The Selection Process to Become a White House Fellow
The process to submit an application to become a White House Fellow is conducted entirely on-line via the government website, at:
The application goes "live" on November 1st of each year, and the completed applications must be submitted by mid-January. The exact deadline may vary slightly from year to year. The written application includes multiple elements, the most significant of which include:
A full employment history/resume, plus Letters of Recommendation from at least three people who know you well, and Responses to five essay questions
The Essay Questions: The five essays that applicants must write are generally viewed as both the most difficult and most important element of the written application. The five essays, each with specific word limits, are as follows:
Most Significant Achievement ‒ Professional: Describe in 200 words or fewer what you consider to be your most significant professional contribution.
Most Significant Achievement ‒ Community Service: Describe in 200 words or fewer what you consider to be your most significant voluntary contribution to your community.
Memorandum for the President: Describe in 500 words or fewer a specific policy recommendation you would make to the President.
Lifetime Goals: Describe in 300 words or fewer your lifetime goals.
Why I Want to be a White House Fellow: Describe in 300 words or fewer why you want to be a White House Fellow.
The on-line application will allow you to revise and save your work in draft form until you are ready to submit your final application prior to the deadline in January. We recommend that you polish and proof your essays carefully. During the selection process your essays will be studied closely. We urge you to make the most cogent and compelling arguments possible, and ensure your application is free of any typos or misspellings.
On the basis of the written applications the President's Commission will select approximately 100 regional finalists. The regional finalists will interview in cities across the country, usually during the month of April. At each of the Regional Interviews about a dozen regional finalists will go through a day and a half of interviews. The "Regionals" usually involve an introductory dinner the night before in which the finalists meet and get to know the other candidates and the regional panelists who will be interviewing them. The following day each of the regional finalists goes through a series of structured interviews. The interviews are 20 minutes each. Each interview normally involves one regional finalist, and two or three panelists. The panelists will have studied your written application in detail, and they will ask you a series of questions about you, and about your application. Typically the essays you write will generate the most questions. And of these, typically the Memorandum to the President will generate more questions than the other essays. For that reason, we recommend you place particular emphasis on this essay when you are composing your written application. Following the regional interviews the President's Commission will select approximately 30 finalists to proceed to the final round of National Interviews in June.
Those selected as national finalists will travel to the Washington D.C. area in June for the final round of interviews. The National Interviews, often referred to as "Selection Weekend" involve a series of interviews with the members of the President's Commission over the course of two-and-a-half days. The elements of the interview process at "Nationals" are similar to those at "Regionals". There will be a dinner on the evening prior and the interviews themselves will be 20 minutes each. The difference is there will be more of them. At "Regionals" people typically go through four (4) formal 20-minute interviews. At "Nationals" people typically go through at least ten (10) formal 20-minute interviews. In addition to the formal interviews there are several meals and other activities at "Nationals" during which the Commissioners have the opportunity to evaluate the National Finalists in both formal and informal situations, as well as in both individual and group situations. Following the National Interviews the Commissioners will select from 11 to 19 of the finalists to become White House Fellows. The range of 11 to 19 is to give the Commissioners some numerical flexibility in the selection. In recent years the White House Fellows classes have averaged about 14 people.
Those who are selected as White House Fellows return to Washington D.C. about a month after "Selection Weekend" for "Placement Week". During "Placement Week" the new White House Fellows interview with various offices in the Executive Branch (including at various departments, agencies, and in the White House). The interviews are based on both the interests of the Fellows themselves, and the interests of the Executive Branch offices. In a typical year there will be about twice as many offices that wish to have a Fellow as there will be Fellows to place. Each Fellow will be asked to prioritize the list of potential assignments. In parallel, each office that wishes to have a Fellow will rank order the Fellows based on their backgrounds, capability, and expertise. Thus, during "Placement Week" each new Fellow will go through multiple placement interviews with various departments and agencies, some of which may have been on their preferred list, and others of which may have been at the request of the department or agency. The Fellows may go to several follow-up interviews during "Placement Week" as well. In the days following "Placement Week" the Director of the President's Commission will then determine the placements for each of the members of the new class of White House Fellows. After the White House Fellows have received their placements they will then move to Washington D.C. so as to begin work on September 1st.
The White House Fellowship is one year long: from September 1st to August 31st of the following year. Thus, from November 1st (when the on-line application "goes live") until September 1st the following year (when the Fellows start work in their placements) the entire application, selection, and placement process takes a total of 10 months.
If you would like to talk to someone from your region who has already served as a White House Fellow, let us know and we'll put you in touch.
© White House Fellows Foundation and Association