NSLI-Y Application Process and Tips

No lie, the NSLI-Y application process is long and a lot of work; about as much as completing the Common App for college.  Also no lie: I totally procrastinated my application way more than I should’ve (as in did an all-nighter and submitted it hours before the deadline. . .)- 0/10 would recommend this approach.  Instead, I’ve decided to list out what the application process should be like, and some things I experienced/learned along the way.

Anytime: sign up for NSLI-Y email notifications!  They’ll tell you when the application opens so you don’t forget deadlines and can maximize time!


  • Start the application!  This includes some basic information, as well as longer replies and extended essays.
    • Essays are important!!!  (Potentially the heaviest weighted part of the application.)  They are your time to truly think about and make your case for why you deserve a full government-supported scholarship to study abroad.  While sincerity is always key, questions to consider include the importance of language and how you will apply what you learn through NSLI-Y.  What do you want to learn?  Be specific.
    • Some of the essay prompts can seem repetitive, however still use each essay as an opportunity to highlight a different feature about yourself.
    • Your host family totally reads your host family letter.  Be yourself, but also make sure to hit the points recommended in the application prompt.
  • Get a teacher recommendation!  Does not have to be foreign language!  (One of mine was an English teacher, the other a Spanish teacher.)
  • Get a parent recommendation!  This is mainly to prove parental support for NSLI-Y, so make sure the letter is positive and speaks toward your commitment to language learning.
  • Get an official transcript sent from your school!
  • If you’re feeling stressed about applications (who isn’t?), sign up for a NSLI-Y webinar.  A lot of the information is pretty basic, but you never know what could be helpful down the line; the webinar I attended did end up shaping some of my essay responses.


  • Make sure your letters of recommendation are in, and then begin the waiting game


  • Semi-finalist notifications out!  If chosen as a semi-finalist:
    • Apply/make sure your passport is up-to-date!  No seriously, I didn’t do that for the NSLI-Y Summer Program and it caused a huge extra headache that is completely avoidable.  Check your passport.
    • Complete health forms; may require doctor/dentist visits
    • December-January: Interviews!
      • Hosted by AFS volunteers, usually a couple interviewers with one interviewee.  The interview is semi-formal; dress nicely and act professionally, but be sincere and personal in your responses.  Smile 🙂
        • Interviews vary, but will generally be about your language/overseas experience, experience coping with a variety of situations, goals, etc.  Interviewers may or may not have read your application; study your application essays for inspiration and continuity in responses


  • Finalist notifications begin on a rolling basis, summer and then year.  Breathe 🙂

May-Departure (June for summer, August for year):

  • Pre-departure prep!  Includes flight itineraries, medical forms, language prep, follow-up questions, and host-family placement
    • Be prompt in addressing questions from NSLI-Y; a lot of paperwork will be thrown at you and should be done in a timely manner
      • Visa applications can take a while and are mainly out of your control; do your part by staying prompt in responses so that any potential issues have time to be resolved
    • OPI (Oral Proficiency Interview) for those who have experience with the target language; done over the phone and lasts about 10 to 30 minutes.  Topics vary depending on skill level.  I tested at beginning-intermediate and my interview was 30 minutes, and included opinion questions as well as role-play.  The hardest part of that was remembering the story my interviewer made. . .

NSLI-Y is very open and willing to help; always feel free to ask if you have questions regarding the process!  Alumni are also pretty cool about answering questions. . . 😉  Good luck on your applications, 一起加油一起努力!



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