ULGs provide $5,000 towards the cost of intensive summer language study either in the US or abroad. The program’s goal is to fund students for whom this language training is central to the achievement of specific academic or professional goals.


The deadline for applications for Summer 2021 Undergraduate Language Grants is Friday, January 29, 2021 at 11:59pm. Applications are submitted through the portal (see HOW TO APPLY button below), and official transcripts must be also submitted to the ULG Coordinator  ( in the Office of Undergraduate Research by the deadline.


Undergraduates who will be returning to Northwestern in the fall following the summer language study. Students cannot receive ULG funds to participate in language programs following graduation from Northwestern.



What It Is

You identify a summer language program that best fits your specific goals, and this grant helps defray the costs of attending (the grant covers $5,000 of total expenses). You can hold this grant in conjuncture with other grants or fellowships, and we encourage you to work with the Office of Fellowships to identify non-NU grants that can cover the rest of your costs.

ULGs fund students who need to study a language in order to achieve a specific academic or professional goal, and who need to study this language intensively over the summer rather than through regular classes in the academic year. Awards are not based solely on an applicant’s current language level or ability, but on how critical learning a language over the summer is to the applicant’s future goals.

Language programs must be at least six weeks in duration, and language instruction must be the predominant (if not the sole) aim of the program. You can apply for any level of language study, from beginner to advanced. Applications from heritage speakers are very welcome, but like all applicants you must demonstrate how a summer of intensive language study will help you achieve specific academic or professional goals.

We do not keep a list of language programs you can apply to, because each student’s language learning needs are unique. However, the program you choose must meet the following criteria:

  • The equivalent of a year’s worth of college-level language instruction. The program should involve at least 120 instruction hours in total.
  • An ‘immersion’ or ‘intensive’ format to study and engage with the language approximately 3-5 hours/day, 4-5 days/week, for at least 6 weeks.
  • A clearly defined curriculum or instruction plan.
  • Instructors with training or credentials in teaching (e.g. ‘conversation partner’ activities or experience with untrained native speakers cannot constitute the bulk of the program).
  • A focus on the multiple modalities for language use (not just speaking/listening or writing/reading, but speaking, listening, reading AND writing).

As long as it fits the requirements above, the language program you choose does not have to be run by a university or be a ‘study abroad’ program. You are encouraged to consider lower-cost options like studying in the US or taking a language course abroad that does not include organized accommodation/activities.

If you intend to study a language that is rarely taught and are having trouble finding a program that fits these criteria, contact the ULG coordinator well in advance of the application deadline to discuss your options.

You can apply for the ULG before applying to your summer language program. Grant recipients will later need to provide proof of registration in the language program in order to receive the funds. At the end of the summer, you’ll need to provide a transcript showing successful completion of the language program.


You must be enrolled in a language study program for a minimum of six weeks over the summer. During the time you are enrolled in your language program, you cannot hold other roles (e.g., internships, jobs, volunteer positions, or other classes). The application deadline will be around the end of January each year, and applicants will receive a notification from the committee within 4-6 weeks.


Abroad or in the United States. Read our page on international projects for important travel restriction information.

Faculty Role

You should begin talking with faculty members and advisors about your application well ahead of the deadline. You should be talking to both language instructors and to your academic advisors. Once you know that you want to apply, you can ask them about:

  • Your future academic and professional goals. What steps do you need to take over the short and long term? What is a realistic timeline?
  • Your current language learning strengths and weaknesses. What should you focus on in an intensive summer class?
  • The qualities you should look for, when searching for a language program that will fit your unique learning goals.

Applications require endorsements from two faculty recommenders (aka sponsors):

  1. A language instructor with whom you have taken language coursework. Ideally an instructor in the language you want to study, but if you are a beginner it can be an instructor in a different language.
  2. A faculty member who can address the ways which a ULG will help you achieve your future academic or professional goals.

Outside faculty may be used as recommenders, including high school language teachers if you have not taken any languages at Northwestern, but at least one of your faculty sponsors must be a Northwestern faculty member.  Graduate students and post-docs are not eligible, unless they are the student’s primary language instructor. If a recommender falls into one of these categories, contact the ULG Coordinator before the deadline for details, as additional steps are required to get access to the online system. We strongly recommend you contact us at least a week before the deadline but preferably sooner. Applications without recommendations from sponsors will not be considered.

Talk to your faculty sponsors about your language study plans prior to submitting your application. Do not wait till the week of the deadline to ask for a recommendation. Ask your recommenders to review Info for Faculty and provide them with a draft of your application materials (proposal and resume) well in advance, to give them time to write their endorsements.

Faculty endorsements are due within four days after the student deadline. Unendorsed proposals will not be considered. Make sure faculty see the Info for Faculty page to show them how to access our system and the endorsement questions asked.


Selection Process: 

Applications are evaluated by a review committee made up of language instructors who are Northwestern faculty. Grant recipients are selected on the basis of merit with consideration for:

  • Plan to use the language in pursuit of specific academic goals or in future career
  • Appropriateness of the chosen language program for the student’s goals
  • Plan to continue studying the language
  • Academic record and potential to successfully complete and benefit from the summer language study

You will receive notification from the committee 4-6 weeks after the submission deadline. The review committee will approve a ranked waiting list. Grant recipients will have a month to accept or decline the award (often depending on their acceptance to the program involved), and students on the waiting list will be notified as soon as either a slot becomes available or the final recipients have accepted the award.

Before grant funds will be released, grant recipients must provide a) proof of registration in the language program, and b) if studying abroad, proof they have completed Northwestern’s Travel Registry requirements.

Who can help me choose a program?

Seek out advice from language instructors that you have previously had and/or the Study Abroad Office. If you are looking to study a new language with which you have no previous background, seek out instructors in that language through departmental web sites and set up appointments to discuss possible programs. Finally, do web research. Remember not to take program promotional materials at face value; find out what others say about a program.

The program that I want to do is only a month long. Can I still apply?

No. Programs typically must be a minimum of six weeks. In exceptional cases, five-week programs may qualify, but these must be pre-approved by the appropriate NU language department. For languages where three- or four-week programs are common (such as German), students may apply for a ULG if they will be enrolled in sequential programs that total at least six weeks of immersive language study. In either case, you should contact the ULG coordinator to discuss your case before applying.

The program I like is really expensive!

The costs of these types of programs are often significantly more than the Undergraduate Language Grant amount. We encourage you to pursue additional support, including from departments/programs (such as the Office of Fellowships or the Buffett Institute’s Supplemental Grant) and other outside sources.

I want to study Kiswahili (or some other language not taught at NU). Is that possible?

Yes. It is a great use of a ULG to study a language not currently taught at Northwestern. We also recognize that formal programs in smaller languages may be more difficult to find. The Review Committee will remain open to smaller programs as long as the language work is intensive and rigorous. It will be your responsibility to make that case in your application. We also encourage you to contact the ULG coordinator to discuss your case before applying.

My favorite language instructor is a graduate student. Can they endorse me?

Yes, but they will need to contact the ULG Coordinator for special instructions for submitting the endorsement. Your second endorsement must come from a faculty member.

I studied abroad and want a faculty member from there to endorse me. Is that possible?

Yes. You may use faculty members from outside Northwestern. Contact the ULG coordinator for details, as outside people will need to obtain netIDs to access the online application system.

Do I automatically receive academic credit for my program, even if it is not run by Northwestern?

Not necessarily.  If you’re interested in receiving academic credit at Northwestern from a Non-NU Summer Program, review this section of the Study Abroad Office’s website. Study Abroad Advisers are happy to review the application and credit transfer processes with you.

The budget list on the application is long!

We want you to consider all expenses involved in such programs, and not merely tuition/fees. This way you can make an informed decision about your ability to finance the experience. The maximum ULG will fund is 75% of your total budgeted expenses up to $5,000.

What happens if my country goes on the Travel Warning list after I have been accepted?

If you have already received an ULG and are unable to obtain approval for an exception from the Study Abroad Risk Assessment Committee, we will work with you to locate another program where you can pursue your language study.

I got a grant. How do I get paid?
Can I blog about my experience?

We are pleased to offer any grant recipient her/his own blog to use during the grant period.  Check out the undergraduate research blogs.  If you are interested in becoming a part of our blogging world, contact us.

What do I do when I’m done with my program?

In the fall after the end of the language program, ULG recipients must provide a copy of their transcript showing successful completion of the program.