From the monthly archives: January 2010

We hear lots of questions about scholarships and how they’re awarded.  (It was the hot topic at Monday’s event.)  Must be time to shed a little sunshine on this murky topic.  Let’s start with the terminology.  When we, at Fletcher, talk about “scholarships,” we’re talking about the funds drawn from the Fletcher pot of cash — not loans, or any other type of financial aid.

Fletcher awards scholarships on the basis of need and merit together.  That is, there are no merit-only scholarships, and there are no need-only scholarships.  Merit is determined through the admissions process, and need is assessed when we review the two-page scholarship application.  For a given level of merit, the largest awards go to those with the greatest financial need.

(This is the moment to mention that we review scholarship applications after admissions decisions have been made.  Applying for a scholarship will not affect your admissions chances.)

We offer a few full-tuition scholarships, but we never “waive tuition.”  (In the end, what is a tuition waiver, anyway, except a full-tuition scholarship?)  Most Fletcher scholarships do not cover the full cost of tuition, and our students usually fund their education through a combination of personal savings, family contributions, the Fletcher scholarship, income earned while a student, loans, and external scholarships or fellowships.  Even students receiving a full-tuition scholarship will need to cover living expenses.

Different graduate schools have different scholarship/financial aid policies, and we’ve tinkered around with ours quite a bit over the years.  Is our current structure perfect?  Nope.  But it makes a certain sense.  We try to give students with financial need a start toward the cost of attendance.  It’s up to the student to line up the remaining funds.

Also up to the student is the task of finding teaching assistant, research assistant, or office positions.  The Admissions Committee doesn’t assign students to professors as research help.  The professors do their own hiring, and many Fletcher students are TAs within the School or in other units of the University.  To be honest, it’s very difficult to line up a teaching assistant position before you’re actually on campus, but some students will be TAs in their second semester.  Research assistant and office positions are advertised at the start of each semester, and are particularly readily available in September.

You may be wondering what you can do now to be sure you can afford graduate school.  The first thing you shouldn’t do is sit back (possibly biting your nails with worry) and wait until you have heard from all the schools to which you applied.  After admissions decisions are released, you only have a short time (about a month) to get all your financial ducks in a row.  Don’t miss the opportunity to do some research and planning now.  What personal and family sources can you draw upon?  Is there any scholarship or fellowship available to someone with your academic or professional or national background?  (These external scholarships are often for small sums, but every bit helps.)  Do a little financial analysis — how much can you afford to borrow?  Finally, it’s not too late to SAVE!  If there’s any way for you to put some money away each month, then do it!  Even if your savings only cover the cost of books, you’ll be glad to have the cash.

Since not all of our applicants and blog readers are U.S. citizens or permanent residents, I won’t say too much here about government loans and work study.  Just this:  if there’s any chance you’re going to want to apply for loans, you should complete the FAFSA, and now is as good a time as any.  That way, when the University informs you of your financial aid “package,” you’ll learn about loan funds in addition to the Fletcher scholarship.

Affording graduate study is a challenge.  Your first step toward meeting the challenge is a little advance preparation.

Even as we’re working through the admissions process for September 2010 enrollment, there are people who will drop by as they start their research for future graduate studies.  To accommodate anyone who wants to visit, we’ll offer general Information Sessions on most Mondays at 12:30.  Here are the dates for the February to April sessions.

February 1
February 8
February 22
March 1
March 8
March 15
March 29
April 5
April 19
April 26

Whether you’re just getting started on the grad school research process, or you’re waiting to hear from Fletcher about September 2010, we welcome you to attend an Info Session.  Come on over!


Last week I came to work every day in “business ultracasual” attire (if there is such a thing).  The office was closed for much of each day while we processed applications, and opening mail always leaves me covered with bits of paper, so jeans seemed like the way to go.

Today we’re all looking more professional as we meet 18 of the Early Notification admitted students.  They’ll be in and out of the office, alternating with attending classes, special sessions and panels, lunch, and a tour.  I enjoy meeting these small groups — easier to sort out who’s who.

I’m actually going to be lunching not with the admitted students but with the current students on the Admissions Committee.  They’re fabulous!  (I might have said that before.)  Our “Lunch and Apps” session is to help them stay on track and support them as they read, read, read.

And there’s a TON for them to read.  Maybe not literally a ton, but hundreds of pounds, anyway.  A super-efficient crew came in on Saturday and processed, processed, processed.  Among the many positive results is that most applicants can now access useful information through the Graduate Application Management System.  (Another positive result is that there’s a bare table around which we can sit and eat lunch.)

I’m taking my first full reading day on Thursday, and I’m looking forward to it.  Somehow, until I throw myself completely into a mountain of applications, I don’t fully connect to the process.  I’ll be back to ultracasual attire, accessorized by fuzzy slippers, for a day of getting to know applicants via their essays.


There has been a lot of Haiti-related news and activity here at Fletcher.  Our communications office has been maintaining a news update page, and the University also has a page, but I thought I would compile a few more links that readers may find interesting.

First, of course, is the wonderful news that the group of Fletcher students and researchers who had been in Port au Prince returned safely last week, as mentioned in a Boston Globe story.

Also, a group of students sprang into fundraising action, and has managed to pool over $10,000 from many Fletcher-linked donors.

Much of the media attention has been pointed toward Ushahidi, for which several students have established an earthquake crisis situation room.  Team members search social networking and news sites, and compile the information they have found, in order to assist aid efforts on the ground.  They have been featured on New England Cable News (Note that the NECN anchor, R.D. Sahl, is also a Fletcher alum. Sorry that I can’t provide a link that helps you avoid the commercial.), on CNN (starting at 1 minute 20 seconds), and Al, with a mention in the Wall Street Journal.

Not Fletcher-focused, but still relevant to understanding the concern felt in this area, is a Boston Globe article that explains how it is that a Northeast U.S. city came to have the third largest population of Haitians outside of Haiti itself.

Of course, there’s a heap of good public relations for Fletcher in all of this.  My reason for featuring it in the blog is a little different.  Prospective students often wonder about the nature of our community.  I hope the reaction to the Haiti earthquake shows Fletcher students to be engaged and involved — caring people who react to a crisis such as this one in generous and interesting ways.


As I considered what to write today, I was thinking that January and February blog posts are the Admissions equivalent of elevator music.  That is, the music reassures you that everything is happening as planned — the elevator is going up or down — but the charming tunes have nothing to do with the actual operation.

And our Admissions elevator is indeed going up and down.  There was a big crew here yesterday, despite the pesky rush-hour snow storm.  Boxes and boxes of applications are ready for review or only a step away from readiness.  We’ll continue to devote a lot of time to processing throughout this week.  By the weekend, we’ll have more time to do the actual reading.

While we toil over applications (or write blog posts about toiling over applications), the School is looking pleasantly normal!  Lots of students were reuniting in the Hall of Flags when I just walked through.  (The flags came back last week — I assume they, too, had a good winter break.)  Today is “Shopping Day,” when students can sample a bit of many different classes before committing themselves to a schedule.  It’s great to have so much activity back in the building.

Finally, one note from my own “you learn something every day” file:  Despite the many years I’ve worked here, I had failed to understand one critical aspect of the process.  Or, more accurately, I only understood it from my perspective, not yours,  which led me to describe it in a less-than-useful way.  So here’s something more useful:  You might assume that, once you submit your online application, the data flows seamlessly.  That’s mostly true, except for one brief manual process to slide you over into the Application Management System.  It doesn’t take long to perform the process, but we need to do it hundreds of time.  Thus, the hair-raising moment when it appears that we haven’t received anything at all.  Hang in there — you’ll soon see a more accurate record of what has reached us.


Pop pop pop — that’s the sound of applications popping out of our system after applicants click “submit.”  I don’t have real data, but my back of the envelope calculation looks like this:

Last year’s application total minus applications already in
= nearly 1000 applications to be received this weekend


(Applications already in would include last fall’s EN applications, the PhD applications due January 1, and a modest batch from advance planners.)

Our bins of sorted credentials — the bins are blue, so we call them (You guessed it!) blue bins — are bursting at the seams.  Compiling applications involves pulling materials out of the blue bins and putting them into application folders.  By ten days from now, the blue bins will be back to a more normal state, replaced by boxes of ready-to-read applications.

Next week, much of our attention will stay focused on the process of compiling applications, but students are back on Tuesday and I’m sure I’ll find something to report via the blog.


Our newest students, the 2010 Januarians, have arrived.  They started their orientation yesterday, and will continue learning the ropes today and tomorrow.

As for returning students, we’re happy to welcome back a few more of those who work in the office.  Good timing, since the regular staff will be in a planning meeting for most of the day today.  Applications are flowing in, ahead of the jumbo batch that will pop out of the system tomorrow.  Peak zaniness to follow.

One schedule note:  Monday, January 18 is a public holiday (Martin Luther King, Jr. Day).  Though some work will continue in the office anyway, email and phone inquiries will probably not receive a response until Tuesday.

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When I wrote my post this morning, I didn’t realize that there is currently a Fletcher team in Port-au-Prince.  Around mid-day, this information arrived in my inbox:

Fletcher’s Center for Emerging Market Enterprises sponsored a group of seven Fletcher students and fellows on a trip to Haiti last week to research inclusive commerce trends in the region.  The group was in Port-au-Prince when the earthquake took place.   We have received word from one of the research team members that the entire Fletcher group is together and safe.

Since then, I have heard that the group was scheduled to fly home tomorrow, but that the flight has been canceled.  Beyond that, details are very sketchy, but at least they are safe.


Among the first things I did this morning was poke around Facebook to see if there was any info about a friend who is working in Haiti.  One of my son’s high school teachers, the amazing Ms. Bowman, has taken a year’s leave of absence to volunteer with a boarding school in Port-au-Prince, and I was relieved to learn that both she and her students are safe following the earthquake.

Even without that concern for someone I know personally, it’s hard not to think about the people of Haiti.  The Boston area has the country’s third-largest population of Haitian-Americans, behind only Miami and New York, and many live in Somerville/Cambridge.  Haitian-Americans comprise the largest ethnic/national group at my son’s high school and my daughter’s middle school, and are a significant presence at her more poly-national high school.  There are currently two Haitian-Americans in the Massachusetts House of Representatives, increasing their visibility in public life.

I can’t remember a Fletcher student who came directly from Haiti, but we have often had students with Haitian roots.  And, of course, so many of our students and alumni have worked there — providing the support that this fragile country needs to re-build itself.

In the coming weeks, I envision many conversations with the Haitian-Americans I know or meet, asking about their families back home.  I’ll also be thinking about the Fletcher applicants and alumni who are working there under incredibly difficult circumstances.  I hope you’ll take a minute to think of them, too.  If any readers have special insights on Haiti, or are living there now, please offer your perspective with a comment on the blog.


I know, I know.  Blog readers are the savvy applicants who don’t need to be reminded that Admissions Office life gets a bit crazy in January.  But because I never know who will stumble over to this page, I might as well continue to share a few reminders.

Yesterday, I answered several emails from applicants who wondered if materials had reached us, and I know that other staffers answered many more such requests.  When we can, we’ll try to take the time for a quick search so that we can provide a useful answer, but in the next few days it will become near to impossible — there’s just too much paper around here.

Other Admissions Offices may have systems superior to ours (I doubt it, frankly, but I’ll leave the door open to the possibility), but let’s say that Applicant X calls to ask whether we have received his transcript.  Here’s a list of the places where X’s transcript might be:

◊The buckets of unopened mail
◊The pile of opened but unsorted mail
◊The two piles of alphabetically sorted mail — one pile for applicants whose applications are received, and the other for those still in progress (This latter pile is awaiting someone to put everything in a file bin, described next.)
◊The file bins of alphabetically sorted credential items — transcripts, recommendations, interview reports, etc. — waiting for applications
◊A folder containing an as-yet incomplete application
◊A complete-application folder waiting for someone to update the electronic record.

Once the electronic record has been updated, I can check there to see if the transcript has been received, so life is simpler, even if finding the application folder may become trickier.  Folders travel a path from box to box, reader to reader, and pile to pile, before ending up in the final decision-related box.

So, Applicant X, and all the other applicants looking for transcripts, recommendations, etc., etc., please bear with us.  Searching for a single piece of paper around here is like finding a needle in the not-so-proverbial haystack.

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