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, disabilities and socio-economic backgrounds are encouraged 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 an 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.


Academic year semi-finalists must complete an interview coordinated by AFS-USA.

Only a portion of qualifying semi-finalists for summer programs will be interviewed by an AFS-USA representative. This is a change from previous NSLI-Y selection cycles. 

For the 2021-22 application cycle, all interviews will be conducted by phone or videoconference. A variety of questions will be asked in the interview, including questions about the candidate’s interests and goals related to language study in an immersion environment. NSLI-Y interviewers are typically volunteers with experience in and enthusiasm for international exchange. Interviews do not guarantee selection as the interview is only one component in a comprehensive selection process. Semi-finalists should refrain from making any inference regarding their likelihood of receiving a NSLI-Y award based on comments shared by the interviewer.

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 review a candidate's placement information, medical forms, optional statisical information, or 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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