Information For: Applicants
+ Application Tips
New: Tips for strengthening your application:
Looking for tips on making a strong application? The CLS Program has a number of tools and resources that can help strengthen your application!
+ Eligibility Requirements
2013 CLS Program Eligibility Requirements:
- All applicants must be U.S. citizens.*
- Applicants must be currently enrolled in a U.S. degree-granting program at the undergraduate or graduate level.
- Current undergraduate students must have completed at least one year of general college course-work by program start date (one year is defined as two semesters or three quarters).
- Applicants must be in acceptable mental and physical health. Grantees will be required to submit a satisfactory Medical Information Form and Physician’s Statement.
- Applicants must be 18 years old by the beginning of the 2013 CLS Program.
- Please see 2013 CLS Institute Language Levels for more information on language prerequisites for individual institutes.
Students in all disciplines, including business, engineering, law, medicine, sciences, and humanities are encouraged to apply.
The U.S. Department of State and American Councils welcome all eligible applications and do not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, gender, age, or disability.
*Although the CLS Program will work with awarded students to secure a visa for the CLS institute host country, the program cannot be held responsible for other countries’ visa requirements and/or the denial of a student’s application for a visa. CLS awards are contingent upon the participant securing a host-country visa, and all awardees must meet deadlines and host country requirements set for obtaining a visa.
Ineligibility: CLS applicants cannot be:
- Employees of the U.S. Department of State, for a period ending one year following the termination of such employment. This provision does not include part- time or temporary employees, consultants, and contract employees of the Department of State, unless such persons perform services related to the Bureau's exchange programs;
- Employees of private and public agencies (excluding educational institutions) under contract to the U.S. Department of State to perform services related to exchange programs, for a period ending one year following the termination of their services; or
- Immediate families (i.e., spouses and dependent children) of individuals described in the above paragraphs, for a period ending one year following the termination of such employment. This provision does not disqualify self-supporting members of families who live apart from their parents.
Participants may not accept both the Fulbright Critical Language Enhancement Award, part of the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, and a CLS award in the same academic year. In addition, if a participant receives a Fulbright grant with a mandatory pre-departure orientation in Washington, DC, he or she may need to choose between accepting the CLS award and the Fulbright grant.
Persons Arrested for, Indicted for, Charged with, or Convicted of a Felony or a Misdemeanor:
A candidate who, at the time of application, or at any subsequent time prior to becoming a grantee, has been convicted of commission of a felony or a misdemeanor (excluding minor traffic violations), must inform the cooperating agency* in writing of such fact. Similarly, a candidate who at the time of application, or at any subsequent time prior to becoming a grantee, has been arrested for, indicted for, or charged with a felony or a misdemeanor (excluding minor traffic violations), and the criminal matter has not been resolved, must inform the cooperating agency in writing of such fact.
Each applicant situation involving a felony or misdemeanor conviction will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. If the candidate has been convicted of a felony, the candidate will not be selected for a grant, unless the review of the case merits an exception. If the candidate has been convicted of a misdemeanor, the candidate shall generally be eligible for selection, pending review of the individual case.
If the candidate is arrested for, indicted for, or charged with a felony or a misdemeanor, the application (and, if already made, the selection) may be suspended until the criminal matter is resolved. The candidate must inform the cooperating agency in writing of such fact. If a grantee is convicted, the grant may be revoked.
After a revocation, the grantee is considered as not having received the grant and will not be an alumnus or alumna of the Critical Language Scholarship Program.
* Before selection, all such statements should be submitted to American Councils. After selection, all grantees should notify the administrating organization for their site.
+ Language Levels and Prerequisites
+ Selection Process
Award recipients will be selected on the basis of merit with consideration for:
- Academic record and potential to succeed in a rigorous academic setting;
- Ability to adapt to a different cultural environment;
- Plan for continuation of study of the language; and
- Plan to use the language in future career.
All applications are initially read by two outside academic readers, and the top applications are reviewed by panels of academic and experts in the area and language. Applicants will be notified of the results of their application to the CLS Program by mid- to late February. After notification, selected participants will be required to complete a language evaluation. Selected applicants will be assigned to a CLS institute site by mid- to late March at the discretion of the CLS Program.
+ Grant Benefits
All CLS Program costs are covered for participants including: travel to and from the student's U.S. home city and program location, a mandatory Washington, D.C. pre-departure orientation, applicable visa fees, room, board, group-based intensive language instruction, program-sponsored travel within country, and all entrance fees for CLS Program cultural enhancement activities. Please note that U.S. passport fees will not be paid by the scholarship, and you will be required to cover transportation to and from your U.S. home address and the airport for CLS Program travel. Selected applicants must have a U.S. passport valid through 2014 with at least two blank visa pages by early February 2013. Please plan in advance to avoid visa delays.
+ CLS Alumni Ambassadors
The CLS Alumni Ambassadors are a select group of CLS alumni who volunteer to serve as representatives of the CLS Program to various audiences, including prospective CLS participants, fellow alumni, CLS Program representatives, and the general public. Typical activities of an Alumni Ambassador may include:
- General CLS and/or county-specific presentations
- Participating in online forums (e.g. ExchangesConnect, State Alumni, Facebook)
- Providing prospective CLS students with information about their experience
- Responding to questions from future CLS participants on an as-needed basis
- Speaking on an alumni panel at a CLS pre-departure orientation in Washington, D.C.
Click here to view CLS Alumni Ambassador Profiles.
+ Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
+ Application Process
Can I apply for programs in more than one language?
No, you must choose to apply for only one language offered by the CLS Program.
Do I need to submit official transcripts or are unofficial transcripts acceptable?
You may upload either an official or unofficial transcript in the online application system. If you are a freshman in college and do not yet have first term grades, you must still submit an unofficial transcript to show your courses in progress.
Do my letters of recommendation need to come from professors?
We require that each application have two letters of recommendation. Letters of reference may be submitted online through the online application. The program expects that one letter come from an academic contact, preferably a professor. The other letter should be a language reference (for advanced beginning, intermediate and advanced applicants). This letter should come from your current (or most recent) language instructor. If your instructor is unavailable, please ask someone who knows the language of your choice and who is familiar with your language capabilities to write your language reference. All letters of reference must be submitted in English, and cannot be completed by a family member. If you are applying to a beginning level program and have studied the language formally, you should submit one general letter of reference, and one language reference.
Do I need to have my application reviewed by a campus representative before it is submitted to the program?
You do not have to go through any particular office on your campus. However, the CLS Program urges you to talk with your Fellowship/scholarship Office, your Merit Awards office, your Study Abroad Office, your Office of International Affairs, or your advisor. S/he can review and offer suggestions on how ways you may be able to strengthen your application.
May I select a site or indicate a site preference if I am applying for a language that has more than one institute program site?
No. Site placement for languages where more than one site is offered will be made based on a variety of factors as determined by the CLS Program institutes and the Department of State. Additional oral and written language testing may be required before site placement is finalized. The CLS Program will not be able to accommodate site change requests before or during the program.
Where can I find information on how to submit letters of recommendation and transcripts?
For information on submitting references online, please login to your online application and click on “CLS Reference Letter” section. If you enter your references’ contact information in the online Referral Invitation, your references will be sent an email with instructions on how to submit a letter on your behalf either online or by mail.
Do beginning-level applicants need to submit a language reference form?
Beginning-level applicants who have never studied the language formally should submit two general letters of reference. If you are applying at the beginning level, but have studied the language formally, you should submit one language reference and one general letter of reference.
I do not have a current U.S. passport; do I need to apply for a new/renewed passport before the application deadline?
For most CLS programs, visas will need to be obtained shortly after acceptance into the program. Therefore, you should have a U.S. passport valid through 2014 in hand by early February 2013. PLEASE NOTE: If you are offered a Critical Language Scholarship award and do not have a valid U.S. passport valid through 2014 (with at least two blank visa pages), the CLS Program may require you to expedite a new passport at your own expense. Up-to-date passport information can be found at: http://travel.state.gov/passport/get/get_840.html. Please note that visa fees are covered by the scholarship, but passport application fees are not.
I’m a heritage speaker of the target language, but haven’t taken courses in it. Can my language reference be submitted by a professor or tutor who has often spoken to me in the target language?
If you think that a university-affiliated instructor of your target language can accurately appraise your language level, you may certainly use them as a reference. If you are working with a tutor, you might want to consider the tutor’s academic credentials and level of experience providing academic references.
I speak a CLS language that is not offered at my university or city. Who should write my language reference?
This can be a challenge, and will depend on the resources available to you. You should consider asking the chair of your language department or department of international studies for recommendations. It might be possible to arrange for a phone interview with an instructor at another institution to assess your language skill level and serve as a language reference.
We’re only a few weeks into the semester, so my new language professor doesn’t know me very well. Can I use my last professor as my language reference?
Even though your new language professor doesn’t have a long history with you, they have the most accurate idea of your current language abilities. You might want to take the opportunity to schedule an office visit and discuss your reference letter, and speak with your teacher in your target language. This will supplement your written course work and give your instructor a fuller idea of your proficiency level.
I am a freshman in college and the fall semester just started a few weeks ago. We haven’t turned in much homework or taken any quizzes yet, so I don’t think my professors know my work very well. Can I use a high school teacher as my personal reference?
We strongly encourage students to find professors or university-affiliated instructors (such as a graduate student teaching assistant) to complete their CLS references. Professors regularly write many references for scholarship programs and have a strong grasp of how to write a very competitive reference. However, we understand that your college career is only a few weeks old, so it may be more challenging to get a strong personal reference from a professor. If you must, we will accept a reference from a high school teacher, however we recommend that you submit no more than one letter of reference from a former high school teacher.
What percentage of applicants for beginning, advanced beginning, intermediate, and advanced levels do you admit?
We don’t have a quota for each level of students accepted per language. When we evaluate applications for the CLS Program, we look at each applicant’s references, transcripts, and essays. Because the applicant pool varies each year, the percentage of each level represented within a language also varies. More than anything, we look for well-rounded, adaptable students with a strong work ethic and a commitment to using their CLS language in their careers.
How many applications do you usually receive for my target language?
The number of applications submitted for each CLS language varies each year. We have no way of anticipating how many applications we will receive for any given language, or for different language levels.
I will be graduating in the spring. Am I still eligible?
Graduating seniors and others who will complete their degree program before the start of the CLS Program are eligible to apply, as long as they are enrolled at the time of application.
I am not currently enrolled in a degree program, but will be starting a graduate degree in the fall. Am I eligible to apply?
No, if you are not currently enrolled in a degree program, but plan to start a program in Fall 2013, you are not eligible to apply.
Is the scholarship only offered to students enrolled in a US degree program?
Yes, this scholarship is only offered to students currently enrolled in a degree-granting program at an accredited U.S. college or university. Check with your registrar if you are unsure whether your school is accredited in the U.S.
Is the program limited to students of specific disciplines?
No, in fact the CLS Program encourages students of diverse disciplines and majors to apply. Law students and medical students are also encouraged to apply. You must be able to clearly articulate in your application how your selected language relates to your academic field of interest and future career goals.
I participated in a previous CLS Institute. Provided that I meet the other eligibility requirements, can I apply for another grant?
Previous CLS participants are encouraged to apply to the program again, but are not given preference in selection. Past participants should make a clear case for why participating in another summer institute is important to their goals and language development, and should make a clear case for how they have worked to keep up the language skills that they gained from the previous CLS Program. Please note that if a previous CLS participant is applying to study a language other than the language he or she previously studied with the CLS Program, the applicant should make a clear case for how he or she is continuing the study of the language previously studied with the CLS Program. In addition, the applicant should specify how they will use both the previous language studied and the new language.
I grew up speaking the language that I am applying to study on the CLS Program, and/or I have family members who speak the language that I am applying to study on the CLS Program. Am I eligible to apply?
Applicants with a family background in the language/region are eligible to apply for the CLS Program. All applicants to the CLS Program should clearly articulate how studying the language in a formal CLS setting will advance his/her professional goals. Application requirements are the same for all applicants to the CLS Program. If you are applying to study a CLS language at the Advanced Beginning, Intermediate or Advanced level, you are required to submit one general and one target language reference with your CLS Program application materials. Beginning level applicants should submit two general letters of reference. Please see the full CLS Program Application Instructions on the online application for all eligibility and application requirements.
What is the minimum GPA for the Critical Language Scholarship?
There is no specific GPA required for the program. We evaluate your transcripts, references, the strength of your application, and your long-term commitment to using your target language in your studies and career.
I am studying abroad this semester, next semester, or for the entire academic year. Am I still eligible for the Critical Language Scholarship?
As long as you are still currently enrolled as a degree-seeking student at your home college or university (and your home institution is accredited in the U.S.), you can answer the questions as if you are currently attending your home institution. However, if you had to withdraw from your home institution in order to attend a study abroad program, it is possible that you are no longer considered as currently enrolled. If you are unsure of your enrollment status, contact your registrar’s office.
I am currently studying abroad (or have in the past, or will during the coming semesters). Do I need to submit the unofficial transcripts from my U.S.-based institution as well as my study abroad institution? If so, how do I do that?
You must submit your unofficial transcript from your U.S. institution for your application, and it must clearly show your enrollment status for the terms during which you studied abroad. If they do not, you should provide both an unofficial transcript from your U.S. based institution and an unofficial transcript from your study abroad institution. You should submit these transcripts by merging them into one PDF; if you have difficulty with this, please contact us.
I am currently enrolled at a college/university but I am not presently taking any classes. Am I eligible to apply for the program?
Please check with your registrar to ensure that you are still officially enrolled without taking any classes. If so, you are eligible to apply for the program. Please be aware that if you are chosen as a finalist, you will need to demonstrate that you were officially enrolled by providing an official transcript or a statement from the registrar’s office.
I have studied the target language, but not in a U.S. university setting. Do my high school courses/tutoring sessions/study abroad experiences qualify me to apply for the CLS Program?
The CLS Program does not set guidelines for appropriate equivalencies to classroom study; rather, we welcome applications from those who have studied the language in non-U.S. university settings, but expect these applicants to adequately demonstrate that they have the necessary language background for the level they select. (See the following FAQ entry for more details on this.)
I have studied the target language, but not in a U.S. university setting. Which level should I apply for?
The CLS Program is not able to conduct a review of on-line resources, private tutoring, or independent study materials, or to personally advise applicants regarding their language level. Applicants should assess their level of experience in working with the target language and determine the appropriate level for their application. The CLS Program does have some general guidelines that may help applicants assess their language level:
Calculate contact hours: Calculate the number of hours you have spent studying the language, e.g., by calculating (hours of class per week) x (# of weeks in the term) x (# of terms studied), and compare with a typical academic year (32-36 weeks) of language study in a U.S. university. Generally, U.S. language programs offer 3-5 contact hours of class per week, or about 96-180 contact hours. This method of determining equivalency is most appropriate for language acquisition in a formal classroom setting (high school, non-U.S. university). If you have studied one-on-one with a tutor, you may need fewer hours of study than you would in a classroom to learn the same amount of material, if you are preparing for the sessions (similar to preparing homework for a university class). If you have picked up the language informally by living abroad or are a heritage speaker, working with a language teacher to assess your skills is a better option for determining placement.
Assess your skills: Work with a language teacher at your home institution or a nearby school that offers the target language. Ask them to assess your language level and determine where you would be placed in the target language curriculum. For instance, if the instructor would place you in second year Arabic at your school, you would apply for the Advanced Beginning level of Arabic on the CLS application.
Keep in mind that for all applicants applying above the beginner level, the target language reference is an important tool the selection committee uses to gauge applicant language ability. Choose someone who knows and can vouch for your level of language ability.
I have not studied the target language, but have been very successful at learning other foreign languages. Can I apply at the level of advanced beginning, intermediate, or advanced anyway, because I am a very fast learner?
No. Acceptance into the advanced beginning, intermediate and advanced levels of any CLS language is based on material mastered, not linguistic aptitude.
When will applicants be notified of their status? Will American Councils only notify applicants who have been accepted?
Applicants will be notified whether or not their application has been forwarded to the selection panels after the first round of the review process has been completed in January. Those applicants who have been forwarded to the selection panels will be notified of their application status by late February.
What is the selection process for the CLS Program?
Each complete application is reviewed by two language or area experts. The highest ranking applications (approximately one-third) are then selected for review by a national selection panel convened in Washington, DC, and participants are recommended for approval by the US Department of State.
What are the criteria for selection to the CLS Program?
Expert readers and panelists are asked to review applicants on his or her level of commitment and intent to continue language study after the CLS Program, in addition to previous academic coursework and language study. Applicants are also encouraged to clearly articulate how the study of a critical language is linked to future academic or professional goals. Reviewers seek a diverse group of participants from across the United States, and from a wide variety of academic institutions. Finally, the CLS Program is an intensive language program held in an overseas environment. Selection will also be based on the applicant’s ability to demonstrate maturity and readiness for a challenging academic and international experience.
+ Scholarship Benefits
What expenses does the scholarship cover?
All CLS program costs are covered for scholarship recipients. This includes travel between the student's US home city and program location, mandatory pre-departure orientation costs, applicable visa fees, room, board, program-sponsored travel within country, and all entrance fees for program activities. Please note that U.S. passport fees will not be paid by the scholarship, and students will be required to travel to and from his or her US home city and the airport for CLS Program travel.
Can I receive more than one scholarship or fellowship and can I hold them concurrently?
The program urges you to apply for any applicable funding for languages studies. In most cases you can receive more than one scholarship, but not at the same time. For instance, in most cases you can receive a Critical Language Scholarship for the summer and another award for the following fall. There are exceptions to these rules, so we ask all award recipients to let us know if you have received any other awards. The CLS Program requires your participation from the mandatory pre-departure orientation program through the length of the intensive institutes. No exceptions may be made for attendance of other orientation programs during the CLS Program or early departures from the CLS Program to attend other program events. PLEASE NOTE: You cannot receive funding from both a Critical Language Scholarship and a Fulbright Critical Language Enhancement award during the same year.
Are dependents allowed or may dependents accompany me while I am on the CLS program?
Dependents are not supported with CLS Program funding. Since this is a group-based program, we also discourage dependents from traveling to the country to be close to a participant. Dependents are not permitted to live in CLS-provided housing, and participants will not be allowed to live in non-program housing with dependents. Additionally, dependents may not participate in any program activities or excursions, and the program coordinators will not be able to provide any assistance with accommodations for dependents. Further, as an intensive language learning program with mandatory program activities, participant should expect to have little free time to spend with dependents.
+ Program Requirements
Are all accepted participants required to attend the Washington, DC pre-departure orientation?
Yes, all participants are required to attend. If you are overseas on a study-abroad program or a student at a foreign university you must return to the US for the Washington, DC pre-departure orientation.
Am I obligated to seek employment in the U.S. government following graduation?
No, the CLS program does not have any service requirement. However, it is expected that you will continue to use your language in your future academic and/or professional futures. Previous CLS recipients have sought and found successful employment in various fields not only in government, but in academia, business, research positions, non-profit organizations, public health positions, etc.
Will I be able to conduct independent research while I am on the program?
No, this program is an intensive language academic program, and you will not have free time to conduct independent research or participate in outside volunteer work or internship activities.
+ Intensive Summer Institutes
What level of proficiency can I expect to achieve after participating in the program?
The CLS Program is equivalent to approximately one academic year of language study.
+ Additional Questions
I have a question not listed on the FAQ. Whom should I contact?
If your question is not answered on the FAQ or program details, please contact us.
Please note: If required visas are denied by the host country, reassignment to a new country may not be an option. If a CLS Program site is cancelled after awards are announced, the CLS Program will make every effort to relocate the summer institute, but we cannot guarantee placement in an alternate program.