From the monthly archives: May 2007
Commencement takes place on Sunday. It’s actually a full weekend of activities for graduating students and their families: a clambake on Friday, Class Day address by Nobel Laureate Dr. Shirin Ebadi on Saturday, Tufts University and Fletcher ceremonies on Sunday. Not to mention this week’s “Dis-Orientation” activities (a week of student-led events, parallel to, and yet very different from, the administration-led Orientation that new students attend before starting classes).
For those of us who never get to graduate, it’s a bittersweet time. We need to say farewell to our favorite students. This year’s version, anyway. I have a few favorites in every graduating class, and while I celebrate their success with them, I’m sorry to see them move on.
All of us in Admissions count the students who hang out here among our favorites. Bernie, Katy, Alexis, and Jason have been admissions office stalwarts, conducting interviews, holding down student jobs, running information sessions, and serving as student members of the admissions committee.
Among other favorites are some I met through the admissions process. My first interaction with Abdul took place at a reception for admitted students in New York. His enthusiasm for the start of his graduate studies was extraordinary and contagious. As it happens, I haven’t had all that much contact with him during his two years at Fletcher, but it has been very gratifying to see how his enthusiasm has played out – especially in his role as an active member of the Student Council.
Then there’s our dynamic Sri Lankan duo: Sudila and Nirmalan. In fact, Nirmalan graduated last May, but we were spared from saying good-bye thanks to his admission to the PhD program. This spring he’ll complete his comprehensive exams and return to his legal work in Sri Lanka. Sudila does graduate this May, though he’ll be working in the Boston area and we hope he’ll visit now and then.
I “met” both Sudila and Nirmalan before they arrived, but not through the admissions process itself. Instead, I handled some of their many post-admission questions. Nirmalan sent so many emails, in the summer before he enrolled, that his application file barely made it back into its alphabetic place before I needed to take it out again. Besides the details of preparing for graduate study, he was attending to less academic issues, such as his wedding. Sudila was admitted after submitting an Early Notification application. He and I were first in email contact when he asked if the school had expertise that might be helpful in his work following the tsunami in December 2004. I made some inquiries and was able to put him in touch with someone at the Feinstein International Center. Together they have made Sri Lanka a very visible island on our mental maps of the world.
Jason and Abdul will give the student commencement addresses. I plan to be there to see what they have to say, and to watch the joyful celebration of achievement that commencement represents. I’ll miss my favorite students, those named above and others in the class of 2007, but I still have favorites among the returning students, and there will be new favorites who start their studies in September. I’ll count on them to make their mark at Fletcher next year, to hang out in the Admissions Office, to learn a lot, and then move on.
Last week we sat down to review our application. Are we getting the information we want? How can we make our questions clearer? Are we causing our applicants to waste time filling in answers we don’t really use?
We gave special attention to the essay questions. At any level, the essays are the most challenging part of an application. When our new application is posted, you’ll see that the first essay – the personal statement – hasn’t changed much. We still want to know what our applicants plan to do after Fletcher, and how their graduate study will help them get there.
We played a bit more with the second question. We wanted something new. Our applicants generally write these essays only once, but we read responses to “Describe a challenge you have faced” dozens of times each year, and we have used the same question for several years. What to ask instead?
We went back to our goals for the second essay. While answers to the personal statement should be essentially forward looking, the second essay gives applicants a chance to talk about the future, the present, or the past. Our hope is that the second essay will “flesh out” the applicant – will tell us something that helps us see him or her in the context of the Fletcher community. There’s no right answer to any essay question. (In the past, our application had the question, “Describe an object with which you would like to be photographed, and tell why.” The well-intentioned attempts to give us the answer we “wanted” included a majority of photographs with a backpack, hiking shoes, a passport, or a bookcase filled with international relations materials. Ugh.) Applicants should write about themselves, not about some version of themselves that they think Fletcher admissions would like to meet (if only because we’re not that predictable).
I won’t reveal our new questions just yet. Better to wait until the new application is up and running. I can say, though, that applicants will have a bit more space to share their goals and stories. We’ve increased the word limits – but also will provide a type-size recommendation. Applicants can write a little extra, but we can save our eyesight.
As we head into the fall, we hope to put some application “tips” up in this area of the web site. Stay tuned!
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