Application Resources

Applying to CESSI

Applying to anything can be a stressful experience. There are numerous documents to keep track of, personal statements to write and edit, and people to contact for letters and references.  All of this occurs in the midst of other obligations, both personal and professional. It can be a lot to keep track of and overwhelming to even begin.  On this page we provide applicants with resources and information  to assist with the application to CESSI and to funding opportunities for CESSI studies.

First, we outline the order in which we recommend completing the CESSI application.  Then, we provide information on what we look for in a CESSI Applicant.  Finally, information on best practices for completing each part of the application, such as how to write a personal statement, how to ask for a letter of recommendation, etc., may be found at the bottom of the page. There is also a video series covering the application stages and funding opportunities for CESSI and sibling WISLI programs.

You may also wish to review the different funding options for CESSI students in more detail on our Costs and Funding page.  Here you will find information about eligibility, priorities, and deadlines for each funding award.  We highly encourage reviewing this information carefully before beginning your funding applications as it will guide you as you draft personal statements and other application materials.

What We Look For In a CESSI Applicant

There are four key elements that reviewers look for in a strong CESSI application:  

Long-term commitment to the language and/or region

Reviewers try to assess if an applicant will continue to develop a connection with Central Asia beyond CESSI.  CESSI is an intensive program designed to prepare students for in-country life, research, work, or other type of continued relationship with communities that speak the studied language(s). Not only is long-term commitment to Central Asia or Central Asian studies important to CESSI judges; it should also be something applicants seriously consider when determining if CESSI is the right program for them. Ask yourself, in an ideal world, do I see myself using this language in 5-10 years? If so, that is an important element to reflect in your application.   

Team player

CESSI class sizes are small (3-6 students). Each class works and progresses together. An individual student’s participation and commitment to their coursework impacts the class as a whole. Accordingly, demonstrating on your application that you work well with others is something the review committee looks for and values. 

Self-motivated learner

Self-instruction is a critical aspect of an intensive learning course. How students study on their own outside of class will ultimately determine their success with CESSI. This is another important factor that reviewers consider when accepting students to CESSI.

An aptitude for language learning

Reviewers most often determine this from looking at applicants’ language-learning history and transcripts. If you don’t have all straight-As in previous language courses, that’s nothing to worry about.  Just be sure to talk about it and contextualize it in your personal statement.

Be mindful of the fact that these are the priorities for the CESSI Application.  Your application to a funding opportunity will likely need to highlight different aspects.  Carefully review the priorities of those opportunities so you can tailor your application to what those reviewers look for in applicants.

Application Parts

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There are two types of transcripts, official and unofficial:

Official transcripts are usually sent directly from one institution to another (from your undergraduate institution to the graduate school you are applying to, for example) and are sent with an official seal and/or signature from a registrar or as a secure PDF.  Depending on your institution, there may also be a fee for each requested official transcript.  There may also be a limit on the number of official transcripts you can request.  Be sure to check with each institution to see what their rules are, as each is different.

Unofficial transcripts are usually free for students and alumni to access but do not have any seals or signatures.

CESSI accepts both official and unofficial transcripts.

Some Do’s and Don’ts to follow when sending transcripts:

  • DO send all your most recent transcripts.  Even if you were an undergrad years ago, most applications will still want to see all your higher education transcripts.
  • DO send all your transcripts together, if possible, so they don’t get separated.  This may not be possible with official transcripts. However, if you are submitting unofficial transcripts it is often helpful to send them all in one email or as one combined PDF file.
  • DON’T use a screenshot.  These are often blurry or hard to read and can cut off important information.  Similarly, DON’T use the ‘print as PDF’ function in your browser if you are viewing your transcript online. This often causes the print to be too small to read.
  • DO contact institutions early, especially for official transcripts.  You want to make sure there is plenty of time for your request to be processed before the deadline.
  • DO let the organization you are applying to know if there is a technical issue or it is taking longer than usual.  You do not want to be penalized in your application for a glitch outside of your control.

Recommendation Letters

Here is some general guidance when deciding who to ask for a letter of recommendation when applying to a language program or funding:

  1. Advisor or professor you have worked with closely
  2. Instructor of course relevant to application scope or language
  3. Recent language instructor (especially if language is the same or related to application language)
  4. Recent employer 
  5. Someone (not friends or family) who can attest that you have the qualities and experience which the opportunity requires

Here is what reviewers generally look for in letters of recommendation. Consider these points when choosing who to ask for a letter of recommendation.  Who from the list above can write a letter covering these points?

  • The recommender demonstrates familiarity with applicant​.
  • The letter is knowledgeable and specific to individual.
  • The letter confirms the applicant’s commitment to the field and subject​.
  • The letter testifies to the applicant’s academic performance and potential​.
  • The letter includes a character description​ of the applicant.

Finally, here are some request tips and etiquette to keep in mind when asking for a letter of recommendation:

  • Ask early! Give your recommender 2-4 weeks’ advance notice​.
  • Provide your recommender with your resume/CV and a draft statement of purpose or personal statement.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask your recommender for multiple letters, especially if you are applying to more than one program or funding opportunity. It is often fairly easy for them to adjust a previous letter to a new opportunity.
  • Clearly explain what you are applying for. Provide your recommender with a description of the program or scholarship and any information on what the review committee prioritizes.  
  • Provide your recommender with a list of places you are applying to, deadlines, links.​  This will help them keep track of all details.

CV or Resume

What is the difference between a CV and a Resume?

CVs are longer; they may be 3-8 pages​.  They are comprehensive​, that is they include all your experience and details. A CV presents your notable accomplishments & experience​.  It is often used in more academic settings and includes a list of publications or similar accomplishments.

Resumes are shorter; they are usually just 1 page​. They are concise and direct​; you may have to cut some of your less relevant experiences or details about different items.  Use this short space to connect your skills and strengths to the opportunity​ at hand.

CESSI accepts both CVs and Resumes.

Here are some DOs and DON’Ts for writing and submitting CVs and Resumes:

  • DO follow instructions.  Double check which the application calls for.  DON’T provide a résumé if CV is requested, and vice versa​.  If given a choice, find the option that best suits you​.  See above for some information on the differences between CVs and Resumes and which situations are better suited to each.
  • DO edit and tailor to opportunity at hand​.  Always edit your CV or Resume to each application.  Keep in mind the program description, criteria​, etc. and make your CV or Resume stand out as being aligned to these criteria.

Here are some general expectations and tips for writing a CV or Resume:

  • While it may be common to include a photo on your CV or Resume abroad, this is not common in the US and may present legal issues for the organization which receives your document.
  • Include your name and contact info at the beginning of the document.  You may also wish to include your present position here.
  • Split your document into categories to organize your experience and skills.  The following are some of the usual categories included, however you do not need to include all of these in your document (especially if you are writing a resume):
    • Objective – opportunities you are interested in, your career goals
    • Education – degrees (including those you are currently working on), certificates, any honors
    • Work Experience or Professional Experience – may be listed chronologically or in order of relevance, include a brief description or list of duties for each entry
    • Skills – examples include particular computer programs, customer service, cross cultural competency
    • Hobbies – especially if they are relevant to the application
    • Certifications or Trainings – remember to consider any trainings you may have completed for previous jobs
    • References – be sure your references are aware they are listed on your CV or resume and are ready to speak to your relevant skills and experience for each opportunity.

Personal Statement

The personal statement or statement of purpose is one of the most important parts of an application, but don’t be intimidated by it. The statement is the part of your application where you can really show who you are and tell your story. Below are a few things to keep in mind as you write your personal statement.

  • Look at the guidelines.  Do this before you even start writing or outlining your statement! Usually, applications will have a list of expectations for the personal statement. This could include rules such as length, questions that need to be answered, or academic or professional goals, to name a few. These may sound like recommendations on the organizations website, but follow them like rules.  This will show that you did your research and start your application off on a good note.
  • After reviewing the guidelines check for other information regarding the opportunity.  This will help you think about why you want to study in this program, qualify for this funding award or other details.  A good place to look is at any alumni features or descriptions of the opportunity.  Think about what about the opportunity appeals to you and how it fits with your overall goals.  Incorporating these ideas in your personal statement will show that you have really though about this opportunity and are dedicated to it. Use these ideas to brainstorm and outline your statement.
  • Edit your draft carefully to avoid any typos or grammar mistakes.  Ask someone to review it for you or read it out loud to double check.

If you’re not provided any sort of a guideline or prompt for your statement here a few common rules to stick to:

  1. Write a statement between 1 and 2 pages
  2. Talk about what you’re applying for. See the second note above for help connecting your story to the opportunity at hand.
  3. Pick one of your experiences that demonstrates the values, experiences, and lessons that you want to discuss in your personal statement.  Connect it to the opportunity – how does this relate to the values or experiences the organization you are applying to prioritizes?
  4. Outline your goals. Why will this opportunity help with your academic or professional goals? You don’t need to have all the details now, but show the reviewers that you have thought about how this opportunity fits in with your overall goals.

Reviewers want to see who you are. Successful personal statements do just that; so most importantly be yourself!