This FAQ is intended to assist prospective students and their families to better understand the academics, student experience, and support systems in the American University - Ritsumeikan University Joint Degree Program. 

If you have questions regarding the JDP that are not answered on this page, please email

Key Terms

Joint Degree Program (JDP)
A single degree jointly offered by two schools.
Sakura Scholars
Students in the AU-RU JDP, named for the sakura, or cherry blossom, which is a symbol of the friendship between Japan and DC
AU Home Student
Students who begin the JDP at American University
RU Home Student
Students who begin the JDP at Ritsumeikan University

Admissions and Application

Sakura Scholars begin their studies at either American University (AU) or Ritsumeikan University (RU). Students that start at AU will be referred to as 'AU Home' and students that start at RU will be referred to as 'RU Home.'

  • If you are applying as an AU Home Sakura Scholar, you will need to complete all the regular AU undergraduate application procedures, including the Common Application. Be sure to select "Sakura Scholars" from the Special Academic Programs list in the Common Application and complete the Sakura Scholars application (also called the Letter of Intent) in the Future Eagle Portal.
  • If you are applying as an RU Home Sakura Scholar, you will need to follow the RU Joint Degree Program Application page. Only accepted RU Home Sakura Scholars will be required to complete the Common Application at AU in order to be matriculated as an AU student. 

The JDP is a very competitive program; admission is limited to 25 students per year (inclusive of both AU home and RU home students). Applications are reviewed by a committee of admissions officers from both American University and Ritsumeikan University, and admissions decisions are jointly agreed upon. 

It is possible for students to receive a letter offering admission to the JDP (which means enrollment at both AU and RU), admission to their home institution only (and therefore not admitted to the JDP), or a letter not offering admission.

Admission is based on evidence of excellent personal and academic qualifications. To be considered for admission, an applicant should have earned at least a B average in secondary school. Other factors taken into account are leadership qualities, character, personal interests, and motivation for applying to the joint degree program.

You must:

  • submit a complete application by the application deadline.
  • RU Home applicants must meet the eligibility criteria noted on the RU JDP Admissions Guide page
  • AU Home applicants must meet the eligibility criteria on the AU Admissions page


  • AU home students must graduate from high school before June 30 of the year in which they wish to enroll in the joint degree.
  • Students who attended high school outside of the U.S. or Japan may be required to provide proof of their school's accreditation. 
  • Students for whom English is not their native language must meet minimum English proficiency requirements in order to be admitted to the JDP.

RU Home Students may be required to take part in interviews as part of the formal RU admission process.

Interviews are not required for the AU Home Student application process, but students may indicate their interest in an optional informational interview when completing the AU Sakura Scholars Letter of Intent in the Future Eagle Portal to learn more about the program. 

AU Home students must begin classes at AU in the fall semester (August) and RU Home students must begin classes at RU in the spring semester (April). Applicants who wish to defer their admission will be required to wait until the next academic year to begin the program. Please contact the admissions office of your home university regarding deferral policies for this program.

Japanese language proficiency is not required to be considered for the Sakura Scholars program. Once admitted to the program, non-native speakers of Japanese are required to attain at least intermediate proficiency as a requirement for completion of the BA in Global International Relations.

English is the medium of instruction for the joint degree program, and you must meet certain minimum standards in order to be admitted to the joint degree program.

RU home students should refer to the RU JDP Admission page.

AU home students should refer to the AU International Admissions page.

Unfortunately, no. Due to the nature of the joint enrollment requirements, students must apply for the joint degree program at the time of applying for admission to their home university. You will not be able to apply to be a Sakura Scholar after beginning your studies.

Applicants to the JDP as AU Home Students are eligible to apply through Early Decision I, Early Decision II or Regular Decision. You must complete both the Common Application AND the Sakura Scholars Letter of Intent in the Future Eagle Portal by the application deadline to be considered. Students will receive the decision about admission to the JDP at the same time as admission to AU.

AU Early Decision

Applicants who request Early Decision may receive a decision letter offering admission to the JDP (enrollment in both AU and RU), admission to AU only (and therefore not admitted to the JDP), or a letter not offering admission.

Joint Degree Academic Program

All students in the JDP will be completing the BA in Global International Relations, which is jointly offered through coursework at AU and at RU. 

Much of international relations traditionally taught in schools features writers and theories that focus on ideas of how the world works from the perspective of core countries, sometimes referred to as "the West and the Rest." Global International Relations is an approach that encompasses voices, experiences, and theory from a truly multicultural, multiregional, global perspective.

Sakura Scholars will not only study Global IR theory from multiple perspectives, they will live it through the two-year immersion in the cultural and academic experience at each school. 

Students in the joint degree will follow a very focused path of study as they complete the Bachelor of Arts in Global International Relations. They will complete coursework in:

  • The AU Core curriculum which has been specialized for Sakura Scholars
  • Foundation courses in international relations theory, economics, and intercultural communication
  • Thematic Areas (students will take gateway courses in all three areas listed below and upper level coursework to specialize in one of these three areas:
    • Peace, Global Security, and Conflict Resolution (PGSCR)
    • Identity, Race, Gender, and Culture (IRGC)
    • Global and Comparative Governance (GCG)
  • Regional specialization in East Asia and the Pacific
  • Intermediate Japanese language proficiency (for non-native speakers)
  • Research Methodology
  • Capstone

The joint degree requires students to follow a strict academic path in order to take required courses in sequence. Sakura Scholars will take classes as a full-time student (12-17.5 credits per semester) both at AU and while at RU. Similar courses will be offered at AU and RU in order to meet degree requirements. Students can reference this list of courses, however, please note that available courses may be subject to change.

The joint degree program represents a close collaboration between American University and Ritsumeikan University to ensure that the courses a student completes for the BA in Global International Relations are accredited at both schools and in the United States and Japan. With careful guidance from the advising teams at both schools, students will complete the degree requirements. Sakura Scholars will spend half of the credits for the JDP at each school, gaining a global perspective while studying international relations theory.

In order to complete the BA in Global International Relations, Sakura Scholars must complete 124 credits with 63 credits taken at AU and 61 credits taken at RU. This credit balance is important for accreditation purposes and must be closely adhered to. Students will work closely with academic advisors at both AU and RU to maintain this credit balance.

Students who have completed credits at other institutions will have the credits reviewed by the academic advising office and transfer credits accepted by AU will be recorded on the AU transcript. Due to the nature of the joint degree program, a limited number of credits in specific topics may be applied towards requirements for the BA in Global International Relations. Students with transfer credits will be contacted by academic advising prior to beginning studies at AU.

Students may be eligible to receive credit and fulfill joint degree requirements for the following exams:

  • AP Capstone Diploma Program
  • AP English Language and Composition
  • AP Macroeconomics
  • AP Microeconomics
  • IB Economics
  • IB English A: Language and Literature

Other exams will not be considered to fulfill degree requirements.

In the JDP, students follow a strict sequence of classes and must balance the number of credits completed for the degree equally between AU and RU. Due to these requirements, Sakura Scholars may be able to participate in University College or complete a minor with careful and early planning. Sakura Scholars are not able to do a second major in addition to the BA in Global IR (i.e. students are not able to double-major) or study a language other than Japanese. Sakura Scholars are not able to participate in the University Honors Program, Community Based Research Scholars, Global Scholars, or other study abroad or semester abroad programs.

Students are encouraged to contact their AU academic advisor or JDP program coordinator for with any questions about special programs and compatibility with the JDP academic schedule. 

The AU Home Student Experience

As an AU Home Student, you'll have a virtual orientation in the summer prior to starting at AU and meet with program staff and advisors during Welcome Week orientation. You'll begin at American University in the fall semester and spend your freshman year at AU. You'll then transition to Ritsumeikan University and spend your sophomore and junior years there. In your senior year, you'll return to AU to complete your degree requirements and graduate with a BA in Global International Relations.

There will be additional orientations and informational meetings before each transition to make sure you are ready to begin the next stage of the degree.

At both AU and RU, there are breaks between the semesters, which can be used to travel and explore. The AU academic year begins in the fall, running from late August to mid-December, and the spring semester runs from mid-January to mid-May. Students will arrive at RU in early September for orientations and the fall semester runs from late September to late January. The RU academic year actually starts with the spring semester, which starts in early April and classes end in late July. 

Sakura Scholars will have dedicated advising teams to support you during both your time at AU and RU.

Most AU first-year students have a first-year advisor, and then transition to their advisors for their major in their second year. However, due to the special nature of the program, Sakura Scholars will work with their SIS academic advisor right from the beginning, and throughout their time on the program. Your advisor will reach out to you in the summer prior to starting at AU to plan your first semester schedule. Additionally, during your first semester at AU, you will be taking a class called The American University Experience I or AUx1 (CORE-100). Your instructor for this class will be your SIS academic advisor, so you will connect with your advisor and other Sakura Scholars weekly throughout your first semester.

You will also meet with your advisor to plan classes each semester to make sure you are on track for completion of the degree and can set up a 4-year plan. While in Japan, you can schedule phone or video call advising sessions with your SIS advisor. You will also have access to the RU joint degree program advisors for selecting courses at Ritsumeikan, navigating the course registration system, and assisting you with any questions or concerns you have with life at RU.

In addition to your academic advisor, there are a number of resources available to you including the international program coordinator, staff at the Academic Support and Access Center, Student Health Center, Counseling Center, and more. We are here to help you have a successful academic experience and help you to navigate the requirements of the joint degree and university life.

You will be an enrolled student both at AU and RU, so you will have full access to take part in any campus activities or student clubs at AU or at RU, play sports, or run for student government.

You should also take the time to explore the cities where you will be living and studying. Washington, D.C. is the U.S. capital with access to myriad galleries and museums (many of them free!), headquarters of organizations, and government buildings. Your Metro U-Pass will give you unlimited rides on Metro trains and buses during the semesters in D.C., a great opportunity to get out and see the city.

Kyoto is the former capital of Japan with numerous UNESCO World Heritage sites, traditional shrines and temples side by side with modern businesses and organizations. Japan has an excellent public transportation system, allowing students to access different parts of Kyoto or visiting other parts of Japan during school breaks. 

You will pay AU tuition all four years of the program, both during the time you're at AU and the time you're at RU. There is no program fee for participation in the Sakura Scholars.

During the time that you're studying at AU, you will pay all the standard AU undergraduate mandatory fees as well. If you are living in the AU residence halls and have a mealplan, these will also be paid through your AU student portal.

While at Ritsumeikan University, you will be exempted from certain AU fees related to on-campus AU resources you won't have access to (such as the AU sports centers, AU student activities, and the DC Metro pass), but other fees will still apply (the AU technology fee and an international travel insurance fee). You will be responsible for any mandatory fees at Ritsumeikan (such as student activity fees, student assocation fees, Japanese national health insurance). If you stay in RU housing, you will pay those fees directly to Ritsumeikan University. It should also be noted that you are responsible for your own airfare to and from Japan.

If you have a financial aid package, this will be available to you both while at American University and while at Ritsumeikan University, with the exception of Federal Work Study. Students who have FWS as part of your financial aid package will not be able to use this while in Japan as there are no federal work study eligible jobs at RU. The AU Financial Aid Office will work with you prior to your departure to convert your FWS to another type of financial aid during your two years in Japan. You can apply for FWS to be reinstated when you return to AU for your fourth year.

Understanding the cost of living and budgeting for college is important. Both American University and Ritsumeikan University are located in large cities, which can have higher costs of living. Of course cost of living is also partially dependent on personal choices, such as housing, food, and leisure activities.

American University is located in Washington, D.C. You can use the Net Price Calculator to understand the average semester costs for attending American University.

Ritsumeikan University is located in Kyoto, Japan. You can view the estimated cost of living sheet to get a sense of common monthly expenditures in Japan.

At American University, Sakura Scholars will have guaranteed access to university housing during their first year as long as they meet the housing application deadlines. It is not mandatory to live on campus, but it is strongly encouraged to gain the full student experience. 

Sakura Scholars do not have a Living Learning Community (LLC) like some other AU programs. Sakura Scholars will be sharing numerous classes together as well as the transition to Japan, so we hope students can experience the diversity that AU has to offer by living in the general student population. 

When students transition to Ritsumeikan University for their second and third years, Sakura Scholars will be living in one of the International House dormitories. These dorms are within 20-30 minutes walk from campus. They house international students, Japanese students who are Resident Mentors, and house managers.

After returning from Japan, Sakura Scholars can apply for housing at American University for their senior year or they may choose to live off-campus.

The RU Home Student Experience

As an RU Home Student, you'll begin at Ritsumeikan University in the spring semester, and spend the fall and the next spring there as well, for a total of three semesters. You'll then transition to American University in the fall of your second year, and then spend your third year and fall semester of your fourth year at AU. You will return to Ritsumeikan for your final semester to complete your degree requirements and graduate with a BA in Global International Relations at the RU graduation ceremony in March.

At both AU and RU, there are breaks between the semesters, which can be used to travel and explore. The RU academic year begins in the spring, which starts in early April and spring semester classes end in late July or early August. The fall semester begins in late September and classes end in late January or early February. After your third semester at RU (spring), you'll finish classes in late July, and then arrive at American University in mid/late August for orientation and Welcome Week before the beginning of the fall semester in late August. The fall semester then ends in mid-December. The AU spring semester runs from mid-January to mid-May.

Ritsumeikan University has a team of faculty advisors who will be teaching courses for the joint degree program and also guide students through completion of the joint degree program. Academic Guidebooks will be provided to students which will help lay out all of courses and important information you need to complete your degree. 

Students will also have advising resources at AU through the SIS Office of Undergraduate Advising. You and your advisors at both AU and RU will be in regular communication to ensure you are on track to meet degree requirements.

You will be an enrolled student both at AU and RU, so you will have full access to take part in any campus activities or student clubs at AU or at RU, play sports, or run for student government.

With access to hundreds of club activities at RU, students are bound to find extracurricular activities that they will enjoy and help connect them to their school and other students. A club fair typically takes place at the beginning of the academic year, and the International Center can help students connect to student activities.

Students are living in Kyoto, Japan a hub of culture with 17 UNESCO World Heritage sites and access to shopping, entertainment, and more.

As an RU Home student, you will pay RU tuition while at Ritsumeikan University and AU tuition during the semesters you are at American University. Ritsumeikan University offers scholarships to RU Home Students, and American University offers a tuition discount to RU Home Students who maintain a minimum 3.0 GPA on AU's grading scale. 

RU provides an estimated cost of living expenses in Japan on its website. This is a useful guide to see approximately what students spend in yen each month. 

AU International Student and Scholar Services provides a cost guide for undergraduate programs each academic year. It breaks down individual costs with detailed descriptions and also includes a planning worksheet.

While at RU, JDP students will have access to typical RU housing options.

While at AU, the students are guaranteed housing for their two years on campus. Students will submit a housing application in the AU student housing portal. As RU Home Sakura Scholars will enter AU as second-year students, they will have access to the housing is typically reserved for students with sophomore standing in AU's East Campus residence halls, Cassell Hall, Hughes Hall, or McDowell Hall.  Each residence hall or room type may have different costs associated with it. Most housing at American University consists of double or triple occupancy dormitory rooms. Students who know others coming to AU can make a request to share a dorm room with another specific individual, otherwise, students will be assigned a roommate based on the preferences they list in the housing application.

Internships and Career Development

Students are eligible to register for-credit internships for between 1-6 credits. AU Home Students will be eligible to participate in an internship in the DC area when they return to AU in their fourth year. RU Home Students who are in the U.S. on a student visa will be eligible to participate in an internship in the DC area in their third year.

The SIS Office of Career Development is available to support Sakura Scholars with an interest in international-related internships or job searches. Career advisors can assist students with reviewing internship opportunities, creating a CV/resume for the U.S. job market, helping to prepare for a job interview, and provide professional development advice. It's easy to schedule an appointment or meet with advisors during drop-in career advising in the SIS Building Atrium.

Additionally, the AU Career Center is open to all students and can provide similar resources. The AU Career Center manages Handshake, an online tool for current AU students and alumni to job search and apply for positions, as well as the AU Job & Internship Fair which takes place each fall and spring.

Students are eligible to complete for-credit internships while at RU, for 2 credits. Often, internships in Japan require students to have at least a high-intermediate level of Japanese languge proficiency to be at least conversationally fluent, but requirements will vary. 

Students should consult with the RU College of International Relations advising staff and RU International Center to ensure that they are following guidelines for properly registering internships. Students will have access to the RU Career Center including orientation for new students, general career guidance, and one-on-one counseling sessions.