The Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) Program is an immersive summer opportunity for American college and university students to learn languages essential to America's engagement with the world.


November 1, 2023


Anna Bernard-Hoverstad

Award recipients


Saisahana Subburaj

Critical Language Scholar, Class of 2023

Quick facts


US Citizen


First Year, Sophomore, Junior, Senior, Entering Graduate, Graduate



Endorsement Required


Award Amount

All costs of the program, including travel to and from program location, room and board.


Study abroad


The Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) Program is an intensive overseas language and cultural immersion group-based program for American students enrolled at U.S. colleges and universities. Students spend eight to ten weeks abroad studying one of 14 critical languages. The program includes intensive language instruction and structured cultural enrichment experiences designed to promote rapid language gains.

The CLS Program, a program of the U.S. Department of State, is part of a wider government initiative to expand the number of Americans studying and mastering foreign languages that are critical to national security and economic prosperity. CLS plays an important role in preparing students for the 21st century's globalized workforce and increasing national competitiveness. 

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.

The Critical Language Scholarship Program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State with funding provided by the U.S. Government and administered by American Councils for International Education.


  • Be a U.S. citizen or national at the time of application.
    • Others, including Permanent Residents, are not eligible, even if they anticipate naturalization by the beginning of the program.
  • Be at least 18 years old by May of program year.
  • Be enrolled in an accredited U.S. degree-granting program at the undergraduate (associate, bachelor's) or graduate (master's, doctoral, professional degree) level at the time of application.
    • Applicants must be enrolled in a program that results in a degree. Applicants who are taking stand-alone or continuing education classes are not eligible.
    • Applicants must be enrolled at an accredited U.S. institution. Students earning degrees at foreign institutions that are not based in the U.S. or its territories are not eligible, even if those institutions are accredited by a recognized U.S. accrediting agency.
    • Applicants in an undergraduate program (associate or bachelor's) must complete at least one full year of study (two semesters or three quarters) by the beginning of the CLS Program term.
    • Applicants must be enrolled at this institution in the fall term before the program term. There are limited exceptions to the enrollment requirement; please read the following information carefully:
      • If applicants are not taking classes at their home institution in the fall term, they should confirm that they are, in fact, enrolled. Institutions have different requirements to maintain enrollment status and applicants will be required to provide a signed letter from their registrar stating that you were enrolled during the fall term.
      • If applicants are taking a leave of absence to participate in an organized term- or year-long study abroad program, or to participate in a substantive internship program, they may request an exception to the enrollment requirement. Exceptions may only be granted in these two cases, and decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis.
        • In either case, applicants must submit a signed letter from their home college or university in the U.S. explaining their situation and their intent to re-enroll following the completion of their study abroad or internship program. They must also submit documentation from the program provider explaining the opportunity and confirming their participation. This documentation may be submitted to American Councils by email at
    • Applicants must successfully complete academic requirements for the fall term in order to remain eligible for the CLS Program. Applicants who withdraw or fail to maintain a passing grade average are not eligible to participate in the program.
  • Applicants must meet the language requirements of the program to which they apply.
  • Applicants may only apply once, for one language, each year. Applicants who submit multiple applications will be considered ineligible.
CLS Program Timeline
September/OctoberApplication opens
NovemberApplication closes
DecemberRound 1 reading begins
December/JanuaryRound 1 reading closes
January/FebruarySemifinalists notified
MarchFinalists notified
March - MayAlternates promoted on a rolling basis
JuneProgram begins

Program ends