Critical Language Scholarship

Estimated annual campus deadline: No campus deadline for Undergraduates. National deadline in November each year.

The Critical Language Scholarship is an intensive overseas language and cultural immersion program for American students enrolled at U.S. colleges and universities, supporting study of languages of critical need to U.S. interests.

Eligibility: Freshmen, Sophomore, Junior, Senior; U.S. citizens; enrolled and pursuing a degree at an accredited US institution during fall of application year; all majors; desire to study a language critical to US interests.

Award amount: N/A; fully funded intensive language program abroad

Campus nomination: Campus nomination is not required for applicants to CLS. Students should apply directly by the national deadline provided by CLS.

UCSB campus application information

Class Level: 

  • Freshman
  • Sophomore
  • Junior
  • Senior

Scholarship Deadline: 

November 15, 2023

Expanded Scholarship Details: 

The Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) Program is an intensive overseas language and cultural immersion program for American students enrolled at U.S. colleges and universities. Students spend eight to ten weeks abroad studying one of 15 critical languages. The program includes intensive language instruction and structured cultural enrichment experiences designed to promote rapid language gains.

CLS, 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. Please note that CLS is an intensive group-based language program.

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.

Eligibility Requirements:

  • Be a U.S. citizen or national at the time of your application.
  • Be enrolled in an accredited U.S. degree-granting program at the undergraduate (associate's, bachelor's) or graduate (master's, doctoral, professional degree) level at the time of your application, meeting the following conditions:
    • Your program must result in a degree. Applicants who are taking stand-alone or continuing education classes are not eligible.
    • Your institution must be an accredited U.S. institution.
    • You must be enrolled at this institution in the fall term of your application year. There are limited exceptions to the enrollment requirement; consult the CLS website for details.
    • You must successfully complete academic requirements at your current institution for the fall term in order to remain eligible for the CLS Program. Students who withdraw or fail to maintain a passing grade average are not eligible to participate in the program.
  • Be at least 18 years old by May of the year following your application.
  • If in an undergraduate program (associate's or bachelor's), complete at least one full year of study (two semesters or three quarters) by the beginning of the CLS Program in summer 2021.
  • Must not work or be an immediate dependent of someone who works for the U.S. Department of State in offices under the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Academic Programs, in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA), or in any agency under contract or grant performing work in support of the Critical Language Scholarship.

Application Deadline: November 15, 2023

The online application is available online at the Critical Language Scholarship Website.

The application consists of:

  • An online application form, including questions on biographical, educational, and other information.
  • Three short essays related to your experience and qualifications, including: Resilience and Preparation for the CLS Program, Citizen Diplomacy, and Commitment to Language Study.
  • One Statement of Purpose addressing how the CLS program fits into your goals and how you will contribute to the program's mission..

Applications are submitted directly to CLS by the national deadline. Undergraduates are not required to submit materials by any campus deadline and do not participate in any campus selection process. Undergraduates are encouraged consult with Undergraduate Education for feedback on application materials. For feedback, your complete CLS application and all letters of recommendation should be shared with our office at least 30 days prior to the national deadline. For final submission, the application must be submitted through the CLS application system by the national deadline.