Critical Language Scholarship

A brief history

The Critical Language Scholarship is a program of the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, which strives to build peaceful, friendly relationships between citizens of the United States and citizens of other countries through academic, cultural, and professional exchanges and partnerships. The American Councils for International Education, which administers the Scholarship, was founded in 1974 as an association for area and language professionals with the intent to advance scholarly research and cross-border learning through educational programs grounded in key world languages, cultures and regions. Through programs such as the Critical Language Scholarship, the American Councils hopes to contribute to the development of new knowledge, broader professional perspectives, and professional and personal development of new knowledge, broader professional perspectives, and professional and personal growth through international training, academic exchange, collaboration in educational development and public diplomacy.  


The Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) Program is an intensive language and cultural immersion program which aims to dramatically expand the number of Americans studying and mastering critical foreign languages. The Program allows American students studying at U.S. colleges and universities to spend eight to 10 weeks abroad studying one of 15 critical languages. The CLS Program institutes are designed to cover approximately one year of university-level language coursework during each program. Some programs require that an applicant have one to two years of university-level study (or the equivalent) of the language prior to the start of the program, while other programs require no prior background in the language. For more information on the languages offered and for specific program requirements, visit the CLS Program's website.  

For the duration of their CLS program institute, participants receive no fewer than 20 hours per week of formal classroom instruction in their language. Students engage in extracurricular activities which are designed to supplement their classroom learning, such as one-on-one meetings with a native language speaker partner for conversation practice. The Program also includes cultural activities and excursions which are designed to expand students' understanding of the history and politics of their host country, as well as to help students get a sense of daily life in that country.

Award stipend and benefits

As a recipient of the Critical Language Scholarship, students will have most of the costs associated with participating in their overseas language institute covered by the CLS Program. These include the costs of international and domestic travel between the student's home city, Washington, D.C., and the student's CLS Program site; costs associated with attending the mandatory pre-departure orientation in Washington, D.C.; visa application fees; all entrance fees for program activities; language instruction, room, board, and program-sponsored travel within the host country; Oral Proficiency Interview language assessments; and the cost of U.S. academic credit for program participation issued through Bryn Mawr College.

The CLS Program does not cover expenses associated with U.S. passport fees (including the cost of expediting a passport if necessary) or the costs of medical exams and any follow-up visits necessary to pass the medical review as determined by the CLS Program.

Program and eligibility requirements

There is no minimum GPA required to apply for this scholarship. Award recipients are selected on the basis of merit, with consideration for the following factors: the applicant's academic record and potential to succeed in a rigorous academic setting; commitment to language learning; connection between the target language and the applicant's academic and/or career goals; ability to adapt to an intensive program and a challenging environment; and an applicant's contribution to the CLS Program and its goals.

  • Applicants must be at least 18 years of age at the time they apply.
  • Applicants must be enrolled at an accredited U.S. institution in a degree-granting program at the undergraduate or graduate level to apply. Limited exceptions apply to students who are enrolled at their home college or university but are not taking classes during the fall term, and to students who are taking a leave of absence to participate in an organized term- or year-long study abroad program or a substantive internship program. For more information, see the CLS Program's eligibility requirements.
  • The CLS Program is not limited to students from any specific disciplines or fields of study. Applicants must clearly articulate how the target language relates to their academic field of interest and future career goals.
  • Candidates can submit their applications directly to the foundation. Advisors are not required to submit on the candidate's behalf.
  • Candidates must submit two letters of recommendation and an unofficial transcript as a part of their application.
  • Candidates may apply for only one language program per application period.
  • Applicants must determine what level of language proficiency is most appropriate for them to choose as part of the CLS application process. For students who may be unsure of their proficiency, the Program recommends asking a professional to assess their skill level or reviewing textbooks or other college-level course material to determine what material the applicant is familiar with and at which level the applicant begins to experience difficulty. All applicants, regardless of how they have learned or become familiar with the language, should only apply for the language level for which they will meet the minimum requirements by the beginning of their summer program. For more information, see the Language Levels and Prerequisites.
  • Candidates with experience in the U.S. Armed Forces are given preference, provided that they meet all other requirements and other qualifications are essentially equal.
  • Preference is given to applicants with limited or no study-abroad experience prior to their participation in the program.
  • Applicants do not need to possess a valid U.S. passport at the time of their application to the CLS Program; however, all finalists are required to have valid passports in order to participate in the summer program. Many program locations also require visas. Because of the time necessary to process these documents, the program recommends that participants ensure that they have a valid passport no later than March before the summer of their program.
  • If selected for the program, participants must attend the mandatory pre-departure orientation in Washington, D.C.
  • Participants must attend all daily classes and activities for the duration of their program as determined by that program's schedule. Exact dates for each program will be announced to students who have been offered a scholarship.

Application instructions

The application for the Critical Language Scholarship becomes available in early September and is due in mid-November. Finalists for the scholarship will be notified in early January. Recipients will be notified by early March.

University contact information

Interested students should contact Kent State University's Critical Language Scholarship advisor Frank Congin at with any questions.  

Please check back in the future for Kent State's internal deadline process schedule.