I didn’t have the luxury of having tons of school reviews to look through before choosing one, so I had to base most on my instincts. And when I had doubts about schools that I looked through, I decided to go with the school which my friend attended some 2 years before and has one solitary review on an independent site.
You should never fully believe the testimonials written on the school sites. They may or may not be real and they would most likely have been filtered. So try to find independent reviews, especially student blogs or forums.
If you find the site content a little weird, then you may want to look elsewhere. I found a school that publicised on the physical appearances of their teachers. The site read, “all our teachers are good-looking”. I don’t see the value of it. I am heading there for studies. Not for some eyecandy although that could be a plus. But if you’re not bragging about how good your teachers are in their field, I’m not sure if that’s the school I want to be enrolled in.
If you have an idea where in japan you’d like to be living in, then great for you. This website, segregates language schools by their locations, so you can just click onto the links and find out what schools are in the region you are targeting.
If you have been attending japanese language classes in your country under native Japanese teachers, that’s wonderful. Find a school you like and ask their opinion. Mostly on whether the school is reliable. Some could be famous within Japan. If they’ve never heard of it, try looking online. If not, you can either change schools or give it a shot and do the public some good by writing a review on them.
Another major thing to consider is whether the region you’re settling in gives you chance to practise your language skills. Regions too far up north or some areas down south have their own dialects which may be starkly different from the standard Japanese you are learning, especially the Okinawan dialect where even Japanese from other prefectures can’t recognise its Japanese-ness.
Other things you have to consider are reasonably intuitive. Duration, level and price. Some schools offer courses ranging from 1 week to 2 years. However, there are also others that require a minimum study period of a year. So if you’re looking to study for only 3 or 6 months, look for those that offer short-term courses.
Not every school offers elementary to upper advanced levels. Some only have up to intermediate levels. a friend of mine was studying in sapporo and I was really keen to take up classes there as well. But I found out that the school only offers up to intermediate levels for short-term studies. Only long-term classes have advanced levels.
And of course, you have to check your budget, especially if you’re self-sponsored. We don’t really bother that much if our parents are paying, do we? But if you find the pricing too cheap to be true, better be safe than sorry. I found a school offering 50% off the price of most other schools but I couldn’t find any reviews on it so I decided to play safe by opting for a more well-reviewed one.
Last, but not the least, visa. A friend of mine is heading to Tokyo for her studies and according to her, the school only applies visa for them for as long as they intend to study. Depending on where you are from, you may or may not require visa for 3 months of studies. She applied for a 6-month course and I was told that she would only be getting a 6-month visa. The school I’m heading to in Aichi gave me 15-months student visa even though I only applied for a 6-month study period. This means that if I were to extend my studies, I wouldn’t have to do visa runs.