Critical Language Scholarship

Website Eligibility Deadline Undergraduate/Graduate Students typically November


The Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) Program is a fully-funded overseas language and cultural immersion program for American undergraduate and graduate students. With the goal of broadening the base of Americans studying and mastering critical languages and building relationships between the people of the United States and other countries, CLS provides opportunities to a diverse range of students from across the United States at every level of language learning.

Most languages offered by the CLS Program do not require applicants to have any experience studying critical languages. The CLS Program seeks participants with diverse interests, and from a wide range of fields of study and career paths, with the purpose of representing the full diversity of the United States. Participants are selected based on their commitment to language learning and plans to apply their language skills to their future academic or professional pursuits. Please note that CLS is an intensive group-based language and cultural enrichment program.

The CLS Program is a program of the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.


The Critical Language Scholarship Program seeks participants from a variety of fields, backgrounds, and career paths, with the goal of building a cadre of Americans who speak critical languages at high levels in government, business, arts and culture, science and engineering, health and medicine, education, research, and other fields.

The CLS Program is a nationally competed award open to all eligible U.S. undergraduate and graduate students in every field.

In order to apply for the CLS Program you must, at the time of submitting your application:

  • Be a U.S. citizen.
  • Be enrolled in an accredited U.S. degree-granting program at the undergraduate (associate's, bachelor's) or graduate (master's, doctoral, professional degree) level.

In order to participate in the CLS Program you must, by the beginning of your program:

  • Be at least 18 years old.
  • Be in acceptable mental and physical health. Grantees will be required to submit a satisfactory Medical Information Form and Physician's statement and must inform the program of any changes in their health status between submission of these forms and departure in order to participate in the program.
  • Undergraduate students must have completed at least one academic year of study (two semesters or three quarters).
  • In order to participate in the CLS Program, finalists must receive an appropriate visa from their country of study (deadlines vary by country).

Please note that you are applying by language, not for a particular country placement. You are eligible to apply for one language only. If you submit more than one application, you will not be considered for a scholarship in any language.

Full eligibility requirements are listed at


CLS applications are reviewed by language faculty, area specialists, study abroad professionals and fellowship advisors as part of the selection process.  Award recipients will be selected on the basis of merit with consideration for:

  • Academic record and potential to succeed in a rigorous academic setting;
  • Ability to adapt to a different cultural environment;
  • Plan for continuation of study of the language; and
  • Plan to use the language in future career.

Application Procedure

  1. Complete and submit the application form online by the application deadline.
  2. Have one reference submit a recommendation online supporting your application.
  3. Submit an unofficial copy of your transcript with grades from your current school and any previous universities attended within the last five years.
  4. Any problems with the application form should be reported by email to The Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) Program strongly encourages that applicants submit their application in advance of the application deadline. The CLS Program and American Councils for International Education bear no responsibility for problems in submitting the application. 

While there is no on-campus interview or endorsement process, applicants are strongly encouraged to utilize the assistance of the prestigious awards advisor by October 1 of the cycle in which you intend to apply.

Value of the Award

The CLS Program is fully funded from start to finish. From the time you step foot out the door to the time you arrive home, the CLS Program covers many of the costs of participating in its overseas institutes, including:

  • Intensive overseas group based language courses (20+ hours per week)
  • Room and board, often with a host family
  • A full cultural program
  • Host community language partners
  • Domestic and international airfare

Participants receive a small stipend to cover incidental expenses and meals not provided by the program. Upon completion of the program, participants also receive a certified American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI) score.


LaTasha Johnson
Undergraduate Advising Support

Autumn Beechler Stebing
Center for International Affairs

Past Winners


Elisa Cheng 
Class of 2023

Olivia Wang 
Class of 2025



Anna Koch
Class of 2020
Cognitive Science
International Studies

Kasey Pukys
Class of 2022
International Studies


Anna Koch
Class of 2020
Cognitive Science
International Studies


Amanda Smith
Class of 2019
Political Science



Eve Lanyi
Class of 2014
Cognitive Science

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