Fellowships & Scholarships
Critical Language Scholarship (CLS)
  • Northeastern: 11/12/2024
  • Fellowship: 11/12/2024

If you meet the eligibility criteria and are interested in applying for this fellowship, please fill out a preliminary questionnaire. You may contact the office with any questions.

Award Details

Award Website

The CLS Program provides opportunities for American college and university students to study languages and cultures essential to America's engagement with the world.

Each summer, American undergraduate and graduate students enrolled at U.S. colleges and universities across the country, spend eight to ten weeks learning one of fourteen languages at an intensive study abroad institute. The CLS Program is designed to promote rapid language gains and essential intercultural fluency in regions that are critical to U.S. national security and economic prosperity.

The CLS Program Scholarship provides opportunities for undergraduates to pursue intensive overseas summer study in the critical need foreign languages, including Arabic, Azerbaijani, Chinese, Hindi, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean, Persian, Portuguese, Russian, Swahili, Turkish, and Urdu.

Abroad Award
US Citizenship Required

To be eligible for the CLS Program applicants must:

  • Be a U.S. citizen or national at the time of application.
    • Others, including Permanent Residents, are not eligible, even if they anticipate naturalization by the beginning of the program.
  • Be at least 18 years old by May 15, 2023.
  • Be enrolled in an accredited U.S. degree-granting program at the undergraduate (associate, bachelor’s) or graduate (master’s, doctoral, professional degree) level at the time of application.
    • Applicants must be enrolled in a program that results in a degree. Applicants who are taking stand-alone or continuing education classes are not eligible.
    • 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.
    • Applicants in an undergraduate program (associate or bachelor’s) must complete at least one full year of study (two semesters or three quarters) by the beginning of the CLS Program in Summer 2023.
    • Applicants must be enrolled at this institution in the fall term of 2022. There are limited exceptions to the enrollment requirement; please read the following information carefully:
      • If applicants are not taking classes at their home institution in the fall term, they should confirm that they are, in fact, enrolled. Institutions have different requirements to maintain enrollment status and applicants will be required to provide a signed letter from their registrar stating that you were enrolled during the fall term.
      • If applicants are taking a leave of absence to participate in an organized term- or year-long study abroad program, or to participate in a substantive internship program, they may request an exception to the enrollment requirement. Exceptions may only be granted in these two cases, and decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis.
        • In either case, applicants must submit a signed letter from their home college or university in the U.S. explaining their situation and their intent to re-enroll following the completion of their study abroad or internship program. They must also submit documentation from the program provider explaining the opportunity and confirming their participation. This documentation may be submitted to American Councils by email at cls@americancouncils.org.
    • Applicants must successfully complete academic requirements for the fall term in order to remain eligible for the CLS Program. Applicants who withdraw or fail to maintain a passing grade average are not eligible to participate in the program.
  • Applicants must meet the language requirements of the program to which they apply.
  • Applicants may only apply once, for one language, each year. Applicants who submit multiple applications will be considered ineligible.

The following persons are ineligible:

  • Employees of the U.S. Department of State who work in offices under the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Academic Programs, in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA), for a period ending one year following the termination of such employment;
  • Employees of private and public agencies under contract or grant with the U.S. Department of State who perform services related to the Critical Language Scholarship Program, for a period ending one year following the termination of their services; or
  • Immediate family members (i.e., spouses and dependent children) of the individuals described in the above paragraphs, for a period ending one year following the termination of such employment or service. This provision does not disqualify self-supporting members of families who live apart from their parents.

These provisions do not extend to part-time or temporary employees, consultants, or interns of the U.S. Department of State (including at U.S. Embassies and Consulates), or to contract employees of the U.S. Department of State, unless such persons perform services related to the Critical Language Scholarship Program.

Selection Criteria for the CLS Program

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

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 and cultural knowledge 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 specific 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 academic 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.

Adaptability, Sensitivity and Resilience
Successful applicants:

  • Exhibit maturity and self-awareness when considering potential challenges they may face abroad.
  • 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.

All CLS Program costs are covered for participants including: travel to and from the student’s U.S. home city and program location, a mandatory Washington, D.C. pre-departure orientation, applicable visa fees, room, board, group-based intensive language instruction, program-sponsored travel within country, and all entrance fees for CLS Program cultural enhancement activities. Please note that U.S. passport fees will not be paid by the scholarship, and you will be required to cover transportation to and from your U.S. home address and the airport for CLS Program travel. Selected applicants must have a valid U.S. passport.

Your completed application to the CLS Program will consist of:

  • The application forms. Apply for one language only, remembering that the application is for CLS language—not a specific country or site.
  • Three short essays, and a statement of grant purpose.
  • Uploaded copies of your unofficial transcript/s.

Interested? Have Questions?

If you meet the eligibility criteria and are interested in a fellowship or opportunity, please fill out a preliminary questionnaire. Contact the office with any questions: