Critical Language Scholarship Program Overview

Cy Nguyen 21 History & Purpose: The Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) is a program of the United States Department of State. CLS was launched in 2006 to offer intensive overseas study of State Department-identified critical languages. The scholarship aims to increase participant's cultural and language competencies while supporting their academic and professional goals, and building relationships between the United States and host countries. (pictured: Cy Nguyen '21, winner of CLS award to Japan)

Award Description: CLS provides students with an intensive language and cultural immersion program. Participants spend eight to ten weeks abroad studying one of 15 State Department-identified critical languages. The languages offered are Azerbaijani, Bangla, Hindi, Indonesian, Korean, Punjabi, Swahili, Turkish, Urdu, Arabic, Persian, Chinese, Japanese, Russian, and Brazilian Portuguese. Azerbaijani, Bangla, Hindi, Indonesian, Punjabi, Swahili, Turkish, Persian, and Urdu are offered at beginning, advanced beginning, intermediate, and advanced levels. Arabic, Korean, Russian, and Brazilian Portuguese are offered at advanced beginning, intermediate, and advanced levels. Chinese and Japanese are offered at the intermediate and advanced levels. Refer to the CLS website for more information on the language competency levels and language study prerequisites.

Funding Details: CLS covers international and domestic travel between the student's U.S. home city, Washington, D.C. and the CLS program site, and related costs for the mandatory pre-departure orientation in Washington, D.C.. The program covers visa fees, language instruction, room and board, program-sponsored travel, and entrance fees for program activities. Recipients receive U.S. academic credit issued through Bryn Mawr College. CLS does not cover U.S. passport fees or medical exam fees required for finalists. 

Eligibility:  Applicants must be U.S. citizens at least 18 years of age at the time of their application and must be enrolled in an accredited U.S. degree-granting program at the undergraduate, or graduate level at the time of their application. Applicants who are not taking classes at their home institution at the time of their application, for example, students studying abroad in the fall, may still be eligible but must provide additional documentation. Learn more about eligibility on the CLS website.

Due to their relationship to the U.S. Department of State offices under the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Academic Programs or the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, or the CLS program itself some people are ineligible. Learn more about ineligibility for CLS funding on their website.

How to Apply

Students apply directly to CLS. The application is currently closed and will reopen in early October. The application will open in early October and be due on November 16, 2021. For updates please check this site again later, and check the CLS application page.

Application Components: The application requires that you provide biographical information, submit an unofficial transcript (or transcripts), write multiple short essays (100-350 words), submit a statement of purpose, and request two recommendations. Recommendations are due shortly after the application due date. Review our website on Writing Fellowship Essays for more tips. See our webpage on Advice for Candidates for more information on requesting recommendations.

We recommend that applicants complete the Online Paper Transcript Request Form as early as possible. Once the transcript arrives applicants should scan their transcript to create a PDF, and upload the file to the application portal. For more on transcripts visit the Amherst College Registrar. In some cases students who have studied abroad, or studied at other institutions may need to submit an additional transcript or transcripts. Do not submit a protected e-transcript PDF, these files can be unreadable for recipients. If you request an electronic transcript you should print it and scan it to create an unprotected PDF. 

Finalists are required to submit copies of their official transcripts. Official transcripts are typically submitted in January.

For Recommenders:

We suggest that all materials be submitted before the deadline as late materials are not accepted by CLS. Recommendations must be submitted via the CLS online application portal. CLS has recommenders submit their responses via a webform that includes specific questions related to the applicant's preparation for CLS. Strong recommendations speak to one or more of the following: the applicant's academic record and potential to succeed in a rigorous academic setting, their commitment to language learning, the connection between the applicant's language study and career/academic goals, their ability to adapt to an intensive program and challenging cultural environment, and the applicant's unique perspective and potential contributions to the CLS program. Further tips can be found on our Suggestions for Recommendation Writers website.

Foundation Website: Critical Language Scholarship Program

Christine Overstreet, Director of Fellowships
212 Converse Hall, 413-542-2536,   
Eric Myers, Associate Director, Fellowships                         
Mailing address: Office of Fellowships, Amherst College, Amherst, MA 01002


The most recent Amherst College students to be awarded the Critical Language Scholarship are Reid Dodson '24, Gillian Quinto '23, Cy Nguyen 21,  Benjamin Gilsdorf '21, Katherine Pedersen '19, Adrian Castillo '19E, Noah Lerner '16, Bess Hanish '13, Joshua Anderson-Russakis '13, Nathan Nash '12, Matthew Reilly '13, Keith Wine '12, Kristin Ouellette '12, Bessie Young, and Tara Shabahang '09. Amherst College students have received scholarships in Arabic, Chinese, Persian, Russian, Turkish, and Swahili.