Critical Language Scholarship Program | Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

General Application and Selection Process

Do I need to have my application reviewed by a campus representative before I submit it?

You are not required to go through any office on your campus in order to apply to the CLS Program. However, the CLS Program urges you to make use of resources available on your campus to strengthen your application.

The CLS Program maintains a list of faculty, staff, and administrators at colleges and universities nationwide who have volunteered to assist students with the CLS application process. Check the CLS website to see if there is a CLS advisor on your campus: https://www.clscholarship.org/universities.

Other resources on your campus may include an academic advisor, the Scholarships Office, Fellowships Office, Merit Awards Office, Study Abroad Office, or International Programs Office. A campus writing center may also provide helpful feedback on your essays.

I can't find my university when filling out my application.

There is both a box to search with a keyword, and then a second box where your search results will appear. Please try typing in a keyword or the city name of your college to the search function (the top box). You can use the city your college is located in, for example, "San Antonio". Then wait a moment for the drop-down menu to load (the second box). When you click on the down arrow in the second box, it will show you the matching institution or list of institutions. Please note that this information can take a few seconds to appear. If after you have tried searching by both your city and college name and no results appear in the drop-down menu, please email us at cls@americancouncils.org.

Am I obligated to seek employment in the U.S. government following graduation?

The CLS Program does not have a service requirement. However, alumni are expected to continue to use the target language in future academic studies and in their professional careers. Previous CLS recipients have sought and found successful employment not only in government, but also in academia, business, public health, non-profit organizations, law, and other fields.

While there is no requirement to seek government employment, alumni of the CLS Program are eligible for non-competitive eligibility (NCE) hiring status within the federal government for one year following the end of their programs, extendable for up to two additional years.

I do not have a U.S. passport, or my passport is expired. Do I need to get or renew my passport before the application deadline?

You do not need to have a passport to apply for the CLS Program. Please note that CLS host countries have different requirements for passports and visas. Some require passports to be valid three months after departure while others require passports to be valid six months after you return from abroad. If selected as a finalist, it is your responsibility to communicate with your program officer and ensure you have a passport that is valid according to your host country's requirements. All finalists are required to have a valid passport by March 2024 in order to participate in the program.

You may need to apply for a new passport if:

  • You do not currently have a valid U.S. passport;
  • Your passport is not valid through the above dates; or
  • Your passport does not have two blank visa/stamp pages. (Note that it is no longer possible to add new pages to U.S. passports. You must apply for a new passport.)
  • If you do not take measures to secure a valid passport by March 2024, you will be responsible for any fees associated with expediting your passport.

Note: The United States is experiencing long wait times for new passport applications and passport renewals. Routine passport service can take up to 18 weeks from the day an application is submitted to the day a new passport is received. For this reason, you are encouraged to apply for a passport or passport renewal as soon as possible.

For more information on securing a passport, please visit http://www.travel.state.gov/.

Is there any financial assistance available to help me procure a passport?

The CLS Program is proud to announce the availability of limited funds to support U.S. passport procurement for students who demonstrate exceptional financial need. The CLS Program will issue a reimbursement of $165 for U.S. passport application fees (excluding fees to expedite processing and shipping costs) for CLS finalists applying for a first-time passport or a passport renewal in order to participate in the CLS Program. Please note that fees to expedite the application process and costs related to shipping or traveling to procure a passport are not reimbursable.

For more information on program eligibility and how to apply, please review the CLS Passport Assistance guidelines.

What should I do if my current academic institution is not listed on the application?

Please email us at cls@americancouncils.org to have your institution added to the list of options on the application. We regularly update the institutions on the application using data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System. That being said, not all eligible institutions participate in this survey- Your institution must be both U.S.-based and currently accredited. Applicants must be enrolled at an accredited U.S. institution. Students earning degrees at foreign institutions that are not based in the U.S. or its territories are not eligible, even if those institutions are accredited by a recognized U.S. accrediting agency.Therefore, inclusion on this list is not a confirmation of eligibility.

How are finalists for the CLS Program at overseas institutes selected?

Award recipients for the CLS Program at overseas institutes are selected on the basis of merit, with consideration for:

  • Connection between language and goals;
  • Contribution to the CLS Program goals of citizen diplomacy and mutual understanding;
  • Preparation for the CLS Program;
  • Adaptability, sensitivity, and resilience; and
  • Commitment to language learning.

All other factors being equal, the CLS Program gives preference to veterans of the United States Armed Forces.

All other factors being equal, applicants are selected with the goal of representing geographic diversity and a diversity of institutions and fields of study.

Preference may be given to candidates with limited or no previous study abroad experience.

The full set of selection criteria may be reviewed here.

Each application is initially read by two independent evaluators from a pool of faculty and administrators at colleges, universities, and international education institutions across the U.S. as well as program alumni. Semifinalist candidates are additionally reviewed by a panel of language faculty, area specialists, study abroad professionals, and fellowship advisors.

Applicants will be notified of final decisions about their selection in early March 2024.

How are finalists for CLS Spark selected?

Award recipients for CLS Spark are selected on the basis of merit, with consideration for:

  • Impact of participation;
  • Motivation;
  • Readiness and resolve; and
  • Unique background and experience.

Preference will be given to veterans of the U.S. armed forces, and to applicants from states or institutions historically underrepresented in study abroad or in the CLS Program.

Applicants are selected with the goal of representing geographic diversity and a diversity of institutions and fields of study.

The full set of selection criteria may be reviewed here.

Each application is reviewed by a panel of language faculty, area specialists, study abroad professionals, fellowship advisors, and program alumni. Applicants will be notified of final decisions about their selection in early March 2024.

Is the program limited to students of specific academic disciplines?

No, students enrolled in a degree-granting program in any field of study are eligible and encouraged to apply. The CLS Program actively seeks applicants in diverse fields of study, including STEM fields, law, medicine, and others. Applicants must clearly articulate how the target language relates to their academic field of interest and future career goals.

Language and Program Site Questions

Can I submit multiple applications in the same application cycle?

No, you may only apply for one language and for one model (i.e., Overseas or Spark).

May I select a site or country placement, or indicate a preference if I am applying for a language that has more than one program site?

No. Site placement for languages where more than one location is offered will be made based on a variety of factors determined by the CLS Program institutes and the U.S. Department of State. The CLS Program will not be able to accommodate placement or site change requests before or during the program.

How many applications do you usually receive for my target language?

The number of applications submitted for each CLS language varies each year. We do not track acceptance rates by language or language level.

What percentage of applicants for beginning, advanced beginning, intermediate, and advanced levels do you admit?

Since the applicant pool varies each year, the percentage of each level represented within a language also varies. There is no set number of participants for each language level.

I'm interested in a language with a pre-requisite, but I have not studied it in a university setting. Am I eligible to apply?

For languages that require prior study, applicants do not necessarily need one/two formal academic years of target language study, but rather must have the language ability that would correspond to that amount of academic study. In the past, we have had students fulfill the language requirement in a number of ways beyond traditional college-level classes, including self-study, tutoring, or exposure to the language in a home environment. As long as you can explain in the application how you will have reached the required level of proficiency by the start of the summer program, you will still be eligible. Additionally, please note that the language requirement needs to be completed by the start of the summer program, and not necessarily before the application deadline. The application will have multiple-choice and short answer prompts to describe your past and planned target language experience.

I have studied the target language, but not in a U.S. university setting. Which level should I apply for, and how can I demonstrate my knowledge on the application?

Applicants will self-report their language level on the application. The application will have space for you to describe your target language experience both in multiple choice and short answer form. We encourage you to reflect on your language proficiency, as a college-level course may cover more material over the course of an academic year than a high school program typically covers.

In order to determine which language level to choose on your application, please review the CLS language levels and terminology:

  • Beginning Level: No previous study of the language, or less than one academic year of study or the equivalent.
  • Advanced Beginning Level: At least one academic year of target language study or the equivalent.
  • Intermediate Level: At least two academic years of target language study or the equivalent.
  • Advanced Level: At least three academic years of target language study or the equivalent.

If you are unsure how your current proficiency level corresponds to academic study, the following recommendations may be helpful:

  • Ask a professional to assess your skill level: 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 at your school. 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.
  • Identify what you know and do not know: Review textbooks and related materials used in college-level classrooms for your CLS language to see how much you already know, and where you begin to experience difficulty.

Although self-reported language experience is helpful, all finalists will take a language proficiency test that ultimately determines their placement.

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?

Yes. Applicants with a family background in the language are eligible to apply for the CLS Program. If you do not already know the language (little to no experience speaking, reading, writing, or listening), we recommend applying for the beginning level. If you do have some experience with the language, please refer to the Language Levels and Prerequisites to determine which level to select.

I have not studied the target language, but have been very successful at learning other 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 experience studying the target language, not general linguistic aptitude. You should only apply for the language level for which you will meet the minimum requirements by the beginning of the summer.

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. Language proficiency gains are measured before and after the program through a speaking test known as the Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI) administered by testers certified by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL).

To learn more about proficiency levels, visit the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines website: https://www.actfl.org/publications/guidelines-and-manuals/actfl-proficiency-guidelines-2012.

To learn more about proficiency testing results for the CLS Program, see the Impact page: https://www.clscholarship.org/impact/language-learning.

How will I be placed in a class in the CLS Program?

In most cases, placement tests or an interview with teachers in the host country will facilitate the placement of students into classes based on level. You will be placed in a class based on your level, but you should also expect some minor variation in level within your classes, as each CLS student comes from a different language learning background. It is common for students in the same class to be at different places in their language learning process.

Transcripts and Academic Record

Do I need to submit official transcripts, or are unofficial transcripts acceptable?

For the CLS application, you are only required to upload an unofficial transcript. If you are a first-year student in college and do not yet have first-term grades, you must still submit an unofficial transcript to show your courses in progress. If you are unable to upload a current transcript, you may list all your coursework and grades in the fields provided.

Accepted finalists will be required to submit copies of their official transcripts after selection. Official transcripts will be used to confirm eligibility. Applicants attending campuses located outside the continental United States must have an official transcript or diploma from the U.S.-based counterpart to their foreign campus.

I transferred from a community college, was dually enrolled in a high school and a college, or took summer courses at another institution. Do I need to provide transcripts from these previous institutions?

If the credits transferred to your present university (and appear on your transcript there), you do not need to provide transcripts from these institutions as part of the application. If you are selected as a finalist, we will ask you to provide official transcripts from your present institution.

I am currently studying abroad (or have in the past). 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 an unofficial transcript from your U.S. institution, and it should clearly show your enrollment status for the terms during which you studied abroad. If it does not, you should provide both an unofficial transcript from your U.S.-based institution and an unofficial transcript from your study abroad institution. You can submit these transcripts by merging them into one PDF. If you have difficulty with this, please contact us.

Recommendation Forms

Do I need to submit a letter of recommendation?

You are not asked to submit a letter of recommendation as part of your application.

Eligibility

What is the minimum GPA for the Critical Language Scholarship?

There is no minimum required GPA for CLS applicants. Application reviewers and selection panel members will evaluate your academic record together with the strength of your application, your commitment to using your target language in your studies and career, and your ability to adapt to a different cultural environment.

I hold citizenship status (or my parents hold citizenship) in the country hosting my CLS Institute. Are there any issues with that?

CLS participants must enter their host country using their U.S. passport. Therefore, in most cases it will not be possible for individuals with dual citizenship to participate in the CLS Program in the country of their second nationality due to host country laws or policies requiring their citizens to enter the country using the passport issued by that country alone. In some cases, this may also apply to students whose parents hold citizenship in the host country.

Applicants are responsible for determining whether they have, or are eligible to have, dual citizenship with the host country and to address any potential consequences thereof before they accept an award. Applicants with dual citizenship or eligibility for dual citizenship should contact the embassy or consulate of the host country to determine if they may enter the country legally on a U.S. passport. The CLS Program, American Councils, and the U.S. Department of State have no control or influence over other countries’ policies associated with dual citizens traveling to the host country on a U.S. passport.

Keep in mind that countries have different policies concerning who may be eligible for citizenship. Applicants who have any prior familial relations to the host country should contact the embassy or consulate of that country in the United States to inquire about their potential citizenship status. This includes applicants who:

  • Have been issued a passport of the host country at any time in the past;
  • Were born in the host country;
  • Were adopted from the host country; and
  • Have parent(s) or grandparent(s) who ever held citizenship of the host country.

Note that some CLS languages are taught in more than one country or location and host countries are subject to change without prior notice. If a finalist is concerned that their citizenship status may preclude their participation in the program, it may be possible to place that student in a program site hosted in a different country or location, depending on the availability of program slots, the language level of the student, and other factors. There is no guarantee, however, that the CLS Program will be able to place the student in an alternate location, or that alternate locations will be available for any given language. Applicants with concerns about their citizenship status should indicate this on the CLS application.

I have an affiliation with the U.S. military. Is there anything I should do?

The CLS Program welcomes participation by those affiliated with the U.S. armed services. During the selection process, the CLS Program gives preferences to veterans of the U.S. armed services, all other factors being equal. Many active and inactive service members and veterans have successfully completed the CLS Program.

Applicants with U.S. military affiliations may be subject to requirements and restrictions placed on their participation by their military command, including the following:

  • Passports: May be required to travel on a military-issued or official passport, rather than a standard passport
  • Visas: May be required to travel on a visa different from the that required of other participants
  • Military waiver and clearance: May be required to go through a waiver and clearance process to receive official permission to travel to the host country
  • Travel Prohibition: May be prohibited from traveling to a specific host country or region within a host country

It is important that every applicant with a military affiliation, including all U.S. Department of Defense military and civilian personnel, service academy cadets, service members of active and reserve components, as well as inactive service members, including members of the Individual Ready Reserves (IRR), understand that they may be subject to additional requirements and restrictions on their participation in the CLS Program. Such requirements or restrictions related to a participant's military affiliation are outside of the control of the CLS Program, American Councils, and the U.S. Department of State, and are the purview of the U.S. Department of Defense and the participant's military command.

All applicants with a military affiliation should research the specific restrictions that may impact their ability to participate in the CLS Program. Applicants should speak with their commanding officer about their intention to apply to and participate in the CLS Program as early as possible. Applicants should also speak with their commanding officers about travel requirements detailed in the electronic Foreign Clearance Guide (FCG) at https://www.fcg.pentagon.mil/fcg.cfm. The FCG is only available to U.S. Government employees and members of the military; CLS Program staff are not able to answer specific questions about the requirements in the FCG. All questions regarding the FCG and its requirements should be directed to the applicant’s security officer.

Finalists who do not follow these requirements may jeopardize their participation in the CLS Program.

I am completing my final year at a community college/undergraduate/graduate institution before the start of the CLS Program. Am I still eligible?

Yes, if you are enrolled in a degree-seeking program at the time of your application you are still eligible to apply. This includes graduating seniors, as well as students completing the final year of their community college or graduate program.

I am currently a green card holder and anticipate being naturalized before the summer program begins. Am I still eligible?

In order to be eligible for the CLS Program, you must be a naturalized citizen by the application deadline of November 14, 2023.

I am not currently enrolled in a degree program but will be starting a graduate degree in the spring. Am I eligible to apply?

No, you must be enrolled in a degree program at the time of the application.

I am enrolled in classes toward a certificate program or other non-degree program. Am I eligible to apply?

No, you must be taking classes toward an undergraduate (associate, bachelor's), graduate (master's, doctoral), or professional degree in order to be eligible for the program. Classes being taken toward non-degree programs do not count towards enrollment for eligibility purposes.

Is this award only offered to students enrolled in a U.S. degree program? I am a U.S. citizen enrolled in a degree program overseas.

Applicants must be enrolled at an accredited U.S. institution. Students earning degrees at foreign institutions that are not based in the U.S. or its territories are not eligible, even if those institutions are accredited by a recognized U.S. accrediting agency.

If you are unsure if your institution is eligible, please email cls@americancouncils.org.

Does CLS accept applications from those who have had to withdraw from their home institution in order to pursue an internship experience in the U.S. or abroad?

Yes, students who have withdrawn from their home institutions to pursue internships may apply. Applicants who are not taking classes at or through their home institution in the fall term must submit a CLS Enrollment Confirmation form completed by their home registrar in the U.S. Applicants must also submit a signed letter from the program provider explaining the opportunity and confirming their participation. American Councils will provide the CLS Enrollment Confirmation form and further instructions to applicants selected as semi-finalists. If selected as a finalist, American Councils may ask the finalist to submit updated documentation from the program provider confirming their successful completion of the program.

I had to withdraw from my home institution in the U.S. for a semester due to a temporary medical condition. Am I still eligible?

No, if you withdraw or take a leave of absence from your program for the fall semester for a personal reason, other than to participate in a study abroad program, national scholarship or fellowship program, or substantive internship program, then you are not eligible to apply.

I am studying abroad this semester, next semester, or for the entire academic year. Am I still eligible for the Critical Language Scholarship?

If you are still enrolled as a degree-seeking student at or through your home institution, you are eligible for the CLS Program. If you have taken a leave of absence in order to participate on your study abroad program but intend to re-enroll, then you may apply. If you are not taking classes at or through your home institution in the fall term, you must submit a CLS Enrollment Confirmation form completed by your home registrar in the U.S. You must also submit a signed letter from the program provider explaining the opportunity and confirming your participation.

American Councils will provide the CLS Enrollment Confirmation form and further instructions to applicants selected as semi-finalists. If selected as a finalist, American Councils may ask you to submit updated documentation from the program provider confirming your successful completion of the program.

I am a high school student, but I am earning college credits through dual enrollment. Am I eligible for the CLS Program?

The CLS Program requires that all applicants be enrolled in a degree-granting program at an accredited U.S.-based university at the time of application. Many dual enrollment programs are not degree-granting. In addition, CLS participants must be 18 years old by May 15, 2024, and must have completed a full year of college by the start of the program.

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 selected 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 participated in a previous CLS institute. Provided that I meet the other eligibility requirements, can I apply again?

Applicants who have successfully completed the program (regardless of the number of times) are eligible to apply and participate again, but are not given preference in selection. Past participants must make a clear case for why participating in another summer institute is important to their goals and language development, and should demonstrate the steps they have taken to maintain the language skills they gained from the previous CLS Program. Please note that if you are applying to study a language other than the language you previously studied with the CLS Program, you will need to make a clear case for how you are continuing to study or use your first CLS language. In addition, you should specify how you will use both your first CLS language and the new language.

Individuals who have participated in the CLS Program previously are not eligible for CLS Spark.

I want to apply to CLS Spark this year. Provided that I meet the other eligibility requirements, may I later apply for the 2025 CLS Program?

CLS Spark participants are limited to receiving only one CLS Spark award, but there are no restrictions on CLS Spark alumni applying for future CLS Program awards. Indeed, CLS Spark alumni are encouraged to use the automatic semi-finalist status offered to them in the application cycle following their completion of CLS Spark to apply for the CLS Program overseas institutes in the same language. CLS Spark participants who wish to apply for a different language, or their target language in a later year, will not be given automatic semi-finalist status. Instead, they may note that they are alumni of CLS Spark on future applications and use this as evidence of their commitment to language learning.

I participated in a previous CLS Spark cohort. Provided that I meet the other eligibility requirements, can I apply again for CLS Spark?

Alumni of CLS Spark cannot re-apply to CLS Spark even if in a different language. However, those who receive a CLS Spark award are encouraged to use their automatic semi-finalist status to apply for the CLS Program overseas institutes in their same target language. They may also apply to a different CLS Program language other than their CLS Spark language provided they can meet the eligibility requirements.

If Awarded a CLS Award

Can I defer my CLS award to next summer?

No, the CLS award cannot be deferred. If you would like to participate in the CLS Program next summer, you will need to apply and be selected again. Declining the CLS award will not impact your ability to participate in future programs.

If I decline the award, does this unfavorably influence future CLS applications?

We understand that students may decline the award for a variety of personal, academic, and professional reasons. Declining the CLS award will not impact your ability to submit future applications or participate in future programs.

I will not hear back from my other scholarship applications until after the acceptance deadline. May I have an extension?

The deadline to accept or decline the CLS award is firm. If you opt to decline the CLS award after initially accepting it for any reason besides a critical incident (e.g. medical or family emergency), you may be responsible for the repayment of award costs that have been incurred (including for travel to and from the host country where relevant, any advance stipend issued for the program, and any housing and meal funds already expended on your behalf).

I am applying to multiple scholarships that may have conflicting dates with the CLS Program. Is there any way I can either begin the program late or leave the program early?

The dates for the CLS Program are very strict. All orientation activities are required, therefore you cannot begin the program late. Under rare circumstances, you may be permitted an exception to leave the program up to three days early for academic reasons (such as to attend classes at your home university), but no earlier. Please talk to your Program Officer if you believe your situation may qualify for an early departure.

I have a very important wedding/job interview/family event in the U.S. during the summer. Will I be allowed to leave for a few days during the program?

No, you may not leave the program or host country for any reason during the CLS Program unless you are withdrawing from the program. Participants in virtual programming will not be allowed to take extended absences during the summer program and should plan to schedule other activities around their program requirements. Under rare circumstances, you may be permitted an exception to leave the program up to three days early for academic reasons (such as to attend classes at your home university), but no earlier. Please talk to your Program Officer if you believe your situation may qualify for an early departure.

Will I be able to travel during the program?

You will have opportunities to participate in organized cultural excursions and activities during the CLS Program. You may also have some limited free time for independent travel within your host country during the program, but this varies from site to site and is not guaranteed. Additional travel restrictions may be placed on students depending on local health policies and the status of the COVID-19 pandemic in your host country, or other safety and security concerns. You must share information with local program staff prior to any independent travel, and travel cannot interfere with your ability to participate in mandatory program activities. You will not be allowed to leave the host country during the program except in cases of emergency.

Participants in virtual programming will not be allowed to take extended absences during the summer program and should plan to schedule other activities around their program requirements.

How will I be placed in my classes?

In most cases, placement tests and/or an interview with teachers will be conducted prior to the start of classes. The results of this process will facilitate the assignment of students into classes based on level. It is common for students to be at different levels in their language-learning process. You will be placed in classes based on your level, but you should also expect some variation in level within your classes, as each CLS student comes from a different language-learning background and programs in the United States vary widely in terms of pacing and the number of class hours offered. The goal of the CLS Program is to master foreign language concepts, which might mean reviewing some materials you have already covered.

Will I receive academic credit for my participation in CLS?

Yes, academic credit is an option for participants who complete the CLS Program. The CLS Program provides two units of academic credit through Bryn Mawr College. Each unit is typically the equivalent of four undergraduate semester hours, but each institution has its own system for determining credits; all participants should plan to check with the registrar at their home institution to determine equivalencies. Please note that while academic credit is available upon successful completion of the CLS Program, it is up to the individual applicant to apply to his or her registrar’s office. Depending on the university’s or college’s requirements, the registrar’s office may or may not request to be informed before the student begins the CLS Program.

My registrar’s office has requested a syllabus or course information before they determine whether I can transfer credit from the CLS Program. Is this information available?

Yes. Please email your Program Officer to receive CLS course information specific to your language. Please note that the exact course numbers and titles cannot be guaranteed until after completion of the CLS Program when course placement has been finalized by your institute. For that reason, we advise students to get more courses approved than what will be taken during the CLS Program. During the CLS Program you should also save course materials provided by your teachers (like syllabi, assignment descriptions, major exams) to show your registrar’s office when you return.

Can I accept more than one scholarship or fellowship at the same time?

In most cases you can receive more than one scholarship, but not at the same time. If you have been awarded additional funding for the summer, especially federal funding,it is important to communicate that to all parties and keep in mind that the CLS Program covers the cost of all major aspects of participation for the overseas program, including tuition, travel, housing, and meals.

It may be helpful to note that participants typically can receive a Critical Language Scholarship for the summer and a different scholarship or award for the following fall. However, it’s important to keep in mind that there are exceptions to this, so we ask all CLS finalists to let us know of any other awards received and any mandatory components that may take place over the summer. If you have already accepted another award or scholarship, you should check with your other funder to confirm your ability to accept the CLS award.

Can I participate in two scholarship programs at the same time?

The CLS Program requires your full participation starting with mandatory virtual pre-departure orientations through the conclusion of the intensive summer institutes. It is not possible for CLS participants to leave the CLS Program in order to attend events for other programs.

Note: You cannot accept funding from both a Critical Language Scholarship and a Fulbright Critical Language Enhancement Award during the same calendar year. If you have received a CLEA in the same calendar year as your upcoming CLS Program or have been offered a CLEA following the CLS program, please let your Program Officer know so that they can determine if there is any conflict.

Am I able to accept both a Fulbright award and the CLS award?

Participants are not allowed to accept both a CLS and a Critical Language Enhancement Award (CLEA), which is an addition to the U.S. Student Fulbright Program, in the same calendar year (January - December).

The CLS Program does not restrict finalists from accepting a Fulbright award (other than a CLEA), provided that there are no conflicting dates, such as for the Fulbright orientation. Requirements for attendance at Fulbright orientation(s) are indicated in the Country Summaries available at: https://us.fulbrightonline.org/countries/regions.

Participating in Overseas Institutes

When will I receive my travel information, and how can I change my flight itinerary?

Participants will receive flight information a few weeks before scheduled travel. American Councils staff and travel partners cannot make changes to accommodate individual travel plans. Because airline tickets are purchased as group tickets, you may not be able to change them or you may be required to pay a fee to do so. You are not permitted to make changes to your flight itinerary before you have arrived in your host country and doing so may jeopardize your ability to participate in the CLS Program. If you make arrangements to decline the return group flight, you must notify your Program Officer in advance, and sign a form that outlines the terms of your decision to decline the return flight.

I prefer an alternate program location. Can I request to change my site placement?

Not all CLS languages are offered in multiple sites. Placement depends on a number of factors, and students cannot choose their program site. If you have a concern about your placement, please email your Program Officer with the reason for your concern and any conflict of dates or other pertinent information. A change in site placement is not guaranteed. You will likely need to choose to accept or decline the award based on the original site placement, even if a change in location may become available at a later date.

I will be abroad in the spring before the start of the CLS Program. Will the CLS Program pay for my ticket from my international location to the program site?

The CLS Program can only provide travel for participants located in the United States. If you are abroad in the spring, you will need to arrange your own travel, either back to the U.S., from where the CLS Program will cover and arrange your transportation to the program site, or you may arrange and pay for your own travel directly to the program location. This may not be possible for all locations, so if you are planning on purchasing your own ticket, it is important to discuss your plans with your Program Officer as soon as possible. The cost of that travel is not reimbursable and in some cases it may not be possible to obtain a visa outside of the U.S. or enter the country prior to the date of the group’s arrival, in which case it may not be an option to arrange your own travel.

I would like to stay in the host country following the program. Is this permitted?

In some cases, participants are able to stay in the host country following the program, but are responsible for making their own travel, housing, and visa arrangements. In cases where this is not allowed, it is because firm visa restrictions require students to leave the country or because the CLS host institution or university has provided support for your visa application and/or visa registration. Participants who are eligible to stay in the host country following the program are required to make any necessary visa arrangements to stay beyond the dates of the CLS Program, including possibly leaving the host country to apply for another visa. ASPE, the medical benefits program provided by the CLS Program, will end the last day of the program regardless of how long you plan to stay in your host country. You are responsible for all medical care including acquiring insurance if you plan to remain in the host country beyond the dates of the CLS Program.

I don’t currently have a U.S. passport, my passport recently expired, or my passport is set to expire soon. What should I do?

First, contact your Program Officer immediately to let them know. Second, visit the State Department Travel website and begin the passport application or renewal process. In some cases, the passport process may need to be expedited in order to ensure that you are able to receive a visa on time.

Do I need certain vaccinations in order to participate in CLS?

No, the CLS Program does not require any immunizations as a condition of participating in the program. However, some host countries and locations or host institutions may have immunization requirements (including COVID 19).

Host countries may also require proof of immunization status to enter the country. Participants should review the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Travelers' Health website for their CLS Program country or location: http://www.cdc.gov/travel. The CDC Travelers' Health website provides a general overview of health considerations by country, as well as information on country-required and CDC-recommended vaccinations and disease prevention strategies.

As non-medical professionals, staff of the U.S. Department of State and American Councils cannot provide advice as to what, if any, immunizations are necessary or advisable, or what, if any, other particular medical precautions participants should take prior to traveling to the host country or location. Therefore, we recommend that participants consult with their physician or a licensed health care professional regarding recommended immunizations.

It is the participant's responsibility to ensure that he/she has had all necessary vaccinations to enter the country and/or to fully participate in the program. Vaccination for many people is a very personal decision and participants are responsible for researching recommended vaccines for their host country or location to determine which, if any, they may choose to receive. Participants are also responsible for paying for any immunizations or medications. Costs related to immunizations or medications are not covered by the CLS Program and also may not be covered by ASPE benefits, which is offered to all CLS participants.

I am out of the country and cannot find a licensed medical professional to complete the medical review. What should I do?

Please contact your Program Officer. They can discuss with you options used by participants in the past. If you have had a physical recently (within one year of the program start date), you may be able to work with that provider to complete the required forms based on your recent exam. Alternately, if you are able to find a licensed M.D., D.O., physician’s assistant (P.A.) or nurse practitioner (N.P.) in the area where you are travelling/located, who is comfortable completing the forms in English, that may be an option. Your Program Officer can assist you with finding available medical resources necessary to complete your certification, but the final responsibility is yours. In some cases, you may need to travel in order to find a licensed medical professional to complete your medical forms. CLS cannot reimburse expenses related to completing the medical forms, including travel expenses and translation/interpretation services.

I don’t have a primary care doctor or health insurance, and it will therefore be expensive for me to see a medical professional to complete my pre-program medical documents. What should I do?

Having a medical professional (doctor, RN, or PA) complete and sign Medical Form Parts 1 and 2 is a requirement of the CLS acceptance process. If you don’t have access to a medical professional at this time, the following resources may be available to you:

  • Medical provider who provided a physical to you within one year of the program start date: If you have had a recent physical (within one year of the program start date) you can work with that provider to complete the medical forms. Please note that not all providers may be willing to provide this service. Some may require additional information from you, such as a phone call or in-office visit. Others may charge fees to provide this service.
  • University-affiliated medical services: Some colleges and universities employ medical professionals who offer services to students. Services may be limited and may be offered for a fee or free of charge – each university is unique.
  • Local Health Department: Health Department services vary widely from state to state and from county to county, but some may offer travel vaccinations and other consultation services for a reduced fee or free of charge. Check your state’s Department of Health website to identify what services are available in your area.
  • Free or reduced-priced clinics in your area: There may be health clinics run by local or national non-profit organizations in your area. To find these, you will likely need to do some research on your own as each town and city in the U.S. has unique local resources. Services may be limited, payment models may be diverse, and insurance may or may not be accepted.

CLS cannot recommend a specific provider to you or reimburse you for any costs associated with completing Medical Forms Part 1 and 2. If you have any additional questions, please don’t hesitate to contact your Program Officer.

I think I need a visa for my CLS destination. How do I get one?

Your Program Officer will be in touch this spring with more information about what kind of visa is needed for the CLS Program. They will share information on how to apply for the visa. Please note that procuring the correct visa for participation in the program is a requirement. You will need to share a scan of the visa in the AIS Forms Portal. Please also note that some locations do not require a visa to participate in the CLS Program.

I have an existing visa for my CLS destination. Can I use this visa?

Please contact your Program Officer. Due to the nature of the CLS Program, CLS participants must abide by the visa recommendations and requirements from in-country CLS host institutions. Therefore, even if you have a valid visa to your CLS country, you may be asked to apply for a different type or length of visa.

Will I be able to conduct independent research or hold an internship while I am on the program?

No. Although we realize that many of our students are eager to conduct overseas research or find local internship and volunteer opportunities, please keep in mind that the purpose of the CLS Program is intensive language study. All program classes and activities are mandatory, and participants should not expect to have the time to conduct independent research projects. However, many participants find that the language skills they gain while on the program immeasurably improve their ability to make connections with locals and conduct research after program completion. In addition, please note that any and all research activities must be approved by the CLS Program staff in Washington, D.C. and by the host institution before implementation. Research activities may also violate the terms of your visa.

Will I have time to take an online class with my home institution or complete coursework from a prior semester?

All CLS Program classes and activities are mandatory, and participants who hope to accomplish other work while on the program are often disappointed to find that they do not have the time or energy to devote to other tasks. For some day-to-day context, you will be in class for three hours each day and have additional activities, either with your language partner or as group cultural activities, that will last until anywhere from 2-4pm. You should also expect to have about 2 hours of homework each night, and will need to plan to study for exams, etc. Your host family may not have reliable access to WiFi, and if they do, they may not have unlimited access. WiFi does operate differently in some cases, with certain data limits. Participants will also spend time outside of CLS activities exploring the host city, and spending time with their host families or roommates. You may find that you will miss out on some of those opportunities if you are busy taking another academic course.

Can family or friends visit me during the program?

The CLS Program discourages family members and friends from visiting during the program due to its intensive nature. You will be busy with classes, program activities, excursions, and general engagement with your host community (friends, host families, roomates, etc.)

If you choose to have visitors during the program, keep in mind that you are still required to attend all CLS Program activities, and the program activities schedule may change at the last minute. Visitors/non-CLS awardees may not participate in CLS activities and may not stay in program-arranged housing. You also may not stay in a hotel with your visitors during regular program activities. CLS Program staff cannot provide any assistance to the family, friends, or visitors of CLS participants including but not limited to scheduling travel, securing visas, and navigating health restrictions on travel.

COVID-19 and Vaccinations

What will happen if there is a health or other emergency next summer that prevents international travel?

The CLS Program reserves the right to change or cancel any or all overseas institutes based on safety, health, and security considerations, or other factors.

Depending on health and safety considerations, the U.S. Department of State may choose to hold some or all of the CLS institutes virtually. In completing this application, you will be considered for the CLS Program for your chosen target language based on the existing selection criteria, regardless of program format.

Does CLS have a COVID-19 vaccination policy?

Applicants interested in applying for the CLS Program with overseas institutes may have questions regarding vaccination requirements and other measures designed to contain the spread of COVID-19. The following information outlines scenarios that may affect participation in the 2024 in-person institutes.

Due to the cohort-based nature of the CLS Program and in order to maintain the safety of fellow students, staff, instructors, and members of the host community at large, all participants, whether vaccinated or unvaccinated, will need to adhere to local, regional and/or national health requirements, as well as those imposed by host institutions, travel and housing providers, private businesses and/or the CLS Program, which may include wearing masks, social distancing, contact tracing, testing requirements, quarantine requirements, and travel restrictions.

While the CLS Program will work to provide updates on local requirements in advance, it cannot guarantee that you will not be subject to changes in policies and new procedures that may prevent your participation in the program prior to departure or that may involve a quarantine period, testing, and/or other measures, up to and including an immediate withdrawal from the program if required by local authorities. Similarly, participants who travel on the program must be prepared to adhere to any vaccination, testing, quarantine and/or other requirements to reenter the United States should any changes arise during the program.

Vaccinations

While the CLS Program does not require vaccinations for participation, many host countries/locations and/or host institutions may have vaccination requirements that prevent participation by unvaccinated students. Any country/location, including the United States, may change entry or exit requirements, quarantine and testing requirements, and other measures to reduce health risks at any time. Exemptions from a vaccination or other requirements on medical or religious grounds in one jurisdiction may not be recognized or granted by host countries/locations or host institutions.

Local ordinances and/or private businesses, including host institutions, airlines, entities managing housing or travel, as well as cafes, restaurants, grocery stores, and cultural venues, may have policies that restrict access for unvaccinated participants entirely, or that impose additional requirements, such as wearing masks and social distancing, that may differ for vaccinated participants. Unvaccinated students may not be able to participate in certain CLS program activities or may face additional travel restrictions or rules.

Vaccination requirements or other measures may change prior to departure, upon arrival or at any other time.

Testing Requirements

All participants may be required to undergo COVID-19 testing in order to meet travel or country/location entry requirements, or to meet requirements imposed by regional or local health authorities, the host institution, or entities providing travel or housing services. Program participants may be required to provide results to local/regional authorities, host institution staff or program staff, or other entities imposing testing requirements.

In order to maintain the safety of fellow students, staff, instructors, and members of the host community at large, unvaccinated participants, if able to travel to a host country/location and meet host institution placement requirements, may have to meet additional testing requirements. Unvaccinated participants may be responsible for additional costs associated with testing, for identifying a testing location on site, and for arranging their own travel to and from the testing site on a regular basis.

As noted earlier, in addition to any program requirements, all participants must also comply with any host country/location, host institution, or CLS program requirements.

Quarantine Requirements

All participants may be subject to quarantine policies, which vary across CLS host countries/locations. Some CLS host countries/locations may require a strict quarantine regardless of vaccination status. Strict quarantine policies may involve a stay in government-designated housing for an extended period of time, and/or severe restrictions on leaving quarantine housing. Strict quarantine requirements implemented in some countries may mean not being permitted to step outside of a hotel or dorm room for any reason other than a critical medical emergency. Exiting quarantine for a medical emergency may restart the quarantine period. Quarantine housing may or may not have windows, and may have varying conditions. Meals will be provided to students in quarantine, but food variety may be limited, particularly for those who have allergies or dietary restrictions. In some locations, students may be able to order delivery through food delivery apps. Students who have food allergies or strict dietary restrictions are encouraged to bring some shelf-stable food and snacks. Penalties, including substantive fines, arrest, and/or deportation have been documented for even brief violations of quarantine requirements.

In order to maintain the safety of fellow students, staff, instructors, and members of the host community at large, unvaccinated participants, if able to travel to a host country/location and meet host institution placement requirements, may have to meet additional quarantine requirements either based on local regulations or CLS program requirements. Quarantines vary in length depending on host country requirements as well as current public heath situations.

Health Risks

Traveling abroad during the COVID-19 pandemic involves potentially significant health risks: COVID-19 is a serious, potentially fatal illness and may result in personal injury, illness, temporary or permanent disability, or death. Health and safety monitoring, as well as requirements or guidance in the host country/location, may differ from that issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Similarly, medical care abroad may differ in terms of standards and procedures commonly found in the United States. Although CLS Program staff will take all reasonable precautions, participants may be exposed to and contract COVID-19 or other illnesses.

CLS Program staff are not medical professionals and cannot provide medical advice. Applicants are advised to discuss questions or concerns about participation in the program related to COVID-19 with a medical advisor, and to review travel advisories published by the U.S. government, especially:

The U.S. Department of State Travel Advisories

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website, for advice regarding health recommendations and COVID-19 precautions for travel to the host country.

Other 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 write cls@americancouncils.org.