Boren Scholarship: Expert Tips for a Successful Application

The Boren Scholarship is a prestigious funding opportunity designed to encourage U.S. undergraduate students to study abroad in regions critical to national security. By supporting these students financially, the program aims to enhance their understanding of global culture and languages critical to the United States’ national interests. The scholarship emphasizes the importance of studying less commonly taught languages, thereby improving the scholarly and diplomatic competencies of future U.S. leaders.

Boren Scholarships provide up to $25,000 in financial support for an immersive and transformative study abroad experience. Students from diverse academic backgrounds are eligible, as long as they exhibit a strong commitment to national security and global understanding. As a part of the scholarship agreement, recipients commit to working in the federal government for at least one year post-graduation, thus directly contributing to U.S. national security efforts. With the assistance of the Boren Scholarship, students are better equipped to navigate the complexities of international relations and contribute to global peace and stability in the future.

Eligibility and Application Process

U.S. Undergraduate Students

Boren Scholarships provide up to $20,000 to U.S. undergraduate students to study abroad in areas of the world that are critical to U.S. interests. Eligible applicants must be U.S. citizens at the time of application, have a high school diploma or GED, and be matriculated in an undergraduate degree program in a U.S. post-secondary institution1.

The application process for Boren Scholarships involves several steps:

  1. Create a new application on the Boren Awards website, selecting the country and language to be studied.
  2. Reach out to the Boren Awards campus representative at your institution for guidance and support.
  3. Obtain two Letters of Recommendation, with the option to include a third. It is also encouraged to include a Language Evaluation of the Boren language, to be completed by a recent language instructor2.
  4. Familiarize yourself with the online application and submit it by the campus deadline, usually in January.

Graduate Students

While Boren Scholarships are mainly aimed at undergraduate students, graduate students can apply for Boren Fellowships offered through the National Security Education Program. The eligibility requirements and application process may differ, so it is crucial for graduate students to visit the Boren Fellowships website for more information.

The Boren Awards and Fellowships are under the umbrella of the National Security Education Program, a federal government initiative designed to help U.S. students gain experience overseas in key regions and languages relevant to national security. Through these programs, recipients gain valuable language skills and cultural understanding, enhancing their ability to contribute to the nation’s long-term security goals3.


Languages and Regions

Languages Supported

The Boren Scholarship primarily supports the study of less commonly taught languages to enhance US interests. A diverse range of languages is supported by the program, including but not limited to:

  • Arabic
  • Chinese
  • Portuguese
  • Russian
  • Swahili

Applicants may also apply to study other minority languages and dialects, particularly within the preferred countries.

Regions of Study

Boren Scholarships are designed to fund study programs in regions critical to US interests and underrepresented in study abroad. The primary regions covered by the scholarship include:

  • Africa
  • Asia
  • Central and Eastern Europe
  • Eurasia
  • Latin America
  • Middle East

Western Europe is not a focus of the Boren Awards, as the program seeks to encourage the development of language and cultural expertise in areas of strategic importance. Students are encouraged to pursue studies in countries within the aforementioned regions to increase the diversity of American understanding and knowledge. More information on region-specific qualifications and requirements can be found on the Boren Awards website.

Funding and Support

Boren Scholarships

The Boren Scholarships provide funding for U.S. undergraduate students to study less commonly taught languages critical to U.S. interests. The length of the program ranges from 8 weeks to a full academic year.

The funding available for Boren Scholarships varies depending on the duration of the study abroad program:

  • Up to $8,000 for 8-11 weeks (STEM majors only)
  • Up to $12,500 for 12-24 weeks
  • Up to $25,000 for 25-52 weeks (preferred)

Boren Scholarship recipients are committed to work in the federal government for at least one year following the completion of their program. This commitment helps ensure that the skills and knowledge gained through the scholarship are utilized to benefit U.S. national security.

Boren Fellowships

Boren Fellowships are available for U.S. graduate students who wish to pursue their studies in world regions critical to U.S. interests and underrepresented in study abroad programs. These regions include Africa, Asia, Central and Eastern Europe, Eurasia, Latin America, and the Middle East.

The maximum funding amount for Boren Fellowships varies depending on the duration of the study abroad program:

  • Up to $12,000 for 12-24 weeks
  • Up to $24,000 for 25-52 weeks (preferred)

Fellowship recipients may also receive an additional $12,000 for domestic language study. Similar to Boren Scholarship recipients, Boren Fellowship recipients are required to work in the federal government for at least one year following the completion of their program.

In conclusion, both Boren Scholarships and Boren Fellowships offer significant funding and support for U.S. students to study languages and cultures critical to U.S. interests. This financial assistance, combined with the commitment to work in the federal government, helps ensure that the U.S. workforce is equipped with crucial language skills and cultural understanding in key world regions.

Focus on National Security

Global Society Challenges

The Boren Scholarship aims to develop a strong understanding of global society challenges that are critical to U.S. national security. These challenges go beyond traditional concerns of national defense, diplomacy, and intelligence matters and encompass a wide range of issues. Some of these issues include sustainable development, environmental degradation, global disease, hunger, population growth, migration, and economic competitiveness.

Addressing these challenges is crucial for maintaining and improving the well-being of the U.S. and its interests worldwide. By supporting the study of languages, cultures, and fields that are relevant to these challenges, the Boren Scholarship empowers its recipients to better understand and address the multifaceted threats to national security.

Career Goals

The Boren Awards emphasize the importance of careers in public service for its recipients, helping them to apply their gained knowledge and skills to the benefit of U.S. national security. Such careers may be found in various government agencies, non-profit organizations, or other institutions that contribute to the well-being of the nation and the global society.

Boren Scholars are encouraged to pursue careers that not only protect traditional U.S. interests but also address the underlying causes of instability, such as underdevelopment or environmental issues. This comprehensive approach to national security ensures that Boren Scholars are well-equipped to handle the complex challenges facing the U.S. and the world in the 21st century.

Application Components


The Boren Scholarship application requires applicants to submit well-written essays that clearly articulate their language study and professional goals. These essays play a crucial role in demonstrating the applicant’s commitment to their selected language and how it aligns with U.S. national security interests. Writing thoughtful and well-structured essays can significantly increase the chances of a successful application.


Boren Scholarship applicants must provide two Letters of Recommendation, and they have the option to include a third. When selecting recommenders, applicants should consider choosing individuals who can speak to their academic achievements, language proficiency, and overall suitability for the program. In addition, a Language Evaluation is highly encouraged, which should be filled out by a recent instructor in the applicant’s chosen Boren language.

Campus Representative

Engaging with a campus representative is essential for applicants as they offer guidance and support throughout the application process. Campus representatives are familiar with the Boren Scholarship’s requirements and expectations, and they can provide valuable insights and feedback on the application components. In many cases, institutional review and endorsement by the campus representative are required prior to submitting the application through the Boren-Embark application portal.

In summary, a successful Boren Scholarship application consists of well-crafted essays, strong recommendations, and active engagement with a campus representative. By carefully addressing each component, applicants can demonstrate their commitment to language study and dedication to U.S. national security interests.

Language Skills and Benefits

Less Commonly Taught Languages

The David L. Boren Scholarship offers U.S. undergraduate students the opportunity to study less commonly taught languages, which are critical to national security and underrepresented in other study abroad programs. These languages include Arabic, Hindi, Mandarin, and over 60 other languages. By focusing on these languages, the Boren Scholarship aims to provide students with unique skills that will enhance their future careers and contributions to the U.S. national security field.


In addition to language skills, Boren Scholarship recipients are expected to immerse themselves in the local culture of the country where they choose to study. This cultural immersion helps students gain a deeper understanding of the socio-political context, regional issues, and customs, which can be valuable in their professional pursuits within the U.S. government or related sectors. As part of the program, students may participate in a variety of cultural activities, educational programs, and networking events, to ensure a well-rounded and impactful learning experience.

STEM Majors

The Boren Scholarship recognizes the importance of integrating language skills and cultural knowledge with expertise in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) majors. Through funding support for language and international studies, STEM students can enhance their academic and professional qualifications by understanding global perspectives and applying their technical knowledge in diverse settings. The scholarship encourages students from various academic backgrounds to apply, emphasizing the value of adding a global component to their education.

By studying less commonly taught languages, immersing in different cultures, and incorporating international experiences with their STEM education, Boren Scholarship recipients gain critical skills and knowledge that can significantly impact their careers and contribute to U.S. national security.

Additional Resources

The Boren Scholarship is an excellent opportunity for undergraduate students in the United States to obtain funding for their language study and international experiences. To learn more about the program and related scholarships, check out the following resources:

  • Boren Awards Homepage: This is the official website for Boren Scholarships and Fellowships. Here, you can find detailed information about the awards, eligibility requirements, and application process.
  • Boren Awardee Handbook: The handbook provides in-depth information about the Boren Scholarship program, including expectations and responsibilities of awardees. It also guides recipients on managing other scholarship funding, as it may impact their Boren award amount.
  • University of Washington’s Boren Undergraduate Scholarships: A resource page from the University of Washington that offers application instructions and additional on-campus support for Boren Scholarship applicants.
  • AIFS Abroad Scholarships & Grants: AIFS Abroad is an organization that offers study abroad programs and awards an additional $500 to each student who receives a Boren Scholarship and uses it toward any of their catalog programs.
  • USC’s Boren Scholarship for International Study: The University of Southern California’s resource page for the Boren Scholarship program, detailing the funding amounts for different durations of study abroad.

Exploring these resources will help students gain a better understanding of the Boren Scholarship program and other related scholarships. Remember, language study is essential for fostering strong international relationships and advancing personal and professional growth.

Helpful Resources

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