Students Voice Concerns Over the Presidential Management Fellowship Application Process
To be clear, this article is about students voicing their concerns with the Presidential Management Fellowship (PMF) application process as administered by the Career Development Office (CDO). Note: I did not apply to the PMF Program (positions for non-U.S. citizens are "extremely limited"). However, the goal of this article is to alert the student body and the Administration that students who did apply are upset. Yes, I was looking for students with negative experiences, but this is so GW Law can improve and help future applicants. While there were positive reviews of the process, the negative ones were significant.
About the PMF Program. The PMF Program "is a two-year federal government leadership development program designed to attract recent graduates from a variety of academic disciplines and career paths to policy and legal positions with the federal government." Fellows in the program are hired by various federal government agencies and are provided, inter alia, full-time salary and benefits, and more opportunities within the federal government.
How to apply. The PMF application process was simple only in theory. First, students were required to apply online with USAJOBS and Application Manager by 11:59 p.m. on October 15. Second, students submitted their application materials to the CDO by 5:00 p.m. October 18-with "no exceptions." These application materials included the (1) PMF 2011 Application, (2) USAJOBS Qualification Questionnaire, (3) PMF Nomination Form, (4) CDO's Supplemental Nomination Form, and (5) one-page statement of interest in the PMF Program. Third, if nominated by the CDO, the student's application goes to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM). Then OPM whittles away more applicants until selecting "Finalists."
The CDO's preparation. The CDO was cooperative in commenting on their actions during the application process. In regards to the gathering and dissemination of information on how to apply for the Fellowship, the CDO felt they were "very proactive." To provide information, they attended a PMF stakeholder meeting to learn of the updates and changes in the program, assisted with and advertised the University-wide PMF Info Session, launched a regularly-updated PMF Program webpage on the Portal, and created a handbook to help students navigate how to apply. Finally, "in order to facilitate one-on-one counseling for students interested in the Fellowship, the CDO designated Anna Marshall, one of [the office's] government career counselors, as a single point of contact for the PMF Program." Because of Ms. Marshall's success in helping applicants, she "has been asked to share her experience, tools, and knowledge with other law school career counselors during the next NALP annual conference."
Problems with the Handbook. Although a number of students submitted their application on time, they are still unsure whether they had all of the required documents, and the handbook was no help to them. Noah Puckerman* said that the handbook contained incorrect information; for example, the "USAJOBS Application" was truly a résumé, and not an application. This clarification was only made to students who went to the CDO to ask about the application.
Negativity. Beyond the application materials, Anna Marshall was described as particularly "unhelpful" throughout the process. Rachel Berry said that when she went in to ask about the program, Ms. Marshall "was so negative about anyone's chances she almost seemed like she was talking me out of applying." Rachel said that Ms. Marshall did not know the answer to her questions about the application process, but told Rachel that she should "read the website closely." Similarly, Noah was upset when his questions were answered by Ms. Marshall telling him to contact the OPM. Noah felt that it was Ms. Marshall's job to find these answers, as it was her job to help students apply.
Lack of availability on the application's due date. Quinn Fabray was most upset that Ms. Marshall was not in the CDO office on the day of the applications deadline. To Quinn, if the CDO was truly interested in GW students getting these jobs, "being around to make sure everything was correctly filled out and turned in" should have been a priority. Noah used the example that "Dean DeVigne and Dean Monroe take turns sitting in the Records Office to counsel [. . .] the entire law school  about classes during the add/drop week, [so the CDO should] ensure that someone is there on the one day students submit their PMF applications, [to] quickly look at a student's application package when he turns it in, and simply let him know that his application is complete." Brittany S. Pierce is still waiting for a response to an email sent to Ms. Marshall over six hours before the application deadline asking if her application was complete.
Concluding remarks. The CDO says this year saw a "significant increase in the number of PMF applications" compared to last; that "the vast majority" of applicants navigated the process "without complication" because of the tools provided by the office; and that last year, with a "similar level of assistance," GW had "36% of [its] applicants selected as PMF Finalists" compared to the national average of 10 percent. Unfortunately, there are a number of 3Ls that had complications and are waiting in limbo not knowing if their applications were complete. 3Ls are now wondering if a government job is really worth this hassle. It should not matter how many students had no problems with the process, the school should strive to eliminate these problems for any students before applications are due next year.
*All names have been changed to protect students' identities. And yes, they have been changed to the names of characters in Glee.