From the monthly archives: September 2008

Those of you interested in January 2009 enrollment should have your eye on the calendar.  Applications for future “Januarians” are due October 15.  The Admissions Committee works with a very tight time-frame for January applicants, so you need to be sure that all materials arrive by the deadline.  Admissions decisions will be made and mailed in November.

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Fletcher’s on-line application provides a section where you can include “Additional Information.”  Applicants to the PhD program (who need to answer extra questions) are given specific instructions on what to put there, but it’s wide open for everyone else.  So what, if anything, might you include?

The first thing I’d say is that you should look at your two essays and the additional information section together, and figure out what belongs where.  The personal statement needs to describe your academic and professional goals.  The second essay gives you a chance to tell us something special about you.  Something about your experience, maybe, or about your hobbies or travel or family.  Something specific or general, but not specifically about your application to Fletcher.

So the additional information section, and not the second essay, is the place to tell us that your test scores may arrive late, that you went to a university that only provides one transcript copy to its alums, that your workplace doesn’t know you plan to leave for graduate school and you can’t get a professional recommendation from your supervisor, etc., etc.  And, more significantly, it’s the place to tell us about the illness that resulted in poor grades in your junior year, or the illness that led to a premature conclusion to your Peace Corps service.  The place, in short, to tell us the things that don’t fit elsewhere in your application, and that are important for us to know.  I’m not encouraging whining.  (No additional information sections on why you scored 600 rather than 610 on the GRE verbal section!!)  But you’ll be doing all of us a favor if you simply answer the question that you know will arise.  Picture the Admissions Committee sitting around the table.  If you can see us asking, “What on earth happened to this applicant in his junior year?”, then give us the answer.  Don’t make us guess.

All of this is to say, make sure we learn what we need to know about you.  We give you precious little space to tell us everything, but if you think carefully about how to use the space, you’ll be able to put together an application that serves you well in the admissions process.

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We’ve been using an on-line application for a bunch of years now.  In the early years, many applicants still used a paper application, but nearly no one does anymore.  (In fact, I don’t think I read any paper “apps” last year.  The experience tends to stick in our minds because it’s so uncommon.  Rarer still are hand-written application forms.  I can’t say I’m sorry to see them go!)

Sadly, that doesn’t mean we’ve gone paperless, and there’s still a steady flow of mail to the office and documents on the printer.  We’re trying, though, and even if we can’t rid our office of paper-based processes, we use far fewer mailings to reach out to our applicants than we did in the past.  Of course, until applicants actually apply, we need to count on them to provide an email address, but that’s no different than the need for a mailing address in the past.  (If you want to receive up-to-the-minute information on Fletcher and Admissions, make sure you have connected with us.)

Even much of our summer correspondence with incoming students was via email or the web site.  That marked a real change from past years, and I think our highly-mobile student body appreciated the flexibility that electronic transmission provides.

And where we might not succeed in ridding the office of paper, we’ve also become aware of the impact of Admissions travel on the environment.  If you go to our travel page, you’ll see our message that, “Carbon emissions from Admissions Office Admissions travel have been offset through Native Energy.” Carbon offsets may be an imperfect way to confront the impact that we all have on the environment, but it’s certainly one positive step that an office can take.


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Hey, new readers of the blog!  Have you noticed that there’s a Category (link on the left side of the page) that collects the Admissions Tips we’ve handed out in the last year?  If not, give it a click.  Today, Kristen (with help from Roxana) provides a suggestion on how not to communicate with us.

LOL. we r not doing that when u write 2 us like we r ur bff.  i like my job, but i also like good grammar.

Forgive me if I’m not using proper IM-speak here, but I’m a generation too old to be fluent. In Admissions, we certainly understand that time is of the essence when you are balancing grad school applications, jobs, and other activities. Emails that are short and sweet are appreciated. Emails that are legible and professional are appreciated even more. Fletcher is a professional school, and when we assess your candidacy, we are also considering your potential to succeed in the job market.

Many of you are perfectly professional in your correspondence with us, but others are…ahem…a tad informal. While you may find proper grammar irrelevant, from our end it’s much appreciated, along with capitalization and, in particular, fully spelled-out words.

For your own sake, remember that one of your emails might just end up in your application file.

Thx 4 reading! C u L8ter 😉

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Our full schedule of student-led interviews starts on Monday.  I’m excited that we have a battalion of volunteers and they will be BUSY!  Nearly all appointments on Mondays and Fridays are already taken through mid-October, and the middles of the weeks are filling in, too.  (Don’t wait too long to contact us to arrange your appointment, if you plan to interview!)

Which leads me to a story.

For a couple of years, before the Admissions Office moved into its current location, I shared space with another Fletcher staffer.  She was in the office first, and in addition to the usual supplies, computer equipment, etc., the office was equipped with a life-sized “stand-up cutout” of Elvis Presley.  You know what I mean — the kind of big photo you could stand near, and if your friend took a picture it would look like you and Elvis had been chillin’ together.  If, you know, he were still on this Earth.

This office space was very long and narrow, so when I conducted admissions interviews, I used to sit in my desk chair with the windows and Elvis behind me, and the interviewee facing the windows (and Elvis) with his/her back to the door.  For about a year, I never thought about Elvis and none of the applicants I interviewed ever mentioned him.  Until one day, when one bold interviewee asked me why the King was hanging out in Admissions.  Which made me think how strange it was that no one else had ever asked about Elvis.

Which led me to look into a psychology study that I had previously heard about.  The topic of the study was “selective attention.”  You can read about the study, or watch the video that was used in it.  But the upshot is that when people are focused on a task, it’s easy for them to fail to notice something that could distract them from the task.  Even a gorilla.  Or Elvis.

And that, in turn, helped me understand what admissions interviews can be like for our applicants.  We know that interviewees are often nervous, stressed, or hyper-focused.  So our interviewers, both staff and students, try to create a relaxed atmosphere that won’t heighten applicants’ anxiety.  We think we’re doing a pretty good job.  If only we had Elvis around to tell us if we’re succeeding!


I had fun at the Idealist grad school fair in New York last Wednesday.  I talked myself hoarse, but the fast pace is energizing, as is meeting so many people committed to public service.  At any fair, regardless of the organizers, the questions we’re asked will span a broad spectrum, ranging from “What is Fletcher?” to “Exactly which courses are included in your International Environment and Resource Policy Field?”  Certain questions become the theme of the evening, and I’m going to pluck out two to answer here.  I’ve probably answered them before in the blog, but it never hurts to put the information up for a new year’s applicants.

The first:  How important are GRE/GMAT scores in Fletcher’s admissions process?  I try to be careful in answering this question.  I want applicants to know that Fletcher’s use of test scores may be different from that of other schools.  And, it’s both obvious and fair to say that higher scores are always better than lower scores.  But…Fletcher takes a broad look at each applicant’s credentials, with emphasis on academic potential, professional and international experience, and clarity of professional and academic goals.  The test scores are one component of the academic profile, along with results for undergraduate or post-graduate study and professors’ recommendations.  We use GRE/GMAT scores to help us interpret the other information, and there is no cut-off on any section.  I don’t recommend repeated re-testing.  Unless an applicant is sure that the first test results are not representative of his/her ability, re-testing will likely yield similar results.  Ask yourself what the basis is for thinking you’ll do better.  If, for example, you were sick on the day you took the exam, then go ahead and take it again.

The second question that defined the evening was:  What is the minimum amount of professional experience to make an applicant competitive in the admissions process?  Again, there’s no firm answer, and no absolute minimum.  But Fletcher students will tell you that their pre-Fletcher work experience has helped them to contribute to the community, both in and out of the classroom.  That said, a little experience accompanied by crystal-clear goals may be better than years of experience and a personal statement along the lines of “I’m not sure what I want to do, and I hope grad school will tell me.”  We will be looking to see that your goals are rooted in your experience, but successful applicants present so many different pre-Fletcher profiles that we can’t provide a prescription for admission.

So, what do these fuzzy answers tell you?  That Fletcher takes a holistic look at each applicant.  Incredibly strong credentials in one area can outweigh modest credentials in another. The bottom line is that every admitted applicant needs to be able to succeed academically.


There are lots of student clubs and activities at Fletcher, but there’s one that tops the list in terms of accessibility to visitors.  “Perspectives” is the student-developed and run organization that provides an outlet for the abundant (but not always classwork-relevant) creativity of the community.  Students and staff are invited to submit photography portfolios which, if selected, are given professional treatment.  They’re ultimately featured on the web site, but are exhibited first in an area of the Ginn Library.  I always highlight the “Perspectives” gallery when I give a tour to visitors.  We even have some prints in the Admissions Office.  (Yes!  They’re for sale, and the proceeds are donated to charity.)

This morning, the “Perspectives” staff put out the word for new photography, and I’m looking forward to seeing what this year’s students put forth.


It’s amazing how quickly it feels like summer never happened.  Fletcher is so busy!  My office shares a wall with the Hall of Flags, and I can hear students meeting, greeting, and shuffling up the stairs to ASEAN Auditorium all day.

Two of us will start the admissions travel season next week.  I’m generally the most office-rooted member of the staff, but I’ll be in NY for an Idealist Grad School Fair on Wednesday.  Peter’s heading much further afield — to South America for APSIA Fairs in Quito, Bogota, and Lima.  Everyone else will soon be packing up clothing and brochures and heading to destinations near and far.

And now is a good time for applicants to get their own process underway.  (Even those of you still undecided on whether to apply this year!)  Here are some things you can/should do:

*Connect with us so that we can send you brochures, updates on events near you, and dates to join us for on-line chat sessions.

*Come visit!  Attend an information session, sit in on a class, or participate in an evaluative interview.  Interviews are a really useful aspect of the admissions process, and I strongly encourage applicants to participate in one (though those who can’t make the trip are at no disadvantage).  A quick check of the interview schedule tells me that some days are already near-to-full, though generally there are appointments available on just about any day you might need one.

*Check our travel calendar and find out if we will be visiting you!

And keep these dates in mind:

*October 15:  Deadline for applications for January enrollment in the MALD program.

*November 15:  Early Notification deadline for MALD, MA, MIB, and LLM programs.

*January 1:  Application deadline for PhD program.

*January 15:  Regular Deadline for applications to MALD, MA, MIB, and LLM programs.

Now’s a good time to set a date for your standardized tests, and to line up your recommenders.

As always, contact us if you have questions!


Fletcher students are back, and today marks the kick-off of the 2008-2009 year for admissions, too.  While the students are busy with Shopping Day (no eco-friendly carrier bags required — Shopping Day is a chance to sample classes, not products), we’re looking at travel, interviews, and all the things we do to ensure a smooth admissions cycle.

Throughout the coming months, I will be posting information that I hope prospective Fletcher students will find useful.  Scattered among our tales of travel and reading days will be updates on the admissions process, as well as tips that may make your journey through Fletcher’s application a little easier.

The first tip is to send us your questions!  Whether you email or phone (+617.627.3040), we’re here to provide answers.


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