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Frequently Asked Questions


I am graduating this semester (Spring 2022). Am I still eligible to apply to CLS Spark?

Yes. Applicants must be enrolled and working towards a degree in an accredited U.S. degree-granting program at the undergraduate (associate's or bachelor's) level at the time of their application (spring 2022).

Applicants who are graduating in the spring are still eligible to apply, as long as their graduation date is no earlier than April 7, 2022.

Do students need to be enrolled in a U.S. based, degree-granting program for the fall 2022 term?

No. CLS Spark participants are not required to be enrolled in a degree granting program at the same time they are participating in CLS Spark, during the 2022-2023 academic year.

Spark participants who wish to participate in the summer CLS Program after they complete CLS Spark will have to meet all eligibility requirements for that program, however, including active enrollment during the fall 2023 term.

I am a current graduate student. Am I eligible for CLS Spark?

No. Only students currently enrolled in undergraduate degree programs are eligible to apply to CLS Spark.

I will be entering graduate school in the fall. Am I eligible for CLS Spark?

If you are an undergraduate student graduating in the spring and will be entering graduate or professional school in the fall, you are still eligible to apply for and participate in CLS Spark.


Will CLS Spark participants receive academic credit?

No, academic credit is not available for participants in CLS Spark. Upon successful completion of the program, students may choose to inquire with their academic advisors at their home institutions about the possibility of testing for and receiving retroactive credits for their participation. Any credit granted for the program are at the sole discretion of each participant’s home institution.

Language Levels

I have already learned some Arabic/Russian, through a language class or some other limited experience. Can I still apply for beginning level Arabic/Russian?

CLS Spark for Arabic and Russian will be offered at the beginner level, meaning that participants will generally not have any background or experience learning these languages. Applicants with significant experience learning either Arabic or Russian will find that CLS Spark does not meet their language learning needs. However, it is possible for someone to have some experience with the language and still be considered at the “beginning” level. Advanced beginning or intermediate level instruction in Arabic and Russian will not be provided through CLS Spark (the Chinese language program has different requirements).

I’ve only taken one semester of Chinese language class or have some other limited experience. Can I still apply for advanced beginning Chinese?

CLS Spark for Chinese will be offered at the advanced beginning level and assumes that participants have the equivalent of one year of study in Mandarin Chinese. Participants without at least some experience with Mandarin Chinese will find that CLS Spark does not meet their language learning needs. However, it is possible to meet this requirement through a combination of formal coursework and other experience. For instance, an applicant who will be participating in an intensive program during the summer prior to Spark would be eligible to apply because they would meet the minimum requirement before the start of the program. Similarly, someone who had one semester of language coursework, but has engaged in significant self-study or has a familiarity with the language through their home environment, for instance, may be eligible.

All students applying for CLS Spark for Chinese are expected to articulate how their previous and future planned language experience has prepared them to meet the minimum requirement. A student who has taken one semester of coursework and wishes to be considered at the Advanced Beginning level for Chinese should articulate in their application how they will continue their language study until the time the program starts in Fall 2022.

Absolute beginner-level instruction in Chinese will not be provided through CLS Spark (the Arabic and Russian language programs have different requirements).

Is CLS Spark exclusively for students at institutions that do not offer courses in Arabic, Chinese, and Russian, or are students who are able to take courses in those languages still encouraged to apply?

Applicants are required to indicate whether their current institution offers courses in their target language, but responding “yes” to this question does not disqualify the applicant. All applicants are asked to provide a nuanced statement regarding their access to language learning opportunities. Applicants who have ample access to those opportunities should present a case for their need to participate in CLS Spark. Any student who can articulate how they face barriers or issues of access is encouraged to apply for CLS Spark.

Program Structure

Will the 18 hours of virtual instruction per month be offered on a set schedule? Or is it an asynchronous course?

CLS Spark is primarily a synchronous (live) program. There is a set schedule for each institution and language. The 18 hours of programming each month includes both required synchronous and asynchronous components as well as optional activities. For 2 hours a week, or 8 hours a month, participants will join live, synchronous group instruction. Students will also have regular individual meetings with their language instructors.

Asynchronous work includes required homework, which students may expect to spend a maximum of two hours per week completing.

Optional workshops on professional development and networking will be held on days and times that are not in conflict with class schedules, but these will also be recorded and available for any participant to view as their schedule allows.

Will classes be live? Can I watch recorded classes if I am not available at the days or times listed for the program?

Active participation and live practice is crucial to language learning. Students are expected to attend all class sessions, and to maintain an attendance rate of at least 80%. Students should not expect that courses will be recorded; recording policy will be at the discretion of each partner institution.

Program Benefits

Do CLS Spark scholars still have to apply for the summer CLS Program even though they are considered semifinalists?

Yes, CLS Spark participants must still complete the application form for the summer CLS Program if they wish to be considered as semifinalists. They will also need to meet the full eligibility requirements for the CLS Program, including enrollment in a degree-granting program at the time of their application (fall 2022).

If I participate in CLS Spark and apply for the CLS Program, will I be considered a semifinalist regardless of the language for which I apply?

CLS Spark participants will only be considered as semifinalists for the CLS Program if they are applying for the same language of their CLS Spark program. CLS Spark participants can choose to apply to any CLS Program language for which they are eligible but will not receive automatic consideration as semifinalists for any languages other than the one studied through CLS Spark.

Does completion of CLS Spark grant Non-Competitive Eligibility (NCE) status for federal hiring?

No, completing CLS Spark does not confer NCE status for federal hiring.