Are you interested in studying a language critical to U.S. national security interests? Want to study abroad, but don’t have time to do so during the semester? Then the Critical Language Scholarship may be right for you.

Critical Language Scholarships provide two months of fully funded language study in countries such as China, Morocco, Turkey, Russia, and others where critical languages are spoken. You can find more info about CLS on their website.

1. Get an Early Start
Not procrastinating is an important skill in just about all aspects of life, and it’s especially important for the Critical Language Scholarship application. With three 350 word essays, one 100 word essay, and a 500 word statement of purpose, you’ll be doing well over 1500 words of writing for this application, and you don’t want to leave yourself struggling to answer the prompts last minute. Starting early will also help ensure that you are able to write multiple drafts of all of your essays which is critical (pun intended) to your success as an applicant.

Moreover, you need to give your recommenders as much time as you can to ensure that they can write the best possible recommendation. They will not be happy if you come to them asking for a recommendation only a few days or a week before the deadline, and they are much less likely to agree to write it.

2. Pick the Language/Culture that Most Interests You
This may sound like a no-brainer to applicants who immediately know what language they want to apply for, but for less unsure applicants, deciding on the language can be a challenge. If none of them jump out as the right language to study for you, think long and hard about your interests and your post-graduate plans. Pick the language whose culture interests you the most, or that you could most easily see yourself immersing yourself in again through future study. It’s also important that you are able to connect the language that you pick to your goals for the future, which I’ll touch on again later.

However, what you should NOT base your language choice on is the relative competitiveness of some languages over others. Some languages receive much more applicants than others, but those languages also tend to have more teaching sites and are thus able to accept more applicants. Your application will be best if you pick the language that most interest you and fits best with your future goals, regardless of how many other applicants that language receives.

3. Show a Commitment to Language Learning
Once you’ve decided on the language, make it clear throughout the application, and especially in the statement of purpose, why this language fits best for you. By the time the reader finishes your application, there should be no doubt in their mind that you are completely committed to learning that language to the best of your ability.

4. Distinguish your Essays from one another
With 4 short essays and the statement of purpose, the CLS application will require you to do quite a bit of writing. Especially in the first two essays, which ask similar questions, many applicants find it difficult to keep their essays distinct and avoid repetition. But keep in mind that the readers of your essays are going to be reading dozens or even hundreds of other essays, and it’s important that you keep them interested and not repeat yourself. Read your essays over multiple times and make sure that you’re answering the right questions and not using the same idea over and over again.

5. Connect to your Future
Getting the Critical Language Scholarship should not be your ultimate goal in life. CLS should be the means to some other end, like working in international business or the Foreign Service. Throughout your essays, and especially in your statement of purpose, create a narrative that explains how your past has led to you applying to CLS, and how CLS will lead to you achieving your future goals. If you can express how CLS, and specifically your CLS language, is connected to your life plans, you will do a much better job of showing them why it’s important that they award you with this scholarship over someone else.

6. Get Your Essays Checked Over
Writing multiple drafts of your essays and having them looked over by another person is absolutely vital to your application. Proof-reading on your own can be helpful, but you need to have another person’s perspective to make your essays the best they can possibly be.

The Peer Scholarship Advisors are here for you throughout the process of applying for CLS, and we are always happy to read through your essays and give our feedback! We’re trained to know what each scholarship is looking for, and we can help you refine all aspects of your application.

7. Be Sure of Yourself
If you’re not sure of yourself and your future, how will your essay-readers ever be? It’s not enough just to be well-qualified for CLS, you also have to be able to sell yourself. So instead of saying “I think that I’d like to…” or “I might…” try saying “I will…” or “I intend to…” to convey more confidence. This will show your readers that you are certain of what you want to do and how CLS will help you get there.

Many college students find it challenging to convey confidence in their life plans, and you are probably not 100% sure what you want to do after you graduate. That’s okay! Even if you do have a plan, plans often change, and your essay readers understand that. However, it is important that you do some self-reflection to make some sort of plan that you can convey genuine confidence in.

If you have any more questions about this or other scholarships, don’t hesitate to visit Scholarship Search or come to the Charles to ask a PSA Monday through Friday from 9am to 5pm. As always, thanks for reading and good luck on your applications!