Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Is this the same thing as Penn State Scholarship for Service?
A: No, there are two programs. This program places students into work environments for the Department of Defense (DoD) only. The other program ( allows scholarship recipients to work in a variety of government agencies to include Federal, State, Local and Tribal governments.

Q: If I apply to one SFS program at Penn State, am I automatically considered for the other?
A: No, you must apply separately to each program. The application processes are different.  See for more information about that program.

Q: What should a recommendation letter contain and who should I ask to write letters of recommendation?
A: You must attach two (2) Letters of Reference to this supplemental statement from persons knowledgeable of your potential for successful learning, as well as your knowledge and ability. At least one of these letters must be from a current faculty member [or a most current faculty member], and the second letter may be from either a current or former faculty member, or a current or former employer.

Each letter must contain the name, position or title, telephone number, email address, and institutional or organizational address of the referee. In addition, you must request that each referee refer to and address the following factors:
1. The relationship of the referee to you. (The referee states whether the information is based on an academic or employment relationship.)
2. The length of the relationship. (The referee states how long he or she has known you.)
3. An assessment of your potential for academic success and fulfillment of degree requirements.
(Advise your referees that your college or university will base a determination of your academic sufficiency, in part, on the letters of reference that you submit.)
4. An assessment of your knowledge and ability following the six (6) competency areas (see below).
Q: Do I have to write an essay?
A: Yes.  A 3-page essay is required. See the application instructions for more details. Your essay must cover your knowledge of the six competency areas:
  • Knowledge of the techniques of the cyber security discipline, including encryption, access control, physical security, training, threat analysis, and authentication.
  • Knowledge of the human factors in cyber security, including human computer interaction, design, training, sabotage, human error prevention and identification, personal use policies, and monitoring.
  • Ability to identify and analyze problems, distinguish between relevant and irrelevant information to make logical decisions, and provide solutions to individual and organizational problems.
  • Ability to consider and respond appropriately to the needs, feelings, and capabilities of different people in different situations; is tactful, compassionate and sensitive, and treats others with respect.
  • Ability to make clear and convincing oral presentations to individuals or groups; listens effectively and clarifies information as needed; facilitates an open exchange of ideas and fosters an atmosphere of open communication.
  • Ability to express facts and ideas in writing in clear, convincing and organized manners appropriate to the audience and occasion.

Q: I am already in the military. May I apply?
A: Active Duty and those with a remaining service commitment are NOT eligible to apply. Non-Active Duty National Guard and Reservists are eligible.

Q: I am veteran. May I apply?
A: Yes. 5 point or 10 point veteran’s preference is available with a copy of your DD-214 or SF-15 and supporting documentation. See the Application Form for details.

Q: I have a disability. Am I eligible and can I get help with submitting the application?
A: You can find out about alternatives for submitting your application by calling the Office of Personnel Management at 912-757-3000. If you have a hearing disability, call TDD 912-744- 2299. You may obtain case-by-case assistance by calling the Department of Defense point of contact for this announcement. The name, address, and email address of the point of contact for this announcement are below:

DoD CySP Program Office
National Security Agency
Attn: NIETP, A233, Suite 6804
9800 Savage Road
Fort George G. Meade, MD 20755-6804

Equal Employment Opportunity: The Department of Defense is an Equal Opportunity Employer. All qualified persons shall receive consideration for this opportunity without regard to political, religious, labor organization affiliation or non-affiliation, marital status, race, color, sex, national origin, non-disqualifying physical disability, age, or sexual orientation.

Q: I am not at University Park Campus. May I apply?
A: Yes. You must be a full-time student. Online/World Campus students are eligible. Students from campuses other than UP are also eligible.  Contact the PSU team ( or for specific questions about your situation.

Q: I am not in the CYBER or SRA Major. Am I eligible to apply?
A: Yes, you can apply. Consider that the DoD wants you to work in a cyber security job. Please review the competency areas for the essay and letters of recommendation carefully.

Q: Can I choose which part of the DoD I will work in, or which location?
A: Not exactly.  Here’s an excerpt from the application:
“The DoD does not guarantee that your preferences for agency assignment (or location) under the CySP, or in a permanent position to which you are subsequently converted, can be honored. Your preferences will be taken into account, along with all other relevant factors such as:mission, functional, and staffing requirements; the exigencies of service; the availability of funds; and, any hardships you may demonstrate. Nonetheless, your agency preferences are important to the department. Therefore, you may specify up to three agency preferences, if you wish. You are not required to complete these preference selections. You may specify city and state of preference, if known as well. For information on DoD Agencies, you may view the following web site which contains the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Defense Agencies and DoD Field Activities, Organization and Functions Guidebook:

Q: Can I meet my 1 or 2- year service obligation by enlisting or commissioning in the military?
A: This program geared toward hiring non-uniformed civilian DoD employees. However, there is an option to meet the obligation with a minimum 4-year military service commitment.  See the application form for details.

Q: How should I format my essay? Single-spaced? Double-spaced? What font? What margins?
A: For the format of your essay, we suggest a simple header with your name (maybe last name only on the top right to match the form) and a page number. You want to maximize the space for your essay, so I would recommend single-spaced, but that is up to you.

For fonts, use one of the following typefaces identified below:

  1. Arial, Courier New, or Palatino Linotype at a font size of 10 points of larger
  2. Times New Roman at a font size of 11 points or larger
  3. Computer Modern family of fonts at a font size of 11 points or larger
  4. NOTE: A font size of less than 10 points may be used for mathematical formulas or equations, figure, table or diagram captions and when using a Symbol font to insert Greek letters or special characters. PIs are cautioned, however, that the text must still be readable;
  5. No more than 6 lines of text within a vertical space of 1 inch; and
  6. Margins, in all direction, must be at least an inch.