How to Complete a CLS Program Application


Since you apply directly to the CLS program, the process to apply for the Critical Language Scholarship is a little different than some other opportunities that our office supports. Even though there is no internal deadline for application, you will want to adhere to the following steps in order to present the most polished application possible. Don’t worry, even though we don’t have to formally endorse you, we will still provide a lot of feedback on your essays (but only if you send the materials to us!).

So, let’s dive in and see what you need to do.

Step 1: Make sure you are eligible

You don't want to craft your application and perfect your essays, only to find out you do not qualify for this scholarship. So, what should you do? You need to vist the CLS Eligibility Requirements page to make sure you can apply for this scholarship. 

There may be some confusing elements to this process, especially if you are studying abroad or taking time off from college. So, if you have questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to us. 

Step 2: Pick a language

When you apply to CLS, you have to make a decision about your language selection. While some languages do not require any prerequisite study, you will need one year of study for Arabic, Korean, and Russian and two years of study for Chinese and Japanese.  

You will want to consider that CLS uses the following terminology:

  • Beginning Level: No previous study of the language, or less than one academic year of study or the equivalent.
  • Advanced Beginning Level: At least one academic year of target language study or the equivalent.
  • Intermediate Level: At least two academic years of target language study or the equivalent.
  • Advanced Level: At least three academic years of target language study or the equivalent.

When you are trying to decide what your language level is, remember that you will apply to the next highest level. For instance, if you are taking your first Arabic course in the fall and another in the subsequent spring semester, you would be considered to be at the “Advanced Beginning Level.” Also, it is important to remember that you may also have experience outside of coursework that will help you develop your language skills.

You will need to ask a professional to assess your skill level. To do this, you can ask a faculty member at Amherst College to assess your language level and determine where you would be placed in the target language curriculum at your school. For instance, if the instructor would place you in second year Arabic at your school, you would apply for the Advanced Beginning level of Arabic on the CLS application.

Is it also important to note that you cannot select which country you wish to study in during the program. CLS staff will place your in a location that meets your lanaguage ability and their resources. As such, you should not list a location preference anywhere in your application materials. 

If you have questions about what language you want to study, you can always discuss this with our office staff by requesting an appointment

Once you have your language selected, it's time to open an application.

Step 3: Create an account and open an application

You will need to create an account to begin your application. In the upper righthand corner of the page, you will see a “Create an account” link. Use this link to input a username, password, your name, and email address. A verification email will then be triggered to your account.

Once you verify your account, you can start working on your application. You will have access to your application as often as necessary until the national deadline has passed. CLS will not accept edits or new materials after that date. Click “Start” next to CLS Application for Summer 2023 to start the application process. Remember to save your work as you enter information into the CLS application system, make sure to click the “Save changes” button at the bottom of each page frequently. The system will time you out after 60 minutes of inactivity and will not save your work unless you click on the “Save changes” button. Unsaved work will be permanently lost and cannot be retrieved by CLS Program staff.

There are many components to the CLS application. You do not need to answer all of these questions at one time (you can build your application over several weeks). You will answer questions in the following categories:

  • Eligibility confirmation
  • Language choice
  • Biographical information
  • Current academic information
  • Transcript and grades
  • Previous academic information
  • Language study and travel
  • Previous programs, activities, honors, and fellowships
  • Short Essays
  • Statement of Purpose
  • And Statistical Information (this isn’t shared with your reviewers)

Once you create an account and start working on your application, you can move onto Step 4.

Step 4: Develop your essay responses

Within the short essays section, you will need to respond to four prompts that will gauge your ability to successfully complete the CLS program. The prompts require you to think about your own preparation for the program and what your ability to adapt to an immersive, language program will be within the host country.

Your prompts deal with the following issues and ask you to address these questions/prompts:

  1. Resilience and Preparation for the CLS Program (300 words allowed)
    1. What aspects of living in a host community and participating in the CLS Program do you expect will be the most challenging for you?
    2. What knowledge, skills, and experiences will you draw on to meet these challenges?
    3. Give an example of a situation that required you to use strategies for interacting with people who are different from you or a situation that was unfamiliar.
  2. Citizen Diplomacy (300 words allowed)
    1. Consider how your unique experience and perspective might contribute to your cohort.
    2. Make a case for how you will serve as an effective citizen diplomat abroad. How could you contribute to the mission of building mutual understand between the people of your home community and the people of your host community?
  3. Commitment to Language Study (200 words allowed)
    1. What interests you about your chosen target language and the people who speak it?
    2. How will you continue to study this language after the CLS Program?

Write the first draft of your essay responses and send it to Eric as a Word doc for feedback. He'll respond within a week. You'll revise and re-send until you both agree it is ready for national submission.

Step 5: Craft your statement of purpose

The last piece of the application asks you write your statement of purpose. You have 500 total words to address to following questions:

  1. How will increased language and cultural knowledge help you achieve your future academic or professional goals?
  2. Why is participation in the CLS Program appropriate for you at this point in your academic or professional career?
  3. Why should the CLS Program invest in you? What is it that you bring to the program?

You want to make sure that you don’t repeat the information you used in response to the other essay prompts. This is a relatively short application (even if it doesn’t feel like it!); so, you want to make sure you use all of your word count wisely. Make sure you think about every line you write and whether or not it adds to your candidacy for the CLS program.

As with the essay responses, write the statement of purpose draft as early as you can and send it to Eric as a Word doc for feedback. He'll respond within a week. You'll revise and re-send until you both agree it is ready for national submission.

Got the essays in good shape? On to Step 6!

Step 6: Gather supporting documents

The CLS program requires you to submit your transcript(s). Though you can submit an unofficial copy of your transcript with your application, you are REQUIRED to submit an official copy if selected as a finalist. Therefore, we encourage you to submit an official copy for the national deadline. 

Request your official AC transcript and study abroad or transfer college transcripts early enough to get them in the app by the national deadline. You may have to order a paper version and scan it. Make sure your major(s) matches what you've put in the application. Scan front and back of each transcript. Create a a pdf of each, then upload all of the transcripts. More information on transcripts can be found on the CLS FAQ page

Got your transcript ordered and uploaded? You're ready for Step 7!

Step 7: Check for accuracy and completion, then submit

  • Proofread everything you've written for the application - biographical information, short entries, small
  •  paragraphs, and essays for typos. We suggest you print the app and read it out loud to yourself, word for word. (We promise you won't catch errors if you review the app on your phone.) Upload your essays.
  • Submit by the national deadline!  

    All done? Yippee! That's it! 

What happens next?

Once the national deadline has passed, the waiting begins. Your application will be reviewed by experts and academics on behalf of the U.S. State Department. This national review normally takes several months, but if all goes according to plan, you should now about the status of your application in March. 

If you are selected to participate in the CLS program, you will complete the necessary steps coordinated through the program. And then you're off to your host country sometime in the subsequent summer!

If you were not selected, you can apply again during another cycle, or you can apply for one of the other fellowships our office supports. 

Have questions? Please contact us.

Christine Overstreet, Director of Fellowships
212 Converse Hall

Eric Myers, Associate Director of Fellowships
213 Converse Hall

Mailing address: Office of Fellowships, Amherst College, Amherst, MA 01002

On-Campus Mailing Address: AC # 2214