General Comments

From the Lint Center

Thoughts from a Former Winner (2008)

General Comments

We make every effort to be as specific as possible regarding the requirements for a Lint Center Scholarship Application. However, we are human too!

We appreciate the fact that circumstances and conditions may lend themselves to matters we can not necessarily anticipate in advance. As such, we welcome specific questions, clarifications, or requests for guidance. You may contact us via the webpage feedback form.

To minimize redundant or easily answered queries, we have listed some supplemental guidelines for your review below. In addition, the Center has provided a personal response from a 2008 Lint Center Scholarship Winner discussing his approach to crafting and formulating the essay portion of his application.

The CIA’s ruthless style manual may be useful as well: a summary can be found here, and the full declassified manual can be found here.

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From the Lint Center: FAQ

What is the purpose of the issue essay?

The purpose of the issue essay for the scholarship application is to:

  1. Allow the Scholarship Committee to understand what you view to be an issue of importance and why;
  2. Allow the Scholarship Committee to evaluate your approach, assessment, and thoughts on the topical matter;
  3. Finding new solutions to existing problems is the ideal end-result. Actionable ideas make a noticeable difference and can be the impetus for deeds in an operational environment.
  4. Perhaps most importantly, provide scholarship winners with a strong resume bullet point to indicate – You are a published author!

What is the purpose of the personal essay?

  • To help the Scholarship Committee understand who you are, what you aspire to be, and how a Lint Center Scholarship will enable you to take a step closer to realize that dream.
  • It should not be a regurgitation of your resume, accolades, or accomplishments. It should be more of a personal narrative.
  • Remember the Scholarship Committee is reviewing countless applications from individuals they have never met. You should attempt to convey and explain who you are as an individual. Try your best to craft an essay which really explains you and why you are an aspiring leader.
  • As a rule of thumb, if you give it to a complete stranger and they still don’t know who you are – revisions are necessary. Be yourself and tell us where you want to go!

What essay topics should I focus on?

  • The Lint Center is open, interested, and excited by topics of your own choosing and passion, as long as there is a strong and direct connection to U.S. Counterintelligence, National Security, Alliance Building, and National Defense.
    • In other words, if you have an idea that you are really interested in writing about – send us a quick note and we would be delighted to provide you with guidance as to its appropriateness and applicability (Subject Line: Name of Scholarship & Essay Topic Clarification, body of e-mail explain, briefly, your desired area of focus).
  • We welcome creative thinking and are seeking innovative ideas, solutions and/or commentary on the most challenging issues facing the intelligence and security community at large. In turn, surprise us with your creativity but be practical and rational.

What if I want to submit an essay which is somewhat off-topic?

While we provide a broad suggested topic for the essay, if you wish to discuss a more specific or finite issue, the Center encourages you to inquire about the appropriateness of your essay topic via our feedback form.

What if my essay is longer than the suggested length? Do I cut solid content to meet length requirements?

  • As a standard criterion the Lint Center suggests an essay length of no less than 500-words. However, we are open to more in-depth analysis as well as original scholastic research papers (citations required).
  • We realize that sometimes important issues are complicated issues. As such, some essays may require additional length to fully articulate concerns, issues, arguments, and recommendations.
    • If you find yourself in a position which requires you to cut substance to meet the length requirement, we urge you to inquire first. While the length requirement is intended to ensure the Scholarship Committee is not forced to read a Treatise (we are not looking for the second rendition of Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” – though it’s a good book), we do not want to inhibit your creativity by imposing an arbitrary maximum length.
    • Rule of thumb is – If it is longer then the suggested length, inquire to receive permission and make sure it is worth the time. You will not receive points for length – ideas, yes, adding extra work for our team, no.
    • Be mindful that the Lint Center is made up of volunteers. If you couldn’t get your best friend to read it because it was to long, think carefully before submitting it to the Lint Center.
  • In light of the volume of submissions, we strongly encourage essay submissions be direct and to the point. Again, we certainly do not give points for length – remember we are volunteers with day jobs!


Be bold, counterintuitive, groundbreaking, and inventive. We seek submissions about what is next, what could be next, what should be anticipated next, and what should be done next. Identifying the problem is the easiest part of the equation – we seek the unfettered brilliance of a solution unrealized.

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Thoughts from a Former Winner (2008)

How was I inspired to write my essay?

That’s a good question. When I was considering applying to school, I was in the final year of my MBA and I wanted to incorporate my interest in national security with my current studies. This gave me an initial topical framework to launch from.

Defining My Essay: Determining the Objective

My main objective was to examine and analyze a national or international security problem facing the world today. With this in mind, I began my own research into my areas of interest – business and national security. I asked myself the question, if I was the bad guy, how would I or could I hurt the U.S? Where are the vulnerabilities, what weaknesses can I see, what isn’t a press driven concern but a real genuine threat or unresolved long-term concern? The easy answer is many.

Investigating My Topic: Research

  • Then I began to do some research. I surveyed the various ideologically/political in scope Washington, DC think tanks and examined their position papers. Then I worked out and reviewed Senate & House Intell, Foreign Affairs, etc. Committee Reports (available at
  • I Googled “Congressional Research Service”, “insert topic keyword here”. CRS reports are helpful to understanding the simplified pros-and-cons on major public policy issues, legislative history, the players involved, and historical outgrowth (you shouldn’t pay for reports – they are either on the Net or you can request them from your Rep directly – your tax dollars pay for them).
  • I also investigated interest groups, public advocacy groups, local government position papers, non-partisan research centers and news sites (Rand, CFR, Terrorism Research Center, OSAC, Global Security, Counterintelligence Online, Intelligence Online, ISIS, etc.).
  • Also, most Universities that offer programs focused on National Security, publish papers which can help generate ideas – both foreign and domestic topic areas.
  • Additionally, there are countless U.S. Government Websites which provide papers on issues of interest. You just have to wade through the nonsense. A good read is the DoD’s Annual Report to Congress, White House National Security Strategy, National Counterterrorism Center, DNI, etc. Similar docs are available from foreign governments – you just need to find them.
  • International organizations and military alliances are also a great resource – UN, EU, NATO, ASEAN, Interpol, World Bank, etc.
  • Books are also good to peruse for brainstorm sessions – Strategy & Force Planning –Naval War College; CIA Insiders Dictionary, Foreign Relations & National Security Law: Cases, Materials, & Simulations; Sun Tzu – Art of War; Carl Von Clausewitz – On War, the list goes on…

My Two Cents:

  1. Identify what you are interested in. That old saying about finding out what you’re passionate about also applies to writing and making a strong argument.
  2. Stay away from historiographies. Say something fresh, provide a different perspective, make innovative (unconventional) observations – take a risk, say what you really think (support your claims with factual evidence).
  3. Focus on a) contemporary issues of concern, b) future areas of concern, c) failures of the past – with recommendations or counter-intuitive insights.
  4. If you come across a topic of interest which does not explicitly address the essay topic indicated for the scholarship, inquire with Mr. Lint. If it’s of interest to the Center, I assume they will encourage you to explore the topic.
  5. Also, don’t focus on length requirements. If the essay is strong and needs to be longer – seek permission from Mr. Lint. He may allow you to write more so long as it’s appropriate. My rule of thumb is to ask before I cut.
  6. When I was creating my essay outline and brainstorming ideas, I trolled the Lint Center Website and Googled just about everything I could. There is a wealth of information about the Center, its board, and their areas of expertise – if you look for it. Doing this helped me better understand my audiences interest areas, their areas of expertise, and areas of opportunity.
  7. The Center is apolitical or rather non-political. Since it has obtained a 501c3 tax exempt status, it is very cognizant and protective about its brand. Overtly political and ideologically driven essays are frowned upon – not only because of the IRS but more importantly because it does not further the mission of the Center. Stay away from this sort of thing, as all it does is detract from what you are trying to convey.
  8. It’s not your syntax, grammar, or argument construction that will impress them – it’s the idea, the originality, the ‘oh, wow, I never thought of it that way’ that wins the day. These guys/gals have been doing this for decades and it seems to me they want to provide a forum to challenge conventional wisdom.
  9. As the Lint Center says, “Ground-breaking innovative ideas/solutions are desired. Essays will be judged on scholarly rigor, creativity and innovation. Authors are encouraged to be interdisciplinary in their thinking. The author of the essay will be judged by former Counterintelligence Special Agents” – remember your audience!”

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