Critical Language Scholarship (CLS)


About the Critical Language Scholarship
Basic Eligibility & Selection Criteria
Application Components
Application Timeline
Applicant Resources
USC Recipients
AHF Advising


Direct-Apply Opportunity

About the Critical Language Scholarship

The Critical Language Scholarship is a fully funded summer overseas language and cultural immersion program for American undergraduate and graduate students. The program is part of a U.S. government effort to expand dramatically the number of Americans studying and mastering critical foreign languages. Students of diverse disciplines and majors are encouraged to apply. Participants are expected to continue their language study beyond the scholarship period, and later apply their critical language skills in their future professional careers. CLS Institutes provide fully-funded group-based intensive language instruction and structured cultural enrichment experiences for seven to ten weeks over the summer. On November 29, 2016, President Obama signed an Executive Order giving alumni from the CLS Program non-competitive eligibility for U.S. government jobs.

Fully funded cost of participating in overseas institutes includes group-based learning courses (+20 hours per week), room and board, a full cultural program, host community language partners, domestic and international airfare, and living stipend for incidental expenses and meals.

Critical Languages

Learn more about the Critical Language Scholarship

Basic Eligibility

Applicants must:

  • be a U.S. Citizen at the time of application (non-citizens, including Permanent Residents, are not eligible);
  • be an enrolled undergraduate, master’s or Ph.D. student at the time of application;
  • complete at least one full-time equivalent year of study (two semesters or three quarters) by the beginning of the CLS Program;
  • meet language level prerequisites depending on the program.

Learn more about eligibility

Selection Criteria

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.

Learn more about selection criteria

Application Components

Apply directly through the CLS website. The application includes the following components:

  • Eligibility Checklist
  • Biographical Information
  • Academic Information & Transcripts
  • Language Study Experience & Planned Courses
  • Recommendation Form (1) – online recommendation form, not an attachment
  • Previous Programs, Honors, and Fellowships
  • Short Essays (4)
  • Statement of Purpose

Learn more about application components

Application Timeline

  • August 27, 2020: Application open
  • November 17, 2020: Application closes at 8:00pm Eastern Time
  • November 20, 2020: Recommendations due
  • January/February: Semifinalists notified
  • March: Finalists notified
  • March – May: Alternates promoted on a rolling basis
  • June: Pre-departure orientations in Washington, D.C.
  • August: Students return from CLS program

Applicant Resources

  • Binders of Successful CLS Essays:  Review essays from previous USC CLS recipients in STU 300.  No appointment needed (Monday-Friday 9am-5pm). Currently unavailable due to virtual semester.
  • Resources for Applications – recorded info session, examples of application component, and application tips
  • Search for USC CLS Alumni – Contact a recipient who has participated in the program you are interested!     
  • CLS Information Session with USC Recipient Jason Tse, Recorded November, 8 2016

USC Recipients

  • 2020: Samir Alam and Diego Frankel (in-person programs suspended)
  • 2019: Edith Conn, Sarah Cueva, Jenna Han, Khoi Nguyen
  • 2018: Eunbyul (Abigail) Koh, Jane Moore, Joseph Nakpil, Yevgeniya Gilmore, Jamie Skiba
  • 2017: Francesca Conterno, Alex Melnik, Ho’esta Mo’e’hahne, Vaishali “Isha” Mullapudi, Ciara Taylor, Anli Zhang
  • 2016: Colin Conwell, Max Kapur, Ethan Levin
  • 2015: Lance Jackson, Brian Knafou, Nicholas Kosturos, Jason Tse, Thomas Watson

View more USC recipients

Contact Us

Draft Review only: October 26 – November 10, 2020

Request an Individual Draft Review
Form open October 19 – November 5

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