Are Critical Language Scholarship Programs the Right Choice For You?

The Critical Language Scholarship Program, also known as the U.S. Department of State’s Cultural and Educational Exchange Program, offers about 600 college or graduate degree students from the United States the chance to engage in an intense language study abroad at one of our partner colleges or universities in Central America or Asia. This is an incredible opportunity for young adults, high school students, and adult learners. They will have a chance to speak conversational Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, Russian, Japanese, Thai, and other languages. There are some specific scholarships which specifically target students in the critical language arts such as the Ph.D. in ESL Teaching with Latin America Scholarship Program, offered by the National Academic Transcription Center, in Washington D.C.
The U.S. Department of State’s Critical Language Scholarship Program, also known as the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Educational and Cultural Affairs’ External Scholarship Programs, has recently been a hot topic in the media because of its apparent failures. In response to news reports on these failures, a group of critical language scholars gathered together to write an extensive report highlighting their concerns about the critical language scholarship program. The group is composed of past and current beneficiaries of the critical language scholarship program. These individuals have shared their personal experiences regarding the program, its achievements and shortcomings, and their plans to continue pursuing their academic goals through the U.S. Department of State’s Critical Language Scholarship Program. We believe that this report is vital to the academic community in the United States and beyond.
There was some negative publicity in July and August of 2009 when it was discovered that a large number of applicants did not meet the minimal qualifications needed to qualify for study abroad scholarships. At the time, officials stated that they would be examining the criteria used to disqualify students more thoroughly. Late fees and lack of response from past students were among the reasons cited. However, on mid-november, the deadline for applications was extended to January 1st. The new date was chosen to facilitate better student participation.
As is typical of critical language scholarship programs, the requirements to qualify differ with each agency. Applicants may have to: (a) Be a US citizen; (b) Not be enrolled in a language school for more than one year; (c) Be a US citizen and an eligible non-immigrant alien who has been accepted for admission into the United States as a permanent resident. Students wishing to study a language other than English must be nominated by a primary school or university in their country of origin. Nominations are submitted through the foreign language institute, through the institution offering the scholarship, or directly to the awards committee. Applications should be submitted by the applicant no later than one year after graduation.
Many of the foreign countries with which the United States has bilateral agreements have high rates of unemployment. For these countries, the numbers of their citizens who have completed high school and who are employed in jobs that provide at least earning capacity are relatively low. Because these persons may not be eligible to take advantage of the funding available through a critical language scholarship program based on United States federal immigration law, some of these institutions will accept applications only after the applicants submit a copy of their original US federal visa. The number of applications received within the designated period of time will determine the amount of funds available for awarding each scholarship.
One of the unique features of a critical language scholarship program is that it does not require applicants to demonstrate proficiency in a foreign language before being awarded the funding. In fact, there is no language requirement at all! Applying generally does not even require the submission of a hard copy of a student transcript or ESL LPR, although it may be requested by some institutions. In addition, some language programs require applicants to demonstrate proficiency in the host country’s language, and may also require ESL LPR or proof of English fluency upon request.
Many colleges, universities, and private sectors throughout the United States are making it possible for American citizens who wish to study a foreign language by providing critical language scholarship programs. Courses commonly offered include business English, medical English, government English, and literature and culture English. Students who successfully complete coursework in these programs are then awarded a critical language scholarship. While these courses help students gain a thorough understanding of U.S. government procedures and the practice of business English, they also expose them to a host of other beneficial subjects and customs. These exposure help prepare them for careers in fields as diverse as international business, healthcare management, aerospace programming, and the diverse facets of U.S. diplomacy.
Critical language learning does not require a specific language or proficiency of a language. Even so, the majority of scholarship awardees are US citizens who were not born in the United States but have an American nationality. Immigrants who are eligible for this type of scholarship typically have an academic record and potential to succeed in a rigorous academic setting in the United States. Such individuals should possess a strong interest in and commitment to the United States, its people, and their economic system. Those with an academic record and commitment to fulfilling scholarship requirements have a good chance of being awarded a critical status scholarship.

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