join the nsli-y family!

今年夏天我在做什么? What am I doing this summer?

On the 25th of March, 2017, at exactly 5:10 pm,  I received an obscure email with a PDF attachment of my acceptance letter for a Department of State scholarship.

What proceeded was a strange mix of intense screaming, half-crying, and lots of jumping around–a spectacle, really.


The National Security Language Initiative for Youth, or NSLI-Y program, is a study abroad program that resulted from the National Security Language Initiative instituted by former President George W. Bush. NSLI-Y’s mission is to promote the acquisition of critical languages by high school students and recent graduates, who receive full scholarships to immerse themselves in the languages of various destinations for a summer or academic year.


and Bahasa Indonesian, which will be available beginning in the 2018-2019 year.


The NSLI-Y website states that the following determine eligibility for applying to the program:

  • U.S. citizen
  • Grade point average (GPA) of 2.5 or higher on a 4.0 scale, or the equivalent
  • 15-18 years of age at start of program (birthdate between July 10, 1998 and June 10, 2002 for summer programs; birthdate between September 20, 1998 and June 30, 2002 for academic year programs)
  • Enrolled in high school (grades 9-12, including home school) at the time of application
  • Not an immediate family member of an employee of the U.S. Department of State who works in the Youth Programs Division of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs or an employee at a NSLI-Y administering organization whose duties involve the NSLI-Y program
  • Have not previously traveled outside the U.S. on a long-term (more than eight weeks) program sponsored by the Youth Programs Division of the Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA)


For advice on your essays and interview, check out these posts coming soon!

The application process includes a few short essays and a teacher recommendation, and happens in two stages. After submitting your essays and teacher recommendation, semifinalist notifications are sent out. If you move on to the semifinalist stage, you are scheduled to interview, and then, a few months later, will receive your final decision. For more a more organized timeline of the application process, check out my friend Jacquelyn Kim’s post, or go to NSLI-Y for more specific dates and details. However, I think I offer a pretty entertaining timeline below, if I do say so myself (*chuckles*). For my guide on rocking the essays and interview in particular, check out my NSLI-Y page!

August – Start your 2017-18 NSLI-Y application. The earlier, the better!

October –  Make sure that your school sends official transcripts to American Councils and turn in your application online – it is due regardless of technical difficulties. 

Quick anecdote time! 

At the end of the school day on October 27th, 2016, I scrambled to my school library to finish my NSLI-Y application. After making a few word choice changes, I went to submit it, and then looked at the clock. 3:49, it read. My heart rate quickened as I scrambled to find my way through my school’s lethargic Wi-Fi speeds.

3:55, I was almost there. Just a few more buttons to press!

3:58, THE END OF THE WORLD BEGAN. This is when I started to pray to every God that I’d ever heard of in my life. Yikes.

Fortunately, the computer decided to spare me from my impending misery, and submitted my application at precisely 3:59. (Thanks to the external forces of the universe!) The lesson here, kids, is not do to what I did. Finish your application early, and be ready to submit it early as well! This isn’t to say that you should rush, however. The essay portion of your application can make or break you in the post-semifinalist stage.

“Pics or it didn’t happen!”

November – Teacher recommendation and parent statement/recommendation due online.

“Any technical problems with the application form should be reported by email to; NSLI-Y staff will be available to assist with technical problems as much as possible; however, for inquiries received on October 27, there is no guarantee that NSLI-Y staff can respond before the application deadline,” (from NSLI-Y themselves).

December – Semi-finalist notifications are released, so check your email! Also, complete your Medical Evaluation Form and attain a passport, if needed. (Your passport must be valid for 6-18 months after returning from NSLI-Y.)

December to February – An AFS volunteer will contact you to schedule an interview. For more information about how to slay your interview, check out a post coming soon!

February – Medical Evaluation Forms are due, as well as passport information (if NSLI-Y requests it).

March to April – Congratulations! If you’ve made it this far, you’re in! Finalist notifications for summer programs come out first, on a rolling basis. The order typically goes Turkish, Persian, Russian, Hindi, Chinese, and lastly, Korean. Summer Finalists will have 7 days to accept or decline their scholarship, while Academic Year Finalists will have 14 days to do so.

April to June – Pre-departure festivities commence. Your local alumni representative may host a finalist reception, and NSLI-Y will send you materials for mandatory preliminary basic language study. You may also undergo additional processes, depending on your implementing organizations.

And lastly, but definitely not least, WHY should you apply for NSLI-Y?

To answer this question, I can only speak from my own experience, but I can say that I have only great things to say about this program. Even before having gone abroad, or even before receiving my finalist notification, I’ve made the most amazing friends through Facebook groups, primarily. Being surrounded by such brilliant people has inspired me to reconsider what I consider to be possible by someone my age. NSLI-Y is a family of like-minded, open-minded, passionate, kind, and supportive individuals–something that can’t be found in many other places, if any at all. Do NSLI-Y. Trust me, you’ll thank me later.


2 thoughts on “join the nsli-y family!

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