Critical Language Scholarship

Critical Language Scholarship

Funding for travel abroad for cultural immersion and study of a language critical to U.S. national security and economic prosperity


The Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) is one of the most competitive scholarships in the U.S. and the most prestigious language program for U.S. citizens. It provides fully-funded group-based intensive language instruction and structured cultural enrichment experiences for 8-10 weeks for undergraduate, master’s and PhD students. The program takes place in a country where the critical language is spoken. Students of diverse disciplines and majors are encouraged to apply. Applicants are expected to continue their language study beyond the scholarship period and later apply their critical language skills in their future professional careers. The scholarship covers travel between the U.S., Washington D.C., and the CLS program country, visa application fees, language instruction, room and board, program-sponsored travel, U.S. academic credit, Oral Proficiency Interview language assessment and all entrance fees for program activities.



  • Be a U.S. citizen
  • Be enrolled in an accredited U.S. degree-granting program at the undergraduate or graduate level
  • Be at least 18 years of age by May 15th of the award year
  • If in an undergraduate program, complete at least one full year of study by the beginning of the CLS program
  • Be at the appropriate level of the desired language
    • No previous study required:
      • Azerbaijani
      • Bangla
      • Hindi
      • Indonesian
      • Persian
      • Punjabi
      • Swahili
      • Turkish
      • Urdu
    • 1 year of study required:
      • Arabic
      • Korean
      • Portuguese
      • Russian
    • 2 years of study required:
      • Chinese
      • Japanese


  • ~600 per year

Selection Criteria:

  • Academic excellence
  • 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
  • Contributions to the CLS program and program goals
  • Preference may be given to candidates with limited or no previous study abroad experience

Application Material:

  • Critical Language Scholarship Application
  • 2 letters of recommendation


External deadline: November 17, 2020



September 17, 2020: Application opens

November 17, 2020: National deadline

January/February: Notification of semi-finalists

March: Notification of selection

June: Pre-departure orientation in Washington D.C.

August: Students return

Length of Scholarship: 8-10 weeks

Scholarship Website:

Contact Information: