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NSLI-Y provides merit-based scholarships to U.S. teens for rigorous overseas critical language immersion programs at beginning, intermediate, and advanced levels. NSLI-Y aims to provide a tangible incentive for the learning and use of foreign language, which is increasingly important in our interconnected world. In addition to rigorous language instruction, NSLI-Y programs allow participants to learn more about their host culture through living with a host family, participating in cultural activities, as well as fostering opportunities to connect with host country peers. NSLI-Y participants 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.
NSLI-Y does not discriminate on any basis, including gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, disability, 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 while on the program.
Preference may be given to applicants who:
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 additional 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 complete 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 in the target language. 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.
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.
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.
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.
Participants will travel to their host locations in groups. Participants on summer programs will attend language classes and planned activities together, but will spend free time with their host family and local friends, and not other NSLI-Y participants. 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 host 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.
As NSLI-Y is designed for youth aged 15-18, participants 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 will 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.
No, the NSLI-Y Scholarship is not transferrable. Scholarships are offered for a specific NSLI-Y program and requests to change language, location, dates, 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.
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 locations and communities. The U.S. Department of State and the implementing organizations continuously monitor U.S. Department of State travel advisories, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) health notices, events in host locations 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 location. During their pre-departure orientations, students receive safety awareness training, which includes discussions of how to address risks specific to the host location. 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.
Yes, all NSLI-Y participants are required to complete post-program language tests. 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.
Absolutely not, but students 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. Students who have not had previous exposure to the target language are encouraged; previous language experience is not required.
No, NSLI-Y arranges programs for 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 selection 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 students begin their preparation during the summer.
Yes, however since most NSLI-Y participants are at novice or intermediate levels, the student's class placement and overall experience may differ from others in the group.
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 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 their readiness to be an exchange student.
Yes, graduating seniors who will complete high school between December 2020 and June 2021 are eligible to apply for the NSLI-Y program, provided they meet the age eligibility guidelines.
No, only U.S. citizens are eligible to participate.
One must have U.S. citizenship to be eligible for NSLI-Y. If selected, the NSLI-Y finalist must travel on a 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/location. 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.
Past NSLI-Y summer participants, with the exception of the 2020 NSLI-Y Virtual Summer Intensive 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 Indonesian and Persian which have no academic year programs). NSLI-Y Virtual Summer Intensive and Virtual NSLI-Y alumni are eligible to apply for a summer or academic year NSLI-Y program if they meet other eligibility requirements.
Strong preference is given to those who have not previously participated in a Youth Programs Division overseas exchange program or lived abroad for six months or more during the past five years.
Students who are interested in studying the language of their birth country or cultural heritage 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.
After you submit your application electronically, you will receive a confirmation email from American Councils.
If you have applied for an academic year program, you will receive an email from American Councils notifying you if you were selected as a semi-finalist in December. Interviews for academic year semi-finalists will take place in December – January.
If you have applied for a summer program, you will receive an email from American Councils notifying you if you were selected as a semi-finalist in December. If you qualify for an interview, you will be notified on a rolling basis to schedule an interview. Interviews for summer semi-finalists will take place in January - March.
Please note that American Councils and the U.S. Department of State will not discuss individual determinations about the application review.
All interviews for the 2021-22 cycle will be conducted by phone or videoconference.
Semi-finalists are strongly encouraged to apply for a passport by January if they do not currently have one. Those who already have a passport should ensure that it is valid for at least six months after the intended date of return to the United States, or 18 months after the anticipated return to the United States if being considered for a summer Russian language program.
Semi-finalists will be provided with a Medical Evaluation form at the time of semi-finalist notification; the form will be due on February 18, 2021.
Go to the How to Apply page for a calendar of important dates and more information about the application and selection process.
No, all NSLI-Y participants must attend the pre-departure orientation and travel with their program group to the host location. 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.
Semi-finalists will be provided a medical evaluation form at the time of semi-finalist notification. Medical evaluation forms should be submitted through a secure portal by February 18, 2021.
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 be lengthy. 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 for program placement and participation in NSLI-Y. As described in the Terms and Conditions, delayed responses in the medical review process and/or withholding relevant health information may result in cancellation of the NSLI-Y scholarship or dismissal from the program.
Note that NSLI-Y alumni of summer programs are not guaranteed medical clearance for a NSLI-Y academic year program.
Finalists will receive a variety of pre-departure information, which will include language study materials. Finalists must 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.
Each implementing organization conducts its own orientations for NSLI-Y participants. While locations and durations vary, pre-departure orientations are held in a U.S. departure city and usually last one or two days. Previously, the majority of orientations took place in Washington, DC and New York, NY. Finalists will be informed of the specific orientation location at the time of finalist notification. 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 the host location’s culture, how to deal with culture shock, the participant role as a citizen ambassador, and teambuilding activities. Attendance at the pre-departure orientation is mandatory for all NSLI-Y participants. While parent(s)/guardian(s) are included in various preparation activities, the pre-departure orientation is intended for participants only. Family members should not plan to travel with their student or attend the pre-departure orientation.
All selected participants will need a valid U.S. passport. If you already have a passport, it must be valid for 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. If you are traveling to Russia, India or China, your parent(s) or legal guardian(s) may be required to have a valid passport or provide residency documentation). Note that passport processing time may be lengthy.
Applicants do not need to have a passport at the time of application. Applicants who do not currently have a passport or need to renew their passport are strongly encouraged to submit their passport application during the semi-finalist stage. Students should be prepared to submit valid passport information to NSLI-Y by late February 2021. Consider that the passport processing time can be lengthy, so semi-finalists should apply for a passport or renew their passport as soon as possible. During the semi-finalist stage, applicants should assess when their passport expires. Passports must be valid for at least six months after the intended return to the U.S., or 18 months after the anticipated return to the U.S. if traveling to Russia.
Scholarship recipients must have their valid U.S. 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.
If selected for NSLI-Y, 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.
Program dates and locations will be finalized in spring 2021. 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 academic year program has historically departed in early July and returned in early May. Note that program dates and locations are subject to change each year.
From the pre-departure orientation location, you will travel on a chaperoned flight with the rest of the students in your group to your host location. 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 location with your program group. Exceptions will not be made for individual scheduling conflicts.
NSLI-Y participants will not be allowed to travel independently while on program. Participants who travel independently will be considered for program dismissal. Travel with host families must not interfere with program activities and must be approved by the implementing organization in advance; participants should not expect to travel with host families. Trips may be planned by the program implementer to various cultural and historical sites in your host location, but these are not guaranteed. Please refer to the Travel Policies section in the NSLI-Y Terms and Conditions form for more information.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 cultural exchange.
It’s important for NSLI-Y participants and their parent(s)/guardian(s) to remember that each host family experience is unique; NSLI-Y does not require that host families have children.
It’s important for NSLI-Y participants and their families to remember that each host family experience is unique.
Like in the U.S., the composition of host families vary; there is no “standard” host family. Flexibility, on the part of the participant and their parent(s)/guardian(s), is critical for a successful host family experience. Other considerations regarding NSLI-Y housing accommodations:
Participants are not permitted to live with friends or relatives in the host community. Visits might be permitted during academic year programs only if formally requested and approved in advance by your implementing organization, but must not conflict with scheduled program activities, including language lessons.
Visits from 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.
No, you may not request to be placed in a certain city or country. Program locations and student placements are determined at the discretion of NSLI-Y administration and the implementing organization.
No, NSLI-Y is a highly structured program and is not individualized. Individual requests for host family composition, placement in the host community, and adjustments to dates or program locations will not be granted.
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 have the option to designate one additional language/duration preference. Applicants are not given the option to indicate preferences for implementing organization or program location. A finalist’s placement with a specific implementing organization or in a specific host location is determined by NSLI-Y staff.
If you have technical difficulties, please email us at email@example.com or call (866) 790-2086. NSLI-Y staff will be available to assist you between 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM Eastern 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.
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 20, 2020. Applicants who need further assistance may contact American Councils at (866) 790-2086 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please refer to the application for specific instructions about submitting required documents. Official transcripts should be uploaded to the application by a school official or sent by mail and postmarked no later than November 5, 2020. If you are experiencing difficulty obtaining an official transcript from your school, please contact email@example.com.
All legal guardians who have full or partial custody of the applicant must agree to and sign the NSLI-Y Terms and Conditions.
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. We understand that many schools changed grading procedures in the spring of 2020 and that detailed grades may not be available for that time period.
Yes, to view your submitted NSLI-Y application, go to the application website and enter your username and password. After your application has been submitted, you can continue to access your application and monitor the status of your transcript (if sent by upload), parent statement, and recommendation, but you will not be able to make any changes to the application.
The “Application ID” 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 2021
The “ABCD1234” application ID identifies your unique application.
To find out more about the selection process and timeline, visit the How to Apply page.
All applicants will receive an application status update by email in December.
Finalist notifications are sent on a rolling basis beginning in early March. All semi-finalists will be notified of their status by April 23.
Please note that all contact regarding your NSLI-Y application will be sent to the primary email address listed 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.
For the 2020-21 application cycle, approximately 3,000 applications were submitted and approximately 550 scholarships were awarded. Thus, the 2020-21 acceptance rate was 18%. The acceptance rate is generally consistent across program languages and durations but may vary depending on the number of applications received. See more program fast facts here.
Yes, applicants are able to change the information they input within the Recommendation and Parent/Legal Guardian 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 Recommendation and Parent/Legal Guardian Statement sections will cause previously submitted recommendations to be deleted. In addition, any links previously sent to a parent/guardian or recommender will no longer open. Applicants should ensure that their parent/guardian and/or recommender have not completed the online form before making changes to information submitted in the application.
If changes to the Recommendation or Parent/Legal Guardian Statement sections must be made, the student should allow enough time for them to complete their recommendation by Tuesday, November 10, 2020, 4:00 PM Eastern Time.
If you have any questions, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or (866) 790-2086.
You may ask any adult who is not related to you and who knows you well to complete your recommendation. The individual can be a teacher, school counselor, school administrator, coach, employer, youth organization leader or coordinator, etc. Keep in mind that the recommender will be asked to attest to your personal attributes, maturity, relationship with peers and authority figures, skills and talents, work ethic, and your aptitude/motivation for participating in an intensive overseas program.
Unless you are currently in the 9th grade, it is advised that you not ask a middle school teacher to complete the recommendation.
You should request the recommendation as soon as you decide to apply for NSLI-Y.
The confidential Recommendation is used to determine an applicant’s academic motivation and potential 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. NSLI-Y encourages applicants to provide the recommender information about the NSLI-Y program and explain their motivation for applying.
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. Parent statements are not evaluated in the selection process.
Questions? Need more info? Contact us at 866.790.2086 or email@example.com
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