Selection Process

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, socio-economic backgrounds and students with disabilities are welcome to apply. Previous language study is not required. Students of all language abilities are welcome to apply. 

Initial Screening and Review

The selection process begins with a screening to ensure that all applicants meet the basic eligibility requirements. Applications are then reviewed by trained evaluators who assess the applicants’ motivation for language learning, sense of character, and demonstrated cultural awareness. Maturity and readiness for a challenging academic and international experience are very important factors. Applicants are encouraged to clearly articulate how their participation in NSLI-Y and study of their preferred NSLI-Y language is linked to their future academic or professional goals. Note that the essay questions are a key part of the selection process. Strong preference is given to those who have not previously participated in a Youth Programs Division overseas exchange program or lived abroad six months or more during the past five years. Preference may also be given to applicants who may not otherwise have the opportunity to study abroad.


In addition to the written portion of the application, students selected as semi-finalists will be asked to complete an interview with local program volunteers. In most cases, the interview will be conducted in-person in the semi-finalist's home community. A variety of questions will be asked in the interview, including questions related to the candidate’s interests in and goals related to language study in an immersion environment. Semi-finalists will be contacted on a rolling basis beginning in December to schedule interviews. NSLI-Y interviewers are typically volunteers with experience in and enthusiasm for international exchange. While the interview is a very important part of the NSLI-Y application process, an interview does not guarantee selection. The interview is one component in a comprehensive application review process. Semi-finalists should refrain from making any inference regarding their likelihood of receiving a NSLI-Y award based on comments shared by the NSLI-Y interviewer.

Final Review

Following the semi-finalist interview, all application materials and interview reports are read by at least three individuals who have been trained to evaluate and score NSLI-Y applications. Evaluators are asked to 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 review a candidate's placement information, medical forms, and optional photographs.

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.

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