Boren (NSEP) Scholarship

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

History and Purpose

The National Security Education Program (NSEP), established by an Act of Congress 1991, aims to develop the national capacity to educate U.S. citizens, understand foreign cultures, strengthen U.S. economic competitiveness and enhance international cooperation and security. Program policies and direction are provided by the 13-member National Security Education Board, comprised of seven senior federal government officials, most of Cabinet rank, and six individual citizens appointed by the President of the United States. The Board determines critical areas the program should address and recommends criteria for the awards. Day-to-day operations are supported by the Defense Language and National Security Education Office, an office within the Department of Defense. The Institute of International Education administers the Boren Scholarships. 

More information about the Boren program and NESP can be found on the Boren website.

Description of the Boren Scholarship

Boren Scholarships offer unique opportunities and partial funding for U.S. undergraduates to study abroad with a focus on geographic areas, languages, and fields of study deemed critical to U.S. national security. Boren draws on a broad definition of national security and includes in it not only protecting and promoting American well-being, but also the challenges of global society, including: sustainable development, environmental degradation, global disease and hunger, population growth and migration, and economic competitiveness. Eligible destination regions include Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, Eurasia, Latin America & the Caribbean, and the Middle East. The countries of Western Europe, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand are excluded. All applicants must demonstrate how their study programs and future goals are connected to national security as described above. Students may apply for a Boren Scholarship for one semester ($10,000.00 award) or a full academic year ($20,000.00 award). Students in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) fields may pursue eight weeks of summer study ($8,000.00). Boren candidates represent a variety of academic majors, but all must be interested in studying less commonly taught languages, such as Arabic, Chinese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, and Swahili (and at least 55 others). Scholarship winners must commit to one year of work for the US government within three years of graduation (deferrals considered to accommodate further higher education).   

More information about the scholarship can be found on the Boren Scholarship webpage.

Eligibility Requirements and Rules for Nomination

Applicants must have/be:

  • US citizens
  • first years, sophomores, juniors
  • 3.7+ GPA recommended
  • a plan for continuing to study the language after the Boren year
  • applying to a Study Abroad program that meets Mount Holyoke College standards in a country outside of Western Europe, Canada, Australia, or New Zealand (application to program is a separate process)
  • willing to complete Boren one-year service requirement (paid employment with US government)
  • All candidates are nominated; the Committee on Fellowships provides Boren an evaluation of each candidate

How to apply

Although the Boren Scholarship application is not due until January, MHC applicants must comply with the study abroad application timeline set by the McCulloch Center for Global Initiatives regarding study abroad applications and have their program choices approved for credit by McCulloch Center staff (see below). The Boren application opens in early September through the Boren website. Be sure to read the Application Instructions.  

Students should contact National Fellowships Advisor Christine Overstreet to discuss their candidacy and work with her on preparing their Boren application for submission to the MHC Committee on Fellowships. The Committee, made up of four faculty members and chaired by the Dean of Studies, reviews applications, interviews candidates, evaluates the candidates, and presents them to Boren for consideration. After meeting with the Committee, candidates will then revise their materials as recommended and submit their applications in the online system. The Fellowships Advisor will then upload the candidate's transcripts and the campus evaluation, and submit the application to Boren. Senior Administrative Assistant Marianne Taylor  co-facilitates the application process.

Application components

  • Application form including biographical information, academic background, language study, travel experience, proposed study abroad programs, budget for programs, survey data, and other funding - carefully read Boren guidelines here
  • Two essays – in Essay 1 the candidate explains why her proposed area of study, its culture, and language are important to national security; in Essay II, she describes the chosen program in detail, specifying in particular how the language study fits into her overall goals; maximum of 800 words each and 6,000 characters (must meet both criterion), single spaced, one line of space between paragraphs). See more detailed prompts on Boren site.
  • Official transcripts from all undergraduate study including summer or study abroad - have sent to Christine who will upload into your application after you submit
  • One page study abroad program description from program website  – upload to your online application
  • At least two, and no more than three faculty recommendations uploaded in response to email from online system – See Boren advice for recommenders
  • Language proficiency self-assessment & instructor evaluation uploaded into online system
  • a detailed estimated budget for your proposed abroad program
  • for direct enrollment study abroad programs, a letter of support from the program and the MHC Dean of Int’l Study

Recommendation Letters


The letter of reference writer for the Boren should answer the following questions in a letter of no more than one page, single-spaced:

  1. How long and in what capacity have you known the applicant?
  2. Please comment on the applicant's academic, linguistic, and personal preparation for her chosen study abroad program, especially as these factors relate to Boren Scholarship objectives. If possible, comment on the applicant's understanding of the relationship between his or her study abroad program and U.S. national security, broadly defined, as well as his or her career interests.
  3. Please add anything else that you think is relevant for the reviewers to know.

Format and submission: Once the applicant enters the letter writer's name in her application, the recommender will receive an email from the Embark online application system with the subject heading "Online Boren Scholarship Recommendation Request." The letter will give a deadline date, but please submit your letter by January 11th. The message will provide a link to a registration page with brief questions, then will take you to a window where you may upload your letter. Please submit a version of your letter that contains the institutional letterhead and your signature. Once you have submitted your letter to this system, the MHC Fellowships Advisor will be able to procure it.

Campus Process and Checklist

Please note that for all deadlines, submission time is 12:00 noon

Timeframe Task(s) to Complete
Early Fall Attend McCulloch Center Study Abroad Information Session
By early December Discuss program options with either Joanne Picard or Donna Van Handle in the McCulloch Center for Global Initiatives; meet McCulloch Center deadlines for study abroad/leave applications starting fall - see their website for deadline in early Dec; attend a Boren Information Session/consult with Christine Overstreet; send essays to Christine as Word documents for feedback; continue to revise through Dec./Jan.; order official transcripts and have sent to Christine (wait for fall grades to be in for MHC transcript).
By  Jan 11 Submit online application in Boren/Embark system so Christine can access it; all supplementary materials also due (language evaluations; transcripts, study abroad description); Recommendation letters uploaded by recommenders into online application
Jan 20-22 Interview with Committee on Fellowships
By Jan 28 Candidates submit revised application in Boren system
By Feb 8th Christine submits online applications in system
March/April Boren reviews applications; sometimes contacts applicants for further budget information
Late April Applicants notified via email of award status – please forward email to Christine