NSLI-Y Application Tips

It is October. What does that mean? Well, besides the obvious (Halloween) it is also the month where NSLI-Y applications for the 2017-2018 programs are due. (October 27th to be more exact) And even though they are due very very soon, I thought I would write a post to help out anyone with any questions about the NSLI-Y application. I have already recieved a lot of questions through this blog, my instagram, and emails. Since most of the questions are very similar, I thought I could answer them all here in a blog post. This post will only be about the application. Questions about the interview, what do when accepted, OPI, packing, etc will be answered in separate posts closer to when they will be the most applicable.

The Essays

The biggest part of the NSLI-Y application is the essays. The essays are the things that will set you apart from all the other applicants. So it is very important that you make sure that the essays show exactly what you want. However, this does not mean that you lie in your essay or act like someone you aren’t. It is important that you are honest because it is very easy to see through words that don’t actually have any passion behind them. It is also important to not try to be someone else. If you can’t easily put a big word in a sentence and make it sound natural, don’t use that word just because someone else does. An SAT vocab word is not going to help you get picked. If you can’t easily put humor in your essay, then don’t force it. Be who you are. It is less about your writing style and precise word choice and more about what the essay says about you. Dont focus on using an extreme attention getter, use those words to talk about you. Do not focus on using tricks to make you sound more interesting.

Now for the Dos for the essays

  • Do sound mature and professional (only enough to still allow your own personality to shine. NSLI-Y knows their applicants are high school students, they don’t except perfection).
  • Do have adults/English teachers/Alumni read your essays (It is good to get feedback from other people that aren’t as connected to your essay as you probably are. It is also a good idea to hit up an alumni since they have been there done that).
  • Do talk about negative experiences that have shaped you positively (NSLI-Y can prove to be very hard at times. If you show to be resilient and able to problem solve, you will showcase your ability to handle any stress in a foreign country.
  • Do talk about how you will use the language in the future (NSLI-Y wants to know how you will use this opportunity. You don’t have to want to be a diplomat, be real about what you want and not what you think they want to hear).
  • Do read your essay multiple times! (it is good to step away from your essay so you can return to it with a fresh mind).

Host Family Letter

I feel like this part of the applications is where most people get the wrong idea. Many of the host family letters I have read from new applicants (and old ones that didn’t make it) have missed the true point of these letters. This letter is to showcase who you are. That is why you are prompted to write about where you are from, your hobbies, your family life, what your friends think about you, etc. It is important to focus less on making yourself look good and more on showing off your personality.

Also, there is a chance that your actual host family will read your letter. In many programs before mine, the alumni had told me that their families never read their essays. However, for my program, some of the host families went to an orientation of sorts before we arrived and the ones that went, were given the letters to read (my family told me that they read my letter). So use the letter wisely. Make it about you and your interest with the host family’s culture. It is also important that the letter is written formally. Make sure you say thank you for allowing them to open up their home to you.

Teacher Recommendation

All I can say about the teacher recommendation is that you should make sure that the teacher you pick knows you well. That they will be able to describe you and be able to talk about your good characteristics. Therefore, your teacher doesn’t have to be a language teacher. If you didn’t take a language in the past year or you simply aren’t close with a language teacher, don’t ask for their help. It is better to ask someone who can write about you then picking a language teacher because you think that is what NSLI-Y wants.

 Language Experience

Do not lie about your language experience on your application. If you have never studied the language previously, then write that. It doesn’t mean you have less passion than someone who has studied in a formal class for 2 years. NSLI-Y accepts all language levels into their program (I would probably say that the majority of people on my program had no language experience or a very limited of knowledge of only basic words/the alphabet). So be honest, it won’t hurt you.

 Final Tip & Pep Talk

PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE submit your application early! Even submitting it two days before is better. It will give you less stress if your computer isn’t working or if the site is experiencing too much traffic, you won’t be left for dead on the due date.

Finally, don’t be too upset if you don’t make semifinalist status. That decision does not mean you aren’t worthy of the scholarship. This is a very competitive program and sometimes even the good ones don’t always make it. There were plenty of people on my program that didn’t make it to semi the first time applying, and then when they applied the second time, they made it all the way. So do not give up. Try again! Because you will never make it, if you don’t keep giving yourself a chance to.

Good luck to all of you applying for NSLI-Y, I wish the best for all of you~ If you have any questions, feel free to comment on this post or email me at (emmap@oakstreetadvisors.com). I would love to answer any further questions!~ 안녕!!

  • Emma (엠마) Seoul Summer 2016 Alum


18 thoughts on “NSLI-Y Application Tips

  1. Alyzah Virani says:

    Hello. My name is Alyzah Virani. I am currently a high school senior and heard about this program through one of my friends who studied in china this past summer. I am very interested in studying in Korea as well as China, but i still have a few more questions on my essays and some stuff that i can tweak. Is it possible that i can email you some of my essays so you can critique them? I appreciate any advice that you have and have taken many of your suggestions into consideration. However, because of the word limit it is hard for me to prioritize what to keep and what to delete in the essay without sounding superficial. My email is virania3@go.lisd.net. Thank you so much for your kind and humble advice! i cannot wait to explore your blog. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Bella says:

    Hi! I know you were open to reading essays last year but are you still open to doing so? I applied last year and I’m almost 100% certain my essays were actual kisses of death on my application T-T. The application opened this week- thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Sara Chin says:

    Hi Emma, I just recently handed in my application, and though it would’ve been better to ask for advice earlier, could you read my essays and give me feedback? I was really rushed and I have a feeling my essays just officially murdered my application. T-T (But could you still give me feedback? I’d feel like it really help even though it’s already fixed.)

    -Sara 🙂


  4. Lila says:

    Hello! I was wondering, would you be willing to read over my virtual NSLI-Y essays? If you are busy or whatever, I totally understand. Thanks!


  5. Mia says:

    Hi Emma! This blog seems to have been up for a while, and I’m hoping you still look at it from time to time. My name is Mia, and I applied for Nsli-y this year for the academic program. I was wondering when in December you got the semi-finals email? Thank you for all the tips!


    • endeavorswithemma says:

      Hi Mia! I believe I found out Dec 1st the year I applied for AY but I remember seeing an announcement from NSLI-Y this year saying that motifs were more likely to come out mid december rather than early. So hang in there! You should find out any day now!


      • Mia says:

        Yes! I actually received an email a few days ago telling me I’m in the semi finals! I’m super excited and am revisiting your tips for the interview!


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