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Information for Applicants

Who Can Apply

The Critical Language Scholarship Program seeks participants from a variety of fields, backgrounds, and career paths, with the goal of building a cadre of Americans who speak critical languages at high levels in government, business, arts and culture, science and engineering, health and medicine, education, research, and other fields.

The CLS Program is a nationally competed award open to all eligible U.S. undergraduate and graduate students in every field. Review the full set of eligibility requirements for the CLS Program.

What is CLS?

You can watch a full information session video online:

Getting Help with Your Application

The CLS Program maintains a list of faculty members and administrators at colleges and universities nationwide who have volunteered to assist students with the CLS application process.

To find CLS Advisors on your campus, visit this page:

Search for CLS advisors on your campus

The CLS Program does not designate official campus advisors because CLS applicants are not required to obtain support from their home institution to apply for the scholarship. However, the CLS Program maintains a list of faculty members and administrators at colleges and universities nationwide who have volunteered to assist students with the CLS application process. If you do not have a designated CLS representative at your university, we recommend you contact your university’s study abroad, fellowship or career office.

Find CLS Advisors on your campus.

Also be sure to watch the official CLS Application Tips video, which is designed to help you write focused, effective essays that speak to the selection criteria for the CLS Program. We recommend this video for every student applying to the CLS Program.

If you require assistance or a reasonable accommodation to complete the CLS application, please contact our staff at cls@americancouncils.org or 1-877-257-9922.

Top Five Reasons to Apply to CLS

You will make enormous language gains. The intensive and immersive nature of the CLS program means that in two months, you have the potential to make gains that might otherwise take you years of class time and study. On average, CLS participants gain the equivalent of one-year of study in U.S. classrooms over a single summer.

CLS will help you grow as a person and a student. Your study abroad experience will open your eyes to new people and places and introduce perspectives you could get nowhere else. These perspectives will be important to your personal and professional goals.

Critical languages make you more competitive in the job market. No matter what field you are pursuing, in our globalized world, employers are often looking for employees that are culturally competent and have a global perspective. The CLS experience will give you an advantage over the competition as you enter the job market.

Countries such as India, Turkey, China, Azerbaijan, Korea, Japan, and Indonesia make up some of the world's fastest growing economies. With the language and cultural expertise you gain through CLS, you can be a part of those burgeoning economic climates and get the on the ground experience that will set you apart.

You will become part of a vast community of language learners. Your CLS cohort will be made up of America's brightest and most dedicated students, many of whom will go on to become leaders in their field. Make contacts that will serve you well into the future! You'll also become a member of the 4 million-strong Department of State Alumni network.

Besides the practical aspects of CLS, you'll make lifelong relationships with unique people. CLS emphasizes the diversity of its participants. You'll meet people from different backgrounds and build your network with people from all over the country!

CLS participants are citizen ambassadors. You may be the first American that someone from your host country meets. You will have the opportunity to teach people about our country and culture and build relationships between the people of the United States and your host country.


CLS applications are reviewed by language faculty, area specialists, study abroad professionals and fellowship advisors as part of the selection process. During the first round of review, all applications are read by two outside reviewers. During the second round, top applications are submitted to selection panels.

Award recipients will be selected on the basis of merit with consideration for:

  • Academic record and potential to succeed in a rigorous academic setting;
  • Commitment to language learning;
  • Connection between target language and career/academic goals;
  • Ability to adapt to an intensive program and a challenging cultural environment; and
  • Contributions to the CLS Program and program goals.

Each applicant will be contacted by email in January with notification of the status of their application following the initial review process. Applicants who move past the initial review process will be notified of their status as a scholarship recipient, alternate or non-recipient by early March, 2019.

Selection Criteria

Commitment to Language Learning

Successful applicants:

  • Articulate a motivation for learning the language for which they are applying.
  • Show that they have leveraged available resources to develop appropriate foreign language skills for the CLS Program.
  • Show commitment to further developing their language skills and cultural knowledge after participating in the CLS Program.

Connection between Language and Goals

Successful applicants:

  • Show that the language and cultural knowledge they gain on the CLS Program will have an impact on their academic, personal and professional development.
  • Show that the language and cultural knowledge they gain is integral to their future plans.

Preparation for the CLS Program

Successful applicants:

  • Show that they understand the challenges of the CLS Program as a group-based, intensive, study abroad program, and that they are prepared to meet these challenges.
  • Articulate how their academic, professional and personal experiences have prepared them to succeed on the CLS Program.

Background Knowledge, Adaptability and Sensitivity

Successful applicants:

  • Exhibit knowledge of the host culture and/or language appropriate to their linguistic and academic level.
  • Show the ability to interact with people and situations that require adaptation.

Contribution to the CLS Program and Program Goals

Successful applicants:

  • Have considered what their unique experiences, perspectives and/or background might contribute to the program.
  • Make a good case for how they will contribute to the mission of building mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of their host communities.

Additional Considerations

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.

Frequently Asked Questions

Would you like to know more about CLS? Find answers in our frequently asked questions section.