Critical Language Scholarship Program (CLS)

Important Dates

Visit for further details.

Online application availability: September

Application Deadlines:
Campus deadline: Early October; candidates may submit directly
National deadline: November

Notification of qualifying candidates: January

Notification of winning candidates: February

Scholarship Overview

A unique opportunity to learn a critical language and increase your cultural competency in an immersive, challenging environment!

The Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) Program, created by the US Department of State, provides fully-funded short-term intensive language instruction and cultural enrichment overseas each summer. The CLS program seeks applicants from a variety of fields, backgrounds, and career paths with the goal of building a cadre of Americans who can speak critical languages at high levels in government, business, art and culture, science and engineering, health and medicine, research, and other fields. 

CLS Program languages include Arabic, Azerbaijani, Bangla, Chinese, Hindi, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean, Persian, Portuguese, Punjabi, Russian, Swahili, Turkish, and Urdu.


Information for Applicants

  • Eligibility

    Applicants must be:

    • Sophomores, juniors, or seniors with a strong academic record
    • Enrolled in an accredited US degree-granting program at the undergraduate or graduate at the time of application
    • A US citizen at the time of application


    Who cannot apply:

    • Certain employees of the US Department of State and employees of private/public agencies under contract or grant with the US Department of State who perform services related to the CLS Program; spouses and dependent children of these employees are also disqualified
    • International students and permanent residents


    All majors are encouraged to apply.

    For more information about eligibility requirements, visit

  • Additional Requirements

    The CLS Program does not offer all language levels for each language. Some language programs require one or two years of previous study in the language to qualify. For a complete list of different language levels and prerequisites visit

    Seek advising early on in the application process. Schedule an advising appointment with the Critical Language Scholarship Program Campus Advisor, TBD to discuss intent to apply.

  • Award Benefits

    Final monetary award depends on the country, program, and length of study. 

    Award benefits cover:

    • An intensive overseas group-based language program (20+ hours per week)
    • Room and board, often with a host family
    • Full cultural program
    • Host community language partners
    • Academic credit
    • Domestic and international airfare 


    Award cannot be deferred or renewed.

  • Candidate Profile
    • strong academic record with potential to succeed in a rigorous academic setting
    • commitment to language learning
    • ability to adapt to a different cultural environment
    • plans for continuation of study of the language beyond the scholarship period through continued course work, private tutoring, study abroad, conversation hours, or through other creative means
    • plans to use the language in a future professional career
    • diversity of background and perspective in representing the US abroad 
  • Application Procedure
    1. Find a faculty member willing to serve as your mentor throughout the application process.
    2. Notify the Critical Language Program (CLS) Program Campus Advisor, TBD of your intent to apply the semester before you plan to apply.
    3. Schedule an advising appointment with the CLS Program Campus Advisor to discuss internal and external application processes and timelines.
    4. Register at and start completing the application.
    5. Two letters of recommendation are required. Select faculty members who can comment on your intellectual achievements, your potential to learn a new language, your adaptability to new environments, your extracurricular activities, your professional plans, and your suitability for the program.
    6. Submit a complete PDF copy of your application to the CLS Program Campus Advisor by the campus deadline. Only complete applications will be considered.
    7. During the selection process, your application will be evaluated by language faculty, area specialists, study abroad professionals, and fellowship advisors. During the first round of reviews, all applications are read by two outside reviewers. During the second round, top applications are submitted to selection panels.
    8. You will be notified of the status of your application in January. Finalists will be announced in late February.

    About 11% of applicants receive an award.

  • Advising

    Critical Language Scholarship Program Campus Advisor:


    Information Sessions:
    Webinars for candidates are available at