Political Leaders Program Application

We are currently accepting applications for the 2020 Political Leaders Program.  Applications for the 2020 PLP are due by midnight on Tuesday, November 12th 2019.

2020 PLP Application Instructions and Information:

  1. PLEASE NOTE: This is an online application. There is no way to save a partially completed application and return to work on it later.  For this reason, we recommend that you prepare everything you will need to complete the application in advance.
  2. After you have read the instructions, questions, and have prepared everything you will need to complete the application, follow the link at the bottom of this page. That link will take you directly to the online application for the Political Leaders Program. Again, please remember to prepare everything you will need prior to filling out the online application. There is no way to save your work and return to it later.
  3. The PLP application includes a series of short essay questions in addition to some basic contact and background information. See below for details.
  4. Applicants may also submit up to two letters of recommendation and a resume. These are not required, and we will not review more than two letters. Mailed letters or resumes must be postmarked by Friday, November 15, 2019 for consideration and should be addressed to:

The Sorensen Institute
Attention: PLP 2020
P.O. Box 400206
Charlottesville, VA 22904

Emailed letters or resumes must be received by Friday, November 15th 2019 and can be sent to Sarah Campbell at sc9ef@virginia.edu.

Essay Questions

The PLP online application includes a number of short-answer essay questions. Each question requires a 250 to 500-word answer. Be aware that the essays are a significant part of the selection process and very important to making admissions decisions. The essay questions on the Political Leaders Program online application are as follows:

  1. What role should civility play in our increasingly polarized politics?  Does it have value in itself? Does it have value in helping to win elections or achieve policy goals?  Explain.
  2. How have the norms and incentives of political life in our country changed, for better or worse, during your lifetime?  Why have those changes taken place?
  3. What does state or local government in Virginia do well?  What would you like to change about government in Virginia?
  4. What achievement, episode or pursuit in your life makes you most proud?  What has your most satisfying leadership achievement so far?  What barrier(s), if any, have you encountered in achieving your goals? Explain.
  5. Is it your goal to become an elected official? If so, what sort of office would you pursue, and why?  If not, what role do you see for yourself in the political life of Virginia or your local community?
  6. What specific skills, knowledge or resources do you hope to acquire as a result of participating in the Sorensen Institute Political Leaders Program?

Contact/Background Information

You should also be prepared with the following information to successfully complete the PLP application:

  • How did you learn about the Sorensen Institute?
  • Current employment: employer, your title, your supervisor, work address and phone number
  • Education: high school, college, graduate school, and any relevant non-degree training programs
  • Past Employment: list any past employers including your title, supervisor, and dates of employment
  • Activities: list any past organizations and activities that you have been involved in that demonstrate your commitment to public service, community involvement, and/or volunteer work.
  • Contact information: your current mailing address, home phone, work phone, cell phone, and email address 

Program Schedule

The 2020 Political Leaders Program will meet once a month, March through December (except for July) in different locations across the state. With few exceptions, a typical weekend schedule begins at 12:00pm on Friday and ends by 12:00pm on Saturday. Weekends typically begin with an optional, dutch-treat lunch on Friday, followed by a tour, dinner, and guest speaker. Saturdays usually include debates, speakers, and panels in the morning starting around 8:30am and departing around lunchtime.

We ask that you confirm in advance your availability on the program weekends before you apply to the program. The overall success of the program depends on the attendance of all participants at all sessions. The absence of one person negatively affects the learning experience for everyone else, therefore we have a strict attendance policy which you will have to review and sign in order to submit your application. The staff reserves the right to deny any absence requests to protect the integrity of the program.  As a reminder, below are the dates for this year’s program. If you believe you are unable to make this commitment, you should wait and reapply to the Political Leaders Program when your schedule permits full participation. 

Political Leaders Program 2020 Schedule
Williamsburg Opening Weekend: March 12, 13, 14*
Richmond: April TBD dates
Roanoke: May 8-9
Martinsville: June TBD dates
(No meeting in July)
Harrisonburg: August 14-15
Southwest: September 10, 11, 12**
Norfolk: October 23-24
Alexandria: November 13-14
Charlottesville Graduation: December 11-12

*Full attendance on opening weekend in March is mandatory.
**For our Southwest weekend, hotel rooms will be offered on the night on Thursday, September 10 due to travel distance. No official sessions will take place on Thursday.

Tuition and Financial Assistance

Tuition for the 2020 PLP is $3,450. Participants can apply for financial aid. Requests for financial aid will be reviewed by representatives of our parent organization, The Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service, after applicants have been accepted to the program.  In 2019, we met 100% of demonstrated financial need through a combination of grants, scholarships, and financial aid. No individual has ever been denied participation in a Sorensen program because of inability to pay the tuition cost. Participants are responsible for their own travel expenses, but unless otherwise stated all food and lodging costs are covered by the tuition. More information about how to apply for financial aid is available on our Financial Aid page. Financial aid applications must be submitted by Monday, December 2nd to be considered.



Please remember, once you start the application there will be no way to save partial work 
so make sure you have everything you need to complete the application.


If you have any questions about the PLP or your application, contact Lauren Gilbert.