Frequently Asked Questions

Application Process

Is the program limited to students of specific disciplines? No, students enrolled in a degree-granting program in any field of study are eligible to apply. The CLS Program actively seeks applicants in diverse fields of study, including STEM fields, law, medicine, and others. Applicants must clearly articulate how the target language relates to their academic field of interest and future career goals.

Do I need to have my application reviewed by a campus representative before it is submitted to the program? No, you do not have to go through any particular office on your campus in order to apply to the CLS Program. However, the CLS Program urges you to make use of resources available on your campus to strengthen your application. This might be a Scholarships Office, Fellowships Office, Merit Awards office, Study Abroad Office or International Programs Office, or your advisor. A campus writing center might also provide helpful feedback on your essays.

The CLS Program does maintain a list of faculty members and administrators at colleges and universities nationwide who have volunteered to assist students with the CLS application process. Find CLS advisors on your campus.

Am I obligated to seek employment in the U.S. government following graduation?  No, the CLS program does not have a service requirement. However, alumni are expected to continue to use the target language in future academic studies and in their professional careers. Previous CLS recipients have sought and found successful employment not only in government, but also in academia, business, public health, non-profit organizations, law, etc.

While there is no service requirement, alumni are eligible for 12 months of non-competitive eligibility (NCE) hiring status within the federal government.

I do not have a U.S. passport, or my passport is expired. Do I need to get or renew my passport before the application deadline? No, but please note that CLS institutes in most locations will require a visa, and the time frame for procuring a visa may leave very little time to manage a new passport application or a renewal after you have been selected. All finalists are required to have a valid passport by March 2018 in order to participate in the program. If you are offered a Critical Language Scholarship award and do not have a U.S. passport with at least two blank pages and that is valid through December 2018 (March 2019 for Russia) at the time of notification, the CLS Program may require you to expedite a new passport at your own expense, depending on the country of study and current visa requirements for that country. Up-to-date passport information can be found at:

Please note that visa fees are covered by the program, but passport application fees are not, including the costs of expediting a passport.

What should I do if my current academic institution is not listed on the application? Please email us at to have your institution added to the list of options on the application. CLS regularly updates the institutions on its application using data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, however not all eligible institutions participate in this survey. Similarly, inclusion on this list is not a confirmation of eligibility. Your institution must be both U.S.-based and currently accredited.

How are applicants selected for the CLS Program? Award recipients are selected on the basis of merit, with consideration for:

  • Academic record and potential to succeed in a rigorous academic setting;
  • Commitment to language learning;
  • Connection between target language and career/academic goals;
  • Ability to adapt to an intensive program and a challenging cultural environment; and
  • Unique perspective and contributions to the CLS Program.

All other factors being equal, the CLS Program gives preference to veterans of the United States armed forces.

All other factors being equal, applicants are selected with the goal of representing geographic diversity and a diversity of institutions and fields of study.

Preference may be given to candidates with limited or no previous study abroad experience.

Each application is initially read by two independent evaluators chosen from a pool of faculty and administrators at colleges, universities, and international education institutions across the U.S. Last year, evaluators from over 180 U.S. institutions participated in the first round of selection. Top applicants are reviewed by panels of academic and international education experts, who convene in Washington, D.C. in early February. Applicants will be notified of final decisions about their selection by early March, 2018.

Language and Program Site Questions

Can I apply for programs in more than one language? No, you must choose to apply for only one language offered by the CLS Program.

May I select a site or indicate a site preference if I am applying for a language that has more than one program site? No. Site placement for languages where more than one location is offered will be made based on a variety of factors as determined by the CLS Program institutes and the U.S. Department of State. The CLS Program will not be able to accommodate site change requests before or during the program.

How many applications do you usually receive for my target language?  The number of applications submitted for each CLS language varies each year. We have no way of anticipating how many applications we will receive for any given language, or for different language levels.

What percentage of applicants for beginning, advanced beginning, intermediate, and advanced levels do you admit?  We do not have a quota for each level of students accepted per language. When reviewers evaluate CLS applications, they consider each applicant’s references, transcripts, and essays. Since the applicant pool varies each year, the percentage of each level represented within a language also varies. More than anything, the CLS Program seeks well-rounded, adaptable students with a strong work ethic and a commitment to using their CLS language in their careers.

I have studied the target language, but not in a U.S. university setting. Which level should I apply for? The CLS Program is not able to conduct a review of online resources, private tutoring, or independent study materials, or to personally advise applicants regarding their language level. Please refer to the Language Levels and Prerequisite section to determine which level to select. If you are having difficulty, we recommend you reach out to a language professor on your campus to have them help rate your language level. Another possibility is to find a set of language textbooks and see which level correlates with your current level of personal study.

I grew up speaking the language that I am applying to study on the CLS Program, and/or I have family members who speak the language that I am applying to study on the CLS Program. Am I eligible to apply? Yes, applicants with a family background in the language are eligible to apply for the CLS Program. If you do not already know the language (little to no experience speaking, reading, writing, or listening), we recommend applying for the beginning level. If you do have some experience with the language, please refer to the Language Levels and Prerequisites section to determine which level to select.

I have not studied the target language, but have been very successful at learning other foreign languages. Can I apply at the level of advanced beginning, intermediate, or advanced anyway, because I am a very fast learner? No. Acceptance into the advanced beginning, intermediate, and advanced levels of any CLS language is based on experience studying the target language, not general linguistic aptitude.

What level of proficiency can I expect to achieve after participating in the program? The CLS Program is equivalent to approximately one academic year of language study. Language proficiency gains are measured before and after the program through a speaking test known as the Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI) administered by testers certified by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL). Please visit the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines website ( to learn more about proficiency levels. 

Please visit the outcomes page to learn more about proficiency testing results for the CLS Program:

How will I be placed in a class in the CLS Program? In most cases, placement tests or an interview with teachers in the host country will facilitate the placement of students into classes based on level.  You will be placed in a class based on your level, but you should also expect some minor variation in level within your classes, as each CLS student comes from a different language-learning background. It is common for students in the same class to be at different places in their language-learning process.

Transcripts and Academic Record

Do I need to submit official transcripts or are unofficial transcripts acceptable? For the CLS application you are only required to upload an unofficial transcript. If you are a freshman in college and do not yet have first term grades, you must still submit an unofficial transcript to show your courses in progress. If you are unable to upload a current transcript, you may list all of your coursework and grades in the fields provided.

Accepted finalists will be required to submit copies of their official transcripts.

I transferred from a community college, was dually enrolled in a high school and a college, or took summer courses at another institution. Do I need to provide transcripts from these previous institutions? If the credits transferred to your present university, you do not need to provide transcripts from these institutions as part of the application. If you are chosen as a finalist, we will ask you to provide official transcripts from your present and past institutions.

I am currently studying abroad (or have in the past). Do I need to submit the unofficial transcripts from my U.S.-based institution as well as my study abroad institution? If so, how do I do that? You must submit an unofficial transcript from your U.S. institution, and it must clearly show your enrollment status for the terms during which you studied abroad. If it does not, you should provide both an unofficial transcript from your U.S.-based institution and an unofficial transcript from your study abroad institution. You should submit these transcripts by merging them into one PDF; if you have difficulty with this, please contact us.

Letters of Recommendation

Where can I find information on how to submit letters of recommendation?  For information on submitting references online, please log in to your online application and refer to the detailed instructions in section 13: “Recommendation Requests.” After entering contact information for each of your references, you can send a notification email to your recommendation writers with instructions on how to submit a letter on your behalf. You can track the progress of your recommendations by returning to this section of the application. If you need to change recommenders, simply enter the new recommender’s information in the same box, then click “Save.” Please note, however, that entering and saving the new recommender’s information will delete any recommendation that has already been submitted.

Do my letters of recommendation need to come from professors? We require that each application have two letters of recommendation. At least one of your recommendations should come from someone familiar with your academic performance, preferably at the university level. Both letters should be written by someone who can speak to your suitability for the program.

Please note that all letters of reference must be submitted in English and cannot be completed by a family member.

I sent the request for a recommendation letter, but was told that no one has received anything. What should I do? Log into the CLS application to make sure your notices were sent. The application system will indicate that you have sent out a notice, and it will also provide further updates on any recommendation activity (notice sent, read, saved, or submitted). If you can see that you have sent out a notice, please ask those filling out a recommendation to check their spam filter and/or quarantine service. If they do not see a message from us, you can re-send a notification. If they still have not received a message, they can contact our office to have a direct link sent to them.

It is also possible to download a PDF form and submit a scan by email (, or by regular mail addressed to: American Councils for International Education Attn: CLS Program 1828 L Street Northwest, Suite 1200 Washington, D.C. 20036

I am a freshman in college and the fall semester just started a few weeks ago. We haven’t turned in much homework or taken any quizzes yet, so I don’t think my professors know my work very well. Can I use high school teachers for my recommendation letters?  We strongly encourage students to find professors or university-affiliated instructors (such as a graduate student teaching assistant) to complete their CLS recommendations. Professors regularly write letters of support for applicants to scholarship programs and have a strong grasp of how to write a competitive letter. However, we understand that your college career is only a few weeks old, so it may be more challenging to get a strong reference from a professor. CLS will accept recommendations from high school teachers, but we strongly advise submitting no more than one letter from a high school teacher.

Can I submit more than two letters of recommendation? No, you may only submit two letters of recommendation with your CLS application.

Is it required that I have a letter of recommendation from my language instructor? You are not required to submit a letter of recommendation from a language instructor. At least one of your recommendations should come from someone familiar with your academic performance, preferably at the university level, and this person may be a language instructor. Please note that all letters of reference must be submitted in English.

Eligibility Cases and Questions

What is the minimum GPA for the Critical Language Scholarship? There is no minimum required GPA for CLS applicants. Application reviewers and selection panel members will evaluate your academic record together with your letters of recommendation, the strength of your application, your commitment to using your target language in your studies and career, and your ability to adapt to a different cultural environment.

I am completing my final year at a community college/undergraduate/graduate institution before the start of the CLS Program. Am I still eligible? Yes, as long as you are enrolled in a degree-seeking program at the time of your application you are still eligible to apply. This includes graduating seniors, as well as students transferring from a community college to a four-year institution.

I am currently a green card holder, and anticipate being naturalized before the summer program begins. Am I still eligible? No, in order to be eligible for the CLS Program you must be a naturalized citizen by the time of your application.

I am not currently enrolled in a degree program, but will be starting a graduate degree in the fall. Am I eligible to apply? No, you are ineligible to apply to the CLS Program if you are not enrolled in a degree program at the time of application, even if you plan to begin a program after CLS.

I am enrolled in classes toward a certificate program or other non-degree program. Am I eligible to apply? No, you are ineligible to apply. You must be taking classes toward an undergraduate, graduate, or professional degree in order to be eligible for the program. Classes being taken toward non-degree programs do not count towards enrollment for eligibility purposes.

Is the scholarship only offered to students enrolled in a U.S. degree program? Yes, this scholarship is only offered to students currently enrolled in a degree-granting program at an accredited U.S. college or university. Check with your registrar if you are unsure whether your school is accredited in the U.S.

I am a U.S. citizen enrolled in a degree program overseas. Am I eligible to apply? Applicants attending accredited U.S.-based institutions at overseas locations who meet all other eligibility requirements are eligible to apply. For example, New York University has campuses in Shanghai and Abu Dhabi, but is based in New York in the U.S. Students from the NYU’s overseas campuses are eligible to apply for the CLS Program.

Applicants enrolled at foreign-based universities abroad are not eligible to apply. Often, foreign universities may accept FASFA funding or may hold accredited status from a U.S. national accrediting agency, however this is not an indication of eligibility.

Does CLS accept applications from those who have had to withdraw from their home institution in order to pursue an internship experience in the U.S. or abroad? Yes we will allow students to apply even though they have withdrawn to do an internship. However, you must submit documentation of your internship program as well as a signed letter from your home college or university in the U.S. explaining your situation and your intention to re-enroll following the completion of your internship program.

I had to withdraw from my home institution in the U.S. for a semester due to a temporary medical condition.  Am I still eligible? If you have withdrawn from your program for the fall semester for a personal reason, other than to participate in a study abroad program or substantive internship program, then you are not eligible to apply. 

I am studying abroad this semester, next semester, or for the entire academic year. Am I still eligible for the Critical Language Scholarship? If you are still enrolled as a degree-seeking student at your home college or university, you are eligible for the CLS Program. If you have taken a leave of absence in order to participate on your study abroad program but intend to re-enroll, then you may apply. However, you must submit documentation of your study abroad program as well as a signed letter from your home college or university in the U.S. explaining your situation and your intention to re-enroll following the completion of your study abroad program.

I am a high school student, but I am earning college credits through dual enrollment. Am I eligible for the CLS Program? The CLS Program requires that all applicants be enrolled in a degree-granting program at an accredited U.S.-based university at the time of application. Typically, dual enrollment programs are not degree-granting. In addition, CLS participants must be 18 years old by May 15, 2018, and must have completed a full year of college by the start of the program.

I am currently enrolled at a college/university but I am not presently taking any classes. Am I eligible to apply for the program? Please check with your registrar to ensure that you are still officially enrolled without taking any classes. If so, you are eligible to apply for the program. Please be aware that if you are chosen as a finalist, you will need to demonstrate that you were officially enrolled by providing an official transcript or a statement from the registrar’s office.

I participated in a previous CLS institute. Provided that I meet the other eligibility requirements, can I apply again? CLS alumni are encouraged to apply to the program again, but are not given preference in selection. Past participants should make a clear case for why participating in another summer institute is important to their goals and language development, and should demonstrate the steps they have taken to maintain the language skills that they gained from the previous CLS Program. Please note that if you are applying to study a language other than the language you previously studied with the CLS Program, you will need to make a clear case for how you are continuing to study or use your first CLS language. In addition, you should specify how you will use both your first CLS language and the new language.

If Awarded a CLS

Can I receive more than one scholarship or fellowship and can I hold them concurrently? The program urges you to apply for any applicable funding for language studies. In most cases you can receive more than one scholarship, but not at the same time. For instance, you can receive a Critical Language Scholarship for the summer and another award for the following fall. There are exceptions to these rules, so we ask all award recipients to let us know of any other awards received. The CLS Program requires your full participation starting with mandatory pre-departure orientation in Washington, D.C. through the conclusion of the intensive summer institutes. No exceptions will be made for attendance of other orientation programs during the CLS Program or for early departures from the CLS Program to attend other program events. PLEASE NOTE: You cannot receive funding from both a Critical Language Scholarship and a Fulbright Critical Language Enhancement Award during the same year.

Am I able to accept both a Fulbright award and the CLS award?

You are able to accept both as long as the pre-departure orientation dates do not conflict. For reference, please visit for a list of regions/countries that require mandatory Fulbright Pre-Departure Orientations. There is no other restriction related to eligibility and government grants/awards. Please note that as a standing policy, participants are not allowed to accept both a CLS and a Critical Language Enhancement Award (CLEA), which is an addition to the U.S. Student Fulbright Program, in the same academic year.

Can my spouse/child/friend come with me on the CLS Program? Dependents are not supported by CLS Program funding. Dependents or companions may not participate in any CLS activities and may not live in program-arranged housing. CLS participants are required to stay in CLS-provided housing, and may not make separate arrangements to stay with a dependent or companion. CLS is an intensive language learning program with extensive mandatory program activities, and participants should expect to have little free time to spend with a dependent or spouse. For this reason, the CLS Program discourages participants from traveling with their spouse or dependents, and from hosting friends or visitors during the course of the program.

I have other commitments in June. Can I join the program a few days late? Is the Washington, D.C. Pre-Departure Orientation mandatory? CLS Program dates vary by institute location, but may start as early as late May and finish in the third week of August. All participants are required to attend a mandatory Pre-Departure Orientation in Washington, D.C., and to travel with the group to their CLS Program site. No exceptions will be made to this policy. For instance, if you are overseas on a study-abroad program that ends later in the summer, you will need to make arrangements to finish your program early in order to attend the Pre-Departure Orientation for your CLS Program site. If you are not able to do so, you will need to decline your CLS award.

I will be overseas in the spring prior to the summer CLS institutes. Can the CLS Program cover my international travel to Washington, D.C. for the pre-departure orientation? No, the CLS Program can only cover U.S. domestic travel to Washington, D.C. for the pre-departure orientation. The CLS Program is unable to provide international airfare to participants for the pre-departure orientation or to reimburse any portion of this expense.

Will I be able to conduct independent research or hold an internship while I am on the program? No. Although we realize that many of our students are eager to conduct overseas research or find local internship and volunteer opportunities, please keep in mind that the purpose of the CLS Program is intensive language study. All program classes and activities are mandatory, and participants who hope to accomplish significant research while on the program are often disappointed to find that they do not have the time and energy to devote to research. However, these students also tend to find that the language skills they gain while on the program immeasurably improve their ability to make connections with locals and conduct research after program completion. In addition, please note that any research activities must be approved by the CLS Program staff in Washington, D.C., and by the host institution before implementation, and may violate the terms of your visa.

I have plans to attend a wedding/graduation ceremony/participate in a conference during the summer. Can I leave during the CLS Program, especially if I am sure to make arrangements that would not interfere with classes? No. Travel away from the host country is not permitted, even in cases where it does not conflict with the academic and cultural program.

Will I receive academic credit for my participation in CLS? Yes. The CLS program provides two units of academic credit through Bryn Mawr College. Each unit is the equivalent of four undergraduate semester hours.  Please note that while academic credit is available upon successful completion of the CLS program, it is up to the individual applicant to apply to his or her registrar’s office. Depending on the university’s or college’s requirements, the registrar’s office may or may not request to be informed before the student begins the CLS program.

If I receive a CLS award, can I defer and do the program next summer? It is not possible to defer your scholarship.  If you cannot do the program this year, you will have to decline the award this year and can reapply again next year, but there is no guarantee that you will be awarded a scholarship in the future.

Other Questions?

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