Frequently Asked Questions

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General Program Information

Why is NSLI-Y a good opportunity?

NSLI-Y provides merit-based scholarships for rigorous overseas language immersion programs at beginning, intermediate, and advanced levels for U.S. youth. NSLI-Y aims to provide a tangible incentive for the learning and use of foreign language, increasingly important in our interconnected world. In addition to the rigorous language instruction offered, NSLI-Y programs also allow participants to learn more about their host culture through cultural activities and excursions, as well as opportunities to connect with host country peers. NSLI-Y participants also act as citizen ambassadors by supporting American engagement abroad and promoting international dialogue.

After program completion, NSLI-Y participants are eligible to join International Exchange Alumni and the NSLI-Y Alumni Association and participate in alumni activities focused on networking, professional development, continued language and cultural learning, and community service.

What does the scholarship offer?

All NSLI-Y programs include:
  • Pre-departure orientation
  • In-country orientation and support
  • Language and cultural instruction with opportunities to apply acquired skills and knowledge
  • Cultural activities
  • Community service projects
  • Accommodations, usually with a host family
  • End-of-stay orientation
  • Alumni activities, including access to the U.S. Department of State's online community, International Exchange Alumni

What costs are covered by the NSLI-Y scholarship?

The costs covered by the scholarship are:
  • Round-trip travel between the participant's home city to the pre-departure orientation and the overseas host program location
  • Pre-departure, arrival, and end-of-stay orientations
  • Tuition and related academic program costs including preparation, support and testing
  • Educational and cultural programming, including program travel
  • In-country staff support
  • Room and board
  • Visas for entrance and exit of the host country
  • Secondary medical benefits

What costs are not covered by the NSLI-Y scholarship?

The costs not covered by the scholarship are:
  • Costs associated with obtaining a valid U.S. passport
  • Required medical examinations and immunizations for the NSLI-Y medical review or visa requirements
  • Pocket money for personal items
  • Excess baggage fees

Does NSLI-Y welcome my application regardless of my gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, disability?

NSLI-Y does not discriminate on the basis of gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, impairment, political opinion, or economic and social standing. The program welcomes applications from all eligible students and seeks to support all students through the application process and as participants, should they be selected.

NSLI-Y staff are available to answer questions and provide guidance on safety and security. Applicants are encouraged to educate themselves about the laws and social customs of host countries. Applicants are advised that each NSLI-Y country has its own laws, social customs, and norms. If you have questions or concerns about applying for NSLI-Y, please contact nsliy@americancouncils.org.

What is a typical day like on a NSLI-Y program?

NSLI-Y experiences vary across program sites and from year to year. In general, NSLI-Y summer programs are quite structured. During the summer, participants typically have breakfast with their host families or in their group housing, commute to their local host institution, and attend language class for 3 to 4 hours each morning. After morning language classes, participants have lunch with peers, and spend afternoon hours attending language classes, conversing with language partners, participating in cultural activities or community service, and/or completing assignments or projects. In the evening, participants often spend time with their host families and completing homework.

The daily experience of academic year participants varies greatly from one program to another. All academic year participants receive at least 10 hours of formal language instruction per week at a local school or post-secondary institution, and may take other academic or enrichment classes. Some programs place participants with host families for the full academic year, while others combine shorter host family stays with monitored dormitory or group housing arrangements. Participants often spend time working on semester and/or year-long projects.

What role do the U.S. Department of State and non-profit organizations play in organizing and implementing NSLI-Y?

Administration and implementation of NSLI-Y is a collaborative effort. The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) grants funds to American Councils for International Education for the administration of NSLI-Y and maintains substantial involvement in program concept, design, and implementation. American Councils provides overall administration of the program including managing recruitment and selection, alumni activities, monitoring and evaluation efforts, and ensuring grant compliance. Implementing organizations, including a placement team at American Councils, work with overseas partner organizations to plan and implement NSLI-Y programs. Students interact with the American Councils administration team during the application and selection period. Finalists work with their assigned implementing organization prior to departure and during the NSLI-Y program abroad. American Councils engages with alumni to coordinate language testing, surveys, and involvement in the NSLI-Y alumni network.

What effect will participating in NSLI-Y have on my high school graduation in the U.S.? Can I get academic credit for NSLI-Y?

Graduation requirements vary from state to state, so you should discuss your plans to participate in NSLI-Y with your guidance counselor. The primary focus of NSLI-Y is language learning, and most classes will be language classes, though students may also have an opportunity to attend academic classes in the target language. Your high school will make the final decision on whether or not to grant academic credit. You should take into consideration that such U.S. specific subjects as English, Literature, World History, State History, etc. are unlikely to be offered at an equivalent level or offered at all. You might want to arrange to take certain required courses prior to, or after your participation in, the NSLI-Y program. 

Please note that NSLI-Y is a rigorous immersion program and requires your full attention and effort; participants should not plan on completing academic study for their U.S. schools while on program.

How does NSLI-Y handle my personal health information?

NSLI-Y follows guidelines set for in the federal law known as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Privacy Rule. You can read more in our Notice of Privacy Practices here.

What is my expected level of language proficiency at the end of a NSLI-Y program?

There is no expected level of language proficiency at the end of a NSLI-Y program as each participant is different and students begin NSLI-Y at varying levels of proficiency. NSLI-Y offers participants the unique opportunity to immerse themselves in the cultural life of the host country, providing extensive formal and informal language practice. Participants are expected to work hard during their NSLI-Y program, complete all assignments and projects, utilize informal language learning opportunities, engage with their host families, and participate in all required exams and oral proficiency interviews.

Will participants be alone on the program or with a group?

Participants will travel to their host countries in groups. Participants on summer programs will generally live in the same community and attend classes and activities together. Participants on academic year programs often live in the same community as other participants, though in some cases they may be the only NSLI-Y student in their community or school. All participants will have a resident director and/or local coordinator in the same or nearby community who will provide guidance and support for the duration of the program.

How much independence will I have while participating in NSLI-Y?

As a program designed for youth aged 15-18, participants on NSLI-Y should not expect a lot of independence. NSLI-Y is a structured language-learning experience.  Participants attend language classes, cultural activities, and excursions with others in their group. In the evenings and on weekends, participants have planned activities, study time, and/or time with their host families. Participants typically have a curfew and should not expect to travel independently while on program. Participants who travel without authorization will be considered for program dismissal. In addition, participants are not permitted to consume or purchase alcohol on program and those who do so will be considered for program dismissal. Please refer to the NSLI-Y Terms and Conditions form for more information about program policies.

Can I use the NSLI-Y Scholarship for a study abroad program of my choosing?

No, the NSLI-Y Scholarship is not transferrable. Scholarships are offered for a specific NSLI-Y program and requests to change language, location, or program will not be considered. The placement of selected students is at the discretion of NSLI-Y administration and implementing organizations based on program preferences indicated on the application form, proficiency in the target language, and other considerations.

What safety and security measures does NSLI-Y take to support students?

Student safety and security is the highest priority for NSLI-Y. The U.S. Department of State, in consultation with its embassies and missions overseas, approves all NSLI-Y host countries and communities. The U.S. Department of State and the implementing organizations continuously monitor events in host countries and are in contact with U.S. embassies and missions. All NSLI-Y students are registered at the U.S. embassy or consulate in the host country. During their pre-departure orientations, students receive safety awareness training, which includes discussions of how to address risks specific to the host country. Living with a host family or in a closely monitored dormitory setting also increases student safety. It’s important for families and students to recognize that there is inherent risk in study abroad and international travel.

Read more about safety and security on the For Parents page.

Are there any post-program requirements?

Yes, NSLI-Y participants are required to complete post-program language tests.  Further, participants are expected to complete several post-program surveys from their implementing organization and  American Councils for International Education.

NSLI-Y alumni are strongly encouraged to share their NSLI-Y experience with their home community and school, using the NSLI-Y Alumni Outreach Toolkit. Alumni are encouraged to be active members of the NSLI-Y Alumni Association to contribute to the ongoing development of NSLI-Y.

Can I talk to NSLI-Y Alumni and learn more?

Absolutely! The NSLI-Y Facebook and Twitter pages are great tools for finding out more information. You can also visit Ask NSLI-Y alumni Facebook group to communicate with alumni and other applicants about application tips, cultural and religious norms in your potential host locations, what to pack, language learning advice, and ideas about what to do after high school.

What are the similarities and differences between NSLI-Y and YES Abroad?

NSLI-Y and YES Abroad are both funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and support U.S. youth to study in similar regions of the world. Click here to learn more about the similarities and differences between the programs.

Eligibility

Do students need to have a background in one of the NSLI-Y languages to be eligible to apply?

Absolutely not, but you must be passionate about language learning! A goal of NSLI-Y is to increase the number of Americans studying and speaking critical languages, so students with all levels of language experience and ability may apply.

Does NSLI-Y prefer students with previous experience in a NSLI-Y language?

No, NSLI-Y accommodates students with varying levels of proficiency in the target language. Previous language study is not required to apply for NSLI-Y. Applicants with previous knowledge of or proficiency in the target language are not given preference in the review process. All applicants are encouraged to discuss their interest and commitment to language learning in their essay responses.

All participants will be required to participate in pre-program language learning programs, as guided by their implementing organization, and complete any assignments or assessments in preparation for the program. Preparation for NSLI-Y summer programs begins in the spring; academic year student begin their preparation during the summer.

Are students with advanced skills in a NSLI-Y target language eligible to apply?

Yes, however, since most NSLI-Y participants are at novice or intermediate levels, your class placement and overall experience may differ from others in the group.

Are home-schooled students eligible?

Yes, home-schooled students are eligible. There is a special transcript form (included within the online application) for home-schooled students to complete and submit. Also, note that the teacher recommendation form must be completed by an adult who is not related to the student, but who knows the student well and can attest to her/his readiness to be an exchange student.

I graduate from high school in December 2017. Am I still eligible for the 2018-19 NSLI-Y program?

Yes, graduating seniors who will complete high school between December 2017 and June 2018 are eligible to apply for the 2018-19 NSLI-Y program, provided they meet the age eligibility guidelines.

Are non-U.S. citizens, including permanent residents, eligible to participate in NSLI-Y?

No, only U.S. citizens are eligible to participate.

I have dual citizenship; I am a U.S. citizen and a citizen of another country. Is that a problem?

One must have U.S. citizenship to be eligible for NSLI-Y. If selected, a NSLI-Y finalist must travel with his/her U.S. passport.

Note that the issuance of a visa to travel to a NSLI-Y location is at the sole discretion of the host country. Holding citizenship for another country in addition to the U.S. may impact one’s visa application. Please be sure to note your dual citizenship on your application.

Am I eligible if I have already participated in NSLI-Y?

Past NSLI-Y summer participants are eligible to apply for an academic year program, but are not eligible to apply for another summer program. Successful alumni of summer programs will be considered more competitive if they apply for an academic year program in the same language (with the exception of Persian and Bahasa Indonesia, which have no academic year programs). No applicant is eligible for a third NSLI-Y program.

I would like to study the language of my birth country. Is this an appropriate reason to apply for NSLI-Y?

Students who are interested in studying the language of their birth country are welcome to apply for NSLI-Y. These applicants should reflect on how participation in NSLI-Y and study of their preferred NSLI-Y language is linked to their future academic or professional goals. If selected for the program, such students should remember that NSLI-Y is a rigorous language immersion program. There will be many opportunities for cultural exploration, but students should not plan or expect to visit or seek out relatives or return to the city of their birth during the program.

Timeline and Preparation

What happens after I submit my application?

After you submit your application electronically, you will receive a confirmation email from American Councils. In December, you will receive an email from American Councils notifying you whether or not you are selected as a semi-finalist. Please note that American Councils does not have the capacity to provide individualized feedback on the application process.

Semi-finalists will be contacted on a rolling basis to schedule interviews. Interviews will take place in December, January, and early February. Semi-finalists will be required to submit a medical evaluation form in February 2018.  Semi-finalists are strongly encouraged to apply for a passport by January if they do not currently have one.

Go to the How to Apply page for a calendar of important dates and more information about the application and selection process.

My high school graduation is in mid-June. If the NSLI-Y program that I am assigned to begins before my graduation, can I join the program a few days late?

No, all NSLI-Y participants must attend the pre-departure orientation and travel with their program group to the host country. Individual school and activity schedules vary widely and NSLI-Y cannot make exceptions for students who have scheduling conflicts. If your graduation or other important event conflicts with your NSLI-Y program dates, you will have to make a choice about participating in one or the other.

When and how does the NSLI-Y Medical Review take place?

Semi-finalists will be required to submit a completed medical evaluation form by February 2018. Applicants should not submit a medical evaluation form unless they are notified that they are a semi-finalist. Semi-finalists will receive a medical evaluation form upon notification of their status in December 2017.

All finalists’ and alternates’ medical evaluation forms are reviewed by independent medical professionals. This process is only initiated after an applicant is selected as a finalist or alternate. The medical review process may take an extended period of time. During this period, finalists and alternates may be asked to provide additional information or clarification related to the medical review. Results of the medical review will determine if a candidate meets medical requirements necessary for program placement and participation in NSLI-Y. As described in the Terms and Conditions, withholding relevant health information may be cause for disqualification or termination of the scholarship at a later date.

Note that NSLI-Y alumni of summer programs are not guaranteed medical clearance for a NSLI-Y academic year program.

Will there be any kind of language preparation before departure?

Finalists will receive a variety of pre-departure information, which will include language study materials.  Finalists will be expected to participate in various pre-program preparation requirements, as determined by the implementing organization.

Go to the How to Apply page for more information about the program timeline.

Where will orientations take place, how long will they last, and what will they cover?

Each implementing organization conducts its own orientations. While locations and durations vary pre-departure orientations are usually held in the U.S. departure city and last one or two days. The purpose of the orientation is to prepare students to be a safe and successful exchange participant. Topics generally include information on health and safety, program information and schedules, program rules and guidelines, an overview of host country culture, how to deal with culture shock, your role as a citizen ambassador, and teambuilding activities. Attendance at the pre-departure orientation is mandatory.

Travel and Visas

How do I get a passport?

All selected participants will need a valid U.S. passport. If you already have a passport, it must be valid at least six months after the intended date of return to the U.S. For information on obtaining a passport for the first time or renewing, please visit travel.state.gov. (Please note: If you are traveling to Russia, your passport must be valid for 18 months after your anticipated return to the U.S., and if you are traveling to India or China, your parent(s) or legal guardian(s) may be required to have a valid passport as well.) Note that passport processing time may be lengthy.

When do I need to have my passport?

All semi-finalists are encouraged to apply for a passport if they do not currently have one or renew their passport if it will expire before the dates listed in the guidance provided below. Please apply for a passport or renew your current passport as soon as possible, as the processing time can sometimes be lengthy. Passports must be valid for at least six months after the intended return to the U.S., or 18 months after your anticipated return to the U.S. if you are traveling to Russia.

Semi-finalists should be prepared to submit passport information to NSLI-Y by late February 2018. Scholarship recipients must have their passports in order to participate in the program and to begin the visa application process. The length of time to complete the visa process varies from country to country and can sometimes take months. Because a passport may be needed during the visa application process, finalists may not be able to travel internationally during this pre-program period. 

How do I get my visa?

After receiving a NSLI-Y award, you will be assigned to an implementing organization. This organization will provide you with detailed instructions about the visa process for the country where your NSLI-Y program will take place. You will not need to apply for a visa until you are instructed to do so. Please remember that only U.S. citizens are eligible for NSLI-Y programs, and NSLI-Y students must travel with a U.S. passport. Because a passport may be needed during the visa application process, finalists may not be able to travel internationally during this pre-program period.

What are the program dates?

Program dates and locations will be finalized in the spring 2018. Should you be selected for NSLI-Y, you will be notified in March or April and receive a program description that will include program dates and the placement location. Typically, summer programs will depart in mid to late-June and return in early to mid-August. The academic year programs, with the exception of Hindi, typically depart in August or September and return in May or June. The Hindi program has historically departed in early July and returns in early May. Note that program dates and locations are subject to change each year.

How will I get to my host location?

You will travel on a chaperoned flight with the rest of the students in your group to your host country. Both domestic travel from your permanent residence and international airfare will be covered by the NSLI-Y scholarship. You must travel to and from the host country with your program group. Exceptions will not be made for individual scheduling conflicts.

Will I be able to travel independently while on program?

NSLI-Y participants should not expect to travel independently while on program. Participants who travel independently without permission from their implementing organization will be considered for program dismissal. Trips may be planned by the program implementer to various cultural and historical sites in your host country. Please refer to the Travel Policies section in the NSLI-Y Terms and Conditions form for more information.

What kind of vaccines will I need?

The administrators of NSLI-Y cannot provide medical advice about travel vaccinations. We recommend you follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for the country you will visit and consult with your physician.

Placement and Housing Arrangements

Where will I live during the program?

All  NSLI-Y programs feature homestays with host families that have been carefully screened and selected. Some programs place students in host families for the full program duration. Other programs place students in well-monitored dormitories and assign them to host families for weekends or for a segment of the program. Resident directors or local coordinators provide support to participants and host families throughout the program.

Do host families speak any English?

Host families typically do not speak much, if any, English. Students will be expected to use the target language at home. The homestay experience is sometimes challenging, particularly in the beginning, but many participants say that it is the most rewarding part of the NSLI-Y experience.

Does each student live by herself/himself with the host family?

Typically, only one NSLI-Y student lives with each host family, but in some cases, two NSLI-Y students are placed with one host family.

How are host families selected?

Host families are chosen through a careful selection process with assistance from the host institution, host community partners, and/or volunteers. Prospective host families are interviewed in their homes and must provide references. All host families receive materials to sensitize them to cultural differences and to prepare them for the hosting experience. Implementing organizations do their best to match host families and students based on the host family's application materials and the placement information students provide in their NSLI-Y application. The most important criteria for selecting a host family are that the family can provide a safe environment and has a genuine interest in the cultural exchange that occurs in a host family arrangement.
It’s important for NSLI-Y participants and their natural parents to remember that each host family experience is unique; NSLI-Y does not require host families have children.

What if I have relatives in the country I am assigned to? May I live with them or visit them?

Participants are not permitted to live with friends or relatives in the host country. Visits might be permitted if formally requested, but must not conflict with scheduled program activities, including language lessons.

May my parents or friends visit me while I am on the program?

Visits from natural family, home country friends, and relatives are STRONGLY discouraged during the program; such visits are not permitted during summer programs and require advance permission from the implementing organization during academic year programs. Such visits can interrupt the continuity of the relationship with the host family and diminish the exchange experience for both the participant and the host family. Participants and their families must follow the requirements of their implementing organizations. See the NSLI-Y Terms and Conditions for more information.

May I request to be placed in a certain city?

No, you may not request to be placed in a certain city. Program locations and student placements are determined at the discretion of NSLI-Y administration and the implementing organization.

Application Procedure

May I apply to multiple programs in different languages?

NSLI-Y applicants are asked to designate language and duration preferences in their application. Applicants are only required to designate one preference for language and duration, but may designate one additional language/duration preference. Applicants are not given the option to designate preferences for implementing organization or program location. A finalist’s placement with a specific implementing organization or in a specific host country is determined by NSLI-Y staff.

I have been having technical difficulties with the online application. What should I do?

If you have been experiencing technical difficulties, please email us at nsliy@americancouncils.org or call (866) 790-2086. NSLI-Y staff will be available to assist you between 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM Eastern Standard Time Monday through Friday. Contact American Councils promptly if you encounter a problem, well before the application deadline. There is no guarantee that American Councils staff will be able to respond to last-minute requests for technical assistance on or near the deadline date.

Is there any way to submit a paper application or an application in another form?

All applications and recommendation forms must be submitted online, except in rare cases in which the applicant can demonstrate that this requirement presents a significant impediment to applying for a NSLI-Y scholarship. Applicants who need to make alternative arrangements for submission of their application must do so by October 18, 2017. Applicants who need further assistance may contact American Councils at (866) 790-2086 or nsliy@americancouncils.org

How do I submit my academic records/transcripts?

Please refer to the application for specific instructions about submitting required documents.  Official transcripts should be sent by mail and postmarked no later than November 2, 2017.

If my parents are divorced, do they both need to sign the Terms and Conditions form?

If both parents have custody, they will both need to sign the form.

What should I do if my latest grades will not be posted until shortly after the application deadline?

Applications without transcripts will not be considered, so be sure to have your most recent transcript sent by the deadline specified in the online application instructions, even if the current semester grades are not available.

Can I view my application after it has been submitted?

Yes, in order to view your submitted NSLI-Y application, go to the application website and enter your user name and password. Once the application is submitted, you will not be able to make any changes to it.

What is my Application ID?

The “Application ID” is the same as the Reference Code. This is an eight digit code that starts with four randomly-assigned letters followed by four randomly-assigned numbers and is given to you when you begin your NSLI-Y application. For example, at the top of your application screen, it should read something along the lines of:
Display form “Application for High School Students in the U.S.A.” [ABCD1234] of User “Student Name” for Program NSLIY 2016

The ABCD1234 is the Application ID or Reference Code. This number identifies your unique application.

How will I find out if I have been selected for a scholarship?

To find out more about the selection process and timeline, visit the How to Apply page.

All applicants are notified in December by email if they are selected as a semi-finalist or not. 

Finalist notifications are sent on a rolling basis beginning in early March.  All semi-finalists for summer programs will be notified via email of their status by mid-April.  All semi-finalists for academic year programs will be notified of their status by late April. 
Please note that all contact regarding your NSLI-Y application will be sent to the email address you supplied in your application.

Please do not call or email American Councils or other implementing organizations to find out if you have been selected; NSLI-Y staff will inform you as soon as information is available.

How competitive is the NSLI-Y program?

For the 2017-18 application cycle, approximately 3,500 applications were submitted and approximately 600 scholarships were awarded. Thus, the 2017-18 acceptance rate was 16%. The acceptance rate is generally consistent across programs. See more program fast facts here.

Teacher Recommendation and Parent/Legal Guardian Statement

If I have already submitted my application, can I change the name and contact information in the Letter of Recommendation and Parent Statement sections?

Yes, applicants are able to change the information they input within the Teacher Recommendation and Parent Statement section(s) after submitting their applications. In order to change the information, applicants should go to the application website, enter their user name and password, and navigate to the appropriate section to make the desired changes. Please note that any changes to the information submitted in the Teacher Recommendation and Parent Statement sections will cause any previously submitted recommendations to be deleted. In addition, any links previously sent to a parent or teacher will no longer open. Applicants should ensure that their parent and/or teacher have not completed the online recommendation form before changing the original information they submitted in their applications.

Note that changes to the Teacher Recommendation or Parent Statement sections must be made in time for parents and teachers to complete their recommendations by November 9, 2017, 4:00 PM Eastern Time.

If you have any questions, please contact nsliy@americancouncils.org or (866) 790-2086.

Who should I ask to write my Teacher Recommendation?

You may ask any academic instructor, guidance counselor, or school administrator who can attest to your readiness to be an exchange student to write your Teacher Recommendation. It is a good idea to ask an individual with whom you have taken a class or worked with within the last two years.

For home-schooled students, the Teacher Recommendation must be completed by an adult who is not related to the student. Possible individuals may include, but are not limited to: scout leaders, coaches, clergy members, volunteer coordinators, and instructors.

Give your recommender plenty of time to complete the recommendation. As you are requesting a professional service from your recommender, you should request the recommendation as soon as you decide to apply for NSLI-Y.

What should be included in my Teacher Recommendation?

The confidential Teacher Recommendation is used to determine an applicant’s academic motivation and promise as an exchange student. The recommendation form asks for information about the applicant through both multiple-choice questions and open-ended questions. The open-ended questions permit the recommender to provide specific examples of how the student is prepared for an overseas language immersion program. In order for your teacher to write a strong recommendation, you should give him/her information about the NSLI-Y program and explain why you want to participate.

My parent/legal guardian does not speak English. How can he or she provide a Parent/Legal Guardian Statement?

The parent or legal guardian you request to write the Parent/Legal Guardian Statement may provide us with a written translation of their statement. Past applicants have asked older siblings or other relatives to provide this translation. If your parent or legal guardian submits a translated statement, please ask him or her to make a note of this somewhere within their statement.


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