Advisor Community Best Practices

Tips for advisors that are presented in the following sections are based on outcomes from our 2017-2018 CLS and Gilman Advisor Workshop series sponsored by the USA Study Abroad branch at the Department of State and facilitated with colleagues from our host institutions. We thank them for their assistance in developing workshop materials and content!

  • Tim Barnes, Executive Director of International Partnerships & Research, University of Kentucky
  • Robin Curtis, Director, National Competitive Awards, University of Southern Mississippi
  • Olivia Ellis, Education Abroad Advisor & Scholarships Coordinator, University of Kentucky
  • Paul Fogleman, Director, Office of National Scholarships and Awards, DePaul University
  • Zachary Frieders, Director of Study Abroad, University of California, Davis
  • Tom Hospod, Assistant Director, Office of International Education, University of Rhode Island
  • Hannah Jones, Study Abroad Coordinator, University of Southern Mississippi
  • Kathleen Maher, Director, Office of Fellowships and Academic Opportunities, University of Rhode Island
  • Scott Palmer, Prestigious Scholarship Advisor, University of California, Davis
  • Katie Sauer, Associate Director of Advising and Marketing, DePaul University
  • Kelly Watts, Assistant Director, Office of International Education, University of Rhode Island
  • Patricia Whitlow, Director of Nationally Competitive Awards, University of Kentucky

Promoting the CLS Program

Collaborate across campus.

  • Study abroad offices, fellowships and scholarships offices, language departments, career services, and other departments all have valuable insights into your student population and how to connect with potential applicants for the CLS Program.
  • Use CLS as an opportunity to build relationships with these stakeholders, and to find champions for promoting CLS and other competitive award opportunities.
  • Often these departments and offices can also advise students through parts of the application outside of your individual expertise, such as making connections between their chosen languages and future career goals in their fields of study.

Cast a wide net.

  • Do not limit outreach to language programs; CLS seeks applicants from all academic disciplines and encourages the integration of critical language study within a diversity of fields. You may be surprised (and impressed!) by the type of students who express interest in the opportunity.
  • CLS is a merit-based award; students do not need to meet any need-based criteria to apply for the award.
  • Most students on your campus will meet eligibility requirements for the nine languages offered at the beginning level.

Invite alumni to participate in outreach.

  • Hearing the story of a successful applicant from within a student’s community can be among the most powerful motivators for potential applicants. Listening to the experience of a peer is often more impactful that any incentive an advisor can offer.
  • If you do not have alumni on your campus, advisors at neighboring institutions are often willing to connect you with alumni from their campuses. American Councils can also help you connect with alumni in your area if you are planning an outreach event, such as an informational presentation or panel, or a table at a study abroad or fellowships fair.

Supporting Applicants

Be clear about the goals of the CLS Program and whether the student is a good fit.

  • The CLS Program encourages applicants from all fields of study works to support students who have no previous experience abroad or who have no previous language-learning experience. Still, applicants should have a focused interest in learning a critical language. In addition to an interest in studying abroad, serious applicants should be excited about the language learning component of the program.
  • The CLS Program is an intensive, immersive, group-based study abroad program that requires maturity and adaptability. As an advisor, you should be clear about what it will take to be successful on this type of program.
  • Encourage students to reflect on why they’re interested in the CLS Program specifically as they work to prepare their application.

Emphasize the value of the application process.

  • Help students see that it’s not all about winning; emphasize the value of the process and what students have to gain from reflecting on their career goals, crafting a personal narrative, building connections with campus offices and recommenders, and the other work that goes in to preparing the application.
  • Encourage students to develop alternate plans in case they do not receive a scholarship.
  • Encourage students who are not selected to reapply the following year if they are still eligible. Many successful alumni report not having received the award on their first (or even second) try.
  • Celebrate any applicant as a success; many offices host end-of-year celebration or recognition events for scholarship winners and applicants.

Participate in the selection process.

  • Participating in the scholarship reading and selection process is very helpful to be able to provide context around how applications are reviewed.
  • Advisors who volunteer their time as evaluators are able to use experience to provide insights to students about what stands out in a competitive application.
  • In addition to being of value for your students, participating as a reader or selection panelist can serve as an excellent professional development opportunity and demonstrates engagement in the field for your own annual performance review.

Competitive Essays

Host writing workshops or open writing hours.

  • Collaborate with your writing center, career services office, writing faculty, or others to host a general workshop on writing for a scholarship application.
  • Some advisors have had success hosting open writing hours in a campus common area. During these times, interested applicants are encouraged to drop in to work on their applications in a common space where an advisor will be available to answer questions and provide feedback. This encourages students to block out time on their calendar to dedicate to the application, provides an opportunity for students to meet and collaborate with peers, and can minimize one-on-one advising appointments for busy advisors.

Instruct students to respond to the prompts, and to be genuine in those responses.

  • One suggested way to begin an application (though there are many) is to copy and paste each essay prompt into a document and have a student respond to each question, without worrying about crafting a perfect essay just yet. This ensures that students have reflected on each question that is required and result in a starting point for finding common threads to highlight in a real first draft.
  • Advisors who have participated in the application review process note that genuine and specific responses stand out above generic responses that seem to be crafted around what evaluators (and the Department of State) want to hear. Encourage students to be genuine in their responses, and to reflect on their own professional and academic goals.
  • Remind students that they should write convincingly about their goals and demonstrate that they have concrete ideas about the professional field they’d like to work in. While they should focus on goals that are serious and relevant, it is also important to remind them that they are not signing a contract. Not everyone knows exactly where they’ll end up in the future; it is ok if a student’s intended path changes.

Offer to review essays and encourage multiple drafts.

  • Students should begin the essay-writing process as early as possible, and should plan to work through several drafts to hone in on the best version of their narrative.
  • Encourage students to share a first draft early on so that you (or another advisor, faculty member, or peer) can provide feedback about what could be strengthened.
  • Once a student has answered all of the prompts, encourage them to take a first (or hopefully second) look at the many resources offered directly by the CLS Program. Many advisors report using the application tips video (on YouTube) and selection criteria (on the CLS web site) to guide students in crafting a stronger application.