Critical Language Scholarship Program

Offers fully-funded intensive language study and cultural immersion abroad.

What is the Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) Program? CLS is an intensive language and cultural immersion program for American students enrolled at U.S. colleges and universities. Students spend 8-10 weeks abroad studying one of 15 critical languages. The Program includes group-based language instruction and structured cultural enrichment experiences designed to promote rapid language gains. Formal classroom language instruction is provided for a minimum of 20 hours per week, covering approximately one academic year of university-level language coursework. Regular one-on-one meetings with native speaker language partners for conversational practice, cultural activities and excursions further expand students’ understanding of the history, politics, culture and daily life of their host country.

Sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, CLS seeks to expand the number of Americans studying and mastering foreign languages that are critical to national security and economic prosperity. The 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 U.S.

Selection Criteria: Participants are selected based on their demonstrable commitment to language learning, and who show that the language and cultural knowledge they gain is integral to their future academic and professional pursuits.

Languages: CLS offers instruction in critical languages at a variety of levels. No previous study required (Azerbaijani, Bangla, Hindi, Indonesian, Persian, Punjabi, Swahili, Turkish, Urdu), one year of study required (Arabic, Korean, Portuguese, Russian), and two years of study required (Chinese, Japanese). 

Program Benefits: The CLS Program covers the following costs: travel to and from the student's U.S. home city and program location, a mandatory Washington, D.C. pre-departure orientation, applicable visa fees, language instruction, room, board, program-sponsored travel within country, and all entrance fees for CLS Program cultural enhancement activities. Please note that U.S. passport fees and the cost of medical exams will not be covered by the scholarship.

Deadline Information

National Deadline: Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Eligibility Requirements

  • U.S. citizenship at the time of application
  • Enrolled in a U.S. degree-granting program
  • ​Minimum one year of college course-work completed by the program start date
  • Meet medical requirements necessary for program placement
  • 18 years old by the beginning of the program
  • Participation is limited to a total of 2 CLS awards for any individual

Application Process

UChicago Resources and Support: A comprehensive CLS Scholarship webinar is available via CCRF Resource Library. Based on the material, fully develop your essays. Next, attend a Group Advising session on October 29 or November 1 to further help you produce a competitive application. Note that CCRF does not offer individual advising, or writing support for CLS. 

Language Study Resources: Students are strongly encouraged to explore and utilize additional language study resources in preparation for (and/or in addition to) their application for the Critical Language Scholarship.

For more information on this opportunity, please contact: 
Sandra Zupan