For four Washington College students, the National Security Scholars Program (NSSP) begins like most other internship programs: sophomores and juniors, who must have a grade point average of at least 3.0, submit an essay, garner professor recommendations, and put together a resume.
What comes next takes a sharp detour from the typical narrative: polygraphs, psychological evaluations, and third-party interviews with family, friends, and professors. After the evaluations, the program's ten partners — including Booz Allen Hamilton, Fuse Engineering, Geon Technologies, Leidos, Lockheed Martin, ManTech, the National Security Agency, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, and TGS — select students to begin the rigorous process of earning a top-secret clearance, the highest level of government clearance.
“Year after year, Washington College provides successful candidates,” says Lori Livingston, Director of the NSSP, is managed by MICUA. “The College prepares the students for every stage of the application process and the students are highly successful in getting through the program.”
Identities are not disclosed due to the sensitivity of the work.
“I wanted to do something that really mattered,” says one NSSP scholar placed with NSA. While her mathematics and computer science majors directly relate to the program, her dance and German minors reflect broader interests. “As a student of the liberal arts, I have a broad range of knowledge. Anything that comes up at work, I can relate to.”
A second NSSP scholar, also at NSA, majors in computer science and English, with minors in creative writing and Spanish. She says that her wide range of interests “shows that you can balance unrelated things, can succeed in other areas, and that you’re flexible and adaptable. That’s one of the things that I really loved about WC—that liberal arts environment that compels you to try everything. I came in as an English major and took a computer science class to fill my distribution. Now that’s what I’m doing for my career.”
All of the students in the NSSP are likely to take a job at their current placement after graduation and will have the opportunity to intern again next summer while they complete their undergraduate studies.