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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