From the monthly archives: December 2009

The first meeting of the 2010 Committee on Admissions will start in a few minutes.  We had  a brief orientation in November, but were missing a few folks, so today’s meeting marks the first time that all the Committee members will work together.

Now’s a good time to tell EN applicants about the two decision options for this portion of the admissions cycle.  Some applicants will be admitted.  (YAY!)  Using our knowledge of our typical applicant pool, we admit those applicants who we feel confident would be admitted when compared to the full pool.  That is, we don’t have lower standards for EN and there’s no admissions edge for those who apply early.

What about all the applicants who aren’t admitted in December?  They’ll have their application reviewed again in the spring.  We want to consider those applications in the context of this year’s applicant pool, and make the right decision for 2010, using the full spectrum from deny to wait list to admit.  We know it’s a long wait from November 15 until March decisions are released, but this process seems to serve us and our applicants well.

So now, I need to grab a cup of coffee and the materials for the meeting, and I’m off!  Committee time!


Nerdy kids come in many forms.  When I was in junior high school (age somewhere between 12 and 15), my friends and I used to trade cool polysyllabic words.  Despite my love of these little gems, I encourage you to ignore the temptation to employ thesaurus-supplied vocabulary in your personal statement or supplemental essay.  I’m not talking about dancing around the word nonproliferation (six syllables) in favor of a multi-word alternative. Nor am I saying that you shouldn’t use the thesaurus when you’ve written “goals” over and over, and you need a different word (such as “objectives”) to express the same concept.  But the Committee generally isn’t impressed by the sprinkling of big words throughout the essay, particularly when the writing isn’t that sophisticated overall.

If you’re interested in getting maximum value from your application essays, edit and re-edit.  Pare down your paragraphs.  Take out unnecessary modifiers.  The best writing for these purposes will be clear and straightforward.  You can save your sesquipedalian best for future policy papers.

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Early Notification applications for September, as well as applications for January enrollment,  serve as a warm-up for us.  Although there’s very rapid turnaround for both groups, the volume of applications is manageable, and the staff has a chance to get back in the swing of things.

We always tweak the application between cycles — not just the questions we ask, but also how they appear on paper once the application is printed.  (Yes, we still work with paper.)  Once I’m reading under more time pressure, I count on quickly being able to find all the information I need on the form.

This year, we also reworked the application essays.  We expanded the word limits and created supplemental essay topics out of some of the material that applicants frequently included in the personal statement.  So, in theory, the personal statement now gives us a clear picture of what the applicant wants to do in the future, while the applicant can also tell us (in the supplemental essay) about the roots of his or her interest in international affairs, or preparation for a post-Fletcher career.  I feel like I’m reading some nice supplemental essays.  Peter commented to me that the personal statements, stripped to the basics, are a little drier than in past years.  I haven’t felt that yet, but I may agree after a few hundred more applications.  Either way, we’ll carry on reading this year and reevaluate in the spring.

I assume that everyone who checks the blog periodically is pretty well plugged in to the admissions process.  And that means that providing application tips is, as they say, preaching to the choir.  Nonetheless, the majority of our applicants for September enrollment are still working on their applications.  If you are one of those people, please check and re-check your application to ensure you are answering our questions.  Even the limited collection of applications I have read this fall included several that were so poorly filled out that the application itself (rather than academic preparation or professional experience) became a liability for the applicant.  Don’t let that happen to you, dear blog reader!

I have a small batch to read today, which might be all I’ll get to during the Early Notification process.  The warm-up has me ready to go on, looking forward to January applications!

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