Choosing Your Topic
Select a topic that is:
- In your field.
It should be a topic in the professional field you hope to enter. It should relate to the problem or need of society you identified in your response to Item 9 of the application.
Substantial debate exists on what to do and there is some legitimacy to the opposite side of the position which you are taking.
The proposal focuses on a problem that has significance to the US government, to a substantial segment of the population, to your state, to the environment, or to an international community.
- Not overwhelming.
It is "small" enough to be presented on one page. If it is too large to handle well, break off a small piece. For example: While the health care problem is too large, various elements such as AIDS risk reduction, dealing with a specific disease, or prenatal care for economically disadvantaged women could be discussed.
- Interesting to you.
You care about the topic and would like to learn more about it.
- Intellectually approachable for you.
You should be able to get a good understanding of the problem including a reasonable grasp of why the problem exists and has not been solved . . . and of the difficulties in implementing the solution you recommend. The nature of the problem has been well-documented and statistical data and current references are available. You can find current substantive references as well as regular press to help you make the case.
You can come up with a specific plan to present and to defend at a Truman interview. You might even be able to pose a fresh approach.
Writing the Policy Proposal
Be sure to:
- Address it to the governmental official who has the most authority to deal with this issue.
If you write to the chair of a legislative committee, verify that the committee has the jurisdiction to do what you propose. Be careful about addressing it to the President. Generally, a cabinet officer or a chair of a Congressional committee will be more likely to have direct authority over an issue than the President. A Note About Presidential Transitions: We recognize that during a period of transition, you may not know to whom to address your proposal prior to the deadline. Your options are either to address your proposal to whomever currently holds the post and provide a date of your proposal (ex: Secretary John King, November 2016) or address it generically (ex: Incoming Deputy Secretary of the Interior Overseeing Water Policy). You will be expected to be current both on the person holding this position as well as their likely views on your proposal should you be selected for interview.
- Use statistical data to define the problem. Choose your sources carefully. Choose persuasive data to explain your position. If you rely on data from the internet, be certain that it is credible. List only those sources that you used heavily. A laundry list of citations and footnotes will not be considered.
- We do not care which citation format you use so long as it is understandable.
- Make your recommendations specific, clear, and understandable.
You wouldn't want the intended recipient to say, "So what exactly am I supposed to do?"
- Handle obstacles fairly. Don't just cite a lack of funding or votes; capture briefly the legitimacy of the opposition.
- The proposal should be written in a professional, but not academic, style. Imagine that your proposal is being read by government employee or congressional staff member who has limited time but at least a surface understanding of your problem.
- Your policy proposal should be approximately 500 words, exclusive of citations. The on-line application also includes an equivalent character limit, but there is some variation depending on the length of the words used. Regardless, the policy proposal should be edited carefully to ensure the writing is concise.