From the monthly archives: February 2010

The other day, Peter found me fighting with a mechanical pencil.  I don’t know where the pencil came from, but I kept mistaking it for a pen and clicking it.  Soon there was a long piece of lead poking out, and I was trying to convince it to go back where it came from.  I told Peter (joking) that I couldn’t handle such a high technology device, which prompted him to wonder aloud (joking, I hope) how it is that I’m the office blogger.  Indeed.  I write the Admissions blog, but it continues to be a bell-and-whistle-free endeavor.

The blog gets hit with plenty of spam, and a recent message I found in the spam filter asked:  “Have you ever considered adding more videos to your blog posts to keep the readers more entertained?  I mean I just read through the entire article of yours and it was quite good but since I’m more of a visual learner.”  Never mind the grammar — the spammer has a point.

For much of the year, I assume the blog’s main readers are my Admissions pals (Hi Kristen!  ‘sup Peter!) and my family (How’s the trade show going, Paul?), but as we draw closer to the end of the admissions process, more and more applicants come back to the blog for updates.  Just as I did yesterday, I’ll to try to share basic information on the process as it wraps up.  Feel free to send me your questions so that I post the information that really matters to you.  But the Fletcher Admissions blog is not the site to visit when you’re in the mood for time-eating videos.

Meanwhile, I’m taking a break from a day of reading applications, and it’s probably my last full day of reading at home.  No matter how many applications I have behind me, I still enjoy taking the information laid out by each applicant and considering whether there’s a good match with Fletcher.  It’s the best part of my job — the part I look forward to all year.  But since applications are seasonal, I’m happy to write for the blog — my favorite day-to-day activity, even if I fall short on technological wizardry.


Yesterday, I dropped a tall pile of files in Laurie’s office.  They were all applications heading in the admit direction.  In fact, within the last week or so, I have read far more admits than denies.  Sometimes that happens, and we don’t try to balance the outcome on a day-by-day or week-by-week basis:  the number of admits, denies, and wait lists always works out by the end of the process.

I’m mentioning this now, because the word is seeping out that we made a small number of admission offers last week.  The newly-admitted applicants, whom we now refer to as “the Febs” (for their February admission), met three characteristics:

1.  They’re strong candidates, and we had no doubt that they would be admitted, regardless of the nature of still-unread applications.
2.  Their applications were complete by about February 1.
3.  Their applications had gone through the complete review by about February 8.

To the “Febs” out there:  Congratulations on your admission, and welcome to the community!

To everyone who didn’t get an admission offer from us in February:  Please focus on points 2 and 3, and don’t freak out!  Take special note that your file might have been complete by January 15, and still didn’t meander its way through the complete review process before February 8.  There’s a little bit of random chance involved.  And, even more important, remember that the large majority of our admitted students will be notified at the end of March — not in December (through Early Notification) or in February.  Take a breath, and go back to the long wait.  We may have spread a little February joy, but there will still be plenty of happiness to go around in March.


In the fall, visitors flow into the Admissions Office daily, keeping us fully connected to the School’s schedule and many activities.  (“It’s Monday — here’s our class schedule.  Want to attend a lecture?  Let me check the calendar and see what’s on.”)  During the first half of the spring semester (the wintry half), we have far fewer visitors, and we’re so wrapped up in applications, applications, applications, that it’s easy to lose track of all that’s going on elsewhere in the building.  Which is really too bad, because the spring semester is even livelier than the fall.

From September to December, there are plenty of lectures, seminars, weekly social hours, and student group activities, but from January to May, all the activities that require months of planning are added to the mix.  There are the trips to DC and New York organized by the Office of Career Services, chock-a-block with information sessions, receptions, panel discussions, and lunches.  There was the ski trip earlier this month, and Asia Night (one of the four student-organized “culture nights”) just last weekend.  There are guest lectures every week and, in some weeks, nearly every day.  Two of our recent lectures featured Fletcher grads, coincidentally both from the class of 1995:  Farah Pandith, State Department Special Representative to Muslim Communities, and Erin Conaton, staff director for the House of Representatives’ Committee on Armed Services.  (You can read Farah’s comments on her Fletcher education in this sponsored Q&A page.)  Club meetings, thesis workshops, pizza lunches, etc., etc., round out each week.  Check out the calendar, which lists many of the events.

Each time an email notice floats into my inbox, I feel just a little twinge of jealousy that those activities aren’t for me.  Instead, my Admissions pals and I are providing the audience and planners for next year’s events, and that’s satisfying, too.


This is my daughter Kayla’s vacation week.  The break from the usual school schedule (and other activities that come with it) slows the pace for Paul and me, too.  We can wake up a bit later, and I’ve been enjoying a little t.v. with Kayla in the evenings — a dose of Olympic coverage or other programs that I wouldn’t usually take time for.   Almost feels like I’m on vacation, too.


With the application cycle heading into the final phase, my days in the office are increasingly frenzied, and I’m trying to pack even more applications into my reading days.  I split my reading time this week between Wednesday and Thursday, and used the remaining hours to help Kayla take care of a few things.

This fractured existence led to early morning reading while Kayla slept, a small batch of apps while she had her hair cut on Wednesday, and a bigger bunch while we waited for her number to come up at the Registry of Motor Vehicles on Thursday.  (Got her learner’s permit.  Woo hoo!  An American rite of passage.)  And then more applications when we returned home, having accomplished our other errands.

Today I’m back in the office — ready to grab a hot cup of something before the start of the Admissions Committee meeting.  I may have snagged an extra 15 minutes of zzz’s this morning, but it’s definitely not vacation time around here.


Last week flew by in a blur.  I had meant to write at least one more blog post, but that never happened.  To catch up, the first order of business is to fill you in on what’s been going on here in Admissions.

We’re about midway through the long void of silence, that period between when most applicants submit their applications and when we finally release most decisions.  We still have applications at just about every stage of review.

Last week, we received applications for our February 10 “late” deadline, and we’re pulling together those files.  (We have also been discussing the meaning of “late deadline.”  Is the application late?  Or did it come in before the deadline?  I think we’ll have new terminology in place by next year.)

We have applications that arrived by January 15, but are still missing a piece.  It’s almost always the recommendations that arrive last. We’ll hold off to the absolute last minute, because we don’t like to read incomplete files, but ultimately we need to review them with the recommendations that are in place.

On Friday, we sent the students on the Admissions Committee home with about 30 files each, and staff members also each took a batch.  Our boxes of files ready for student or staff readers are nearly empty!  So the reading process will be slowing to a trickle very soon.

The PhD Admissions Committee is now reviewing all of the complete applications and will be making their decisions in the next few weeks.  (A lot of eyes look at PhD applications!)

I think that we’ll be done with nearly all the reading in about two weeks.  Then the next phase will begin — making sure the right applicants are headed in the “admit” direction.

As ever, we can assure you that you’ll have your decision in hand before the end of March.  The exact date is still to be determined.  Still, I hope it’s helpful to know that we’re moving the process along!


Continuing today with my guest bloggers, Kristen reports on a day of reading applications.

Unlike Jessica, I had a toasty and warm reading day last week. I decided to flee my drafty 1850’s-era house in favor of a favorite nearby café, Bloc 11. Not only do they have delicious egg and cheese sandwiches (morning treat) and a rich Caramel Rooibos Latte concoction (afternoon treat), they also have a small alcove in the back corner with just a few tables and a fireplace. I pulled out my iPod (Dido and Mercedes Sosa were favorites), my selection of pens and pencils, and got to work. It was the perfect place to spend my day (and, unfortunately, quite a bit of money on the aforementioned treats … plus some).

One of the nice things about a reading day is that you get fully immersed in the flow of application reading. It’s not only about reading the essays and deciphering transcripts from other countries; it’s also about thinking critically about the applicant as a whole and trying to craft a descriptive, detailed, accurate, yet still concise write-up. When I return to the file a month later, I need to remember the candidate at a glance without reviewing the entire application again. For me, this can be the hardest part. So many applicants have so many interesting things to offer, and I’m inclined to re-write every little accomplishment in my description: He’s an Eagle Scout! She trekked through East Africa alone for six months! His work for the government was so entrepreneurial and interesting! By the end of the day, I realize my hand is cramping and I’ve written about twice as much as I’ve needed to.

On my reading day, though I sat alone in a café for many long hours, I had the pleasure of “meeting” so many of you through your applications, and that’s the real pleasure of our jobs here at Fletcher.


Thanks to a little advance planning, I arranged for others to do some writing this week when my own time and creativity are lacking.  Today, Chris, one of our interviewers, tells you what comes to mind when he thinks back to his applicant days.

It’s hard to believe that it has been over a year since I applied to Fletcher.   I remember checking the Admissions blog and GAMS website every day, hoping that decisions would be released.  I was a nervous wreck.  Fortunately, I was assigned to a new project at work and was able to dive right in — a nice distraction.

With the advantage of hindsight, my advice for all those reading is to take a deep breath and relax.  Accept the fact that there’s little you can do at this point with regard to your application.  All the hard work is done!  Yes, look at the Fletcher website every now and then, but by this point you’ve probably read everything on the entire site.

This downtime between application submission and decision release is when life more-or-less returns to normal for a month or so (depending on where you’ve applied, obviously).  You had a life before the GRE exam and grad school applications:  go back to it!  Go on your dream vacation to Peru or Malaysia now, because once you have heard back from all your schools, there’s going to be a lot that you need to do (e.g. looking for housing, getting financing in order, or brushing up on your foreign language skills).

I realize this is easy for me to say now, a year after the fact.  However, one thing I’ve learned in life (thanks to Marcus Aurelius) is that while you may have little control over what happens to you, you have complete control over how you react to life’s events.

Hope to see you in the fall!


This weekend, a skeleton crew of students will be minding the Fletcher shop while a crowd of over 400 students, friends, spouses, and children heads to Maine for a weekend of skiing, snowboarding, and sipping hot chocolate.  They’ll nearly completely take over the condominium accommodations on site at Sugarloaf Mountain, possibly leaving the other skiiers confused as to how everyone on the lifts seems to know each other.  Organizing the trip is a massive student undertaking, all the more so given that one of the pretrip meetings needs to cover the topic of how to stay warm.  While all our students have seen snow by now, many come from places where Maine cold is an abstract concept. 

In other sports news this week, the Boston Globe ran this nice story about one of Fletcher’s first-year students. 

Whether you’re skiing, snowboarding, skating, or watching others play football, have a great weekend!


On Sunday, clutching our complimentary grocery bags as we left a restaurant that participated in the Boston Super Hunger Brunch, Kayla called me a trend-setter.  I’ve been bringing my own bags to the supermarket since the days when my eccentricity provoked discussion among the cashiers.  (“Paper or plastic.”  “Thanks — I have my own bags.”  “You have your own bags?”  “She has her own bags!“)

But Kayla’s comment led me to remember a cartoon that has stuck in my head since I first saw it many years ago.  A quick search later, here it is (with ap0logies that it’s hard to read).  That woman who’s saying, “I’ve always washed and reused my plastic wrap”?  I am that woman.  Environmentally aware?  Pathologically frugal?  You be the judge.

I’m taking a quick break from my pile of applications, having just shifted from the kitchen to a room with a computer.  But the computer isn’t why I made the move.  No — I was frozen out.  Each morning, our programmable thermostat clicks the heat off at 7:30 and the temperature in our old house starts to drop.  On my at-home reading days, I read in the kitchen (coldest room in the house) for a few hours, and then I shift to a warmer location.  When the warmer location gets too cold, I add more clothing.  Or a blanket.  Or a hot water bottle to keep my feet warm.  Or all of the above — the house is never very warm even before the heat turns off.  Finally, I’ll head back to the kitchen for lunch, often eating with my coat on.  Then I finally give in and turn the heat back on downstairs.  Afternoon reading continues in the kitchen, now warmer than the rest of the house.

Reading with the chill of February taking over the house isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  It keeps me awake, and the nomadic location shifting is a bit of activity between groups of files.

Back to my pile of applications.  Additional sweaters to be added soon.


We had our weekly team meeting yesterday and talked briefly about application numbers.  Last year, we actively wondered how the poor economy would affect the applicant pool.  By this year, we have become accustomed to the unpredictability, and the “wondering” is a little less active.  That doesn’t mean we’re not curious, so it was time to check in.

And it looks like, if you have been worried that you’ll be up against a tidal wave of other applicants all trying to squeeze into the entering class, you can rest a little easy.  We still have an application deadline in front of us, but we can get a general sense of the year’s pool by looking at how many applications we had received at this time last year.  Based on those records, we expect we’ll receive more applications than in 2009, but only by a small margin.

That’s good news for us (admissions people always like to report that our application numbers are up) and for you (no massive herd of competitors for a slot).  A win-win!


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