The Unofficial Motto: “It Depends”

Hello there readers! It’s been a while. Much has changed in my normal life (hello from Texas!), but not much has budged on the foreign service process. The worst part of this whole process is that once you get yourself on the register, all you can do is wait.

I was initially hoping to bump my score up with language points, but after a few months of studying with a tutor, I realized that it would cost me too much money for tutoring to get close to the score I need and result in a bump on the register of only 2-3 spots. It would be nice, but I’d probably be better off going back through the process again and getting a better OA score.

I am currently waiting for offers to go out for the January A-100 class. According to the POL shadow register that I am managing, I should be about number 11 or 12 on the list for calls this round. I think the shadow register is about 75% accurate based on data for past classes, so I’m hopeful that I might get an invite this round!

In preparation for an invite, I’ve been drumming up some things to do that will be useful once I (someday) get the call:

  1. Pack up belongings into stackable, clear plastic containers. Movers may not accept them as-is, but at least they’ll be able to see the contents, and at least I’ll be able to use them to move if I don’t get an offer. (Note: this is possible since we’re visiting with family for the fall/winter months)
  2. Update resumé with job descriptions to help determine Qualifying Experience. This will make determining your Grade-Step and Salary much easier! This is also one of the first things you are asked for when you accept an offer of employment.
  3. Pick your top PCS housing choices. There are a few different options for housing during A-100, but the PCS Lodging program is by far the least hassle for non-local hires. You can submit housing preferences early and it’s first come, first served, so best to have a few in mind.
  4. Read It’s Your Move! and The Foreign Service Assignment Notebook. Both of these documents are chock full of great information about life in the foreign service and moving for A-100 training.
  5. Check out the A-100 FSOrientation Guide App. It’s for iOS and Android and answers lots of questions.
  6. Join the Foreign Service Subreddit to chat with fellow applicants and pick up rumors.

Fingers crossed for good news from the registrar this week! Here’s a bonus picture of Thursday in front of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. We had lots of cool stops on our road trip from Oregon down to Texas!

‘Til next time!


  1. Your blogs were just what i wanted when searching for definitive questions about the whole process in becoming a FSO. One question is that I am in South Korea where i just finished my study abroad program for my BA in International studies. I have registered for the FSOT for Feb 8, 2019. Do you have any study buddies left here South Korea?


    • Kevin! Congratulations on starting the process! You are lucky – Seoul is one of the few overseas locations that hosts their FSOT in a PearsonVUE center. Many other overseas test takers are facing cancelled exams due to the current shutdown. Alas, I don’t have any current study buddies in that area, but you can always post on Reddit’s /r/foreignservice and Facebook’s FSOT Page to find out if anyone is nearby. Online study groups abound as well! The FSOT stage has less to “study” than the following stages, but that’s only because the materials are so broad. I recommend testing yourself in each of the subject areas to determine your weak points and then seeking out online groups that can help you learn more on the subject (not necessarily FSOT groups). Oh! One last thing, the testing center folks who administered my test (both times I took it in Korea) spoke very little English, so be prepared to use your Konglish! Or maybe your Korean 😉


  2. Hi Twelve Knots! Thanks for your writings and time. In terms of the essay writing part of the FSOT, which one would you think is correct: (1) write an essay without including negative statements or perspectives against my chosen one (2) write an essay that inlcudes two paragraphs supporting my perspective and another paragraph about one point of view against my perspective or (3) two supportive paragraphs that include one perpective against mine, on each paragraph. Based on your experience what do you think is the best format? Thank you!


    • Hi nsantoni! I think it depends on the essay topic, but from the perspective of an English Teacher, I would only include the dissenting view if you are a)confident that you have a good counter-argument AND b) can complete your essay in the allotted time. It would be disastrous to get stuck and end the essay unfinished with your final paragraph talking about a dissenting viewpoint. You want a strong persuasive essay, but there’s not much time to flesh out lengthy arguments and counter arguments.


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