Have you ever considered taking some time away from your regular routine to pursue something new, exciting, and completely different? We probably all have, and while there are tons of opportunities that might fit the bill, few are feasible in terms of time commitment, academics, or financial concerns.

But, for students interested in pursuing a career in politics, government, or law, there is one program that may address all of the concerns above. This program is offered both during the school year and during summer months, provides appropriate and rigorous academic course work during the school year, and actually pays you for the work you do. Oh, and it also comes with a ton of prestige and recognition.

If this sounds like a good deal to you, read on to learn how you can apply to the Senate Page Program.

What is the Senate Page Program?

The Senate Page Program is a fancy term for an official high school internship at the U.S. Senate in Washington D.C.. This program is offered only to high school juniors and provides the opportunity to work with actual senators and government leaders. Students in the Senate Page Program are sponsored by local senators and work for their sponsoring senator’s party in the U.S. Senate.

Senate Pages are mostly messengers. They deliver messages and legislative materials to U.S. Senators, Congressmen, and other staff members at the Hart Senate Office Building. They also prepare the chambers for daily business and stand by for tasks while Congress is in session. While doing so, they gain important exposure in the fields of government and politics.

The program is highly selective, with only 30 Senate Pages accepted each term.  There are four terms annually. One begins in the fall for four months, another begins in the spring for five months, and two shorter terms start at the beginning of each summer.

How Does the Senate Page Program Work?

During the school year, the Senate Page Program is a residential program. Pages live together in a dorm located two blocks from the Hart Senate Building. They take classes beginning at 6:15 AM daily and after classes, pages work while Senate is in session, typically from 10AM – 4PM, though sometimes much longer if Senate has not adjourned for the day.

Pages are provided breakfast and dinner daily, and pay for their room and board out of the stipend they earn through working as a page. The stipend is generally modest, reportedly based off of a roughly $26,000 annual salary, and uniform costs are also taken from it.

The summer term is slightly different. There is no academic component during summer months and pages are permitted to live with friends or relatives, rather than in the dorm. Dorm residency is still available for those who choose it.

While enrolled in the program, students are held to exceptionally high standards for conduct and dress. Room inspections are conducted regularly and students should expect to spend 12-13 hours studying and working each day. It is a rigorous schedule and pages are required to have a doctor’s approval before beginning the program.

Who Is Eligible to Be a Senate Page?

Senate Pages must be in their junior year of high school. If you’re interested in the summer terms, you may be either a rising junior or a rising senior. You must be 16 or 17 years old, a U.S. citizen, and a student. In order to apply, you must have a GPA of at least 3.0.

Pages are sponsored by individual senators. Each senator is usually given the chance to sponsor a page during only one term per year, and he or she generally alternates between male and female pages each year. Because you must apply through a senator, the exact application process and selection criteria vary. Many senators provide more precise information on their websites.

You can find some examples on Senator Mark Warner’s U.S. Senate Page Program site, or on Senator Charles Schumer’s Senate Page Program site.   

Most senators will only sponsor students from the state they represent, but this is not the case for all senators. If you need to apply for a specific term and your senator is not sponsoring a page that term, you should not discount the opportunity. Instead, research nearby states to see if their senators sponsor out-of-state students. If you can’t find the information you need, call their office directly and ask.

What Is the Application Process for the Senate Page Program?

Because you apply for sponsorship directly through a senator, the application process varies by office. In most cases, you submit an initial application along with a resume and several written recommendations. In some cases you also need to submit a transcript and write an essay.

If you advance past the first round, you will likely be invited for a series of interviews. The program is extremely competitive, so if you make it to the interview phase, be sure to practice ahead of time and arrive on time and dressed professionally. 

Who Should I Ask To Write My Recommendation?

Due to the competitive nature of the program, you will need to leverage every advantage that you can to your favor. It is politics, after all. For this reason, try to find personal and professional connections that will give you a leg above the rest.

Some senators might require that you submit at least one recommendation from a teacher, adviser, or head of school. If this is the case, choose the most established professional who knows you well.

If you have a good relationship with your head of school and you believe that he or she can speak specifically to your strengths, go ahead and ask for a recommendation. If, however, you aren’t sure that your head of school even knows who you are, work your way down the line of command until you find someone who knows you well.

Another strong recommendation should come from a teacher who has instructed you in a related content area. This could be your AP U.S. Government teacher, your Mock Trial adviser, or another teacher who knows your abilities well.

If you are asked for more than two recommendations, try to find someone who is well-connected and has political ties to supply the third. This is the time to call your uncle’s college roommate to arrange a lunch meeting, or hit up your best friend’s mother’s cousin for a coffee date. While these people may not know you very well, if they are connected politically, their word might carry much more weight than someone else’s.

Although it is a general rule of thumb that you should not seek recommendations from people who do not know you well, if your senator seeks more than two recommendations, it is not a bad idea to try to find someone with political ties to supply the third recommendation.

Don’t blindly ask for a recommendation from someone who hasn’t seen you since you were in diapers, though. Instead, arrange a time to meet together to discuss your plans and ambitions. When you do so, be not only honest about your intentions but also upfront about your qualifications. Your job is to clearly articulate to this person why you are qualified and deserving of becoming a Senate Page. If you can convince this person that you’re a worthy candidate, he or she might be able to convince your sponsoring senator.

Also, keep in mind the weight of the favor this person is lending you. Be extremely gracious and make sure that you arrive early so that you don’t keep anyone waiting. Ask for advice and do as much listening as you do talking. Even if you don’t end up becoming a Senate Page, this person could be a valuable mentor if you intend to pursue a career in government or politics. 

What Are My Odds Of Being Selected a Senate Page?

The Senate Page Program is one of the most competitive high school programs in the country. Each term, only 30 pages are selected nationally. Of these, 15 are males and 15 are females. It’s unknown exactly how many students apply each year, since all applicants go through a sponsoring senator, but it’s safe to say that only a tiny proportion of applicants go on to become Senate Pages.    

Also, remember that there are some factors that will impact your chances of becoming a page that are outside of your control. Like anything in politics, connections play an important role in identifying top candidates. Further, because the number of page roles is fewer than the number of senators, senior senators are more likely to successfully appoint a page and even then, senators may only sponsor one page per year.    

Is There Anything I Can Do To Maximize My Chances of Being Selected a Senate Page?

Just because you don’t have any connections doesn’t mean you can’t become a Senate Page. It is completely possible to make your own connections as an involved high school student. If you’re interested in government or politics and you know that you want to become a Senate Page, start working towards it early in your high school career.

You might volunteer in local government or politics. Get involved with your district representative or, during an election year, work on a political campaign. Some local government offices also have page programs that may serve as a good entry point for you. You can create meaningful connections through your own prolonged involvement in local and regional politics and government.

If you’re interested in pursuing a career in politics or government but want some more guidance and insight into the process, consider CollegeVine’s Mentoring Program, which provides practical advice on topics from high school activities and college applications to career aspirations, all from successful college students who have been in your shoes.

Also, be sure to check out these CollegeVine posts to learn more about extracurriculars and academics for students intending to pursue a career in politics or government:

Kate Sundquist

Kate Sundquist

Senior Blogger at CollegeVine
Kate Koch-Sundquist is a graduate of Pomona College where she studied sociology, psychology, and writing before going on to receive an M.Ed. from Lesley University. After a few forays into living abroad and afloat (sometimes at the same time), she now makes her home north of Boston where she works as a content writer and, with her husband, raises two young sons who both inspire her and challenge her on a daily basis.
Kate Sundquist

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