Two years ago on approximately this day, I published the Admissions Blog’s one thousandth post.  Like the November morning when #1000 appeared, today is the day before the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday.  This post, however, is a rather uncelebratory number 1,394, a total that includes several odes to our national holiday.

Since last week, I have been using spare blocks of time to accomplish a little of the Thanksgiving prep.  On Friday, I shopped for food.  On Saturday, I made cranberry sauce.  On Sunday, I mixed the topping for a pie.  And so on, until I will bake as much as time allows today and then finish up tomorrow.

It seems that every year there are more and more Thanksgiving gatherings for students who are staying in town.  Last year there was a Blakeley Hall meal, and other feasts that students hosted at their apartments.  Thanksgiving is an especially nice time to reach out and include others who may not have a feast of their own.  Our family meal will also include my daughter’s roommate and my cousin’s Nepali neighbors.

Working at Fletcher, there’s a lot to be thankful for.  It’s an interesting place, loaded with inspiring people who are committed to a common goal of joining (or preparing) the next generation of international affairs professionals.  Within the Admissions Office, I am fortunate to work with a collection of characters who regularly go beyond what is expected and support each others’ work.  And they frequently make me laugh in the process.  That counts for a lot!  Not to mention all the amazing students who volunteer to help us in so many ways, from conducting interviews to writing blog posts to hosting admitted students.  We couldn’t get it all done without them!

Whether you’re in the U.S., celebrating in a remote location, or looking forward to learning more about this American holiday as a Fletcher student next year, I wish you a very happy Thanksgiving.

(Note that the Admissions Office will be closed from this afternoon through Sunday.  We’ll be back on Monday.)


Design, Monitoring, and Evaluation is a field that has grown dramatically at Fletcher in recent years.  Professor Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church kindly offered this run-down on a conference she attended recently that served as a Fletcher reunion.

A highlight of my professional calendar is the American Evaluation Association (AEA) annual conference.  As the preeminent professional event for the global evaluation community, this 4000+ attendee conference shows the innovation, diversity, and scale of the profession.  In addition to the professional development opportunities, the event is a highlight because of the opportunity to reconnect with the Fletcher Design, Monitoring, and Evaluation (DME) community through the annual Fletcher lunch.  Learning what former students are doing, along with their challenges and accomplishments, is always a rewarding experience.

This year, an extraordinary 29 Fletcher alumni and students attended the AEA conference in Chicago.  A few fun facts:

  • Two alumni flew from Turkey where they work in humanitarian M&E.
  • One alumna was from my very first year of teaching at Fletcher (nine years ago).
  • Twenty-six attended the Fletcher lunch, of whom only one was male.  (He took the picture below!)
  • One alumna is the head of an AEA Topical Interest Group.
  • Approximately six alumni did presentations, and some did more than one.
  • Approximately five alumni work for funders.
  • Seven current students attended, of whom one was a first-year student.
  • One recent graduate returned to Rwanda to continue her role in development M&E.
  • At least nine nationalities were represented.

AEA Crew1

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It’s a cool and crisp morning — perfect for November — but I’m snug in my kitchen for a day of (mostly) reading Early Notification applications.  Before I get started on my reading, a quick blog note.

You know the old image of someone trying to make a decision with a devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other?  Like this, for example:


I would like to volunteer to be your “deadline angel,” and if I’m to take my volunteer gig seriously, I cannot wait until January to start pestering you to get your application in before the deadline.  Rather, I want to plant the idea now that you should set a pre-deadline deadline for yourself.  January 1 would work.  Or earlier!  And then you need to work back from your personal deadline to create a plan for yourself.

Have you taken your standardized exams and had results sent to Fletcher?  If not, you should not wait another minute to schedule the exam.  Wait any longer and it will be difficult to book a convenient test date.  Depending on where you’re located, it may already be tricky.

Have you asked your professors and/or professional supervisors to write recommendation letters for you?  Nearly all the applications that linger in our “incomplete” bin in February are being held up by missing recommendations.  Ensuring those letters arrive on time is up to you, and you can ease the job for yourself by contacting your recommenders early to request their letters.

Essays can take a while to perfect.  Create a draft now, and continue to work on it.  Wait until January to write your first draft and it’s likely you’ll submit something you’re not happy with.  Every year we receive requests from applicants who want to continue revising their applications even after submitting them.  Ummm, no.  Sorry.  What you submit is what we review.  (Of course, if you have new test scores or course grades, we will certainly look at those.)

Is your résumé current and in good shape?  Two or three pages maximum, with education and professional experience both listed in reverse chronological order.  Other formats will not serve you as well for this purpose.

My decision to get a jump on the deadline reminders came to me last week when we had several calls from applicants who had waited until the last minute to book an interview appointment and could no longer arrange what they had hoped for.  There are still some on-campus interview appointments, but Skype interviews have been snatched up as quickly as we have created them (and we have, in fact, added a few for each week).  On the other hand, we had plenty of availability in October, both for October and for plan-ahead appointments in November/December.

I won’t go on, because the point is that you need to consider your own work habits and the requirements of the schools you’ll apply to, and then make a plan that works for you.  If you haven’t already made such a plan, your deadline angel suggests that you should not put it off any longer.

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Time to return to the first-year students who I hope will be two-year bloggers, sharing their Fletcher stories with you.  Today we’ll meet McKenzie, who describes her path to the MIB program and her first two-plus months in it.

McKenzieHi everyone!  My name is McKenzie Smith.  I’m thrilled that I will be sharing my experiences in the Master of International Business (MIB) program over the next two years.  To get started, let me share a bit about where I come from, where I’m going, and how I plan to use my time at Fletcher — the things I imagine you’re considering yourself.  In short, I’m here at Fletcher to explore the growth and adoption of impact investment that helps develop emerging markets.  In particular, I’m interested in the role that capital flows can play in encouraging businesses to consider their environmental, social, and governance impacts on society in the course of their operations.

Before Fletcher, I spent four years as a consultant helping public- and private-sector clients solve complex challenges related to strategy and operational efficiency, organizational design, and large-scale program management.  I also supported business development efforts for multiple projects in Sub-Saharan Africa and Indonesia.  Prior to that, I taught kindergarten in Colorado after studying international development and international politics at Georgetown University.  One thing I’ve learned from my varied experience is that tackling multi-dimensional challenges necessitates interdisciplinary solutions.  Leveraging finance to build vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystems and promote economic transformation requires a complex set of actors, from investors to academics, NGOs to businesses, who must work in a coordinated manner to enable citizens and businesses to create economic value.  Achieving this through a lens of social impact can be even more challenging as investors and entrepreneurs seek to create social value that does not cause a loss of financial returns.

Yet, while facilitating the growth and adoption of impact (or “socially responsible,” or “Environmental, Social, and Governance/ESG”) investing is fraught with obstacles, I find myself saying, “Challenge accepted!”  In fact, individuals around the world can and are finding innovative ways to blend social value with financial returns.  A growing number of investors from the millennial generation are demanding it, and more and more institutions are devoting resources to research and fund development that creates opportunities for investors to “put their money where there values are.”

I could keep going, but I’ll jump to the question you’re likely asking at this point: in light of these goals, why Fletcher?  In short, I came to Fletcher to focus on international finance and social enterprise in emerging markets because Fletcher offers the right mix of rigorous MBA-type skills and an understanding of the multiple social, political, and economic issues inherent in conducting business around the world.

In terms of core business and finance skills, this semester alone I’m taking courses in corporate finance, global investment management, and financial statement management.  I’m building concrete skills in valuation, financial analysis, portfolio construction, and strategic decision making.

In terms of social enterprise in emerging markets, I’m taking a course called “Emerging Africa,” which examines the role of capitalism, entrepreneurship, and the private sector in African economies’ transformations.  This course is unique at Fletcher, especially for MIBs.  While many of us considered traditional MBAs and could have found similar courses in those programs, we would not have had the chance to take these courses alongside friends focused on human security, development economics, negotiation and conflict resolution, security studies, or environmental and energy policy.  Because the growth of entrepreneurship in emerging markets is intimately intertwined with an in-depth understanding of many of these issues, the Fletcher experience for students interested in international business cannot be beat.

As before, I could certainly go on.  In some ways, it’s hard to believe I’ve only just arrived!  At the same time, already in the second half of my first semester at Fletcher, it’s hard to believe how quickly time flies.  I can’t wait to share the rest of my experiences with you as the year progresses.

Until next time,

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I have been truly remiss these past few months in that I haven’t introduced the newest member of the Admissions team.  You may already have heard from Lucas, our new Admissions Coordinator, when you contacted the office with a question — he is overseeing the processing of applications, getting them ready for Admissions Committee members to read.  He joined the staff just as the semester began and he has been quickly learning everything he needs to know.

Yesterday I ran the following information by Lucas (who has a much better understanding of the back of the Slate system than I do) to be sure it is still completely accurate, and he confirms that it is.  With a note to myself to ask him for a more complete introductory blog post soon, here is the information that Early Notification applicants will need if they want to follow the progress of their application.


AFTER YOU SUBMIT YOUR APPLICATION, your Application Status page will display the information you need to track your application.

To access your Application Status Page you can either click the “Start an Application” link on the Admissions website or save the application link.  You will login with the email and password you used when you created your application.

How Do I Know If My Application is Incomplete or Complete?

Even after you have submitted all the required materials, your application is not complete until a staff member has reviewed each document to check that it is correct and legible.  Your Application Status page displays the most up-to-date information on your application.  Please allow us up to 10 days after we receive your materials to update your status.

Your application will be marked as incomplete if we find that items are missing, your transcripts are difficult to read or not translated into English, or your application fee has not been received (with the exception of fee waivers).  If we are missing materials or cannot read application documents, we will contact you.

Fletcher Admissions will send you a confirmation email when all of your application materials have been compiled and your application is ready to be reviewed by the Admissions Committee.  Once your application is complete, there’s nothing more you need to do.

Please Note: the order in which your application is processed has no bearing on your admissions decision.

When Will I Receive My Decision?

Early Notification admissions decisions will be released before December 30.  We will send a message, with information regarding your decision, to the email address you used on your application.  Note that EN applicants who applied for a scholarship will receive information about their award in March, at the same time that we release decisions for those who applied in January.

If you have further questions, please email us or call us at +1.617.627.3040.

Please use the email address that you included in your application on all email messages to the office.  We try to respond to every message on the same day we receive it, but due to the large number of emails we receive, it can take several days for us to reply to you.  We appreciate your patience!


I was so wrapped up last week with responding to suggestions readers provided in my survey (additional suggestions will still be appreciated) that I neglected to make note of one of the biggest events at Fletcher each year: Simulex.  I realized my omission when I arrived at work this morning and was greeted with a sign, leftover from Saturday, saying that the entire School was booked for the day, leaving only Ginn Library for anyone not participating.

What is Simulex?  It’s a crisis management exercise, open to students with all curricular interests (that is, not limited to Security Studies).  The International Security Studies Program also invites alumni and others working in relevant fields to participate alongside students and to offer guidance and relevant information.  But before the event even starts, participants must prepare by reading the background scenario, which this year concerned a “Crisis in the Western Pacific/East Asia Region.”  Though the event has passed, I still recommend checking out the information and putting it into your mental calendar for the fall semester after you enroll.

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I didn’t start the week thinking I would dedicate every post to Early Notification applications, but I was inspired by the ideas generated by my survey, so why not?  Today I’m answering a question about the first essay, though not exactly the way the survey respondent suggested (sorry…).

To refresh our memories, the prompt for the first essay reads:

Essay 1 (600-800 words, single-spaced, Arial 12 point font)
Fletcher’s Committee on Admissions seeks to ensure that there is a good match between each admitted student and the School.
Please tell us your goals for graduate study at Fletcher and for your career. Describe the elements of your personal, professional, and/or academic background that have prepared you for your chosen career path. Why is The Fletcher School the right place to pursue your academic objectives and to prepare you to meet your professional goals? Why have you selected the degree program to which you are applying?

You might remember from last summer that I wrote about how we ditched the term “personal statement,” because we felt we were inviting applicants to glue their personal statements from other schools into our application and, in the process, they failed to answer our questions.  I’m sure there will still be people who do that, but at least we’re not the ones leading them in that wayward direction.

To capture the Admissions Office’s thoughts on this essay, I decided to crowdsource my post.  Not quite a crowd, actually.  Just a cluster of Admissions pals — Dan, Liz, and Kristen.  I created two lists and noted my own thoughts and then they added theirs.  With these lists in hand, your objective will be to respond thoroughly to the question above, while keeping in mind the likes and dislikes of the Admissions Office application readers.

List 1: Things we like to see in Essay #1

  • The applicant has read the essay instructions (included suggested essay length) and responded to the questions.
  • The applicant’s career goals and objectives for study at Fletcher are clear and easy to find in the essay, not buried in paragraph 11.
  • The applicant has put some thought into why graduate school, why now, and why Fletcher is the best fit.
  • The applicant provides details on why Fletcher is a good match, so that the essay is Fletcher-specific, and doesn’t read like one written for another application.
  • The essay is not just a narrative version of the résumé, but a contextualization of information in the résumé and elsewhere in the application.
  • The essay is well written, with an authentic voice that hasn’t been edited so much that it no longer tells us about the applicant.

List 2: Things we don’t like to see in Essay #1

  • The name of other schools that the applicant has neglected to swap out.
  • Proofreading errors.
  • Essays that start their narrative with the applicant at age six and build slowly from there.
  • Whining about grades or GRE scores.  Save explanations – no whining – for the Additional Information section.
  • Footnotes.  This is not a scholarly paper.  Find another way to incorporate the information you might have put in a footnote.
  • Fancy-shmancy highfalutin vocabulary words that the applicant has just discovered in the thesaurus (and may or may not use correctly).
  • Unnecessary name dropping (which is different from naming one or two Fletcher professors with whom you’d like to work).
  • Getting Fletcher’s name wrong or spelling it incorrectly.  It’s The Fletcher School or The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.  Not The Fletcher School of International Affairs.  And not Flechter.
  • Long quotations from inspiring historical figures.  We know they’re inspiring.  No need to reinforce.
  • Essays that ignore the word count limits.
  • Essays that could be for any school, lacking specifics.
  • Essays that tell us all sorts of stuff we already know about Fletcher, but don’t tell us much at all about you, the applicant.
  • Essays that are, by any standards, inappropriate.  (Sorry, I can’t provide any further details on this one.  You’ll need to trust me, and stick to the topic.)
  • Information that doesn’t jibe with other parts of the application, such as mentioning employers that aren’t listed on the résumé or application.

And that’s it.  The essay likes and dislikes of Liz, Kristen, Dan, and me.  While I hasten to add that most of the essays we read are anywhere from serviceable to terrific, I hope the list will help you avoid any pitfalls.

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Today I want to discuss the Fletcher application’s second essay.  The prospective student who raised the question on my recent survey (keep the suggestions coming!) asked: What are you looking for in the second essay? Are personal experiences and anecdotes welcome, or does it have to be more work-centric?

The first thing I need to say is that we have no special expectation for the content of the essay.  It truly is up to you, just as the essay prompt says:

Essay 2 (500 words maximum, single-spaced, Arial 12 point font)
To help the Committee on Admissions get to know you better, please share an anecdote, or details about an experience or personal interest, that you have not elaborated upon elsewhere in your application.

So my answer is that personal experiences and anecdotes are absolutely welcome.  Your essay does not need to focus on your professional life.

That said…your essay should support your application in some way, adding depth or detail about an aspect of how you meet the basics we seek in our admitted applicants (strong academic potential, relevant international and professional experience, and clear objectives for Fletcher study and future career).  As an example of the different forms this might take, while one strong second essay could discuss the applicant’s international life, another might describe the obstacles that stood in the way of living internationally and what the applicant has done to fill that gap.  Both can make terrific essays.

An essay that goes into detail about a professional experience can be a good way to use the essay space, as it allows you to tell us more than any of the other application questions permit.  But we would be very bored readers, indeed, if every essay focused only on professional experience.

Over the years, we have used many different essay prompts, including “your greatest challenge,” and “something you especially value.”  None of those prompts yielded consistently good essays, and we have instead gone toward the vanilla topic above.  But your response need not be vanilla.  Tell us something interesting and important about you, whether it relates to your work or not, and it will make a good essay.  Just remember that your objective is to use all the different application components (application form, essays, recommendations, transcripts, résumé, interview) to build your case.  Don’t lose the opportunity that the second essay provides.

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Sticking to nitty-gritty admissions subjects today, I want to address a question that came up not in my survey (responses still welcome!) but in yesterday’s online chat.  No one actually asked the question directly, so I’m going to need to frame it myself.  The question:  I’m racing to complete my application before the November 15 Early Notification deadline, and I’m worried that it won’t be as good as it could be.  What should I do?

The Early Notification (EN) deadline serves applicants well in offering them the opportunity to learn before the end of 2015 that they are admitted to Fletcher for the Fall 2016 semester.  Whether they use that information simply to bask in the glow of success or to start serious planning is up to them.  Students who aren’t admitted may be less satisfied with the result, but they can take the information and use it to shape the list of schools to which they’ll apply in January.  In other words, there are plenty of reasons you may want to aim for our Early Notification deadline to kick off your application process.

On the other hand, there is no admissions advantage to applying early.  We look at the EN applications with the same standards and expectations that we will employ in reviewing the applications we receive in January.  So if you are concerned that you will submit a sub-par application, it may be best for you to pass on the EN deadline.  You can still submit your application well before the January deadline, but you don’t need to rush right now.

The exception to the above would be where you are submitting an application you are 100% happy with, but your GRE scores will arrive five days late.  Or one recommendation will arrive a little late.  Or you will be unable to upload your official transcript until November 17.  In those situations, go ahead and submit the application.  It takes us a few days to review each application and mark it as complete, and there will be no penalty for a late recommendation if your high-quality application arrives before the November 15 deadline.

Cutting corners to meet a deadline is something we’re all familiar with from our academic and professional lives.  But shortchanging yourself by doing less than your best when you race for a deadline, knowing there is another equally good deadline two months from now, is something you should think carefully about.

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On Friday, I sought inspiration from blog readers via a one-question survey and, as I had hoped, you delivered.  I now have fresh topics that I know will meet the needs of at least one reader each (and, I hope, more than that).  The first suggested topic I will take on is: Can you discuss the interview for the Fletcher School?  What will it cover and how should we prepare for it?

Let’s start with the basics.  To sign up for an interview, go to our online schedule, where you’ll see available appointments for both on-campus and Skype interviews.  Are you an Early Notification applicant?  So long as you complete your interview by Tuesday, November 24, we will ensure that the interview report will catch up with your application before the application review is complete.  (Yes, we usually recommend interviewing before submitting the application, but you can trust me that this will work.)  I hope that prospective students within about 200 miles will take the time to come to campus (a visit is still much more informative than a Skype interview), but we are excited about the number of locations from which applicants have been able to Skype in.  As I wrote earlier this semester, the Skype interviews have been an experiment, and now I can say that they have been largely successful.  (What hasn’t succeeded?  We’re never going to fix all technology problems, so instead we will make sure everyone’s expectations are in line with internet reality.)

I suppose we shouldn’t have been surprised that the Skype interviews have been very popular.  To accommodate last-minute Early Notification interviewees, I will tweak the calendar this week to add additional Skype interviews for next week and the week after.  If you haven’t been able to book an interview on a day that suits you, check again later this week.

Beyond the basics, then, how should you prepare for your Fletcher interview.  To register for a Skype interview, you will need to upload a résumé.  If you are coming over for an on-campus interview, please remember to bring your résumé with you.  We suggest business casual clothing.  Our student interviewers always appreciate an applicant’s professional approach to the interview appointment.  For further details on what to expect, I’m going to share the information that all interviewees receive once they have scheduled an appointment.  In our confirmation email, we note:


There’s one last important point that I need to emphasize.  Fletcher interviews are offered through December 11.  That is, the last day of the interview schedule falls nearly a month before the application deadline.  We are well aware that other schools/programs do things differently, but if you are interested in a Fletcher interview, now is the time to sign up for one.

I hope this information is helpful to at least the person who requested it.  Keep those suggestions coming on the survey and I’ll respond to as many as I can in the coming weeks.

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