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

You can apply directly through the CLS website. The application includes the following components:

  • Eligibility Checklist
  • Biographical Information
  • Academic Information & Transcripts
  • Language Study Experience & Planned Courses
  • Letters of Recommendation (2)
  • Previous Programs, Honors, and Fellowships
  • Short Essays 
    • 1) Resilience: Give an example of when you had to adapt to a new and challenging environment or situation. What did you find challenging and what strategies did you use to adapt to the situation?
    • 2) Preparation for the CLS Program: What aspects of the CLS Program do you expect will be the most challenging for you? What knowledge, skills, and experiences will you draw on to meet these challenges?
    • 3) Citizen Diplomacy: Make a case for how you will serve as an effective citizen diplomat abroad. How could you contribute to the mission of building mutual understanding between the people of your community and the people of your host community?
    • 4) Commitment to Language Study: What interests you about your chosen target language and the people who speak it? How will you continue to study this language after the CLS Program?
  • Statement of Purpose
    • How will increased language and cultural knowledge help you achieve your future academic or professional goals? Why is participation in the CLS Program appropriate for you at this point in your academic or professional career? Why should the CLS Program invest in you? What is it that you bring to the program?

Learn more about application components

Application Timeline

  • September 12, 2019: Application opens
  • November 19, 2019: Application closes at 8:00pm EST
  • November 22, 2019: 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

USC Recipients

  • 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 18 – November 1, 2019

Request an Individual Draft Review
Submission open October 1 through October 20th

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