Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) - Spark

CLS Spark is a pilot virtual initiative for U.S. undergraduate students to learn languages essential to America’s engagement with the world. Designed to leverage best practices in online language learning developed by the CLS Program during the pandemic, CLS Spark provides American students the access and opportunity to start their language learning journeys even when these critical languages may not be offered on their campuses or when they may have responsibilities that limit their ability to go overseas.

Participants will spend an academic year learning either Arabic, Chinese or Russian through online classes and activities facilitated by native speakers at a host institution abroad.


To be eligible for the CLS Program you must:

  • Be a U.S. citizen or national at the time of their application.
    • Others, including Permanent Residents, are not eligible, even if they anticipate naturalization by the beginning of the program.
  • Be enrolled and working towards a degree in an accredited U.S. degree-granting program at the undergraduate (associate's or bachelor's) level at the time of their application.
    • Applicant academic institutions must be accredited U.S. institutions. Students earning degrees at foreign institutions that are not based in the U.S. or its territories are not eligible, even if those institutions are accredited by a recognized U.S. accrediting agency.
    • Be enrolled at this academic institution in the spring term of 2022.
      • If an applicant is not taking classes at their home institution in the spring term, they must confirm that they are, in fact, enrolled. Institutions have different requirements to maintain enrollment status and applicants will be required to provide a signed letter from their registrar stating that they were enrolled during the spring term.
    • Applicants must remain in good academic standing at their institution to remain eligible.
  • Be at least 18 years old by September 1, 2022.
  • Applicants may only apply once per application cycle for a single language. Applicants who submit multiple applications will be considered ineligible.
  • Participation in CLS Spark is limited to one award per individual.

Period of Study

Participants will spend an academic year, which consists of two terms, learning their chosen language. The first typically runs from September to November; the second typically runs from January to March.


The main benefit of the program is the opportunity to engage virtually in high quality language study and experience the cultural and educational system of the host country. Additional benefits include:

  • Language instruction and participation in monthly cultural programming
  • Course materials
  • Language gains certified using the widely-recognized ACTFL OPI (Oral Proficiency Interview) assessment
  • Consideration as a semifinalist for the Critical Language Scholarship Program’s summer institutes in the year following their participation in CLS Spark
  • A stipend of $300 towards equipment and connectivity costs
  • Alumni of CLS Spark will join a vibrant community of U.S. Department of State International Exchange Alumni


Award recipients will be selected on the basis of merit with consideration for:

  • Impact of participation in CLS Spark on their access to language and intercultural learning opportunities
  • Motivation, including personal, academic, and professional goals and consideration of how participation in CLS Spark may contribute to the achievement of those goals
  • Readiness and resolve to successfully complete an online co-curricular language program
  • Degree to which the unique background and experience of the candidate contributes to ECA’s mission of building mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other nations


The deadline to apply for the first CLS Spark cohort is May 26, 2022.

Applications and additional information can be located on the CLS Website


Class Year

  • Freshman
  • Sophomore
  • Junior
  • Senior


  • Multiple


  • Non English


  • Yearlong

Program Type

  • Language
  • Undergraduate

GWU Sponsored?


GWU Endorsement Required?