All You Need to Know About the Gilman Scholarship Program

Gilman Scholarship Overview

The Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program is a program of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The Gilman Scholarship is a grant program that enables American students of limited financial means to study or intern abroad. The Gilman Scholarship enables the students to gain skills that are important to their academic and career development, in diverse languages and cultures. The proficiency is critical to the national security and economic prosperity. The scholarship program has been administered by the Institute of International Education (IIE) since its inception in 2001.

The Gilman Scholarship Program broadens the student population that studies and interns abroad by supporting undergraduates who might not otherwise participated to financial constraints. The program encourages students to study and intern in a diverse array of countries or areas and world regions. Students are also encouraged to study languages, especially critical need languages that are deemed important to national security. Veterans of military service are encouraged to apply, and preference is given to them when other factors are equivalent.

The program has been successful in supporting students who have been historically underrepresented in education abroad, including but not limited to first-generation college students, students in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields, ethnic minority students, students with disabilities, students attending HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) or other minority-serving institutions, students attending community colleges, and students coming from U.S. states with less study abroad participation.

Over 2,900 scholarships of up to $5,000 will be awarded this academic year for U.S. citizens to study on undergraduate level or intern abroad. The award amounts will vary depending on the length of study and student need. Applicants who are studying a critical need language while abroad can apply for a supplemental award of up to $3,000, for a combined total of $8,000. This award is competitive and offered to limited number of Gilman scholars each year. Students who are awarded the Critical Need Language Award and complete their Gilman Scholarship requirements will be offered the opportunity to take the ACTFL Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI). This test and the results will serve as both an evaluation measure of the award and as a credential for the award recipient.

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The critical need languages include the following:

  • Arabic – Bahrain, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates
  • Azerbaijani – Azerbaijan
  • Bahasa Indonesian – Indonesia
  • Bangla – India
  • Chinese (Mandarin) – China, Taiwan
  • Hindi – India
  • Japanese – Japan
  • Korean – South Korea
  • Persian – Tajikistan
  • Portuguese – Angola, Brazil, Cabo Verde, Ecuatorial Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Macau, Mozambique, Portugal, São Tomé and Principe
  • Punjabi – India
  • Russian – Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Molodova, Russia, Ukraine
  • Swahili – Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda
  • Turkish – Azerbaijan, Cyprus
  • Urdu – India

Gilman Scholarship Selection Criteria

Students will be chosen for the Gilman Scholarship Program by a competitive selection process. Recipients must use the award to defray eligible study or intern abroad costs. These costs include program tuition, room and board, books, local transportation, insurance, international airfare, passport and visa fees.

Financial need is based on the study abroad expenses provided by the applicant’s advisor and additional financial aid information submitted through the application. A Gilman Scholar’s final award amount will be determined by financial need, program length, overall program costs and the strength of the application during the selection panel ranking process.

Applications for the scholarship will be reviewed holistically, with consideration of the following:

  • Academic performance, particularly in the applicant’s major is important, though there is no minimum grade point average for this scholarship. Applicants must demonstrate the maturity needed to benefit from their experience abroad, and they should be able to describe the expected outcome of their program participation towards their future academic and career objectives. Students’ transcripts and their academic standing at their home institution will be reviewed and taken to consideration within the selection process.
  • The program seeks participation by the broadest group of American undergraduate students with financial need who will benefit from the knowledge and skills they acquire when studying abroad.
  • Award recipients are to demonstrate a coherent link between their proposed program abroad activities and their future academic and/or career plans, as well as personal development goals. Students should detail the different aspects of their program and articulate how their participation and receipt of the Gilman Scholarship would support the achievement of their goals. Candidates who are studying in underrepresented countries will be given preference, provided their qualifications are approximately equivalent to those of other candidates. Underrepresented countries are in the following regions:
  • Eastern Europe
  • Middle East & North Africa
  • Sub-Saharan Africa
  • East Asia and the Pacific (with the exception of Australia, China, Japan, and South Korea)
  • South and Central Asia
  • The supplemental essay completed by students applying for the Critical Need Language Award will be considered using the following additional criteria: Applicants are considered for this category if while abroad they are taking a courses taught in a critical need language, studying a critical need language, or both, in a country or area that predominantly speaks the language. A successful applicant should demonstrate a strong motivation to achieve proficiency in the language that extends beyond their study abroad experience, and into their future academic and career goals.
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Gilman Scholarships are awarded four times throughout the year for programs in fall and academic year, spring and calendar year, and two summer cycles. Students must study abroad for a minimum of three weeks in one country. The Gilman Scholarship acceptance rate is around 25% for semester program applicants and 20% for summer program applicants.

Gilman Scholarship Requirements

To be eligible for a Gilman Scholarship, an applicant must meet all the following requirements:

  • Be a citizen of the United States
  • Be an undergraduate student in good standing at an accredited institution of higher education in the United States (including both two-year and four-year institutions)
  • Be receiving a Federal Pell Grant during the time of application or provide proof that they will be receiving a Pell Grant during the term of their study abroad program or internship
  • Be in the process of applying to, or accepted for, a study abroad or internship program of at least two weeks for community college students and three weeks for students from four-year institutions, in a single country or area and eligible for credit from the student’s home institution. Proof of program acceptance is required prior to award disbursement
  • Be applying for credit-bearing study abroad programs in a country or area with an overall Travel advisory Level 1 or 2, according to the U.S. Department of State’s Travel Advisory System.

Gilman Scholarship recipients can only receive the scholarship once. If a student previously declined the Gilman Scholarship, they are welcome to re-apply, as long as they still meet all eligibility requirements listed above.

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Gilman Scholarship Application Cycle

Students can study and intern abroad during the spring, summer, fall or academic year term. Typically, the deadlines are in early October for spring and the early summer cycle and early March for regular summer/fall/full-year. Students should plan ahead as it is important to apply for the correct scholarship term according to their program dates in order to be considered for the Gilman Scholarship. Below is the Gilman Scholarship Program’s application cycle.

  • Gilman Scholarship Spring 2020

The spring application cycle is for programs that generally start between December 15 and April 15, and coincide with your home institution’s or your international program’s spring calendar. This cycle encompasses spring semester, quarter, calendar year, winter inter-session and January term programs that are a minimum of three weeks, two weeks for current community college students, in length.

  • Gilman Scholarship Summer 2020

The Gilman Program offers two summer application cycles for programs that generally start between May 1 and August 1 that are a minimum of three weeks, two weeks for current community college students, in length and coincide with your home institution’s or your international program’s summer calendar. Summer cycles encompass summer and May term programs.

  • Fall and Academic Year Programs

The fall application cycle is for programs that generally start between July 15 and October 15, and coincide with your home institution’s or your international program’s fall calendar. This cycle encompasses fall semester, quarter, and academic year programs that are a minimum of three weeks, two for current community college students, in length.

Gilman Scholarship Contact Information

For further information on the Gilman Scholarship Program, visit the Gilman Scholarship website at Inquiries may be sent to the following Gilman Scholarship contacts:

  • Applicant Inquiries


Phone: 800.852.2141.Ext 1

  • Recipient Inquiries

Recent recipients, contact according to your region.

Phone: 800.852.2141.Ext 3


Phone: 800.852.2141.Ext 2

  • Alumni Inquiries


Phone: 800.852.2141.Ext 4

Also, follow the Gilman Scholarship Program updates on social media, including the Gilman Scholarship Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and YouTube.

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