NSLI-Y seeks applicants who represent the diversity of the United States. Students of all racial, national origins, religious, gender identities and expression, sexual orientations, disabilities, and socio-economic backgrounds are encouraged to apply. Previous language study is not required and students of all language abilities are invited to apply.

Initial Screening and Review

The selection process begins with a screening to ensure that all applicants meet the basic eligibility requirements. Trained evaluators then review the applications and assess the applicants’ motivation for language learning and demonstrated cultural awareness. Maturity and readiness for a challenging academic and international experience are considered. Strong preference is given to applicants who have not previously participated in an overseas exchange program or lived abroad six months or more during the past five years. Preference may also be given to applicants who identify with a community that is underrepresented in study abroad or may not otherwise have the opportunity to study abroad.


All semi-finalists must complete an interview coordinated by AFS-USA. The interview is an opportunity for program administrators to get to know the candidates.

Details on the interview process:

  • Interviews typically last between 35-45 minutes.
  • Interviews will be conducted in person or virtually.
  • Volunteers with international exchange experience conduct the interviews. Interviewers may include alumni of exchange programs, educators, host families, local coordinators for exchange programs, or staff of implementing organizations not connected to selection efforts.
  • The interviewers may ask questions about the candidate’s interests and goals related to language study, as well as hypothetical scenarios that might arise during the exchange experience.
  • Many candidates inquire about attire for interviewing. We encourage candidates to dress neatly, for example, a collared shirt or blouse, or a solid color shirt. We recommend avoiding jeans, torn or ‘distressed’-style clothing, and tank tops.
  • Click here for six tips you can utilize for your NSLI-Y interview.
  • The interview is only one component in a comprehensive selection process and does not guarantee selection. Candidates will be notified of their status following a final review of their application, including the interview.

Final Review

Evaluators assess applicants’ level of commitment to language study and intercultural understanding, motivation for language learning, demonstrated cultural awareness, and ability to live and adapt to a new environment. Evaluators do not receive or review candidates’ placement information, medical forms, or optional statistical information. Parent statements may be included in the materials that evaluators review, but it is not scored.

Selection and Notification

Final selection and notification will be completed by the end of April. Refer to the timeline for more information. American Councils and the U.S. Department of State will not discuss individual determinations about the application review.