From the monthly archives: February 2008

Suddenly, I’m not short of topic ideas. Today, my inspiration “rises” from the day’s application reading, but you’ll “knead” to work with me. (Sorry…those are puns – not a good choice for a multicultural readership.)

I started my day with a plan in place for today’s reading, including the breaks I’d take. First I ushered the rest of the family out of the house (“see you later, basketball tonight, take a coat, blah, blah”). Then I listened to the silence.

And then I sat down with my pile of files.

Through the day, I took several breaks to prepare and bake some bread. It’s a special braided loaf that I can buy locally, but my own is, well, better than what I can buy, and it’s worth the effort. And that’s where the analogy comes in: the admissions process is like baking bread. Here come the details of the analogy, however labored it may be:

First we mix the dough (assemble the applications). This will be the raw material for the finished loaves, or the admitted class.

Then we let the dough rise (and read the applications).

Then we knead and shape the loaves. In the admissions context, we consider what type of class we can create, given the raw materials that have gone into it. We’ll do some comparing of applications that share similarities, and try to find the best of each group. Of course, the fact that we have admitted one student from Antarctica University doesn’t mean that we won’t admit a second – so we’re really mixing and remixing, comparing and re-comparing, with an eye to a whole lot of different factors.

And, finally, we’ll bake. I’m having trouble with my own analogy here, but I think the admissions equivalent would be making decisions final and sending decision letters.

I realize it’s a weak analogy, but I do like the metaphor of kneading bread and kneading the class. It’s only through that process of working and reworking that we can ensure equity, regardless of which committee members have read an application. Particularly given that we have no firm cut-offs (except for English language ability), we’re always weighing undergrad record, against international experience, against professional experience, against goals and focus, against many other special characteristics. The final kneading falls in large part to Laurie, who faces the yearly challenge of reviewing each application. She has our notes to work with, and there’s a database to rely on, but we still often find her sitting on the floor as she tries to figure out how a certain application compares to a group of others.

And now, I have a blog entry, a completed pile of files, and three small loaves of bread. Not a bad day’s work!

 

I continue to struggle to think of an inspiring topic for the Admissions blog, and it made me wonder if bloggers have claimed their own sub-category of writer’s block. A quick search tells me that they have indeed. In fact, the search revealed several sites with tips to overcome “blogger’s block.” But if I spend too much time learning how to overcome the block, I’ll never post anything. So, for today, I won’t strive for inspiration.

Part of my problem is that it’s just plain old busy at work. And, as often is the case, we have our feet in multiple points of the admissions process. For example, the task that I am delaying right now is to review and revise scholarship application materials for continuing students. Earlier today, I: talked over a few cases with Laurie; received tech support for a problem I had been ignoring for the last couple of weeks; selected cases to discuss at our next Admissions Committee meeting; took care of my email, including questions from applicants who haven’t yet heard, and a few who heard they were admitted last December (Early Notification); passed some materials to Kristen (who I haven’t seen much lately); enlisted current students for help once we have admitted students; talked about scholarship review with Kate; chased down a misplaced transcript with Roxana (the school wrote the applicant’s name backward and we had it filed under her first name — aaarrrgggghhhh); etc., etc.

I’m well aware that the number of tasks is in no way extraordinary — this is, after all, a work place, not a spa — but I find the jumping from task to task inhibits my creativity! Or, anyway, that’s my story/excuse.

As for providing an update on where this year’s admissions process stands, I can say that we are on-track to have decisions out by the end of March. The number of applications that are left to be read is small, and the piles of files whose destiny is determined is large. By the end of this week, we’ll be turning toward scholarship decisions and some clean up work. Which reminds me. My next entry will describe the different decisions that Fletcher offers. At last, inspiration!!

 

In an effort to avoid repeating myself, I haven’t been writing anything at all. That wasn’t the goal, either.

It’s hard to come up with a truly inspiring topic, when the work is much the same week to week. We’re still reading our way through applications, still holding Admissions Committee meetings to discuss applications, and still scrambling to keep up with correspondence and other tasks that need to keep moving, even when there are applications to be read.

I’m working from home today. Most of my morning so far has been spent whittling down a pile of applications. (It’s vaguely satisfying to watch the “to be read” pile go down, and the “have been read” pile go up.) I also caught up on a bit of email that had built up. And then I tried to find a great topic for a blog entry. Sadly, no bright compact fluorescent light bulb has gone off over my head.

But rest assured that the process moves on. It is always our goal to ensure that all applicants have their decision letter in their hand by April 1. Sometimes international mail keeps us from that goal, but you can also access decisions on-line at the end of March. Once we have put everything in the mail, I’ll post an entry to let you know. Stay tuned!

 

At this time of year, I assume that most people looking at our web site or reading the blog are applicants, but there are certainly a lot of others who are in the early stages of their search for grad schools. I’d like to use the blog to help explain some Fletcher admission policies, or even the preferences at work in the process. Many can seem (or even are) very bureaucratic, but a detailed explanation may shed a little light on the thinking behind the bureaucracy.

My first of these entries is to explain why we won’t offer a prediction of a potential applicant’s admissibility based on a super-detailed email or a résumé.

As an example, I’ll describe a prospective student whose application I read this week. This applicant had undergraduate grades well below our preferred range. Test scores weren’t perfect either. But I still believe we should admit him, on the strength of an unusual depth of professional experience.

If that applicant had sent me a description of his background by email, what could I have said? Obviously, without reading the application, my first thought would have been that he was inadmissible. I needed to see the entire application – essays, recommendations, résumé, grades and scores – all together, and in the context of our entire application pool, before I could recommend a decision.

This year, the admissions office has received many emails from prospective applicants who want us to pre-evaluate their prospects. These emails usually contain a great deal of information about the applicant’s past, but there can still never be enough for us to say if someone will be admitted or not, and so we won’t. It would be a disservice to the very person doing the asking.

Naturally, there are many fundamental questions about the readiness of an applicant to apply that we will answer. For example, if your undergraduate degree required only three years of study, you may wonder if you may apply. (Yes.) Or you may ask if an applicant must have an international relations degree to be competitive. (No.) But we can’t offer subjective evaluation. Not even questions such as, “I had a B average — will this hurt my chances of getting admitted?” Of course it will hurt your chances, compared with the same person and an A average! But that still doesn’t mean that admission is impossible.

So…please understand why we can’t, or won’t, answer these requests. So long as you have an undergraduate degree, the only way to know if Fletcher will admit you, is to apply.

 

My son just had his last interview on Saturday. Otherwise, he’s enjoying the quiet period between submitting applications and hearing back. It’s one point in his application year when not stressing is definitely the way to go.

But what about applicants to grad school? Relaxing a bit is well within your rights! After all, once you’re absolutely sure that all materials (test scores, recommendations, transcripts, etc.) have been received by Fletcher and the other schools to which you have applied, there’s not much you can do. The grad schools all have their own processes and you can’t make them go any faster.

But there’s one thing that you can and should do, which is to take any steps necessary to ensure the financial viability of your proposed study. Yes, Fletcher and our peers offer full-tuition scholarships to some of our students. But most APSIA schools are, at best, not routinely waiving tuition for all students. Maybe Fletcher’s admissions committee will consider you to be a top applicant and offer you a sizable scholarship – but you don’t have that information yet. How will you finance your studies if you aren’t offered the level of scholarship assistance for which you had hoped?

So now is the time to save your pennies, ask family members for support, research loan possibilities, and search for external fellowships. If you wait until April, you will have a painfully short time to pull everything together. We see it year after year – otherwise wonderful applicants who have not considered how much it will cost to (among other expenses) move out of their current home, travel to their graduate school, buy a computer and books, rent an apartment, and, of course, pay tuition. There’s no avoiding it – graduate study is an investment, and now is the time to prepare to invest.

 

The Super Bowl — so yesterday’s news. (O.K., the super sad faces around here are definitely today’s news. Congratulations, Giants fans.)

Tomorrow’s news: Super Tuesday! If you are in the U.S. or follow U.S. politics, you can skip to the bottom of this entry. For those of you outside the U.S., I thought I’d mention the excitement that has suddenly joined the campaign for president. Tomorrow, nearly half of the 50 states will hold primary elections to select the Republican and Democratic candidates for the 2008 presidential race. Amazingly, the vote in Massachusetts will be relevant! It has been ages since our primary votes have been meaningful. To underscore this fact, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John McCain have scheduled last minute stops to the state. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney will be following the election results here tomorrow. The pundits expect Super Tuesday to clarify the race to be the Republican nominee, but the Democratic nominee may not be determined until much later in the spring, or even this summer. It’s a great first election for someone like my son, who isn’t old enough to vote tomorrow, but will cast his first vote next November.

Massachusetts is sometimes called the “bluest of blue states,” meaning that we have an unusually high proportion of registered Democrats, and an unusually low proportion of registered Republicans. (On political maps, states tending Republican are colored red, and states leaning Democratic are colored blue.) Check out this page for details for Massachusetts, broken down by county.

As for admissions work, we do that, too, here — in between rooting on our teams and casting our votes. Admissions Committee members are toting applications around, reading them wherever and whenever they can. (Full disclosure, I didn’t watch the whole game last night, and took advantage of the time to read a few applications.) Continue to monitor the progress of your application on-line, and let us know if you have any questions.

 

With all due respect and affection for my family, friends, and former colleagues in the New York-New Jersey area who may be Giants fans, but in support of my family, friends, and colleagues in New England, I devote this blog entry to a single message:

Go Patriots!

18-0! One more to go!

 

Though the pace of visits to Fletcher slows during the early part of the spring, we still welcome you! We’ll be offering an hour-long information session most weeks.

On these Mondays, we’ll offer a session at 12:30 p.m.

February 4

February 11

February 25

March 3

March 10

March 24

March 31

April 7

And, on these two Thursdays, we’ll offer a session (followed by a student social hour) at 4:30 p.m.

April 10

April 24

To attend, please call the office or send us an email.


 

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