q&a, google analytics style

Although we started this blog so family and friends could keep up with us, we’ve been pleasantly surprised to learn that quite a few strangers are stumbling upon it too. Google Analytics even tells us the search terms they used to get here. Below are some of the most common, along with my brief responses to these “questions.” Keep in mind that I’m by no means a Foreign Service expert — I haven’t even officially started, after all — but I’m happy to help if I can!

1. “a100 state department 2010”

Here are the start dates of A-100 classes scheduled in 2010:

1/4 – Over
2/16 – Over
3/29 – My class!
5/10 – Offers already extended

Classes beyond September are part of the 2011 fiscal year and therefore have not yet been scheduled. If past patterns hold, there will likely be another class in October and then a hiatus until January 2011. (However, if you’re on the Register, definitely contact HR before planning your life around these dates; they could certainly change.)

2. “a100 class foreign service”

A-100 is a five-week training class that all new Foreign Service Officers attend. See more information here. State’s description can be found here.

3. “dress code foreign service oral assessment”

Wear a suit if you can; most people will be. If you can’t afford a suit, wear the most professional-looking outfit you have. Err on the side of being too formal and too traditional. I was debating between a traditional suit and a professional but trendy dress; I picked the suit and was glad I did.

4. “odds of getting into the foreign service”

To my knowledge, State doesn’t release official statistics, and it’s hard to calculate because it varies depending on the number of applicants and openings at any given time. However, a good estimate is that somewhere around 2-4% of those who take the written exam are ultimately invited to an A-100 class.

Although the odds aren’t great, many people who know this career is the one for them try year after year until they finally do pass.(People at State often speak about one candidate who tried for 27 years before succeeding. Wow!) It’s often said that the best practice for the Oral Assessment is actually taking the Oral Assessment.

5. “suitability review foreign service”

After a candidate passes all the exams and is granted both security and medical clearances, his or her file is sent for a final suitability review. See more information about that process here. How long does it take? My suitability review took only a few days. Other candidates have waited a week or two. Few candidates wait much longer than that.

6. “becoming a foreign service officer later in life”

Do it! I’m 28 when starting and seem to be on the younger side of members of my A-100 class. There are some who are new or very recent college graduates, but there seem to be many more who are pursuing the Foreign Service after a successful first career. Check out this blog.

7. “fso timeline”

See my application timeline here.

8. “foreign service the register”

After passing all the exams, obtaining all clearances and getting a green flag from the suitability panel, successful candidates are placed on the Register, also sometimes called the List of Eligible Hires. This is the list that HR draws from when inviting candidates to an A-100 class. See State’s official description here. There’s a separate Register for each of the five career tracks, and some are longer than others.

9. “personal narrative fso”

After passing the written exam, candidates are invited to submit five personal narrative essays which will be evaluated along with a few other things to determine who’s invited to take the oral assessment. This whole process is called the Qualifications Evaluation Panel (QEP) and a good description can be found here. My advice? Don’t try to slip in every impressive thing you’ve ever accomplished. Instead, focus on one specific example that best answers the question.

10. “life in the foreign service”

Well, check back! And in the meantime, check out some of the many Foreign Service blogs listed here.

Also — The Yahoo groups linked over on the right are a great resource for much more information about these and other topics related to joining the Foreign Service.

This entry was posted in A-100, Clearance Process, FS Life, FSOA, FSWE. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to q&a, google analytics style

  1. Don Holtz says:

    Very cool you guys. Congrats on the wedding. Seemed like a CIA operatioon to me. Are you sure you’re going to state? Love Uncle Don
    PS Love the dog as well!

  2. Laura Allred says:

    Thanks so much for posting all this information! It’s the only place I’ve been able to find a listing of the dates of a-100 courses. My husband is in the adjudication portion of security clearance and has been for about a month and a half. I’m getting a little antsy since our current employment is only part-time and is ending with the school year. So we’re hoping to hear soon! Do you have any idea from people you have talked to how long the security clearance adjudication process can take? He lived in Russia for a couple of years and has travelled quite a bit, so I’m guessing that is causing the delay. Given his oral assessment score and Russian language I’m guessing he’s a shoe-in, if we could just get passed the security portion. Good luck to you on your career!

  3. Alex says:

    Hey Laura — No problem! Bad news, though: I have no real info for you about adjudications. From what I hear, it varies widely. I lingered there for three weeks, but I’ve heard of people waiting for six months or more. It seems to depend partly on the complexity of your situation, and also partly on luck. Hang in there!

  4. Suz says:

    Excellent site! Thanks! Do you by any chance know how many consular candidates are invited to the A-!00 courses? I realize it varies by class and funding. Best of luck to you!

  5. Alex says:

    Suz — The invites are split pretty evenly between cones. When one class has a couple fewer consular candidates, the next class will have a couple more. My class has 93 people total, so about 18 or 19 per cone. Good luck!

  6. Laura Allred says:

    Thanks for your response to my earlier post. My husband just received his employment offer yesterday! He’ll be joining the A-100 class. We’re hoping to live at Oakwood so maybe we’ll end up meeting you guys. Best wishes to you!

  7. David says:

    Do you know if there is an October A-100 class and whether or not offers have been extended for it?

  8. Christie says:


    Thanks for your blog, I really enjoy reading your experiences as a FSO and as a spouse. I do have a question and I hope you can help me here. My husband is getting ready for his OA this January. We are currently living overseas and we should be going back to the states in June. When you are invited to take the A100 class, does people move with their families to DC for those 6 weeks or they just go by themselves?


  9. Christie says:


    Thanks for your blog! I really enjoy reading your experiences as a FSO and as a spouse. I do have a question for you and hopping you can help me here. My husband is getting ready for his OA this January. We are currently living overseas and going back to the US next June. We have two little boys age 5 & 4. I will like to know if once the candidate is invited to take the A100 class can he/she bring his/her family for those 6 weeks to DC?


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