From the monthly archives: December 2008

My son Josh, to whose college application process I occasionally referred last year, is home from school.  It’s great to have him around, and it’s also great to see his friends, who tend to show up whenever he’s in the house.  There were fourteen 18-year-old boys hanging around my living room on Saturday, playing poker and video games, eating pizza, and generally enjoying their reunion.

I had a chance to ask a number of the boys how they enjoyed their first semester of college, and the early reviews are pretty positive.  But nearly all of them described a challenge they faced — first-year chemistry; a busy class schedule; keeping up with reading throughout the semester, rather than just before exams; dormitory living; uninspiring teachers for entry-level courses; etc.  Clearly, they’re all hoping that the fall was their stepping stone to greater success in the later years of their education.

And how about you, blog reader?  Do you cringe just a bit when you look at the grades from your first semester or two?  Depending on how much you cringe, you may want to provide a little explanation in your application.  A sentence or two (no whining, please!) in the “additional information” section of the application (not in one of the required essays) could be just what you need.  Acknowledge your challenge, and, if possible, point us toward information that redirects our focus away from the lower grades.  For example:  “Although I did not do well in calculus in my first semester at XYZ University, I would like to point to the A’s I received in micro and macro economics, as well as the strong score I received on the quantitative portion of the GRE.”  Or:  “I found the transition to university life to be difficult and my first-year grades were disappointing to me.  I hope the Committee on Admissions will note the strong grades I received in my last three years of study.”

With two simple sentences, you help the Committee to understand a shortcoming in your application, and move on.  Sometimes I have the feeling that the applicant is thinking, “If I just bury my head in the sand, no one will notice that I have a low GPA.”  Sorry…we notice.  That’s our job.  So help us out, and don’t make us guess what was going on.

Schedule notes: PhD applications are due January 1.  The regular deadline for all other programs is January 15.  Please note that the University (including our office) will be closed on December 24, December 25, December 26, January 1, and January 2.

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If you were to sit in on my admissions interviews and compile data on the questions I’m asked, you would assume that the second-year MALD class is a mere skeleton of its first-year self.  Everyone, you would guess, is off at an exchange program.

Fletcher offers some really great exchange (study abroad) opportunities, and the list has grown in recent years.  The School believes that graduate study in a new environment can be an excellent component of a Fletcher education.

Before starting their studies, many applicants and students inquire about exchange opportunities.  When they are in their first year at Fletcher, though, a smaller number goes ahead with an application to spend a semester at one of our partner institutions.  This is a perfect situation!  The students who are most interested in an exchange program are able to fill the available places.  Others will remain within the Fletcher community, and take advantage of all we have here.

So check out our exchange opportunities — one of them might be right for you!  But don’t fear that, if you don’t pursue an exchange, you will be one of the few left behind — you’ll have plenty of company right here.

 

Whether you call it fútbol, football, zuqiu. or soccer, you’ll be glad to know that student life at Fletcher doesn’t call for 24/7 library confinement.  Indeed sports opportunities abound!  Students join together to hike the trails, spike the volleyball, and ski the slopes.  But here, Fútbol stalwart and first-year MALD student, Greg Bertleff, recruits for his team.

Fletcher Fútbol is a co-ed group of soccer players focused on having fun while playing competitively.  Against any opponent, we bring a global presence to the field, with players from multiple countries, and team chatter in various languages.

We usually play a game each week, and league play pits us against Boston-area rivals including Harvard Business School, the Kennedy School of Government, Brandeis, and others.  We also take part in intramural competitions against teams from throughout Tufts University.  This year, we participated in the Thai King’s Cup Tournament (Tufts version), and in the semi-finals we took the undergraduate varsity team to overtime!  Not a bad accomplishment for a bunch of has-beens!

Fletcher Fútbol just started our indoor season, which will give us somewhere to run around until spring comes along.  At times it can be hard to put away the books for an hour or two, but we usually welcome the much-needed break from our studies.  Finally, with a lot of players graduating in May, we’ll definitely be looking for some fresh legs to keep us going!

During our on-line chats earlier this week, we were asked several times about the preferred format for the résumé that applicants include with their application.  And to be honest, while we do leave the choice of format to the applicant, we readers certainly have preferences.  Here are some of mine, along with those of my résumé-reading Admissions pals.

First, the role of the résumé in the Fletcher application is to provide a relatively complete chronological account of work and academic experience.  Though the application form has questions that touch on these topics, your résumé is the place to provide detail and dates.

Second, everyone in this office would agree that there’s only very rarely a need for a résumé running more than three pages.  Constructing a résumé is an exercise in synthesis.  There’s an art to transmitting significant amounts of information in a small space, and I don’t mean that you should resort to teeny-weeny type size!

To help you out, here are some categories of information that are not relevant to your Fletcher application:

1.  As Roxana puts it:  “Do not list activities you did in high school.”  The only exceptions I can think of would be study abroad/exchange years, or if you win a national prize of very high stature.  There aren’t too many awards like that in the U.S., so the award you’re thinking of probably doesn’t fit the bill.  And the few relevant high school notes should be included with “Additional Information” at the end of the résumé.

2.  All the different articles you have written for college publications.  Simmer them all down to a single line within the academic portion of the résumé.  Please don’t provide the name of every article.  For that matter, even professional publications don’t need to be listed individually.  It isn’t that we don’t value writing — it’s that you can transmit the information, that you write for op-ed pages or journals, without listing every article.  Pick out the most recent pieces, or the most relevant, or the ones written for the most prestigious publications.  If you have written any published books, certainly include those titles.

3.  Every single award you received as an undergrad.  Stick to the prestigious ones.

4.  Every meeting of Model UN you attended.  Boil them down to a statement in the academic notes.

5.  Work experience of very short duration or involving very few hours per week.  If you have several such jobs, group them together somewhere.

I think the overall message here is that listing every iteration of an experience takes up tons of paper, but tells us little.  Make sure you’re using the space effectively!

And here’s the answer to a question that may not have occurred to you:  Yes, if you were working as a barista, camp counselor, wilderness guide, or computer sales person to save money while searching for work or before entering the Peace Corps, you should probably include that information somewhere.  Particularly if it will help to explain an extended gap in your chronology.  You don’t need to go into detail, but sometimes info on a pay-the-bills type job is much more helpful than leaving an extended gap unexplained.  On the other hand, if you have a part-time irrelevant job at night while working days at a relevant internship, feel free to omit details about the part-time job.

Here are a few last notes from the office.  Liz says, “Don’t lie or make stuff up.  It’ll come back to get you.”  Oh, yes.  It will.

Laurie says, “The résumés for the application can be longer than job résumés, and should include items such as travel and skills.  The dates should be clear and the order should be chronological.  Spell out acronyms.  Be descriptive.  Label sections clearly.”  (Note:  Job résumés in the U.S. are one to two pages!  When Laurie says “longer,” she means two to three pages.  Not twelve.)

I hope these tips will help get you started as you shape your résumés.  When you have completed your first draft (remember — these are works of synthesis and synthesis takes time…and editing), take a step back and ask yourself the question:  Will they easily be able to see what I have done, and when/where I have done it?  If not, try again.  I can tell you that it’s very frustrating when the Admissions Committee needs to spend time figuring out your chronology.  You don’t want your application readers to be frustrated.  Make us happy with a clear résumé, of three pages or less!

P.S.  Weren’t invited to the chat but want to participate in the future?  Make sure you have connected with us!

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Bring together a few hundred similarly aged individuals with similar interests, and the result: Fletcher Couples. Some are relatively well known, such as Winston Lord and Bette Bao Lord (both from the Fletcher class of 1960), or Alice and Thomas Pickering (Fletcher class of 1954), but others travel forth, outside of the limelight, balancing two international careers and all that follows, including offspring.

I’ve recently been in touch with two Fletcher couples from my earlier pre-Admissions Fletcher career. Their news has started me thinking about the children of Fletcher grads, and about raising a new internationally minded generation.

The first of the couples is Laura Conti ‘92 and Mark Montgomery MALD’90, PhD’92. Laura and Mark took the standard Fletcher route from Medford/Somerville to their current lives as educators in Denver, Colorado – that is, through Hong Kong and Washington, DC. Thinking the time has come to give their sons Nathan and Theo a sense of the world, they arranged this year for Laura to teach English at a school in Ensenada, Mexico. The boys, and occasionally Mark or Laura, are documenting their adventure on their blog. Many of us can easily relate to the boys’ stories about life in a new language environment! With the ongoing challenges of balancing two careers, Laura is generally running the show, and Mark is commuting when possible from Denver.

Currently sharing an address in New York (having previously endured a bicoastal marriage), Charles Scott ’94 and Eiko Ikegaya ’94 are balancing the demands of their careers at Intel (Charlie) and the United Nations (Eiko) with plans for an adventure of their own.  More precisely, next summer, Charlie will combine his love of motion and his interest in Eiko’s homeland with a father-son bike ride across the length of Japan, a 2,000-mile adventure that will take around two months to complete.  He and his son, Sho, will be riding attached bicycles, while Eiko and their daughter, Saya, will drive a support vehicle for the first week of the journey.  Charlie is planning to keep a blog of his adventures at www.japanbikeride.com, where you can already read details of their itinerary and preparation.

Though we don’t know where life will take Nathan, Theo, Sho, and Saya in the future, we can certainly guess that they’re likely to be comfortable in at least two languages and two cultures. Ten years from now, maybe the first of them will build on their early international experiences (and follow in their parents’ footsteps) with graduate study at Fletcher.

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I know I said this last year, but I’m going to say it again for this year’s applicants:  you don’t need to wait until the application deadline to submit your materials.  The deadline, after all, refers to the final date on which you can submit your application.  Waiting until the last minute means that any problems you encounter may not be solvable in time.

I certainly encourage you to take the time you need to write your essays, but I suggest that you aim to press the submit button a reasonable period in front of the deadline.  And, you should already have nagged your recommenders, taken your standardized tests, etc.

The first of the upcoming deadlines is January 1 for PhD applicants.  If you’re one of these prospective students, you should also take into consideration the time it will take for your thesis to reach us by mail.  Please don’t hold those supporting materials until the last minute — you’ll want to give us the time we need to review your application carefully.

Everyone else has at least until January 15 but, as I’ll say each year, don’t wait until the last minute!

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Reading applications is solitary work.  We take a stack from a box, read them, and put them into a different box.  If I’m the first reader of an application, I won’t know what the second reader thought.  If I’m the second reader, I can see the notes of the first reader, but rarely have a chance to discuss the applicant.  Until, that is, we meet as a Committee.

The Committee on Admissions and Scholarships includes the office staff, three professors, and seven current students.  We review all the applications for the MALD and MA programs, which are the great majority of the applications Fletcher receives.  MIB applications are reviewed by a smaller but similarly constructed committee.  Prospective LLMers are considered law-school style — by the full LLM faculty.  And PhD applications take a long and winding road through the School before decisions on them are made by a committee of faculty and staff.  But, as I said, most applicants will be making their case to the Committee on Admissions.

We have our first meeting of the year tomorrow, and I’m really looking forward to it!  We all know each other, but the annual Committee process starts by establishing new relationships among all the different participants.  The student-professor relationship around the Committee table is particularly different from the one that exists in a classroom.

For EN applicants, this means we are starting the final phase of the review process.  Most applications have already been reviewed by two readers, but no final decisions have yet been made.  During the next three weeks, we will complete discussion, assign final decisons to each application, and (following extensive quality control) release decisions.  Remember that applicants will either be admitted, or will receive word that we’d like to reconsider their application in the context of the full application pool.

 

I’m a big proponent of taking advantage of our optional evaluative interviews.  Every fall, I try to drum up some early business for us — I like to keep our student interviewers busy each week.

I’m still a big proponent, but I’m not trying to drum up business anymore.  As of November 21, the schedule was essentially full.  (There are still a few appointments available for LLM program applicants.)  We’re always sorry to turn anyone down, but we’ve added as many new appointments as we can, and they’ve all been taken.

So what should you do if you really hope to interview?  You can call each week to check on cancellations.  In fact, yesterday afternoon an applicant canceled due to illness.  We immediately offered his 10:00 appointment to someone who happened to call after he did.  And a quick check this morning showed me that there has been another cancellation for a January date. There’s a chance you might snare one of these slots if you contact us periodically.

Otherwise, please remember that the optional evaluative interviews, though valuable, are optional.  There is no penalty for not interviewing.  The majority of our applicants live far enough away that visiting this fall is not a possibility.

Future applicants:  If you are reading this entry in fall 2008, knowing that you will apply in fall 2009, please take note!  Don’t wait until December ’09 to try for an interview appointment.  Every year the schedule fills by November.  Though we offer interviews through January 15, that doesn’t mean you would be well advised to wait until January 14 to book one.

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