From the monthly archives: March 2009

Jessie Evans, the current Fletcher student whom I’ve just named an “associate blogger,” pointed me to this video on YouTube from Saturday’s Asia Culture Night event.  Asia Night is one of four “culture nights” that have long been an annual Fletcher tradition, along with Africana Night, Med Night, and Fiesta Latina.  I don’t know how many of the dancing students in the video have previous Bhangra experience — it always seems like some rehearsals take place, but I’m not plugged in enough to know if the practice could take someone from zero experience to “performance-ready.”

The culture nights are a real focus of the Fletcher community, and a showcase for our students’ many talents. And, by the way, the video lasts more than five minutes, but be sure to catch the last few seconds, when the dancers show their true Fletcher spirit!

 

The answer is we still don’t have a complete answer. For now, to satisfy my own curiosity (and perhaps yours), I did some very rough number crunching.  (To be honest, that’s the only kind I ever do.  My stats work is generally confined to answering questions as they flash in my mind.)

It looks like the total number of applications was up by a little less than ten percent over last year.  That’s significant, but hardly eye popping.  What’s more interesting is where a lot of these extra applications came from:  our youngest applicants.  In absolute terms, the increased number of applications from prospective students aged 23 and under was nearly half of the total increase in applications. Meanwhile, the average age of applicants was virtually unchanged — about 26 — and only about a fifth of the added applications came from applicants between ages 26 and 28.

One of the other questions that popped in my head recently regarded the fate of applicants for whom this was not the first application.  Taking a very rough look at the reapplicants, over 70 percent were either admitted or offered a place on the wait list.  Although a few of them might have been admitted the first time, too, I still think it’s fair to conclude that the majority of applicants who reapply have a more favorable result the second time around.

It’s possible that more careful examination of the applicant pool, or of the admitted-student or enrolling-student rosters will reveal other interesting tidbits.  For now, I’d have to say that this year’s admissions process looked much like that of other years.

 

When I turned the corner into the produce aisle at my favorite supermarket on Friday, there was my pal the produce manager:  “Hey!  Where have you been?!”  I didn’t go into too long an an explanation of how we had just finished the admissions rush and my usual shopping times had all turned into work time — but it was nice to receive such a warm welcome back.  Frankly, it’s also nice to be back to a more normal schedule.

That doesn’t mean the work flow is quite normal.  At about noon today, I realized that there wasn’t a single point in the morning when I was all caught up with my email.  Every time I finished answering the questions in one message, another message came in.  Even as I write this, I can see the little notification box, alerting me that there are more questions to be answered.  So, in the interest of efficiency, I thought I’d post a few of the common questions, along with standard answers.  If other questions turn out to be regulars, I’ll try to get some more answers up here asap.

March/April FAQs:

Q: I would like to pursue a joint degree. Will Fletcher allow me to defer my enrollment?
A: Fletcher will approve a deferral of up to one year (two semesters) to allow students to start a joint degree at another institution. Prospective students needing more than one year before enrolling should plan to reapply. Anyone wanting a deferral needs to request one — it isn’t automatic — but you can submit your request by email.

Q: I’m not doing a joint degree, but I want to defer for other reasons.  Can I?
A: Fletcher allows deferrals for up to one year so that candidates can pursue professional opportunities.

Q: Tell me more about how to request the deferral.
A: Follow these instructions.

Q: The law/business/other school with which I want to pursue a joint degree is not on Fletcher’s list of “official” joint or dual degrees. How will that work?
A: Fletcher will work with you to arrange the joint degree that suits your career and study goals. The process is to transfer courses from your other program so that you also receive Fletcher credit for them.  When I speak to students putting together an ad hoc joint degree, I always suggest that they contact the registrar as soon as they enroll at Fletcher. You won’t be able to transfer in your first-year torts/finance/language class, but with careful homework, you will find classes that meet Fletcher’s requirements. (You should also be sure to work with the other school. Our experience is that many other schools are less flexible than Fletcher.)

Q: Can I make my decision after the deadline named in my admission letter?
A: No. There are many administrative reasons why Fletcher needs to know how many students will enroll, but we don’t expect you to care about that. On the other hand, we want you to remember that there are students waiting on the Wait List, and we hope you will respect their need for a speedy answer as to whether they will be admitted. We won’t know if we need to go to the Wait List until we have heard from the students we have already admitted.

Q: Do I need to return the form?  Can’t I just email you?
A: You can fax it, or scan it and email it, but we really prefer the form.  It helps us keep track of information.

Q: I hope to work when I’m at Fletcher. How can I arrange it?
A: There are many administrative jobs available each year at Fletcher, as well as elsewhere at the University. Fletcher jobs are usually “advertised” via a student email list. Jobs elsewhere at the University can be found through the Student Employment office.

Q: What about research or teaching assistantships?
A: These positions are arranged directly with the hiring department or professor. It can be difficult for you to arrange a teaching assistant position for your first semester, regardless of your qualifications, but there are often opportunities in the second semester. Many professors hire research assistants in the fall, so even first-year students will be eligible. Research assistants are paid an hourly wage, while teaching assistants are often paid per course. (I also want to say that teaching assistants do not teach Fletcher students. Professors teach, but the assistants might arrange course materials or do other “behind the scenes” work.)

Q: How do second-year scholarships compare to those awarded to first-year students?
A: We know that there are schools out there that are more generous to second-year students than to first-year students.  That really isn’t Fletcher’s model, though.  Students who remain in good academic standing can expect their awards to be renewed for the second year.  Students who do not receive a scholarship in the first year can also apply for a scholarship for the second year, but funding cannot be guaranteed.

Q: What classes will be offered in 2009-2010?
A: The schedules for next year aren’t set yet, but many courses are offered on a yearly basis.  You can see the class schedules for 2008-09 on our web site.

Q: I was put on the Wait List.  Can I request feedback now?
A: Although the Wait List is not the same as being offered admission, it’s also not the same as being denied admission.  We only offer feedback to applicants once their applications are no longer active, which is not the case for those on the Wait List.  So that means we’ll ask you to make your own determination of what materials will help strengthen your application at this point.

 

This week is spring break at Tufts, and there aren’t a whole lot of Fletcher students around.  The quiet gives us a chance to catch up on work and start to reach out to admitted students.

To those of you who have been admitted:  Congratulations and hooray!  This was a very competitive year for admission.  We reviewed more applications than we have in many years (since the brief peak following 9/11), and there were many highly experienced candidates.  We’re going to look at our numbers, and I may have a little analysis to offer later in the spring.

Meanwhile, I hope that you are all exploring your options, both at Fletcher and at other schools to which you have been admitted.  Attend the Open House, if you can take the time away from your daily routine — it’s a great chance not only to hear what we have to say, but also to meet other admitted students and hear about what they’re thinking.

And many of you probably find you have a much better sense of what you want out of grad school than you did in January.  The “quiet period,” between when you submit the application and when you hear from schools, can be a productive and valuable time to clarify your goals.  Check out the Fletcher web site, consider what courses you’ll want to take, contact current students, participate in on-line chats…In other words, you’re in the driver’s seat now!  Make sure you drive your grad school car in the right direction!  We want all of our students to be both successful and happy with their choice.

 

You may be wondering whether I’m going to try to spin being denied admission into an “opportunity” as I did with the Wait List yesterday.  No, not exactly.  There’s no question that it’s disappointing to be told that this is not your year for Fletcher or another grad school.

But for some of our applicants, what separates them from admission is their age and experience, and age is one problem that will inevitably fix itself.  As any of us in the Office would tell you, we receive a large number of applications from students who are recent grads, or who have yet to graduate (the 2008 and 2009 graduates in this year’s pool), but we admit very few of them.  In just a few years, many of these applicants will be competitive for Fletcher.

What about those of you who already have professional experience?  What might have held the Committee back from offering admission?  Maybe there was a problem with the way you wrote your application — it might have been confusing, or off the mark.  Or maybe you are trying to shift careers and we were afraid you “couldn’t get there from here.”  (If you want to go from large-animal veterinarian to micro-financier, you may just need a job that will help bridge the gap between your old career and your new one.) Or maybe you need a little more international experience that links to your goals.  These are “problems” that can also be fixed, even if it takes some time.

But often, the “problem” is that Fletcher is blessed with a highly-qualified applicant pool, and we simply can’t admit everyone.  Every year, each staff member is left feeling sad about an applicant we’ve been rooting for, but who hasn’t been admitted.  It’s part of the job.

What can you do now?  For September 2009, there is (unfortunately) nothing you can do.  We don’t reverse decisions.  Plucking out one denied applicant from the stack is like grabbing at the apple at the bottom of a display.  Bad things will follow!  But every year we admit students who have applied in the past, and we look forward to future applications in a future year from some of those who remain interested in Fletcher, though denied admission in 2009.

Meanwhile, Fletcher offers feedback to applicants.  We’ll ask you to wait until later in the spring — a kind of cooling off period.  But after May 1, if you follow these instructions, we’ll get back to you with more information.  You can use the information to figure out how to improve your application, or whether a future application will be a good use of your time and energy.

On the other hand, if you have been admitted to other schools, and this is definitely your year for grad school, then we wish you all the best in your graduate studies!

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It’s a drag, I know — you’ve been waiting to hear from admissions offices for three months or more, and now Fletcher tells you to wait another few months.  But it’s also an opportunity, and I want to encourage you to make the most of it.  Each year, for the past few years, we have gone to the Wait List.  In some years, we have been looking for only a few people, but in other years, we have drawn as many as 20 new students.

Here’s how the Wait List works at Fletcher.  (Note that other schools may use their wait lists completely differently.)  We make a good number of offers of spots on the Wait Lists for the MALD, MA, LLM, and MIB programs.  Then we turn our attention elsewhere while responses trickle in.  Many (perhaps half) of the wait listed will turn down the offer.  There’s another school that looks good to them, so why wait?  By May 1, we have all the responses, and we put the files together for future review.  We don’t “rank” the wait-listed applications.  When it’s time to make some new offers of admission, we go back to the Committee notes and find the best candidates.  We also review any new materials that have come in since the application was first submitted.  That’s where the Wait List becomes an “opportunity” for you.

We invite you to update your application.  But what sort of carefully selected materials should you send?  Here are some potential categories:

1.  Any update to basic application materials:  Grades for newly completed classes, new test scores, an additional recommendation from your university or workplace, written by someone who knows you well and who can add a new perspective on your background.  (Please read that last sentence carefully.  You won’t get much from a recommendation (however positive it might be) that just covers the same ground as your previous three recommendations.)  You can also update your résumé, or send a copy of a newly published article.

2.  The answer that completes the sentence, “When I wrote my essay, I wish I had said….”  Do you have a better sense of your academic and career goals than you did in January?  If so, fill us in!  Some of you might wonder how goals could change in such a short time, but I can assure you that Fletcher applicants are a mobile bunch, and three months might just coincide with a life-defining experience.  Really — it happens more than you might think.

3.  A “conversation.”  We don’t offer formal interviews during the spring, but we’ll certainly meet with you, if you happen to be able to visit.  The best time for a visit is probably early in May.  We’ll try to accommodate you whenever you are here, but we’d appreciate it if you could hold off until after April 15.

4.  Anything else that you would have put in your application if the instructions had been written differently.  While I don’t encourage you to send us a research paper or thesis (and I say this because I know that many applicants would like to send us additional reading materials…), there may be something that you wished you could have included.  If you had written the application questions, what would you have asked?  Well, go ahead and ask it, and then provide the answer.

I hope this gives you an idea of the types of materials you can send to us.  You can send a short update by email, but please use “snail mail” for anything more substantive.

And when can you expect to hear from us?  Hard to say.  As soon as we know that our initial offers of admission will leave open seats in the class, we’ll start making new offers.  Sometimes that happens on May 1.  Sometimes not until July 1.  I can promise you that our goal is ALWAYS to wrap up the process as quickly as possible, but it often stretches on longer than we’d like.

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Well, that didn’t work out perfectly, did it?  Despite all our cautious statements and careful work, we still ended up with applicants unhappy over the way decisions were released.  I’m sorry that it didn’t go more smoothly.

First, I want to say that we still don’t know why the system crashed today.  Laurie and I have talked, and Roxana and I have emailed, and Roxana has emailed the IT team, and Laurie and Roxana have talked, and the best guess out there is that too many people were trying to access the system at one time.  We haven’t encountered that problem in the past, and I’m sorry we didn’t anticipate it.  Greater minds than mine will study the problem in the coming week.

I also want to try to shed a bit of light on what happened on Friday.  Early in the day, the full staff started to review the paper versions of the decision letters (which we use to double check that everything has been entered correctly into the system).  Once all the paper was in an envelope, Laurie and Roxana sat together to post the decisions online.  At 9:00 p.m., they felt too tired to continue.  Laurie said they actually rechecked the blog to be sure I had left them a little wriggle room, and they went home.  So, not everything went out at once.  In years gone by, this wouldn’t have mattered.  There were no online forums on which to compare your results.  Now, YIKES!  Theories abound.

You may wonder why we don’t just click A for admit, D for deny, W for Wait List and then press Enter.  If only it could be that easy!  Sometimes, even as I try to use the blog to provide a little window into the process, I leave out all the boring detail.  Here comes some of that minutiae:  On the admit side, there is a different letter for each of these situations:  admit with a scholarship, admit for someone who didn’t request a scholarship, admit conditional on English study with scholarship, admit conditional on English study with no scholarship, admit conditional on foreign language study with scholarship, admit conditional on foreign language study with no scholarship, and so on.  Multiplied by five programs.  And this is how it was possible for many, but not all, admitted or denied students to have been notified.  The posting actually happens in small batches, based on the fine details of the decision.

At this point, all I can say is that we’re especially sorry that applicants might question if we were being forthright.  I had wanted to give an accurate timeline, but I didn’t anticipate the systems problems.  Even without the blog, though, the online forums would have made it clear we were having problems.

Once again, thanks for your patience, and sorry about all the glitches.  We’ll still have everything out on Monday — just not as smoothly as we had hoped.

 

Being aware that, though the busiest two weeks of the year have just passed, we’re not exactly in a period of rest and relaxation, I checked my email early this morning.  There was a message from an applicant who had received a message from the Office, so he knows his decision has been posted, but he can’t access the decision.

I forwarded the message to tech-guru Roxana, who says:  “This is a technical problem that our IT people would have to fix.  It could be that everyone is trying to check their account at the same time, and it’s causing the server to crash. I’ll send an email to our tech team and see if they can do anything from home.  Technical difficulties happen when 1800 people try to check one site at the same time.”

In other words, we’re on the case…but we also need to ask for your patience.  We managed to get many (but not all!) decisions out yesterday, but now we’re encountering a glitch, as well as the fact that there are people wondering why they haven’t heard.  The IT people to whom Roxana referred are not part of Fletcher Admissions — it’s the team that supports the application for all Tufts University grad schools — so we can’t solve the problem “in-house.”

The final decisions will be posted Monday morning (barring unforeseen systems problems).  The glitches affecting applicants whose decisions have been posted may be cleared today or tomorrow, but will certainly be fixed on Monday.

Thank you for hanging in there patiently!

 

The University mail room staff just picked up a bunch of boxes of packets for admitted students in the U.S. and in certain other countries that don’t need courier service.  We’ve finished packing up everything for the admitted MALD, MA, and PhD students, and Laurie, Kristen, Kate, and Peter are packing up the MIBs right now.  Liz has the critical but unenviable job of taping the packets together so that everything arrives in good shape.  Whatever hasn’t gone into the mail today will go on Monday.

But I know, you blog readers are really expecting to get the word via the Application Management System, and you’re less concerned with the mail.  So here’s the deal.  I’m writing now because I need to leave the office, but others will be staying to post decisions online.  The hope is that they’ll get to every category we have (admit, deny, wait list for all five programs) but the possibility definitely exists that one or more categories will need to wait until Monday.  (Which is why I try to maintain some wriggle room for us.  Things happen.)

So…check your email tonight or tomorrow.  If you haven’t heard anything, then your decision will be among those posted on Monday.  Fingers crossed (and today is Friday the 13th, so finger crossing seems like a good strategy), you’ll all have the information you need before Monday at noon.  Even knowing that everyone is anxious to hear from us, we won’t be working this weekend, and no decisions will be posted tomorrow or Sunday.

This seems like a good time to say how much we appreciate your interest in The Fletcher School.  Thanks for sharing your stories through interviews, applications, and phone conversations!  I’ll be back next week with information on making plans for enrollment, as well as on the Wait List and the process to request feedback later in the spring.

Good luck, everyone!

 

When I left yesterday, following a late afternoon PhD Admissions Committee meeting that Laurie and I attended, Roxana and Peter were still toiling away at their desks.  Laurie had moved on to an early-evening MIB Admissions Committee meeting with Kristen.

I said earlier this week, only partly accurately, that all decisions had been made.  I was looking at the piles of green folders that we use for MALD applicants, with some blue (MA) folders mixed in, forgetting that MIB, PhD, and LLM committees still had some admitting to do.

A reasonable person might ask us why we don’t simply release decisions as we have them, at least in blocks.  In fact, we have done a little of that.  There are the Early Notification applicants, who heard from us in December.  And there are a few dozen people who heard from us in February — their applications were complete, had been read twice, and were strong, so why not share some good news.  But even the ENs and the “Febs” are waiting for us to release scholarship information, as are students who deferred their enrollment from last September, and those who were admitted last spring for Fall ’09 entry.

Though each of us fills the day with a variety of tasks, the overall focus of the Office right now is all the data entry, letter production, letter proofreading, and packet compilation that leads up to release of decisions (both online and by mail).   That communal focus helps us get the job done without errors.  Once we release decisions, our communal focus turns in another direction:  providing the information that will help newly-admitted prospective students to make their plans.  Almost as soon as the decisions go out, we start receiving requests for deferrals, for housing information, for details on the wait list, and also for feedback on unsuccessful applications.  (In fact, we are already handling deferral requests from the ENs and Feb admits.)  Minimizing errors requires careful attention, and trying to support applicants/students while also preparing decisions is not a recipe for success.

One last thing I’ll point out is that this is a small office, dealing with a LOT of paper.  We don’t rely on students for this final phase of our work.  (Among other reasons — Fletcher students will be on their spring break vacation next week and many have exams this week.)  So we’ll keep at it.  As I wrote in answer to a comment yesterday, I’m sure that all decisions will be out by next Wednesday.  I hope everyone will have decisions on Monday, but I’m not ready to promise yet.  Thanks to all of you for your patience!

 

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