From the monthly archives: October 2010

Most of our on-campus Information Sessions are conducted by current students, but a member of the staff joins the conversation to discuss admissions issues.  Way back in September (seems so long ago…), there weren’t many admissions/application-specific questions for us.  With the application deadline for January 2011 enrollment already passed, and the deadline for Early Notification applications (November 15) almost upon us, attendees are more plugged in, and they have many questions, a few of which will be like “What exactly do you mean on question #6 of the application?”

There are definitely parts of the application that may seem tricky, given a mismatch between the applicant’s experience and the constraints of the form itself.  For example, some people have more travel, or more professional positions, than we include room for.  But that doesn’t mean that there’s some hidden agenda behind the way we pose the questions.  For most applicants and most problems with the application, here’s what I suggest.

Approach the application with the assumption that the Admissions Committee is trying to gather information that it needs, while also giving you an opportunity to present many different facets of your background.  Yes, the online system constrains us from offering space to list all 11 languages you speak.  (That’s where the résumé and the “additional information” section of the application step in.)  But, as you figure out how to squeeze your life into a multi-question form and two essays, you’ll find that a little common sense will take you a long way.  Answer the questions in the way and location we ask.  Give careful thought to whether the additional information you want to add will actually enhance our understanding of you or your background.  You may find that what fits into the form is sufficient, but if not, use one of the free-form sections of the application to complete the information.

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Our first-year Admissions Interns introduced themselves on Monday.  Today we’ll hear from the second-years (and you’ll notice that they have more to say than their newbie counterparts).  In egalitarian alphabetical order, here they are:

Amy:

Hi!  I’m Amy, a second-year MALD and, for the second year in a row, the only “Double Jumbo” student intern in the Admissions Office. My Fields of Study are International Security Studies, Human Security, and International Negotiation and Conflict Resolution.  In non-Fletcher jargon, this means that I’m interested in conflict management and post-conflict reconstruction.

At Fletcher I’m leading Global Women, a student organization that promotes women’s leadership and participation in international affairs, and I’m in several of the many cultural clubs. We’re currently getting our dancing feet ready for the Bhangra performance at Asia Night in November.

I was born in the U.S., but grew up in Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, and Thailand. Before coming to Fletcher, I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Togo, West Africa.  I spent most of my time playing with super energetic Togolese children and would do the occasional health education project on the side.  I also worked for the World Food Programme in Timor-Leste, where I thoroughly enjoyed my beachfront house.  (My first winter back in Boston was quite the adjustment!)  This past summer I was in Washington, DC, interning at the Department of State in the Office for the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization.

David:

Hi everyone!  I’m a second-year student in the MIB program and I also work part-time in the Admissions Office.  To share a little of my background with you, I went to George Washington University for my undergraduate education and earned a B.A. in International Affairs.  From there, I worked for three years in supply chain management for Pratt & Whitney (a jet engine manufacturer in Connecticut).  My primary responsibilities were the procurement and day-to-day management of the entire supply chain and manufacturing process for all jet engine components that were made in South Korea and Israel.  This was a great exposure to international business as well as to different business customs and languages.  While working for Pratt & Whitney, I went back to school and earned an M.A. in Political Science from the University of Connecticut, which furthered my understanding of Latin American growth prospects, always a subject of intellectual curiosity for me.

Today I remain as excited about studying at Fletcher as I was when I first walked through the door more than a year ago.  My concentrations here are International Political Economy and Strategic Management & Consulting.  Given that this is my second year, I have to start writing my thesis as well.  My topic is “Succeeding in Emerging Markets:  How U.S.-based multi-national corporations adapt their business models to Brazil’s institutional barriers.”  After spending this past summer interning for PepsiCo’s South America Headquarters in Sao Paulo, I am very excited about my research and look forward to sharing it with Fletcher soon!  So that’s a little bit about me.  I look forward to learning more about you as the application process unfolds.  If you have questions, especially about the MIB program, please do not hesitate to get in touch!

Sabah:

I’m a second-year MALD student “from California,” but, like many of you, can think of other places to call home, too.  In fact, this summer I was in southern Africa, where my heart was so content that I debated taking a semester off to continue my morning dive-off-the-balcony-and-into-Lake-Malawi swim routine (and continue the work I love, too, of course).

I decided to return because I am convinced, now more than ever, that a Fletcher degree is exactly what can shape a rewarding summer into a career.  Work in the field on development issues can be grueling, but the tools I’ve acquired here help transform seemingly unsolvable problems into challenges that can be critically analyzed, realistically tackled, and maybe — in a few precious situations — definitively addressed.  A process to which I hope some of you will have a chance to contribute as students here.

My Fields of Study at Fletcher are Human Security and Humanitarian Assistance.  This past summer I was a Monitoring and Evaluation Intern for the Nike Foundation in Malawi.  Prior to Fletcher I worked as a paralegal specialist for the U. S. Department of Justice in San Francisco and then as a Project Manager for an NGO in a refugee settlement in Zambia.  I have also held internships at the White House and the Council on Foreign Relations, and am a founding member of a non-profit called YOUR DIL, which raises funds to build schools for girls in Pakistan.

Virginia:

Oi, again!  My name is Virginia, and this is my fourth and last semester at The Fletcher School, and third and last semester working in the Admissions Office. I introduced myself last year, and I’m still focusing on International Business Relations and Development Economics, as well as currently writing my thesis on “Recruitment in the Era of Social Networks.”  Here’s a little bit about what I’m going to miss at Fletcher once I leave at the end of the semester…

I love how diverse Fletcher is, not only in terms of race, religion or political views, but in terms of experience and interests.  People here have not only experienced different cultures and countries but also appreciate them.  And, the range of work experiences here is amazing.  I truly feel that having a more mature student body — people who have been working for at least a couple of years — is one of the strengths of The Fletcher School.  Students have a solid idea of why they are here, and what they want to learn and take away from their graduate studies, and I see this through their contributions in the classroom.  We are surrounded by the future leaders of the world, and being able to learn from my peers on a daily basis is an amazing opportunity.  I will miss this place dearly when I leave.

As for what the future holds for me, that is still up in the air.  However, nearing the end of my Fletcher experience, I know I want to work in a setting where I can continue to interact with a diverse group of people, utilizing new tools such as new media/networking outlets, while promoting development internationally and locally.

 

Naturally, without students Fletcher wouldn’t be a school, but that’s not what I’m talking about.  Students play a big role in our admissions process.  Nearly 40 are conducting interviews.  Seven or eight will sit on our Admissions Committees for the MA/MALD and MIB programs.  And a beloved handful — our Admissions Interns — keep the work of the office moving along.  What do they do that might interest a blog reader?  They answer emails and take questions by phone; conduct information sessions; compile application folders; update information in the application database; prepare mailings; staple stuff; date stamp other stuff; and just overall give our office a lively and friendly vibe.

I’ve asked the Admissions Interns to introduce themselves.  I’ll start with the newbies.

First up — Caitlin:

Hello!  My name is Caitlin, and I’m a first-year MALD student.  Originally from the Boston area, it feels great to be back in Massachusetts (temporarily, at least!) after a whirlwind couple of years living and traveling around the world.

Before coming to Fletcher I interned with two NGO’s focused on children’s rights and education, first in Yaoundé, Cameroon and then back in Boston at Roots & Shoots, a program of the Jane Goodall Institute.  From there, I moved to Paris, where I spent a year teaching English and working on my French.  Living and working in Paris was wonderful,  but highlights of the year also include traveling around Europe and to Morocco.  After moving back to the States, I was in NYC working at UN Headquarters in the Department of Public Information and for the UN Pension Fund.  I loved being part of such an international work environment, and am thrilled to be a part of an equally diverse community here at Fletcher.

My fields of study at Fletcher are Human Security and Negotiation and Conflict Resolution, with a regional focus on Sub-Saharan Africa.  I’ve been involved in the UN Club, the Fletcher Youth Initiative, and the International Migration Group on campus.   I’m looking forward to working in the Admissions Office this year and to hearing from you as you go through the application process.  Best of luck!

Next — Kartik:

Hey there!  This is my first semester in the MALD program and working in the Admissions Office.  I’m not sure, but I think my Fields of Study are going to be International Security Studies and Energy and Environmental Policy.  Unlike most students at Fletcher, I have lived in Boston for the last three years, and I love the city, so I decided to stay longer.  When I graduate, I hope to work at a renewable energy venture capital firm, focused on emerging markets.  If you have any questions about the Fletcher School or my experience here please don’t hesitate to ask.

And last for today — Lauren:

Greetings!  I’m Lauren, a first year MALD from Colorado and a new addition to the Admissions Office Interns.  The year has gotten off to a great start and the Fletcher community has gone above and beyond my expectations.  The collective experience of this group is absolutely amazing, and I feel so lucky to be a part of such a passionate and compassionate group of scholars.

Before Fletcher, I worked for three years at the American Chamber of Commerce in Germany, where my passion for German language and culture and transatlantic relations really flourished.  While at Fletcher, I plan to focus on International Business Relations and Communications to complement and expand upon my prior experience.  I currently have my sights set on pursuing a career in Corporate Social Responsibility and I am certain that the strengths of the flexible, interdisciplinary curriculum at Fletcher will help me reach my goal.

In what little spare time I have, I enjoy running, cooking (hence the need to run), learning new languages (I’m on Polish at the moment), and being outdoors.  Up next: holding up against my first East Coast winter!

 

Applications for January 2011 enrollment were due on October 15, and we’ve just started passing them around the office and reading.  It’s a manageable collection, and with everything else going on around here, the review process feels pretty low-key.  It’s like the soft opening of a restaurant — we have the chance to get back in the groove without feeling overwhelmed by the task.

But from here, it’s a deadline a month for September 2011 enrollment.  Early Notification applications for MALD, MA, MIB, and LLM are due November 15.  PhD applications are due December 20.  The Grand Opening of admissions review frenzy comes on January 15, the regular deadline for the master’s-level programs.  By then, I’ll be up to speed.  For now, we can read January applications at a relaxed pace, and retrain ourselves on the fine points of the process.

 

The office is hoppin’  today.  Our morning started with an 8:15 interviewer but no 8:15 interviewee.  (Never the preferred way to kick off the week — please contact us if you can’t attend your interview).  Happily, by 9:00, the well-oiled machine was back up and running.

In addition to our usual busy Monday interview schedule, we have a bunch of prospective MIBers visiting.  Tomorrow is the PhD Visit Day, so we’ll have two days of unusually heavy traffic.  Each of the Visit Days ends up organized slightly differently (depending on the number of attendees and other factors), but they’re an efficient way for prospective students to gather information on these programs.

Because my day tomorrow begins with the PhD visitors but ends with my own visit to Boston College, I’m afraid it will be a low-blog week.  Whenever I can put aside the time to write, I hope to introduce you to our student interns.

 

For the past two years, the University has been gearing up to comply fully with a new Massachusetts privacy law, designed to ensure that businesses and other organizations properly handle personal information identifying their customers.  For its part, Fletcher has had offices with such information develop and document systems to protect it.  Let’s just call it an Admissions nightmare.  But with the knowledge and support of others at Tufts, along with our own privacy expert, Roxana, we have been figuring things out.

The range of fixes we’ve put in place range from the complex (scrubbing our computers of personal information) to the annoying (razoring Social Security numbers off of test score reports and transcripts).  But even as we maintain heightened vigilance (!) around the information that flows into the office, there’s one thing that you, as an applicant, can do.  Please don’t put your Social Security number onto each page of your essays.  Unfortunately, we don’t have a way to prevent them from printing, and we’ll need to obscure the number or cut a hole in the paper on which they’re printed.  Putting your name on the essay is a great idea.  More than that is not necessary, and may even be unhelpful.

So far so good on our compliance with the law, despite our information-driven work, and not nearly as disruptive as we had once feared.  And it’s good news for our applicants — regardless of whether you’re from Massachusetts or elsewhere in the world, our compliance with “201 CMR 17.00: Standards for the Protection of Personal Information of Residents of the Commonwealth” will protect you, too.

 

I hope it was a good weekend for everyone.  It certainly was for us:  the Medford/Somerville metro area had fantastic weather — the type we look forward to all winter as we dig through the snow.  My husband, Paul, and I kept ourselves busy:  went to the theater, puttered around our small sun-starved garden, picked up after the high school girls varsity soccer team during their sleepover with our daughter Kayla.  But the event that establishes the flavor of the neighborhood is, without a doubt, the annual Honk! Festival.

So there we stood on Massachusetts Avenue on Sunday, watching a long and unruly parade of marching bands, clowns, people on stilts, and hula hoopers, many of whom displayed a clear political leaning.  It’s a joyful parade, a celebration following Saturday’s great music in Davis Square (and ending up at the annual Oktoberfest in Harvard Square).  Be sure to put Honk! on your calendar if you’re planning to be in the area next fall!  Meanwhile, check out this video, Louder than Words, made by Tufts students in an Experimental College class last year.

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Just a quick note that Monday, October 11 is a public holiday.  The Admissions Office, along with the rest of Tufts University, will be closed.  We’ll reopen on Tuesday at 9:00 a.m. 

Have a great autumn weekend!

 

Last spring, Peter received a request from a professor at a college whose alums frequently apply to Fletcher:  What suggestions might the Admissions staff pass along to professors or other writers of academic recommendations?  Believe me, we jumped into action!  It’s impossible to read recommendations without developing opinions on them.  As a recommendation requester, how can you use these suggestions?  I’ll be honest — I’m not sure.  I think it’s going to depend on your connection to/relationship with the recommender.  For example, if there’s an anecdote that you would like shared (tip #9), be sure to mention it to the recommender.  So here, for you to use as seems appropriate, are our recommendations for recommenders:

1.  Be honest with the student if you can’t write a supportive letter.  We always feel bad for applicants who have a particularly negative recommendation, as they will never know, and that just doesn’t seem fair.

2.  Review the applicant’s résumé and discuss his/her objectives and goals, so that the letter can be targeted, instead of generic.  Knowing a tiny bit about Fletcher helps, too.  (For example, despite the formal name of the School, we are not a law school.)

3.  Ask the student if there are aspects of his/her academic background that could use a little explanation.

4.  If your school or program is not well known to the wider world, introduce it.  But don’t use up too much of the letter’s space on the introduction if the result will be that the student is barely described.

5.  Use sparingly comments such as “one of my top five students in 25 years of teaching.”  (Thus, they are taken more seriously when used).  On the other hand, it is useful when recommenders mention what percent of students get an A in the class.  (Reading “Only 10 percent of the class received an A” helps us put grade inflation in perspective.)

6.  Indication of why a student succeeded (or failed) in a class is helpful. Even if it seems obvious that an A demonstrates the student’s strength, it’s helpful to learn why. “Earning an A in this class demonstrates that so and so wrote well/conducted high quality research/solved problems in a creative way/spoke up a lot in class.”  The academic recommendations are one of the few qualitative ways we have to understand a student’s academic capacity, so it is helpful to understand how a student excels (not simply that the student did excel).

7.  Be sure to note it if a student took the time to get to know you outside of class (through research, office hours, etc.).  This is often a helpful indicator of how they will act in graduate school.

8.  A letter shorter than a full page may be too short.  Longer than two pages may be too long.

9.  Anecdotes are nice!  Adds flavor to the letter.

10.  Avoid proofreading errors.  It’s easy for us to read past the problem (calling Richard “Robert,” or mentioning SIPA in a letter for a Fletcher application), but it does make us wonder how much the recommender has tailored the letter to the applicant.

And that’s it:  Our Top 10 List of Recommendation Recommendations.  With thanks to David Chioni Moore for giving us the idea of collecting them.

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In order to graduate, Fletcher students who are native English speakers need to demonstrate proficiency in at least one other language.  (Non-native English speakers demonstrate their proficiency in their second language — English — every day they are here.)  The first of the year’s reading exams was was offered on Saturday, and here, for the curious blog reader, is the breakdown of the 147 tests taken:

Spanish (56)
French (49)
Chinese (11)
Arabic (10)
Italian (6)
German (4)
Portuguese (3)
Russian (2)
Swahili  (2)
Hebrew (1)
Japanese (1)
Korean (1)
Urdu (1)

Test guru Ann Marie Decembrele, from the Registrar’s Office, also tells me that two students will make separate arrangements to test in Hindi.  All students who pass the reading exam will then contact a tester to schedule an oral exam.  Once both are passed, a graduation requirement can be checked off the list.

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