Monday, January 9, 2017

My Foreign Service Timeline

When I was applying to be a Foreign Service Officer, I checked FS personal blogs to see how long each phase of the process had taken others. I knew deep down that it varied wildly from cycle to cycle and from candidate to candidate, but I still felt better informed having seen timelines - especially recent ones. As a result, I'll provide my entire (successful) application timeline here. (I made it to the A-100 offer on my third attempt, failing at the QEP stage both of the previous two times.)

A brief explanation of each stage:

  1. The FSOT (Foreign Service Officer Test) is the written exam.
  2. PNs (personal narratives) are submitted if you pass the FSOT.
  3. Your FSOT score, PNs, and CV are evaluated by the QEP (Qualification Evaluation Panel).
  4. You are invited to take the FSOA (Foreign Service Oral Assessment) if you pass the QEP.
  5. If you pass the FSOA, you apply for a medical and security clearance.
  6. After receiving your medical and security clearance, your file is submitted for a Final Suitability Review (i.e., where your whole application is evaluated to make sure you'd be a good fit).
  7. If you pass the Final Suitability Review, you get added to the Register (i.e., a hiring list) for your cone (i.e., career track).
  8. You stay on the Register, ranked by your FSOA score (plus some bonus points for things like language skills), until you are invited to an A-100 (i.e., orientation class).
  9. You accept your A-100 offer and make it off the Register.

Now, my timeline:

  • Oct. 9, 2015: Took FSOT
  • Oct. 29, 2015: Learned I passed FSOT and invited to submit PNs
  • Nov. 17, 2015: Submitted PNs (they were due Nov. 19, 2015)
  • Jan. 8, 2016: Learned I passed QEP and invited to FSOA
  • Jan. 11, 2016: Scheduled FSOA
  • Feb. 18, 2016: Took and passed FSOA (yes, they tell you the same day!) and started paperwork for medical and security clearances
  • Jun. 14, 2016: Received medical clearance
  • Sep. 28, 2016: Received security clearance
  • Oct. 5, 2016: Added to Register (Public Diplomacy)
  • Nov. 28, 2016: Received A-100 offer for March 2017

My experience is just one data point among many. I had a little over a year from my FSOT to my A-100 offer, which seems rather fast based on conversations with other applicants. That's partially due to the fact that I scheduled my FSOA right away (instead of six months in advance) and partially because my security clearance (the longest part) went more quickly than expected.

I'll try to go into more detail on certain non-obvious aspects of this process (without violating any non-disclosure agreements) as well as helpful advice I received in future posts.

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