Money Matters: Federal Scholarships

The federal government offers a myriad of opportunities to pay for study abroad programs that few students at KU know about. The two I will highlight in this post are the Boren Awards and the Critical Language Scholarship.

Boren Awards

Click here to visit the official Boren website

The Boren Awards seek to provide students with an opportunity to study in countries that are integral to US interests and that are underrepresented in study abroad programs. The majority of Boren recipients travel to areas like Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, Eurasia, the Middle East, and Latin America. Language study must be central to the studies of any Boren recipient, but is not limited to that. All of the Boren Awards are sponsored by the National Security Education Program.

There are two levels of Boren Awards, the first is a Boren Scholarship. The scholarship program is open to matriculated undergraduate students at any accredited U.S. institution who are U.S. citizens and have a desire to study the aforementioned underrepresented languages and cultures. The maximum scholarships awarded by the Boren program are $10,000 for a semester and $20,000 for an academic year.

The second level of Boren Award is the Boren Fellowship. The Boren Fellowship is open to currently-applying or matriculated students to graduate degree programs at an accredited U.S. institution. Just like the scholarships, the fellowships are awarded to students who have a desire to study in underrepresented countries and who plan to continue their focus on this country in their studies and their professional lives. The maximum awards for the fellowships are $12,000 for a semester, $24,000 for a year overseas, and $30,000 for a year of domestic and overseas study. To clarify that last option of domestic and overseas study, the Boren program will provide funding for students to pursue research here in the U.S. and then continue that research “in the field” of their country of study.

The Boren Awards do have a work-service requirement. Following return from their time abroad, recipients are required to find a job no later than three years after the date of graduation, and the duration of the Service Requirement is one year or the duration of assistance provided under the program, whichever is longer. Jobs will be in various internationally focused departments of the government including  the Department of State, Department of Defense, or Department of Homeland Security or within any of the other agencies that comprise the US Intelligence Community. Some of the sample jobs can be found here. Recipients will receive significant aid in finding Federal employment from the NSEP. The NSEP employs staff available to assist Scholars in their job search efforts even before graduation by conducting active outreach, holding job consultations and providing letters of certification for award recipients.

Critical Language Scholarships

Click here to visit the official CLS website

The Critical Language Scholarship is an intensive language program that lasts seven to ten weeks in the summer. Programs are held in over 25 sites and include 13 different languages that have been deemed of importance to the U.S. Department of State, who is the sponsor for the scholarship. If you are awarded a CLS scholarship you are automatically admitted to one of their many programs during the summer. Programs can be attended by any undergraduate or graduate students, even if they have no prior knowledge of the language. The chart that shows the levels available for each language can be found here. Some of the languages students can study are Chinese, Hindi, Persian, Russian, and Arabic. The scholarship covers the cost of the entire program including flights, room and board, and course materials. For the CLS there is no service requirement following completion of the program, however preference is given to those students who plan to use the knowledge they gain in their professional lives.


Both of these options are ideal ways for students with an interest in language and culture to have their travel and studies paid for by the government. Even if you don’t have a desire to work for the government long-term, the Boren award is an extremely prestigious award and would do wonders for any resume. The same can be said for the CLS, employers recognize the highly selective nature of the scholarship and it may help you secure a job. If either of these are something that interest you, click the images above to travel to their websites to find out more!