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; in 2012, scholarships were awarded for thirteen languages, including Arabic, Azerbaijani, Bangla, Chinese, Hindi, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean, Persian, Punjabi, Russian, 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. Selected applicants must have a U.S. passport valid through 2015 with at least two blank visa pages by early February 2014.

Eligibility Requirements and Rules for Nomination


Applicants must have/be:

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

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.  Although there is no campus process for this application, and CLS does not require college endorsement, the CLS is a very competitive award. CLS receives over 5,000 applications per year for slightly over 600 placements. Students, therefore, should make every effort to produce an application package that represents 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 where you answer questions regarding eligibility, language choice (one only), biographical and passport information, academic information, names and contact information for recommenders (and their preferred mode of submission – online or paper); relevant activities; past awards; target language experience; travel; statistical (demographic) information.
  • unofficial transcripts from all course study – you will upload these to the application form
  • two academic reference letters – see CLS instructions on submission for these
  • language evaluation form - if candidate is applying for a language at the advanced beginning, intermediate, or advanced level
  • three 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) a Statement of Purpose (500 words)

Campus Process and Checklist

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

Timeframe Task(s) to Complete
July - September read about the CLS award and Summer Institutes on CLS website
  read the Information for Applicants section thoroughly
  contact FA to discuss interest in award and strategies for compiling a competitive application
  contact potential recommenders
  secure unofficial transcripts from all course study
  draft essays and send in a word doc, with prompt for each essay included, to FA for feedback
September create an account as soon as the application opens; begin entering information in application form; you may save as you go and return to the application multiple times
By November 15 check the website for 2014 application deadline; submit all materials to CLS by deadline
  send pdf version of application to Fellowships Advisor
February/March applicants notified; language skills evaluated; assignments