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Frequently Asked Questions

What type of individual is the White House Fellows program seeking to find?

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.

All these qualities combined with the strength of one’s character are taken into consideration when selecting a class of White House Fellows.

What is the experience of a White House Fellow during the program 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, 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 semi-weekly speaker seminars and, when possible, 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.

How do I apply?

Applicants should apply online by visiting the “Apply” section of the White House Fellows website, at https://www.whitehouse.gov/get-involved/fellows/apply/

What is the selection process like? Do you have a calendar?

A description of the Selection Process along with a calendar is available at: https://www.whitehouse.gov/get-involved/fellows/process/

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.

If you have a question about your status as a Federal employee, please call the White House Fellows Program office at (202) 395-4522.

I have previously worked for the federal government, am I eligible to apply?

Yes.

Can I be a White House Fellow if I have dual citizenship?

Yes, but you must be eligible to obtain a top-secret clearance. 

Are there age restrictions?

There are no age restrictions. 

Does a candidate need to be of the same political party as the current administration?

No. The Commission awards fellowships on a strictly non-partisan basis.

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, and can I receive outside income from other sources?

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, contributions, or supplementation of salary from any source other than the United States government. Fellows may not hold positions in outside organizations.  Participation in outside organizations will be 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.

Are applicants required to submit financial disclosures if selected? What happens if there is a conflict of interest with my investments and assignment?

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.

Are applicants required to undergo a security and background investigation?

Yes. Regional Finalists are required to submit comprehensive background information, as Fellows must be eligible to obtain a top-secret security clearance. If you have questions during the application process about the background investigation, please contact the White House Fellows Program office.

How is a class of Fellows selected?

The selection process is very competitive. The White House Fellows Program office processes the applications and former Fellows screen the applications to identify the most promising candidates. 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, approximately thirty candidates 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. Those who are appointed as White House Fellows must return to Washington, D.C. to participate in Placement Week.

What is the best approach to prepare for interviews?

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 good citizens, aware of the larger world.
  • Be current on key issues in your professional field.
  • Develop a clear articulation about why you should be selected.
What is Placement Week and how is placement determined?

The individuals who are appointed by the President to serve as White House Fellows will be required to come to Washington, D.C. 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.

Are Fellows provided with compensation and benefits — such as salary and health insurance — during the program year?

Fellows are considered Federal employees, and receive a competitive salary during their one-year fellowship. Military personnel, however, maintain their current salary and benefits.

Fellows are also 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.

Does the Fellowship provide housing during the Fellowship year?

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.

How are special needs — such as disabilities for Fellows handled?

The White House Fellows Program strives to ensure that the application process and administration of the fellowship are as inclusive as possible and is committed to providing reasonable accommodation as required under the law to persons with disabilities. To discuss your accommodation needs further, please let us know how best to reach you.

How are previously scheduled commitments — such as a vacation — handled during the program year?

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.

If I wasn’t selected previously, can I get feedback on what I did wrong, or suggestions about how I might have done better?

Unfortunately, given the number of applicants to the program each year it is not feasible to provide individual feedback to those who were not selected.

What are the requirements to be selected as a White House Fellow?

The eligibility requirements to become a White House Fellow are: 1) applicants must be U.S. citizens; 2) employees of the Federal government are not eligible unless they are career military personnel; and 3) applicants must have completed their undergraduate education by the time they begin the application process.

The selection requirements to become a White House Fellow include: 1) a record of remarkable professional achievement early in one’s career; 2) evidence of leadership skills and the potential for further growth; 3) a demonstrated commitment to public service; 4) the skills to succeed at the highest levels of the Federal government, and 5) the ability to work effectively as part of a team.

How can I engage with White House Fellow alumni prior to applying for the program?

Be entrepreneurial.  Check your connections on LinkedIn and other platforms. Review the names of the Fellows at whff.org/the-fellows/ to identify those you may know, or have a connection with.

Do the work placements as a White House Fellow align with a person’s qualifications and areas of interest?

See the section titled “The Placement Interviews” at whff.org/apply/ for a detailed description of the process by which Fellows are assigned to their work placements.

Is this a paid position?

Yes. Fellows are paid at the rate of GS-14 Step 3; with the exception of active-duty military, who are paid according to their current rank and grade.

What are the duties and the day-to-day schedule of a White House Fellow?

Those selected as White House Fellows 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 leaders from the private and public sectors, and potential trips to study U.S. policy in action both domestically and internationally. Fellowships are awarded on a strictly non-partisan basis.

What is the experience of a White House Fellow during the Program 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, may also require travel on behalf of the agency.

Can an employee of a company who is selected to serve as a White House Fellow maintain his/her private sector affiliation and a commitment to return to the company after their Fellowship year is complete? 

If selected, candidates are treated as full-time employees of the United States government and subject to the ethics laws and Standards of Ethical Conduct for employees of the Executive Branch. These standards prohibit White House Fellows from receiving any salary or any contribution to or supplementation of salary from any source other than the United States government. 

Fellows cannot continue any outside activity that conflicts with their 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 their official duties while servicing as an employee of the US government in the program. 

There are no employment stipulations on what Fellows do after they complete their Fellowship year.

Do I have to reside in the Washington, D.C. area if I am selected?

Yes. Those selected as White House Fellows spend a year working with senior government officials in Washington, D.C.

Are there specific programs for military veterans or active duty/reserve soldiers?

The program is open to all US citizens who have completed their undergraduate degree who are not currently employed by the Federal government. There is no special preference given to veterans or active-duty military.  However, members of the military may apply to the program.

Am I at a disadvantage if I apply to the program while I am in graduate school, as opposed to applying while working in my chosen career field?

Many people have been selected as White House Fellows who were in graduate school at the time they applied. Those selected in such circumstances, however, have generally already established themselves in their chosen profession. A record that demonstrates unusual ability, outstanding motivation, and a broad capacity for leadership in your chosen career field is compelling.

Once selected, are Fellows allowed to rank or prioritize their interests during the process of being assigned to a particular work placement? 

See the section titled “The Placement Interviews” at whff.org/apply/ for a detailed description of the process by which Fellows are assigned to their work placements.

What are the characteristics of a strong candidate?

A person who has demonstrated unusual ability, high moral character, outstanding motivation, a broad capacity for leadership, and shows exceptional promise of future development.

Does applying early in the application cycle increase a candidate’s chances of being accepted?

No. All applications are reviewed after the application window officially closes in early January.

What percentage of White House Fellows selected over the history of the program have been women?

A total of 251 women have been selected as White House Fellows since the program’s creation in 1964. They represent 28% of the 879 people who have served as White House Fellows. The percentage of women has increased over time, as shown by the statistics below: 

  • 1960’s: 7 of 86 – 8% women
  • 1970’s: 36 of 158 – 23% women
  • 1980’s: 33 of 135 – 24% women
  • 1990’s: 52 of 159 – 33% women
  • 2000’s: 38 of 131 – 29% women
  • 2010’s: 54 of 145 – 37% women
  • 2020’s: 31 of 63 – 49% women