From the monthly archives: March 2009

As the second-to-last person in the Boston area to hear this (Kate told me, and I told my husband, Paul, which makes him the last — but he was in Chicago yesterday, which gives him an excuse.  Well, whatever…), I want to ensure that you, blog reader, are in the know:  U2 will be playing tonight at nearby Davis Square’s Somerville Theater.  No stadium pyrotechnics needed (or desirable) in the 900-seat venue.

I hope Bono and co. will take advantage of their visit to explore the Museum of Bad Art, conveniently located within the theater.  During our first visit to MOBA, my daughter, Kayla, and I laughed until tears trickled down our faces.  It wasn’t mean-spirited laughter at the “art,” but rather mirthful appreciation for the well-crafted explanatory descriptions next to each piece.  Ordinarily, you need a movie ticket to enter MOBA, but I suspect allowances would be made for the band.

This is my second post within the day, and neither had to do with the task that the staff is tackling so assiduously in the back office.  Rest assured — we’re making progress.  Roxana just printed the first batch of letters, which she and Kate are proofreading.

Rock on!


While searching the Tufts website for something else entirely, I was pleased to find Fletcher students Patrick Meier and Josh Goldstein on the front page, with a link to an article about the class they teach for the University’s Experimental College.

In addition to the interesting course options the ExCollege offers to the community, it also offers teaching possibilities to Fletcher students.  Unlike TA positions, teaching in the ExCollege gives advanced students the oppportunity to create their own course material.

Congratulations to Patrick and Josh!


Consider this scenario:  You’ve always enjoyed bicycling (though you haven’t done much riding recently) and you’ve decided to join your friend for a cross-country bike trip in September.  Would you wait until September 1 to re-introduce yourself to your bicycle?  I’m guessing that you would put in some practice between now and the start of your ride.

Similarly, why would you wait until September to “get in shape” for your graduate studies?

Admitted students will receive detailed information to this effect later in the spring, but I want to give blog readers the advance word, whether you’ll be attending Fletcher or one of our peer schools.

Every school has some minimum admission requirements, even while other expectations might be “flexible.”  For example, regardless of degree program, Fletcher’s Admissions Committees want to see a score of at least 100 on the TOEFL exam, or for native English speakers, intermediate-level proficiency in a foreign language.  We also want to see that applicants will be able to cope with quantitative work at Fletcher, and with a heavy reading load.  While the different programs emphasize different facets of the applicant’s profile, there’s a bottom line for all of us.

Even while you’re waiting to learn which schools have offered you admission, I encourage you to carefully consider your potential weaknesses and attack them.  Unless you’re easily fluent in English, start working on your skills.  Last year, an applicant gave us a list of the radio stations and television shows she would “study” to improve her comprehension.  At first, the list struck us as funny, but now, I’m going to pass along her list as advice.  Go to the web site of our local NPR news station, WBUR.  Can you understand everything they’re saying?  Because I can assure you that Fletcher professors will be speaking just as quickly.  As will the clerk in the supermarket, and the person giving you driving directions in Davis Square.  Or have some fun watching current or classic American television shows on Hulu.  Arrive at Fletcher ready to chat about Lost with Laurie and Roxana.

Native English speakers, you’ll need to prove second language proficiency.  Pursue your foreign language in the same way.  Honestly now, is the Spanish you called “intermediate” on the application really intermediate?  Whatever your language, test yourself by reading a newspaper daily!  Find radio stations or television shows in your target language online.  These days, there’s no reason not to practice your language, even if you’re not living in that language environment.

And then, folks, please please please take your language proficiency exam at the first opportunity.  Get it out of the way, check it off your graduation requirement to-do list.  You’ll be so much happier for it.

Finally, a word about quantitative work.  Who among us can avoid economics these days?  Open any newspaper and every page has a story that is rooted in economics or finance, or has an economic backdrop.  No matter how quant-phobic you are, you can’t avoid the stuff.  Acknowledge your quant-phobia, people!  And do something about it!  Brush up on micro or macro.  Review your old statistics text book.  Please, don’t ignore the problem you know you have.  Trust me here, I’m doing you a favor.

That’s as much as I need to write about this topic now.  As I said, we’ll be reaching out to our admitted students later in the spring.  But some of you will be going elsewhere, where the lesson still pertains.  There’s no time like the present to take care of something that needs taking care of!


The Admissions staff was alternately productive and relaxed over the weekend.  Mother Nature cooperated this time, providing us with two fantastic spring-like days.  Today she’s back to her wily ways, dropping big heavy wet snowflakes on the morning commute.

Back in the office, we’ve reached a landmark point:  We’re ready to alphabetize the application files for admitted applicants.  Right now, everything is lumped in distressing piles on the floor.  (Well, not distressing to us — we’re used to it.)  We alphabetize them only when we’re sure we know exactly who is going to be admitted, and the decisions have been entered in our database.

While you’re waiting for us to finish our work, you may want to do a bit of preparation of your own.  Back when your application was first complete, you received an email with the information you would need to log on to the Tufts Application Management System.  Many of our applicants have already logged on.  If you’re not among them, you may find the original email stored in some super special secret place.  Now is the time to dig it out of that secret place, because you’ll need to log on to access your decision.

I’m raising this now because, every year, there are applicants who contact us in April:  “I still haven’t received my decision.”  It turns out they lost the login information.  The decision is there for them to see, but they can’t access it.

So check your email inbox and find that message.  (It would have reached you when your application was uploaded, complete with all online recommendations, not the day you first submitted it.)  If you can’t find it, go back to the Application Management System site, where you can click “Don’t know your username and password.”  You’ll soon be in business.

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Friday’s meeting was very gratifying.  Not only did we consider a record number of applications, but Committee members actually chose to go overtime in order to complete the roster.  (Who ever wants to stay for an extra half hour, when the meeting has already run for four?)  We took a break for a nice lunch (mealtime conversation topic:  Pakistan/weapons programs/nuclear proliferation), but otherwise we kept focused on the task at hand.

Laurie, Kate and I were talking about how well this year’s Committee came together.  Some of my favorite moments yesterday were hearing the students take the lead in maintaining the highest of standards, as well as having a chance to draw on a student’s expertise on universities in her home state of Ohio (a strange clustering of Ohio applications at yesterday’s meeting), or on another student’s observations on the experience of political activists in his home country.

Also super nice was hearing the professors support applicants whose own professors didn’t have the nerve to suggest that the applicant find a different recommender.  Honestly, sometimes we wonder why people write the things they do.

Aside from the snow day, last week was generally very productive in the office, and we’re spared from needing to work all weekend.  I woke up early today and decided to put in a few hours to take care of things that should have been done weeks ago (oops).  Laurie is giving herself the day off today, but both she and Kate were talking about working tomorrow.  I wasn’t among those who worked quite late on Wednesday and Thursday, but Peter was, and he is ice-fishing for smelt this weekend.  We all find ways to fit in the work that needs doing.

From here, we finish entering data (admissions and scholarship decisions), start creating letters, proofread letters, and pack up materials.  While this work is routine, it is also the type that attracts errors.  We’ll take the time we need, all the while aiming to remain on schedule to mail by the target date (which, as I’ve mentioned, is “as soon as possible”).


I’m about to head into the last meeting of this year’s MALD/MA Admissions Committee.  The other programs’ Committees are also wrapping up the process, and either held their last meetings this week or are planning one last session for next week.  (I should say that all the Committees continue to meet as needed to work on Wait List or other issues throughout the spring, but the sessions are less formally scheduled and certainly much shorter than the four (or more??) hours we’ll clock today.)

And, unfortunately, a major distraction looms just outside our meeting room.  The Fares Center has a two-day conference on the Obama administration’s foreign policy challenges in the Middle East.  Several Committee members want or need to attend.  And who could blame them?  It looks so interesting.  But the process must go on, so we’ll make accommodations as necessary and plow forward.

Admissions staff will work through the weekend as we stare down the final stretch.  I’ll keep you posted!


Though I’m getting ahead of the process, today I’ll run through the nature of the different decision letters that applicants will receive in the next few weeks.

Starting on the deny side, applicants who will not be admitted this year may receive one of two letters, a standard letter, or one that indicates that professional experience is the big missing piece.  When we talk about candidates in Committee, we often want to send letters that will clue the applicant in to the missing piece — English skills, international experience, undergraduate record, quantitative strength, disconnect between goals and experience, or any of a zillion other reasons — but it simply isn’t feasible.  Still, it’s a Fletcher Admissions characteristic to try to be encouraging, so we do have a separate letter about work experience.  We ask ourselves:  Will this person look good to the Committee with a couple of years of relevant experience, but no other changes?  If it appears we will still be concerned about academic strength or some other factor, we will go with the standard letter.

Quickly shifting to happier news — let’s turn to the different “admit” letters.  Of course, there’s the garden variety, unmodified “congratulations, you’re in!” letter.  Hooray for good news, and simplicity!

We also occasionally offer conditional admission.  The applicant is admitted, but the deal isn’t complete without further English study or development of a second language.  We’ll be in touch with these applicants later in the spring to discuss our expectations.  Sometimes, we admit an applicant to a future term.  You’re so fabulous that we’re willing to take a chance on you, but you’re young and need a year of work experience, so we’ll see you in September 2010.  Applicants who receive this decision will also hear from us.

Once in a while, we admit someone to a program he or she didn’t apply to.  For example, we will see an interesting applicant who lacks enough professional experience for the MA program and offer admission to the MALD instead.  Same with the PhD program — a small number of those applicants will be admitted to the MALD program.  We leave it to the applicant to decide if the MALD is the right step.

And, finally, there’s the Wait List.  Hard to deny that the Wait List is rarely seen as good news, but that doesn’t make it exactly bad news, either.  We have admitted students off the Wait List for September enrollment for quite a few years now.  Many great members of our community were originally on the Wait List.  (Lots of us are late bloomers!)  If you are offered a place on the Wait List, keep in touch with us.  You have a special chance to update (and upgrade) your application.  Don’t miss that chance!

While we’re still a good ways from releasing admissions decisions, now you know what the different options are, and I hope it will help you interpret the news you hear from us.


Well, maybe it’s a little unreasonable to think Mother Nature is trying to get in the way of the Fletcher admissions process, given that the entire stretch from North Carolina to Maine is grappling with a heavy snowfall.  So I won’t take it personally that the snow led Tufts, along with many other universities and 600 other local schools, to close for the day.

The snow is beautiful, but it will slow our progress as we try to wrap up the admissions process.  We have a target decision date in mind, and we’ll see whether we need to push the date back, or just work a whole lot harder to make up for today.  (By the way, the reason I don’t share the decision date is to give our small staff a little flexibility, given the possibility of snowstorms or other delay-creating conditions.  Let’s just say our aim is to complete everything as soon as possible.)

In a rare moment of foresight, I stopped by Fletcher yesterday and picked up a box of files and other work.  I was on my way to the Arlington Capitol Theater to see Waltz With Bashir.  I had heard the weather forecast, and I thought I just might want to have a little extra work at the ready.  As soon as I finish writing my blog post, I’ll go back to the applications.

If you need to reach us, the best option for the day will be email.  We’ll all be back in the office tomorrow.  If you’re on the East Coast of the U.S., enjoy the snow!


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