Critical Language Scholarship

Intensive Summer Institutes

History   |   Description   |    Eligibility   |    How to   |   Application   |    Checklist

History and Purpose

The Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) Program, launched in 2006, is a program of the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs offering intensive summer language institutes in thirteen critical foreign languages. The CLS Program is part of a U.S. government effort to expand dramatically the number of Americans studying and mastering critical foreign languages. In its inaugural year, the CLS Program offered intensive overseas study in six critical need foreign languages; Currently, scholarships are being awarded for numerous languages, including Arabic, Azerbaijani, Bangla, Chinese, Hindi, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean, Persian, Punjabi, Russian, Swahili (new!), Turkish, and Urdu. The selection process is administered by American Councils for International Education and the Program is administered by American Councils for International Education and The Ohio State University/Ohio University.

Description of the Critical Language Scholarship

The CLS Scholarship provides fully-funded, group-based intensive language instruction and structured cultural enrichment activities overseas each summer for US undergraduate and graduate students at one of several summer institute locations. Currently, there are Summer Institutes in Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Japan, Jordan, Korea, Morocco, Oman, Russia, Turkey, but interested students should check the website for updates. Typically, students receive about 20 hours per week of classroom instruction and participate in extensive community engagement activities. Some programs (where students arrive with prior language knowledge) require that students use only the host language. Housing situations range from home stays to hotels. Applicants should check the CLS website for details about each placement.

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. Please see CLS website for visa stipulations.

Eligibility Requirements and Rules for Nomination

 Applicants must have/be:

  • US citizens, enrolled in a US degree-granting undergraduate or graduate program at time of application
  • All class years, as long first year will be completed by start of summer assignment
  • Any discipline or major, but must plan to continue language study in future academics or career
  • Have a strong academic record (no minimum GPA is required, but 3.5 and above is recommended
  • Nomination by the College is NOT required for the CLS; students apply directly but are encouraged to request feedback on essays and guidance from National Fellowships Advisor; please allow ample time

How to apply

Students apply directly to the Critical Language Scholarship via the CLS website. The application usually becomes available on the website in September prior to the anticipated summer of study, but students can think ahead about their essays by carefully reading the Information for Applicants tips on the CLS website.  CLS is a very competitive award, receiving CLS receives over 5,000 applications per year for slightly over 600 placements. Applicants should make every effort to produce materials that represent them in the best way possible. This means planning to fine-tune essays through multiple drafts with feedback, securing recommendations early, paying attention to detail in every section of the application, and submitting all materials directly to CLS on time.


Application components

  • an application form  with questions regarding eligibility, language choice (one only), biographical and passport information, academic information, names and contact information for recommenders; relevant activities; past awards; target language experience; travel; statistical (demographic) information.
  • unofficial transcripts from all course study – these are uploaded to the application form
  • two academic reference letters – recommenders must complete and send this form and send by USPS or email. Complete instructions are on form. Due two days after applicant deadline.
  • four short essays (part of the online application) – about (1) what aspects of the CLS program you expect to find most challenging and how you will meet these challenges (350 words); (2) what are your strategies for interacting with those different from yourself (350 words); (3) what unique background and life experiences do you bring to the program; how will that contribute to group study; how will it provide your host community with a broad view of the US (350 words); (4) what formal and informal efforts do you plan to undertake to build upon your linguistic and cultural knowledge after participating in the CLS program?
  • Statement of Purpose – address: Why is it important that the CLS program invest specifically in you with this scholarship/ What interest you about this language and the people who speak it? How will increased language and cultural knowledge help you achieve your future professional and academic goals?

Campus Process and Checklist

Although students may apply directly for this award without involving the National Fellowships Advisor, those who wish to receive support are asked to comply with the following timeline and to give the Fellowships Advisor a copy of their final application.

  Task(s) to Complete
Summer/Fall read about the CLS award and Summer Institutes on CLS website; read the Information for Applicants section thoroughly; attend campus information session/contact the National Fellowships Advisor to discuss application; contact potential recommenders; order transcripts; draft essays and send as one Word document, including prompt, to the National Fellowships Advisor for feedback
 October create an account as soon as the application opens; begin entering information in application form; you may save as you go
Nov 25 submit all materials to CLS by deadline; send pdf version of application to the National Fellowships Advisor
February/March applicants notified; language skills evaluated; assignments made