From the monthly archives: December 2010

Excuse my nosiness, but I’m wondering why you haven’t submitted your application yet.

Is it because you only recently decided to apply, and you’re still putting everything together?  In that case, take your time — you have until January 15 at 11:59 p.m.

Is it because you’re waiting for some hidden voice to tell you that the time has come to hit “submit”?  In that case, let me be the hidden voice:  SUBMIT NOW!

Are you somewhere between the two?  Then I want to suggest that you assign yourself a Personal Deadline before January 15, when (if past patterns hold) a thousand of your prospective future classmates will all finally decide to let their applications come through.  We’re prepared for the paper.  And for the constant hum of the printer (more of a “mmmmmswosh, mmmmmswosh”) as each page is printed and shoots out.  And for the bags and bags of mail.  Yes, we’re geared up and ready for the January 15 crush, so I’m not suggesting the Personal Deadline for our benefit.  No, dear applicant, it’s for you.

Why?  Well…first, because teeny little troubles turn into mega-hassles when you wait until the last minute.  A half hour without internet access on January 3 is no big deal.  A half hour without internet access on January 15 is reason to PANIC!

Also, if you submit your application on January 15, it will take a week to ten days before you can confidently check the Graduate Application Management System and expect to find useful information.  Those 1,000 applications and all the transcripts, test scores, etc. that go with them need to be linked up, and that just takes time.  Organization, and time.  Organization, and time, and file folders.

If you adopt the Personal Deadline approach and submit your application on, say, January 5, we’ll have all your materials in a tidy folder within a couple of days.  We make every effort to keep up with the paper flow, and we’re going to jump on the opportunity to put your file together.

So, please.  Open up your calendar, be it electronic or paper.  Turn to a convenient pre-January 15 page, and assign yourself a Personal Deadline.  While your prospective future classmates FREAK OUT on the 15th, you can sip a frothy cappuccino and relax.

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Maybe you have a few days off this week and you’re going to dedicate some time to completing your grad school applications.  Here’s a little input on what you should keep in mind as you put those final flourishes on your application to Fletcher.

•  The form:  Answer (completely and thoroughly) the questions we ask.  Please don’t refer us to your essay or résumé for information that belongs (in our opinion) in the form.  If you have lived in too many countries, or speak too many languages, to fit all the information in the form, then list the most important information and include the rest in your résumé.  Make sure that your abbreviations are easily understood.  Shortening University to Univ, in the interest of space, will be clear to application readers.  Abbreviating the name of your workplace to XLVPR will not.

•  The essays:  Again, follow the directions.  Make sure you have answered the questions.  Keep to the word limits — we’re not going to count them, but we’ll know if you give us 1200 words instead of 800.  Editing is a life-skill.

•  Your résumé:  No matter how many pages of activities and awards an applicant submits, it’s rare that anyone needs more than three pages to share information that is relevant to the admissions process.  Think it through carefully — if you overload us with information, we may not be able to pick out the truly important stuff.

•  General:  Do provide the materials/information we request, but don’t provide materials/information we don’t request.  No high school transcripts or diplomas.  No videos.  Please.

Most important of all:  Please remember that if you go by more than one name, tell us clearly! Don’t make us try to figure it out, because the result may be that your application appears incomplete, when everything is actually in the Office, distributed among different files.

Those are the big points that come to mind right now.  Take a look through the Admissions Tips category for other ideas that I haven’t included here.

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Just a quick note on the Office of Admissions schedule for the next 10 days.

Thursday, December 23 and Friday, December 24 — Office (and University) closed
Monday, December 27 to Wednesday, December 29 — Office open
Thursday, December 30 and Friday, December 31 — Office closed

We’ll be back to a regular schedule on Monday, January 3.

Happy holidays everyone — and wishes for a peaceful 2011.


In the first of this series of posts about student groups, I noted that students often work harder to answer my requests than even I expect.  This is an example:  Fatema, Jessica (another one — not me), and Elise have given me a complete run-down of how student organizations fit into their Fletcher lives.  Here’s what they have to say:

My name is Fatema, and I am an LLM student here at Fletcher.  Alongside school, I have gotten involved with two online journals, Praxis and Al Nakhlah, as an editor and, I hope, future writer!  This fall, students put together Asia Night where I taught two dances, Bhangra and Bollywood.  I am also assisting with the annual New York Career Trip that’s coming up in January.  I was elected as a student representative for the Diversity and Inclusiveness Committee, and I’m a member of the Harvard Law and Development Society, where we are writing up a memo on evaluations of land claims.  I am also a part of the International Law Society, where we are creating an amicus curiae brief we hope to submit to the Inter American Court of Human Rights.  On the side I go to school. 🙂

This fall, I organized a faculty coffee hour with Marc Sommers, an adjunct professor, to let students hear about his professional experiences working in the human security field.  I am currently helping coordinate Global Women career events with alumni during the New York and Washington, DC career trips.  And I am a member of a 10-person team of Harvard and Fletcher students working on a consultancy paper with the International Organization for Migration on Iraqi land restitution claims.

I co-lead several clubs/organizations at Fletcher and, while it’s been a challenge to juggle schoolwork and all other demands on my time, I see this leadership experience as an integral component of my grad school experience.

This year, The Fletcher Forum has become my biggest commitment.  As one of two managing editors, perhaps my key duty is to oversee the solicitations process, which means coordinating with our 20-plus staff editors on their efforts to solicit articles for the journal and maintaining an accurate tracking system.  This role has also given me access to such prominent policymakers as the EU’s Catherine Ashton and João Vale de Almeida (the new EU ambassador to the United States), as well as authors such as Thomas de Waal.  My interviews with these three figures will appear in the Forum’s winter issue, due out in January 2011.

Working closely with the Forum’s chief editor and my co-managing editor, as well with as our other editors and the Fletcher administration, has truly been one of the most rewarding elements of my Fletcher experience.  Although the juggling act gets hectic, if I could do it all over, I wouldn’t change a thing.

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I’m coming to the end of the information students sent me about the groups to which they’re connected.  Here are two more entries that show how some groups provide both intellectual and social activities.

Althea and Amy:
Global Women is dedicated to promoting a community among Fletcher women students through activities and events that support and advance the role of women in the field of International Affairs.  Global Women annually runs a program through which Fletcher women mentor Tufts undergraduate students in the departments of International Affairs, Peace and Justice Studies, and Women’s Studies.  In addition, Global Women organizes a Phenomenal Women Speakers Series to highlight the experiences of women working in international affairs; arranges panels with Fletcher Women alumni at the Fletcher Career Trips in New York and Washington, D.C.; and hosts several social events.

This November, Fletcher Global Women and the Fletcher Gender Equality Project partnered with the Harvard Women’s Law Association to put on an excellent panel in commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the UN Security Council Resolution 1325.  Also in November, the Phenomenal Women series hosted Prof. Ayesha Jalal, who both teaches at Fletcher and is the Mary Richardson Professor of History at Tufts University, and Elizabeth McClintock, a Founder and Managing Partner of CMPartners, and current PhD Candidate.

One of the things Fletcher Students in Security (FSIS) does is to sponsor an annual program we like to call “Military 101.”  In conjunction with the International Security Studies Program’s military fellows — mid-level U.S. Army and Air Force officers spending a year in residence at Fletcher — we organize a series of presentations, with each installment featuring a different aspect of the United States military, from presentations on the four services (Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps) to topics like Joint Strategic Planning System and Unified Command.  This series allows Fletcher civilians (most of us) a deeper understanding not only of the U.S. military, but of military organization, culture, objectives, strategy, and tactics.

Additionally, this year FSIS is hosting a series of Thesis Dinner nights, at which students engaged in research related to security studies can present their thoughts and work to a small group of peers and receive feedback — all over a delicious dinner at someone’s house.  Late this term, we arranged a tour of the Seabrook Nuclear Power Station in New Hampshire for a small group of students interested in nuclear energy.  Finally, to have a little fun and decompress before final exams, FSIS will be squaring off against the International Negotiation and Conflict Resolution (INCR) group in a friendly yet competitive game of laser tag!

Next term, we will be continuing the Military 101 series and hosting a Social Hour.  We will resume our topical discussion groups, which range from counterterrorism to human security to cybersecurity.  We also hope to arrange a student panel to discuss the resiliency and future of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which is still the cornerstone of the international nonproliferation regime.

Finally, until this year, FSIS was called Fletcher Women in Security, and was the local chapter of Women in International Security (WIIS).  Though the name has been changed to be more inclusive (especially since all FWIS activities were open to the entire Fletcher community anyway), FSIS retains its focus on and commitment to the advancement of women in traditionally male-dominated security fields.

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As soon as I finish writing this post, I’m going to send an email message to our interviewers, thanking them for their work and inviting them to stop by the office to pick up a gratitude-loaded chocolate bar.  It goes without saying that a piece of chocolate could hardly represent the contribution they make to the admissions process.  The Admissions Office’s ability to offer as many as 40 interviews each week — plus three information sessions — depends on the enthusiasm of Fletcher students for the community and on their interest in contributing to the selection of future community members.

On the one hand, all we ask of our interviewers is a roughly 90-minute weekly commitment.  And we know that the opportunity to interview regularly can be a professional development opportunity, keeping those skills sharp.  On the other hand, we put the burden on interviewers to find their own substitutes, even during midterm exams.  We demand that their notes arrive quickly after the interview, regardless of what they have going on during the day.  (And we tell them they need to look nice, though they may be coming from the gym.)  In a sense, it’s not the time they offer each appointment, but the steady full-semester commitment that we so appreciate.  And interviewees appreciate them, too — the evaluation surveys that interviewees are invited to complete are extraordinarily positive.

We’ll continue to offer a very limited schedule of interviews (most of which are already booked — remember that interviews remain optional) until January 15, drawing on our student interns, a few in-town volunteers, and Admissions staff, but the experience for those who visit Fletcher during the winter break is never as satisfying as a mid-semester visit.  We take pride in our visit program, through which applicants can be students for a day.  The focus for most visitors is the evaluative interview.  Many, many thanks to our student interviewers for helping us to make it happen.

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We ran two online chats last week.  The chats are an action-packed hour of question asking and answering.  I hope you were able to join us for the sessions on Tuesday and/or Thursday.  Whether or not you were among the applicants tossing questions our way last week, you’re welcome to an upcoming chat in January.  Be sure to connect with us if you’d like to be notified.  Meanwhile, I thought you might like this picture of what a chat looks like from our end.  There are students and staff around the table, and a few other staff members outside of the photo.  A video would have better captured the frantic typing, but this will have to do:


Applications to the PhD program are, without a doubt, the most complex each year — both for the applicants, and for the Admissions Office and PhD Committee on Admissions.  In addition to the usual stuff (form, essays, transcripts, etc.), PhD applicants need to submit a dissertation proposal and master’s thesis or extended writing sample.

Because so much material needs to be compiled, we’ve adjusted the application deadline twice in recent years.  First we went from January 15 to January 1.  This year, we moved it up again — to December 20.  Having the extra time to collect and review all necessary materials helps assure us that we’re giving every application the consideration it deserves.

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I’ve learned a lot about student organizations from the descriptions students sent me.  (Fletcher Sportsman’s Club — who knew?)  But each of the descriptions leaves me impressed by how much students pack into each semester.  Here’s the second installment of student group descriptions.

Kate was the first of two students to describe the International Development Group:
The International Development Group provides an avenue for students to explore their broad interests in international development.  The club regularly brings in speakers to discuss their varied experiences in the field, in areas such as the non-profit sector, children’s issues, evaluation, microfinance, and public health.  Additionally, we work with the Office of Career Services to connect students with alumni in this sector through panels and networking mixers in Boston, New York, and D.C.

Jacqui provided extra detail on IDG activities:
The International Development Group just hosted a career panel with Boston-based development professionals who gave great advice to students looking to break into the field of international development.  We also have been organizing networking Happy Hours with the development clubs at nearby schools such as Harvard and MIT.  This month, we’ll host an event with several experts to discuss the upcoming independence referendum in southern Sudan.

Since students are interested in a wide range of topics within the microfinance and development venture space and because the Microfinance and Development Venture Capital Network shares some objectives with other student groups, selecting the events on which to spend our limited funds is a challenge.  This year, my club co-president, Kathleen, and I have agreed on the objectives of outreach to professionals in the microfinance/social enterprise field, timely updates on relevant events, and supplementing students’ learning opportunities at Fletcher.  This semester, we heard from Katleen Felix, a director at Haiti’s largest microfinance institution; hosted a panel in which students who interned in the field gave valuable advice and insights on their experiences; and organized a debate on the question of whether it is fair to make a profit off the poor.  We also sent out weekly emails that let club members know about events related to microfinance and social enterprise locally and nationally.  (You’d be surprised how long it takes to compile a good summary — there are so many events in the Boston area alone!)  Next semester, we are planning to organize a social enterprise panel with local entrepreneurs, to hold a discussion on business plan competition best practices, to play a role in organizing the Fletcher School’s Leadership Program for Financial Inclusion, and to hold happy hours.

I’m a regular participant in Fletcher Green.  We are an organization focused primarily on sustainability on campus and in the surrounding community.  Some of Fletcher Green’s members helped bring a speaker to campus who works on renewable energy in Israel-Palestine.  As a result of another effort, Mugar Café now has composting, and we have also pushed to get better recycling facilities in Blakeley Dorm.  I was involved in a weatherization of one of the fraternities on campus (making it more energy efficient) and am trying to organize a weatherization of a Fletcher student house.  We also organized a community canvass to exchange incandescent light bulbs for high-efficiency compact fluorescents, as well as a light bulb exchange in the Hall of Flags.

The Fletcher Sportsman’s Club is a student organization that promotes best practices for clay target shooting.  Our organization engages new shooters as well as offers the opportunity to experienced participants to mingle and network outside school.  We are part of a network of five schools that include Harvard College, Harvard Law, MIT and Northeastern.  Today, we are one of the largest student-run clubs with over 80 members and one of the largest budgets.

Jeffrey, who provided info on two other groups on Tuesday, backs Laurence and adds:
The Fletcher Sportsman’s Club is a great time to (literally) blow off some steam!  We go trap shooting and many of us have never handled a gun before.  Afterwards, we break for some great BBQ (trust me, I’m from the South) and talk about anything non-school-related.

I’ll be back next week with more on student groups!

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Fletcher has had an Early Notification application process for many years now, but we’re shaking things up this year.  For the first time, our decision options will include admit, defer the application for further review in the spring, and deny.  We had previously had all sorts of administrative and programmatic reasons why we didn’t deny applicants in the fall.  No point going into them now, but I’ll explain a bit about our change of mind.

Last year, we came to the conclusion that it was in the interest of our Early Notification applicants to provide a clear answer if we knew they would not, in the end, be admitted.  Some prospective students whose applications were deferred to spring were investing time and energy in promoting their cause — time and energy that might more productively have been poured into applications to other schools.

But having decided on a change to our practice, the new process has still been a learning experience for us.  In particular, we hadn’t originally planned to offer “work deny” decisions, but in the end, we decided to do so.  So here are the specifics of the decisions.

On the good news side:  An offer of admission!  You’re welcome to confirm your enrollment now, but you’re not obligated to do so until the spring.  Admission may be made conditional on completion of (for non-native English speakers) an English program or (for native English speakers) on foreign language study.  Note that there’s certainly no reason to wait until the summer to brush up foreign language proficiency.

On the other end of the spectrum are the decisions to deny (straightforward, if sad) or “work deny” (which means that applicants look solid overall, but need some professional experience).  Applicants who are denied admission in the Early Notification process can request feedback according to standard feedback protocols, but cannot reapply until at least next fall for January 2012 enrollment.

Finally, there are the applications that we’ll defer for reconsideration in the context of the entire applicant pool.  Those applicants will receive a final decision letter in March.  If your application is deferred, note that you’re encouraged to provide updates on any changes to your credentials (test scores, grades, professional experience) since you first applied.

Two last points.  The first is that many, or even most, of the applicants who will not be offered admission could be admissible in a future year.  They could improve their test scores, work a few more years, take some graduate level courses that show their potential to succeed at Fletcher, improve their English or foreign language proficiency, or simply do a better job on the application so that we can really figure out who they are.  We’re glass-half-full people, and we can see potential in all our applicants.  But we also have the task of finding the best matches between the School and incoming students, and that inevitably leads to denying admission to some.

My last point, and a very important one:  NO! We are not releasing decisions right away.  You know they’re coming in December, but we’re not yet done with the final decision-making or processing.  I’m just providing this information now so that curious applicants can prepare themselves.

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