From the monthly archives: July 2008

Back in the early spring, an unusual bout of muddle-headedness afflicted my usually clear-headed daughter Kayla. She was choosing the classes she will take in her first year of high school, and she couldn’t decide which language to choose. So far, she has had a couple of years of French study, and an exposure to Italian. Her first plan was to switch to Spanish. (“Sounds good,” said her mother. “Spanish is so useful for Americans, and you’ll easily pick it up because of your knowledge of French and Italian.”) A few days later, she wavered. Maybe she would stick with French. (“Also a good choice. French is spoken in so many different countries, including Canada,” said her mother.) Days pass. More wavering.

This went on for about two weeks until the day she came home with her head completely cleared. “I figured out which language to study.” “Which one — French or Spanish?” asked her unsuspecting mother. “Neither. I’m going to take Chinese.”

Huh? Where did that come from? Kayla patiently explained that nearly two billion people speak Chinese, and more Americans should learn it. And, in fact, she was preaching to the choir. I studied Mandarin in college, and lived in Beijing for two years, though I also studied Spanish (in high school) and French (high school and a semester in college). My husband and I took Kayla and her brother to China three years ago, and both of them picked up a few phrases. So, Chinese it is. I’m really excited about her choice, and I’m looking forward to dusting off some of my skills.

Just as our town’s high school has added languages that go beyond the traditional Eurocentric offerings, more and more Fletcher students have decided to study languages that were rarely pursued by applicants when I first started to work in Admissions. In recent years, for example, the number of applicants who list Arabic as their second language has grown enormously. And we see a great number of Mandarin speakers, as well as students who have been drawn toward in-the-news regional languages, such as Pashto. It hasn’t been a gradual change, either. More of a seismic shift. No longer is there only one non-native speaker of Arabic or Mandarin — instead, we will have business-related classes offered in those languages to native and non-native speakers alike. Quite a change from the days when language study in the U.S. was largely limited to French, Spanish, and maybe one other option!


After my last post, I was asked about the personal statement for the application (which currently is unavailable on-line, while we update it). Here’s the question we ask our applicants:

Why are you interested in studying at The Fletcher School? Describe your career objectives, and explain how graduate study at Fletcher will help you achieve your professional goals. If you are planning to pursue a joint degree, please be sure to address this interest in your personal statement.

In addition, all applicants are asked to submit a supplemental essay. The two options from which they can choose are:

· Share something about yourself to help the Admissions Committee develop a more complete picture of who you are.

· Describe a situation in which you have influenced the views of a person or group. What was the impact of your persuasion?

Hope that’s helpful for your planning and preparation!


Yes, it’s only July. Yes, it’s true that we should be able to rest our brains in the summer. Yes, I agree that heat and humidity are not conducive to productivity. But if you’re planning to apply to graduate school for January or September 2009 entry, it’s time to start thinking. Fletcher’s application deadline for January enrollment in the MALD program is October 15, less than three months away. And the Early Notification deadline for MALD, MIB, MA, and LLM September enrollment is only one month later. So what are you waiting for?

Now’s the time to: craft an interesting and informative personal statement; line up your recommendations; take standardized exams (GRE or GMAT, and/or TOEFL or IELTS) and ensure that scores will be sent to all the schools to which you’ll apply; explore external fellowships and other sources of funds that will enable you to afford graduate study; request transcripts (or at least find out the request procedure) from all the colleges or universities you attended; polish up your résumé, with the aim of transmitting the maximum information in the least possible space. And, of course, you want to be making good progress in refining the list of graduate schools to which you’ll apply.

“Long-time” readers of the Fletcher admissions blog know that my son went through the college admissions process this past year. Smartest thing he did was to write his essays last summer. It’s a good strategy at the grad school level, as well. No matter whether you’re a college senior, a Peace Corps volunteer in a remote location, or a young professional in a demanding job, you’ll improve your results if you get a start on writing your essays while you have time to think — ahead of the pressures of application deadlines.

Which leads to the application itself. We make revisions to our application each summer. The new application will be up and accessible from the website by mid-August. But I can tell you now that the personal statement topic has not been changed. So why not get started on it?

Finally, yet another reminder to schedule your interview appointment (if you plan to participate in one) as soon as possible. Beat the rush and send us a request now.

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If you have a blog, you already know about the amazing blog-spamming industry. The Admissions blog has a really good spam blocker, so the spam doesn’t eat up much of my time. Every few days, I just hit delete and away they go. But before I delete, I often have a laugh at the collection of comments. Lined up together, they’re funny! And true blog readers rarely comment (hint, hint), so it isn’t like I frequently have a chance to review relevant content. Today, with summer admissions news still slow, I thought I’d share some of my favorite spam comments.

First, there are the comments that arrive in series, including this one by the fictional (I assume) James Kryten.

Hi! I am thoroughly impressed with your knowledge of Chinese New Year. Your insights into this article about Chinese New Year was well worth the time to read it. Signed James Kryten on this Day Monday.

I don’t remember writing about Chinese New Year but, well, whatever. James is a devoted, if somewhat baffling reader, who also commented on Negotiation/this Day Thursday, Basketball/this day Friday, and New York Post/this Day Saturday. This week I had a message from Megan (this day Monday) who liked my post on Environment. Perhaps there’s a community of people out there who use archaic phrase construction like “this day Monday.”

Then there were the Holy messages that came in daily for a few weeks, such as:

Hey!…Man i just love your blog, keep the cool posts about Summer Reading List comin.. Holy Thursday.

On another theme, there are spammer/readers who find the admissions blog confusing, or useful for reasons other than what I had might have expected, such as these:

I read similar article also named Distractions, and it was completely different. Personally, I agree with you more, because this article makes a little bit more sense for me.

Howdy Guru, what made you want to write on Film Festival? I was wondering, because I have been thinking about this since last Friday.

Found your blog on yahoo – thanks for the article but i still don’t get it.

Hmm, interesting, but I’m not sure if I can agree with you 100%.

I don’t mean to be too in your face, but I’m not sure I agree with this. Anyhow, thanks for sharing and I think I’ll come to this blog more often.

And my real favorites, the mysterious greetings or philosophies of unknown writers:

Zipper is a popular device for temporarily joining two edges of fabric.

Congratulations on a wicked blog about search. More power to your elbow.

Emptying my spam folder will continue to be a brief source of amusement. I look forward to more substantive comments, too! I encourage you to send questions or to suggest admissions topics that could use clarification or elucidation. And may I say: More power to your elbow!


Fletcher’s Summer School ended a few weeks back so nearly everyone who walks through the building is a member of the staff. Besides the occasional professor, the exceptions are several small groups of students in special programs — one for women from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, one for Critical National Infrastructure Authority officials from UAE, and the third for Armenian Lawyers from Yerevan. I see the students in the library, but there’s not the same level of activity in the Hall of Flags as I’d expect on a normal fall, spring, or winter day. (Check out this newspaper report on the program for Saudi women, and this Fletcher account of last summer’s programs.)

I’ve been keeping an eye out for professors who haven’t yet provided book recommendations. At a reception last week for the special summer students, I thought I had my golden opportunity — but then I saw that all the attending professors had previously provided suggestions. Must remember, next summer, to ask them before they scatter in June! Meanwhile, though, I have a few books to add to your list. (Once again, I’ll mention that these are not required reading. Just suggestions in case you’re looking for a Fletcher-ish book to take to the beach.)

The first pick comes from Prof. Block, who offers several suggestions in his field of development economics: Common Wealth: Economics for a Crowded Planet, by Jeffrey D. Sachs; and One Economics, Many Recipes: Globalization, Institutions, and Economic Growth by Dani Rodrik. He also mentioned The Bottom Billion, by Paul Collier, which Prof. Uvin had previously picked. Now we know that economists would agree with Prof. Uvin’s assessment.

While I was searching high and low for professors to provide book choices, Prof. Aucoin had the poor fortune to cross my path. After I aggressively demanded his recommendation, he suggested Jane Stromseth’s Can Might Make Rights: Building the Rule of Law After Military Interventions.

And, I actually have a few books to suggest from the business faculty. If you are entering the MIB program this fall, you already received these suggestions. For everyone else with an international business interest, besides other more specialized books, the professors recommend Billions of Entrepreneurs: How China and India Are Reshaping Their Futures–and Yours, by Tarun Khanna, and The Panic of 1907: Lessons Learned from the Market’s Perfect Storm by Robert F. Bruner and Sean D. Carr, which sounds like it could be valuable reading for anyone watching the economy right now.

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Back in April, I shared the story of two incoming students who are planning a pre-Fletcher adventure. Jessie has kept me up to date via email, and today she shared this update:

  • Three days from now I’ll be on a plane to London where Aparna, Doug and I will begin what is sure to be an incredible adventure.
  • Aparna is already in London and “met” our car today! Steve, our newfound mechanically inclined friend was there to show Aparna the basics about our rig. We will all be meeting with Steve next week and will get to see all the awesome modifications he has made to his old car. We are now figuring out car insurance … what a pain!
  • So far, we are the TOP fundraisers out of all the Africa Rally! Although our fundraising has not ended, as of today we have raised more for charity than any other team in the rally, with a total of $3,400 for Send A Cow!! If you haven’t donated there is still time … !
  • In the next day or so we will have a link on our Route page, which will take you to a map of our “current” location as we travel! Using our SPOT messenger, we look forward to giving real-time updates of our whereabouts!

You can read about the team and more details on their website. Good luck team!


This past winter, I was suffering from “blogger’s block.” I don’t feel blocked at the moment, but the summer work of the Admissions Office doesn’t always lend itself to fascinating posts. Here’s some of the stuff we’re working on: arranging fall travel; revising published materials; reorganizing the admissions web site to make it easier to find degree-specific information; checking in with incoming students who have been asked to pursue language study during the summer; cleaning out files; and just organizing everything so we’re good to go when the pace picks up in September.

One thing we’re not working on at the moment is the Wait List. We’re carefully watching enrollments, but we have not admitted anyone during the last month. Although the class size seems to be holding steady, there’s still the possibility that we will draw from the wait list, particularly in the next few weeks. I should mention that every wait listed applicant will ultimately receive a final decision.

Matching the slower pace is lighter staffing. We don’t have our crew of student workers, though we have a couple of people helping out. And staff members come and go — taking vacations (including a honeymoon for Kate) or just a day off here and there. Admissions people tend not to take much vacation time between September and May, and we’re lucky to have a day when everyone is in the office in the summer.

I’ve been chasing down more book recommendations from the professors, and I hope to post a new list soon. I’ll also continue to write a little of this and a little of that to keep readers informed about our activities. Like the work pace, the writing pace will pick up in September.


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