While I was going through the NSLI-Y application last fall, I read dozens of blog posts and watched countless You-Tube videos stock-piled with advice. Now that I’ve received the NSLI-Y scholarship as an Arabic finalist (cue excitement), it’s time to make my own and hopefully help any applicants applying in 2021-22! 

  • What is the NSLI-Y scholarship?

For those that don’t know, NSLI-Y is a competitive program that provides scholarships to American high school students to study critically needed languages. The program is run and sponsored by the United States State Department. The languages they offer are Hindi, Persian, Russian, Turkish, Arabic, Bahasa Indonesian and Korean. You can learn more about the scholarship on their website, https://www.nsliforyouth.org. 

Application Advice

  1. Don’t beat around the bush until November and the application is due. The minute the 2020 application was released in August, I started working on it. I would highly recommend this to all applicants. The sooner you start, the more time you have to process and determine your motives for applying, and write and analyze your essays.
  1. Don’t stress. Every other NSLI-Y application advice blog will tell you this and it’s for a genuine reason. I stressed every single day until my acceptance letter came out and I wasted an extreme amount of time worrying about something I couldn’t control. For the next application round, I’ll be applying for the Arabic Academic Year, and I’m really hoping that I can not stress as much this year – it really does no good. 

Essay Advice

  1. I highly recommend having friends, family or teachers to read over/edit your essays. I drove my mom crazy because I had her read my essays on many separate occasions, but she was able to point out small grammar mistakes that I wouldn’t have even realized without another set of eyes. 
  1. Be creative and expressive. If you can tell your story in a unique way, that can help you stand out from the thousands of other applicants. 
  1. Find your niche. Everyone has their individual, unique reasons for applying, so find yours and channel your essays to showcase that niche. NSLI-Y loves a diverse pool of applicants, so don’t hold back or try to tailor your responses to what you think your essays should look like. 
  1. Answer the prompt questions directly. In the host family essay, there is a lot to try and compile into one essay, but if you need to edit or take things out, make sure you’re still answering each question. 

Interview Advice

  1. Prepare in advance, but don’t over prepare. This might be slightly contradicting information! I think my interview was okay, however I think I rehearsed so much that I got thrown off when my interviewer asked questions I hadn’t practiced. 
  1. Once again – don’t stress once the interview is over. I’m pretty sure everyone leaves an interview thinking they didn’t do their best. 
  1. Anecdotes! Try to answer every question the interviewer asks with an anecdote or two. This will help you humanize yourself and convey a large part of yourself even with limited questions. 

Good luck! Let me know if you have questions. I’m hoping to share more about my NSLI-Y experience in the coming months when I’m (hopefully) a little less busy!

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