From the monthly archives: March 2010

Up to now, I’ve tried to keep everything upbeat by focusing on admitting students.  But blog readers aren’t so uninformed as to think we admit everyone.  While I have your attention, I want to share a little Admissions Committee perspective on why an applicant may be denied admission.

The first is the most obvious.  We have 1800-ish applications.  We couldn’t possibly fit everyone in the School.  Even if every single applicant were completely qualified, we’d need to find a way to select among them.

Given our actual applicant collection, we’re always looking to create a strong match between the School and our students.  Broadly speaking, applicants are denied admission because they don’t present clear enough evidence of:

♦academic strength or potential; or
♦the experience (professional and international) that will help them achieve their goals; or
♦clearly defined goals in line with Fletcher’s offerings.

We’ll make the decoding easier for some of our youngest applicants by telling them, in the decision letter, that everything is in place except work experience.

Every year we’ll receive a few calls or emails from applicants who challenge our decision, saying (for example) that we’re wrong, and that he (or she) really does have potential.  In fact, when the Committee makes a decision to deny admission, we’re not exactly saying that the applicant doesn’t have what it takes to succeed at Fletcher.  We’re saying that, based on the data and other information in the application, the applicant hasn’t presented a convincing enough case.  That difference leaves the door wide open for future successful applications.

The last decision category that doesn’t fit the “admit, admit” model is the waitlist.  Neither good news nor bad news.  I’ll have some specific advice later on for waitlisted applicants.  For now, I’ll only say that we understand that the offer of a place on the waitlist can seem like an extension of the admissions process — possibly unwelcome news, given the several months of waiting already behind you.  But the waitlist is an opportunity, too, and in most years a good number of waitlisted applicants will ultimately be admitted.

Between last week’s and this week’s posts, I’ve shared all the information I can think of to prepare readers to access and interpret their admission decision.  Now we just need to crank those decisions out.

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Continuing to help you prepare to receive and interpret the decision on your Fletcher application, let’s talk about admission.

Offering admission to an applicant should be straightforward, right?  Good application equals admission offer.  Well…when it suits our purposes, we abandon simplicity and take a more complicated approach.

On the straightforward end of the spectrum, most applicants who get good news this month will receive plain vanilla admission.  Everything you need is in place!  Hooray!

But plenty of other happy applicants won’t be the plain-old-vanilla type.  When we offer them admission, we’ll attach a condition to make up for a shortcoming.  The most frequently employed flavors of conditional admission require that, before starting Fletcher classes, the applicant should:  improve foreign language proficiency; improve English language proficiency; or improve quantitative skills.

Occasionally, we admit applicants to a program other than the one to which they applied.  Most common example:  You applied to the mid-career MA program, but you don’t have sufficient experience to be admitted.  For the MALD program, on the other hand, you’re looking good, so we’ll admit you to the MALD!  (There’s similar thinking behind offering MALD admission to a tiny number of PhD applicants who lack the master’s level study to enter the PhD program directly.)

We also occasionally (about a dozen applicants each year) admit someone to a future class.  These would be strong students, generally graduating this year, who will be so much happier at Fletcher if they have some work experience behind them.  These “delay admits” will receive a letter that says they are admitted for the September 2011 semester.

Creating all these flavors of admission poses challenges when it comes time to release decisions, but the option to attach a condition to admission is the difference between admit and deny for some applicants.  We would hate to turn away a highly qualified applicant who needs a little brush-up of English skills, but we would be obliged to do so if we couldn’t be sure he would pursue a language program.

The happy bottom line is that conditional admission is (once the condition is met) admission.  And we’re convinced that fulfilling the condition will enhance the admitted student’s experience at Fletcher.  So we’ll keep offering admission in all its different flavors.

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I bet you’re wondering about my weekend activities.  Yesterday was beautiful outside — I did five minutes of gardening, took a long walk, baked a loaf of bread — but I suspect it’s my Saturday in a windowless office that interests you more.

We accomplished a lot here on Saturday, completing a big files-all-over-the-place task that’s much harder to do when the office is open for business.  Let me give you a sense of where everything is:  Nearly all (let’s call it 90%) of the decisions to admit or deny are set.  Most of the scholarship decisions for admitted applicants have also been made, though we continue to tinker and make sure we don’t go over-budget.  At around this time, it always seems like there’s a lot to wrap up, but experience says that we’ll move quickly through the to-do list.

Meanwhile, we feel the heat as our (friendly) competitors release their decisions.  But our competitive juices are balanced by our need to get everything just right.

Here’s a bit of info I should have shared earlier:  Once we have the decisions posted, we’ll send you an email telling you to check your account in the Graduate Application Management System.  I encourage you to confirm you’re able to log in, but you don’t need to check your account by the hour.  A related key point is that you should be sure you’re receiving our emails.  If you have any doubt, scrounge around your spam folder for past messages, and make sure that Fletcher Admissions is an approved email sender.  Once you receive the email prompting you to check the system, you can log in and find the decision letter.  Students who are admitted will also receive a packet by mail in the coming weeks.

And one last note.  In some years, there’s a small bunch of straggler decisions.  The applications may have been here since January (though many arrived for MIB and LLM on March 1), but for whatever reasons a decision isn’t in place.  We face the challenge of deciding whether to hold all decisions, so that all applicants hear at the same time, or release everything that’s ready, which will leave a few people wondering.  This year, we’re going to go with option #2.  When decisions finally go out, all the MALD and MA applicants should hear at once.  Most MIB, LLM, and PhD applicants will also hear at that time.  A few decisions will be posted within about a 10-day window after the first big batch.  I’m sorry that it’s going to turn out that way this year, but that’s what it looks like.

I had planned to provide information about decisions today, but I’ll hold off just one more day and get to it tomorrow.

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This morning we have the last meeting of the Admissions Committee for the MALD and MA programs!  Woo hoo!  This has been a great committee.  The students are fabulous readers, and the professors provide such insightful comments and guidance.  I’m always sorry to see the weekly meetings come to an end, but it’s also exciting to move on to new activities.  Coming up:  sorting and more sorting of applications, until we have the final lists.

Next week I’m going to post information  on the different decision options — there’s more to it than just admit and deny!  Meanwhile, before I kick up everyone’s anxiety, I want you to know that the MIB, LLM, and PhD committees still have some work to do and will continue meeting for the next two weeks or so.  We’re getting close!  But we’re definitely not there yet.  In fact, we’ll be toiling away tomorrow — we’ll all set other work aside and focus on the aforementioned sorting, along with other tasks.  A day of complete focus, without phones ringing or visitors to the office, will leave us in a good position come Monday.

So far, we’re on track for our release date.  When is that, you ask?  As soon as possible, is my answer.  So now I’ll head off to Committee — a necessary step if we’re going to release decisions soon.


There’s always some unwanted wrinkle that visits us in March.  With a strange weather pattern that has kept the Boston area snow-free for a couple of months (while our friends further down the East Coast tried to figure out what to do with the fluffy stuff), it was technology’s turn to slow things down.  I’m not exactly sure what happened — possibly the server, but possibly something else — but thanks to the IT folks, the blog is back.

Ironically enough, I figured out the blog was down when I tried to post an answer to questions that had come up on Monday.  Some applicants took my advice and tested their passwords for the Graduate Application Management System (GAMS), and commented that they were unable to log in.  The system managers told us that the system was occasionally working slowly, but it was working.  So, my advice is still to be sure you have your login information in a convenient place.  If you decide to test it out, be patient.  On any given day, the system may be working more or less slowly.  (And remember that the system is shared with all Tufts graduate schools, so it isn’t only Fletcher applicants who are logging on.)


Every winter, there’s a day when I realize that the next few weeks will be filled with work, and not much else besides work.  Now’s that time!  Not that we don’t generally work hard on applicants’ behalf, but the final phase of the process is the most intense.

In coming days/weeks, the Admissions Committees will be wrapping up their review, though there are still applications circulating around the office, being read for the first, second, or (sometimes) third time.  Files are sitting in tall piles, waiting for someone to enter a decision in the system.  Committee discussions will start soon on scholarship assistance.  So we’re running the last lap of the process, though that last lap can be among the most challenging.

While you’re waiting for us, there’s one important task for you to take care of:  make sure you’re able to log on to the Graduate Admissions Management System.  (I realize that people who are checking the blog regularly are among our applicants with the strongest grasp of IT systems, but I’m going to make the point anyway.)  Back when your application was first complete, you received an email with the information you would need to log on, and you may have checked your record already (perhaps a dozen times, even).  If you haven’t logged on yet, look for that original email, because you’ll need to log on to access your decision.

Every spring we receive calls from people complaining that they haven’t received a decision.  In fact, the decision is there for them to see, but they can’t access it because they’ve lost the login information.

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.  Spread the word!


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