Luce Scholars Program

Established in 1974, the Luce Scholars Program is a nationally competitive fellowship that offers early-career leaders immersive, professional experiences in Asia. Luce aims to forge stronger relationships across geographic borders by creating opportunities for young Americans to deepen their ties and understanding of the countries, cultures, and people of Asia. The Luce Scholars Program provides stipends, language training, and individualized professional placement in Asia for 18 Luce Scholars each year.                   

Today, there are more than 785 Luce Scholars alumni living around the world, making invaluable contributions as global leaders and citizens and building lifelong professional relationships that began with this program. Their experiences demonstrate that there is no better way to build mutual understanding and a sense of common purpose than through sustained, immersive, in-person engagement with others.

This award does not require university endorsement. However, the Luce Scholars Program is exceptionally competitive. We strongly recommend that you work closely with NCA as you prepare your application.


National Deadline: October 16, 2023 @5PM ET

The Luce Scholar Year is a thirteen-month commitment beginning with the orientation in mid-June through the wrap-up meeting in late-July of the following year.  

After a week-long orientation designed to build community and prepare for a year of living and working in Asia, Luce Scholars spend July and August engaging in intensive language training in their respective placement countries. Language study is a program requirement and is funded by the Luce Foundation.  

Individually tailored professional placements—a hallmark of the Luce Scholars program—begin in early September and are arranged for each Scholar based on their professional interest, background, and qualifications. These assignments, where Luce Scholars work alongside Asian colleagues, are the heart of the Luce Scholars experience.

Specific placements have included:  

  • An architect’s atelier in Tokyo 
  • A dance theatre in Kuala Lumpur 
  • An agricultural and environmental center in Hanoi 
  • An economic growth initiative in Ulaanbaatar 
  • A pediatric hospital in Bangkok 
  • A TV network in Beijing 

In addition to the professional placement, the Luce Scholars cohort is an essential part of the Luce Year. Individuals share their experiences with their fellow Luce Scholars through regular group meetings and bonds of mutual learning, understanding, and support as they face shared challenges and serendipities. 

The cohort convenes mid-fellowship in January for a five-day retreat to reflect, recharge, reevaluate, and bond as a group. At the end of the Luce Year, the cohort gathers once more for the wrap-up meeting. This meeting is an opportunity for Scholars to share their experiences with one another and reflect on their time as Luce Scholars.  

Eligibility Criteria

To apply, you must:

  • Be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident
  • Candidates may be graduating seniors, recent graduates, or young professionals under the age of 32 or, no more than three years out from receiving bachelor’s degree. 
  • Candidates who have majored in Asian Studies are now eligible to apply. 
  • Candidates who have spent 18 weeks or more (since beginning college) in one of the countries where we place Luce Scholars are eligible to apply to be placed in a country where they do not have significant experience. 

Please refer to the Luce Scholars website for a detailed list of the eligibility criteria.

Selection Criteria

Luce Scholars are open-minded, curious, and engaged in the world. They are open to new ideas and new perspectives. They are individuals from a wide range of fields and come from a variety of backgrounds, but all share a common objective—to make the world a better place. Successful candidates will have demonstrated significant leadership ability, intercultural competence, and evidence of potential for professional achievement. Reviewers will consider academic accomplishments; however, the Luce Scholars Program is experiential rather than academic in nature. Personal qualities such as resilience, flexibility, adaptability, maturity, humility, creativity, openness to new ideas, and sensitivity to cultural differences are as important as academic performance. 

Candidates are not judged on the basis of whether or not they have developed specific plans for their year in Asia. A candidate may have general ideas about the kind of placement preferred, but this is considered neither a negative nor positive factor in selection.   

The Program seeks Scholars who demonstrate the following traits and interests:  

  • Exploratory curiosity  
  • Interest and embrace of diverse perspectives, beliefs, and modes of living 
  • Adaptability 
  • Open-mindedness 
  • Resilience  
  • Humility 
  • Commitment to serving and supporting others 

Please carefully review the detailed descriptions of the selection criteria on the Luce Scholars website.

  • Background information
  • Transcripts
  • Short-answer responses
  • Personal Statement
  • Bio (400-word-max)
  • A 1-3 Minute Video – Candidates record and upload a 1–3-minute video based on the provided prompt. The video gives program administrators a chance to get to know the candidate beyond the page. 
  • Recommendation letters (2): candidates should provide this page to their recommenders. 

Visit the website for more detailed information on each of these components. 

  • In the spring, attend an NCA Learning Series session on the Luce Scholars Program
  • Complete two NCA forms:
  • Launch your online application (application opens in June)
  • Complete and submit application by National Deadline: October 16, 2023 @5PM ET
  • Information on this page is intended to supplement, not supplant, your own careful review of the official Luce Scholars website. If you find any discrepancy between the two, the Luce Scholars website takes precedence.
  • Though you should seek out others’ advice and feedback on your application, the essays should be your original work (no one should be writing your essays for you). UC’s Student Code of Conduct applies.