Frequently Asked Questions
The following Q & A is designed to provide general information about the program. Answers may vary depending on specific circumstances.
1. What is the White House Fellows Program?
2. What is the mission of the program?
3. What type of individual is the program seeking to find?
4. What is the President’s Commission on White House Fellowships?
5. What is the program schedule and selection timeline?
6. What is expected of a White House Fellow during the program year?
7. What is expected of White House Fellows alumni?
8. What is the White House Fellows Alumni Association and Foundation?
Application and Eligibility
9. How do I apply?
10. What are the eligibility requirements?
11. Can I be a White House Fellow if I have dual citizenship?
12. Are there age restrictions?
13. Does a candidate need to be of the same political party as the current Administration?
14. Can I contact White House Fellows alumni to discuss whether to apply and selection?
15. What is the best approach for handling recommendation letters?
16. If selected, can I continue to participate in organizations in which I currently serve - such as corporate and government boards, or on state or local councils?
17. Are applicants required to submit financial disclosures if selected? What happens if there is a conflict of interest with my investments and my assignment?
18. Are applicants required to undergo a security and background investigation?
26. Are Fellows provided with compensation and benefits - such as salary and health insurance – during the program year?
27. Does the Fellowship provide housing during the Fellowship year?
28. Can Fellows receive outside income from other sources – private or public – during the program year?
29. Can my employer pay for my moving expenses if I am selected?
30. How are special needs – such as disabilities – for Fellows handled?
31. How are previously scheduled commitments – such as a vacation – handled during the Fellowship year?
32. Where can I direct additional questions?
The White House Fellows Program is one of America's most prestigious programs for leadership and public service. Founded in 1964 by President Lyndon B. Johnson, the program offers exceptional young men and women first-hand experience working at the highest levels of the Federal government.
Selected individuals typically spend a year working as a full-time, paid Fellow to senior White House Staff, Cabinet Secretaries and other top-ranking government officials. Fellows also participate in an Education Program consisting of roundtable discussions with renowned leaders from the private and public sectors, and trips to study U.S. policy in action both domestically and internationally.
The mission of the non-partisan White House Fellows Program, as envisioned by President Johnson, was in his words, "to give the Fellows first hand, high-level experience with the workings of the Federal government and to increase their sense of participation in national affairs." In return for the Fellowship year, President Johnson expected the Fellows to "repay that privilege" when they left by "continuing to work as private citizens on their public agendas." He hoped that the Fellows would contribute to the Nation as greater future leaders.
Today the mission remains the same: To encourage active citizenship and service to the Nation.
The President's Commission on White House Fellowships is looking for individuals who are most likely to fulfill the mission of the White House Fellows Program. Selection as a White House Fellow is based on a combination of the following criteria:
- A record of remarkable professional achievement early in one's career.
- Evidence of leadership skills and the potential for further growth.
- A demonstrated commitment to public service.
- The skills to succeed at the highest levels of the Federal government, and the ability to work effectively as part of a team.
We also look for individuals with exceptional writing ability, a positive attitude, strong management skills, and the ability to work well with others.
All these qualities combined with the strength of one's character are taken into consideration when selecting a class of White House Fellows.
The President's Commission on White House Fellowships is composed of twenty to thirty outstanding citizens who represent a broad range of backgrounds, interests, and professions. Some Commissioners have served through several Administrations and some are former Fellows. The Commission interviews National Finalists and then recommends those individuals it finds most qualified to the President for appointment as White House Fellows.
November 1-January 15 at 5:59 PM (EST) Live White House Fellows Application Period: The application for the 2013-2014 Class of White House Fellows will go live on Tuesday, November 1, 2012 and will remain open until Friday, January 15, 2013 at 5:59 PM (EST). It is the responsibility of the applicant to ensure that his/her application has been submitted in its entirety.
March/April -- Regional Finalist Selection: Applicants are notified in March whether they have been selected as Regional Finalists, and of the time and location for regional interviews. The list of Regional Finalists is announced by the White House Press Office and posted on the White House Fellows website.
May -- National Finalist Notification: National Finalists are selected from among the Regional Finalists and are notified in May. The list of National Finalists is announced by the White House Press Office and posted on the White House Fellows website.
June -- Selection Weekend: National Finalists are interviewed over three days by members of the President's Commission on White House Fellowships. The Commission then recommends a class of Fellows to the President. The White House Press Office announces the President's selection for the incoming class of White House Fellows.
July -- Placement Week: Fellows interview with principals in government agencies for their work placements. The principals and Fellows indicate their desired preferences to the Program Director. The Program Director determines the placement of each Fellow.
August 26 to August 26: Inclusive dates of the Fellowship year.
Being a White House Fellow is an honor, a privilege, and a full-time commitment. Fellows are expected to fully engage in their work placement, which lies at the heart of a White House Fellowship. Work placements can offer unparalleled experience working with Cabinet and White House officials on challenging issues. The work often requires long hours and, at times, unglamorous duties that require as much perseverance as ability on the Fellows' part. The work placement may also require travel on behalf of the agency.
The Education Program augments and enhances the work experience. Over the course of the year, Fellows are expected to fully participate in the Education Program, which includes weekly speaker seminars, domestic policy trips, an international policy trip, and day trips to study various policy issues.
In addition to their work placement and Education Program, the Fellows also participate in community service projects during their year in Washington, D.C.
In return for the Fellowship year, President Johnson expected the Fellows to "repay that privilege" when they left by "continuing to work as private citizens on their public agendas." He hoped that the Fellows would contribute to the Nation as future leaders. This vision holds true today. White House Fellows have a responsibility to give back to the Nation in the same way, in return for the training and experiences provided during their Fellowship year.
The White House Fellows Foundation & Association was established in 1969 to serve as an alumni group for all former White House Fellows. The Foundation & Association encourages and facilitates alumni contribution to public service and furthers the mission of the Fellowship program. Following the Fellowship year, participation in the Association is an ongoing commitment of the more than 600 alumni.
Application and Eligibility
Applicants should apply online by visiting the "Apply Online" section of the White House Fellows website. Applications must be submitted online by January 15, 2013 at 5:59 PM (EST). It is the responsibility of the applicant to ensure that his/her application has been transmitted in its entirety.
10. What are the eligibility requirements?
Applicants must be U.S. citizens. Applicants must have completed their undergraduate education and be working in their chosen professions. Individuals currently employed by the Federal government are not eligible to apply with the exception of career military personnel. Some examples of Federal employees who are not eligible to apply for the program are: law clerks for the Supreme Court and District Court, members of the Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service, and the Tennessee Valley Authority.
If you have a question about your status as a Federal employee, please call the White House Fellows Program office at (202) 395-4522.
In order to get the proper security clearance for the Fellowship, individuals with dual citizenship would need to give up any non-U.S. citizenship(s). White House Fellows can be citizens only of the United States.
There are no age restrictions. However, the Fellowship program was created to give selected Americans the experience of government service early in their careers.
No. The Commission awards fellowships strictly on a non-partisan basis.
Yes. The White House Fellows Foundation & Association can put you in touch with alumni. Please visit their website or contact Jack LeCuyer, the Executive Director, at (202) 360-0294, for more information.
Applicants are asked to submit only three references. It is best to have recommendations from individuals who know you well and can fully answer the questions that are asked in the application. For example, a recommendation letter from a prominent person is not helpful if that individual cannot speak about your background and character.
At least one recommendation should be from an individual that can speak to your professional competence and accomplishments in your field. At least one recommendation should come from someone with knowledge of your community and civic activities.
In addition, one recommendation should be from your current supervisor, if applicable. A recommendation from a prior supervisor is acceptable, but a current supervisor is preferred.
White House Fellows are full-time employees of the United States government and are subject to the ethics laws and Standards of Ethical Conduct for employees of the Executive Branch. These standards prohibit Fellows from receiving any salary or any contribution to or supplementation of salary from any source other than the United States government. If outside activity that is uncompensated conflicts with your official duties, then you will not be able to continue that outside activity.
Service on advisory boards and other types of committees is evaluated on a case-by-case basis to determine if Fellows may continue the outside activity based on the precise nature of the activity and the official duties performed while serving as an employee of the United States government in the program.
Certain placements, such as in the White House, will require that a Financial disclosure form be submitted.
Conflict of interest matters that arise will be handled on a case-by-case basis according to all applicable laws and regulations. If you have questions during the application process about potential conflicts of interest, please contact the White House Fellows Program office to inquire.
Yes. Regional Finalists are required to submit comprehensive background information, as Fellows must be qualified to pass a top secret security clearance. Once this information is submitted, background investigations will commence. In some cases, an investigator will contact you directly to schedule a personal interview. Investigators also may contact employers, neighbors, friends, and relatives.
At the time Fellows are appointed, appropriate clearances are certified by the Executive Office of the President and then issued by the department or agency to which Fellows are assigned. If it appears that a clearance will not be possible, a National Finalist will be notified by the Program Director and will not attend the Selection Weekend process.
Please be assured that all of this information is carefully protected and kept confidential. Panelists and Commissioners do not have access to background investigation information. Information provided by candidates who ultimately are not selected will be destroyed.
The selection process is very competitive. There can be as many as 1,000 applicants for the 11-19 fellowships. The White House Fellows Program office processes the applications and former Fellows screen the applications to identify the most promising candidates. Approximately 100 of the most qualified applicants are selected to be interviewed by eight to ten regional panels, which are comprised of prominent local citizens. Based on the results of the interviews, the regional panels and the Program Director select approximately thirty candidates to proceed as National Finalists. The President's Commission on White House Fellowships then interviews the thirty candidates and recommends 11-19 outstanding candidates to the President for a one-year appointment as Fellows.
The interviews are competitive. We recommend that Regional and National Finalists carefully prepare as they would for any other type of interview. We also recommend that Finalists:
- Know their application well, as each application is carefully studied.
- Study current events. One of the essential qualities of a White House Fellows is that they are citizens of the larger world.
- Be current on key issues in your professional field.
- Develop a clear articulation about why you should be selected.
Regional Finalists are expected to participate in an evening and one day of interviews that determine the selection of the National Finalists. The interviews are scheduled during March and April in different cities throughout the country with 10 - 12 Finalists participating in each panel. Interviews are conducted by panels of distinguished citizens from the city where each regional panel is held. Travel arrangements are the responsibility of each Regional Finalist.
National Finalists participate in "Selection Weekend," which is three evenings and two days of interviews with members of the President's Commission on White House Fellowships. The Commission provides lodging and travel.
The individuals who are appointed by the President to serve as White House Fellows will be required to come to Washington, DC in July to participate in a series of briefings and interviews to determine their fellowship work placements. The Commission pays for travel and lodging during Placement Week.
The Fellowship year concludes at the end of August, and the program encourages Fellows to return to their communities and professions. There have been instances when a Fellow has been asked to continue at an agency, but not in their capacity as a Fellow.
The Education Program augments and enhances the work placement experience. Fellows are expected to fully participate in the Education Program, which includes weekly speaker seminars, domestic policy trips, an international policy trip, and day trips to study various policy issues.
Each class meets with dozens of individuals including Supreme Court Justices, Cabinet Secretaries, senior White House officials, Members of Congress, military leaders, journalists, historians, business executives, leaders from non-government organizations, and foreign heads of state. These sessions generally take place during the week, and are off-the-record, lively and frank.
Another component of the education program involves the study of U.S. policy in action across the country and abroad, during several policy study trips throughout the year. Fellows also have several opportunities to engage with the U.S. military to broaden their understanding of military service.
Fellows are considered Federal employees, with the rank of GS-14 step 3. With this comes a salary of approximately $100,000 per year. Military personnel, however, maintain their current salary and benefits.
Fellows also are eligible to purchase health insurance through the Federal Employee Health Benefit Plans available at their agencies. Details about the health plans available can be viewed on the Office of Personnel Management website at http://www.opm.gov.
No. Fellows are responsible for their housing arrangements. Applicants should be aware that Fellows cannot accept subsidized housing gifts from former employers or other sources.
White House Fellows are considered full-time employees of the United States government and are subject to the ethics laws and Standards of Ethical Conduct for employees of the Executive Branch. These standards prohibit Fellows from receiving salary, contributions, or supplementation of salary from any source other than the United States government.
Fellows cannot continue any outside activity that conflicts with official duties. Service on advisory boards and other types of committees are evaluated on a case-by-case basis to determine if a Fellow can continue the activity based on the precise nature of the activity and the official duties while serving as an employee of the United States government in the program.
There is a specific exemption in the law for White House Fellows to receive payment of relocation expenses incident to their participation in the program. However, the Fellow may not receive payment for the cost of temporary residence or any trips to Washington, DC.
The program staff is available to work one-on-one with individuals to properly handle any special needs.
The program year is a full-time commitment, with work, education, travel, and fellowship responsibilities. Almost all activities are mandatory. Only under special circumstances, and with approval by the Program Director, are Fellows excused from activities.
If this is a year when you have a multitude of personal commitments, vacations, or issues, we strongly encourage applicants to reconsider the timing of their application. Each Fellow and the entire class are most effective with full participation and engagement. It is unfair to others to accept the fellowship and then not fully participate.
The program staff is available to provide assistance and answer questions. The staff can be reached Monday through Friday from 9:00 AM ET - 5:30 PM ET at (202) 395-4522.