under the supervision of said academic director.
That your contact person write the letter and let the director sign it.
That both of them could write it together
Even to let you write it and let the director modify it.
THINK, don’t let this be a problem to be solved by your contact person.
You need to request both letters with enough time. Consider they are busy people. Consider that even though it is YOUR priority, for them it will most likely not be. Also consider the possibility of going to pick your letter up, and they totally forgot about it. Don’t get mad.
Also, if they don’t speak English, let them write them in Spanish and you make a translation.
Once you have your letters, don’t be ungrateful and just dissapear off the face of the Earth.
Keep them updated on the process. Give them a little present in gratitude without regard to if you got the scholarship or not. You might need another letter the following year… or the next T___T