From the monthly archives: March 2010

I’ve been out of the office for a couple of days, and I’m doing the usual scramble to catch up.  Before I let even more time slip away since we released decisions, though, I want to say a quick word on feedback for applicants who were not admitted.

Fletcher is happy to offer feedback for applicants who plan to apply again.  We need a little time in the spring to take care of other admissions work, but after May 1, applicants who wish to know which aspects of their application need improvement can make a request by following this simple process.

Occasionally we’ll receive a note in December from someone who intends to reapply by the following January 15.  Our feedback notes might be useful, but only if the faults in the application are limited to the essays or other aspects of the application itself.  Beyond those simple fixes, there won’t be time to follow through.  It’s frustrating for us to tell someone in December that they need to bolster their English proficiency, or gain more professional or international experience, or take additional classes to prepare for graduate study.  There’s simply too little time to carry through.  I would recommend that you request feedback at least six to eight months before your next application.  Then you’ll have time to follow up.

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Continuing on the theme I started yesterday, I thought I’d provide one piece of info key to navigating the local landscape, and that is “the square.”  Look at Trafalgar Square in London, or Tiananmen Square in Beijing, and you’ll see a space that is, at least, rectangular.  Not so our local squares.  Davis Square is sometimes drawn as this little guy, with two legs, two arms, and two (what?) sticks coming out of his head.  Not rectangular, and certainly not square.  The “squares” of Somerville or Medford (or Cambridge, for that matter) are the intersection of several streets.  Closest to Tufts are Somerville’s Davis, Ball, and Teele Squares, plus Medford Square in Medford.

Now you have the essential knowledge that will enable you to understand Fletcher students when they tell you where they live, or the location of their favorite restaurants.

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It’s not that there’s nothing to write, but I sometimes feel stumped as to what I can make interesting.  Yesterday was one of those days.  But then an admitted student gave me an idea.  He’s outside the U.S. and won’t be able to attend the Open House.  He wants to learn more about Fletcher and our little patch of the world, but he doesn’t know where to start.  So let me provide some links that will be useful to any of you who isn’t able to visit.  You’re reading the blog, so I know you’ve all found the Fletcher website.  Have you checked the Tufts site?  It has useful maps, but also information about the other graduate units of the University.

Tufts sits right on the border between the small cities of Medford and Somerville.  (The mailroom is in Medford, but the phone switching equipment is in Somerville, and the border runs under Fletcher.)  For a number of reasons, I would say that social activities tend to point students toward Somerville, though many live in Medford.  Here’s a map that shows how the towns connect.  (I’ll leave it to you to zoom and scroll to find whatever interests you.)

One reason students spend time in Somerville is that Davis Square is the nearest stop on the subway, which we all call the T.  (Davis is the second stop on the Red Line, going toward Boston.)  There are also three bus lines that cross campus:  the 80, the 94, and the 96.  The MBTA has a useful website if you want to figure out how to get from A to B.

The student who provided inspiration for this blog post was interested in access to nature.  Somerville is a relatively densely populated city (Medford a little less so), but one of the nice things about this area is that you don’t need to travel far to access a different type of environment.  For example, from campus, it’s a quick drive (or a reasonable bike ride) to the Middlesex Fells, a great place to spend a day.

But what if you’re not a nature kind of person — well, you can easily go from the small cities surrounding the campus, to the larger city of Boston.  Getting to Boston is doable by bike, but it’s an even easier ride on the T.  And while Boston is not one of the world’s largest metropolises, students are here to study and there’s no way they can exhaust everything the city has to offer in only two years.

That should get you started in your research, but I have plenty more ideas, and I’ll be back with more links soon!

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It’s spring break for our students this week and the building is quiet.  Though students wandering into the office can distract us from our work, it’s generally a welcome distraction.  On the other hand, I need to motor through some tasks this week, and I’ll take advantage of the quiet.

Today I’m going to brazenly steal from myself, and re-post a list of questions (and their related answers) that come up each year.  Maybe one of these answers will help you as you scramble to collect all the information you need.  I’ll post more questions and answers as they come in throughout the spring.  For now, here we go:

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 waitlist, 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 waitlist until we have heard from the students we have already admitted.

Q: Do I really need to respond officially?  Can’t I just email you?
A: We enjoy your emails, but we really prefer you respond through the online system or with the enrollment reply 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. (Note 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 reserve much of their scholarship budget to distribute to second-year students.  That isn’t Fletcher’s model.  We split our scholarship budget between first-year and second-year students.  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 2010-2011?
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 2009-2010 on our web site.

Q: I was put on the waitlist.  Can I request feedback now?
A: Although the waitlist 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 waitlist.  So that means we’ll ask you to make your own determination of what materials will help strengthen your application at this point.

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Everyone on the Admissions staff has gone through at least one round (undergraduate) of competitive admissions, and many of us have gone through two or more.  So I’m being completely sincere when I say that we understand that waiting for a final decision from March into the summer, after already waiting from January to March, is a drag.  You want to move on, but there’s this process that’s still holding you back.  We get it.  And waiting may not be for everyone, but if you make the decision to remain on the waitlist, here are some tips for you.

First, the prospects.  Nearly every year, we’ve made offers of admission to applicants who have remained on the waitlist:  only a few people in some years, but as many as 20 in others.  We didn’t end up making any offers for last September (a surprise to us), but some of last spring’s waitlisted students were offered admission for January.

And here’s how the waitlist works at Fletcher.  (Please don’t assume that other schools do things the same way.)  We’ve made a bunch of offers of a place on the waitlist for applicants to all Fletcher programs.  For the next six weeks, the waitlist won’t be the focus of much of our attention, but applicants will be making their own decisions on whether to continue to wait.  Many will decide to turn down the offer — they’ll attend another graduate school or, maybe, continue to work.  By May 1, all the responses are in, and we’ll set aside the applications for future review.  (And I should note that the applications are in alphabetical order — we don’t “rank” the waitlist.)

Meanwhile…we’re monitoring the responses of admitted students.  Some will accept the admission offer, but they’re organizing joint degrees, or balancing educational goals and professional responsibilities, and they’ll decide to defer enrollment for a year.  As these fine details of the enrollment situation unfold, we’ll go to the waitlist to admit the students we need to fill the September class.

So what can you do, once you’ve confirmed that you’ll wait?  We invite you to update your application with carefully selected materials, such as…

1.  Any update to basic application credentials:  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 gain much from a recommendation (however positive it might be) that 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.  A brief essay to complete 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!  (Keeping your response to about 500 words is a good idea.)

3.  A visit to Fletcher.  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 an appointment is late April to early 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 discourage you from sending 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.

5.  Information that helps explain that gap or shortcoming that you feel may be holding your application back.  You may not have chosen to address it in your application, but now would be a good time to explain those crummy grades from your first undergraduate semester, or your limited international experience, or whatever else is a weakness in your application.

So there you go.  Some tips on how to boost your application while you wait.  You can send a short update by email, but please use “snail mail” for anything more substantive.

Historically, we have admitted students from the waiting list as early as late April (only once or twice) to early August (also rare).  The majority of the waiting list activity will take place from early May to the end of June.  It’s always our goal to sew everything up as quickly as possible — both for your sake and for ours.  And, last, the scholarship question.  At the same time as I can’t guarantee we’ll have scholarship funds remaining in late May or June, I can say that we generally have had some money to work with.  (Remember that the applicants who decide not to enroll are often returning scholarship funds, too.)

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We work in a suite of individual offices, public work spaces, and a common space in the back.  Right now, I can’t hear a sound except for tapping on keyboards.  With decisions released, we’ve all retreated temporarily to individual work — much of which is keeping up with the steady stream of emails from applicants who heard from us (or didn’t hear from us) on Friday.  The phones are quiet now, but yesterday they were ringing off the hook (leading to more emails from people who couldn’t get through).  Crazy!

It’s not that we don’t anticipate this sudden burst of correspondence.  Before I left here on Friday, I cleared my desk and my email inbox.  I even dusted (the desk, not the email)!  But it still catches me by surprise when messages come in faster than I can zap out responses.

Here’s a bit of information that may help channel emails to a more appropriate time.  Students who haven’t been admitted, and who decide not to attend grad school elsewhere, may want to know how they can improve their application.  Fletcher is happy to offer feedback.  In fact, when we review a second application, we’ll wonder why an applicant hasn’t been in touch.  We just ask that you wait until May 1 to contact us.  For now, you can check out the info on what to include in your request.

For admitted students, the next month or so will be a whirlwind, as you consider offers from different schools and start making plans to dismantle your current life and create a new one.  We’re working as quickly as we can to help you in this process by answering your questions.  Keep them coming, even if it makes life a little crazy!

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Back office photo,2

Laurie surprised us this morning with breakfast, presented ceremoniously, around the table in our back office.  We took an hour to eat and celebrate the decision-release milestone, while talking about the next tasks in front of us.

And one of those next tasks, a happy one, is to congratulate our newly admitted students.  Congratulations!  We’re all looking forward to getting to know you during the coming months (and beyond)!

A bit of info for all applicants, including those who weren’t admitted:   I found it especially challenging to evaluate applications this year.  I feel (because I’m talking about intuition rather than data) like the overall applicant pool was particularly fabulous!  So many people with such interesting experience.  It’s great!  But a fabulous applicant pool leaves me sorry that we can’t admit even more terrific applicants.

During the coming weeks, I’ll try to include a little more reflection on the process, but most blog posts will be centered on Fletcher programs and the community.  Now I’m going to turn back to my inbox and all the emails that built up in there while we focused on other things.

 

What a crazy process this turns out to be.  Laurie told me this morning (via email — we’re not working today) that she and Roxana were struggling to post decisions last night as hits to GAMS slowed or brought down the system.  Applicants were confirming they would accept a spot on the waitlist even before emails went out to tell everyone to check the system.  Wow!

Since there are still a few questions out there about logging in, I just wanted to say this.  The heavy traffic on the GAMS site has made it impossible for people to log in at many points since yesterday evening, but eventually they’ve been successful.  If you still aren’t able to access your decision on Monday, please email us.

Thank you to everyone for dealing patiently with the technology glitches.

 

We all needed to walk slowly through the office yesterday.  There were letters in piles everywhere, and we had to be careful not to create a breeze that would flutter them from pile to pile.  Here’s where the letters are today:

Packets ready for pick-up

The packets for the first big batch of admitted students are almost ready to mail.  We use the paper letters to check our own work.  Is the right decision in place?  The right scholarship award?  Is the mailing address correct?  Proofing the letters and loading up the packets has been a two-day job.  We had a lively crew (highly caffeinated) working on it this morning.  Our two early-bird student staff members, Rebecca and JR, had the honor of sealing the envelopes.

Plenty of coffee

What does all this mean?  It means we’re nearly ready to release (online) that first bunch of decisions.  To protect your own nerves, please note:

1.  We haven’t released anything yet.  (I’m writing at about 11:30 a.m. on Friday, U.S. East Coast time.)

2.  You’ll receive an email when your decision is ready to be viewed online.  If you have already been admitted, you’ll receive an email telling you to check for any updates, including scholarship decisions.

3.  If your decision isn’t included in the first batch, please don’t waste brain cells coming up with a theory of why you’re in the latter batch.  It’s not good news and it’s not bad news.  It’s no news — except that you must be an applicant to the LLM, MIB, or PhD program, and your application will be discussed at next week’s meeting.

4.  Those last decisions should all be released by March 23.  I know I said the 22nd yesterday, but the LLM Admissions Committee is meeting a day later than I had originally heard.

5.  The first batch (which, as I’ve said, includes at least 90% of decisions — including most of the MIB and PhD applicants) will be released at latest by Monday (the 15th).  (That includes the wriggle room we need to deal with technology crises.)

6.  1800 applicants all checking the online system in a short period of time will bring the system down.  We’ve warned the IT folks, but there’s not much they can do.  If you find yourself unable to view your online decision, make yourself a nice cup of tea, relax, and try again later.  We’ll be crossing our fingers that we’ll go crash free, but history tells us not to be unrealistic.

As this long process winds to a close, I want to thank all of you again for sharing your goals and stories with us.  There are applicants we first “met” on paper via the essays, and those we met several years ago at an APSIA fair.  No matter when our contacts began, we wish you all the best of luck as you plan your graduate studies!

 

We’re in the final stretch of the admissions process here, and it’s time to have the processing specialists take over.

Unfortunately, there are no specialists.  Just us!  But we’re inching closer and closer to decision time.  As I’ve been saying to all the people writing in, the outer limit of our window to release the first big batch of decisions will be March 19, and we certainly hope we’re not pushed out that far.  The remaining small batch of decisions (for some MIB, LLM, and PhD applicants) should (again, if everything goes right) be out by Monday, March 22.

We’ve closed the office and are doing our checking and double-checking.  Errors at this point in the process are not well received, to be sure.

I wish I had something more specific to say, but these few comments will have to do the trick.  We’re still working!  Thanks for hanging in there so patiently!

 

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