From the monthly archives: January 2011

Yesterday was my first full reading day of this admissions season.  I’ve read a good number of files already, but always in small groups of five or ten.  On a reading day, I usually figure on reviewing 40 or so.  I average about five an hour, though there are productive hours and, well, not so productive hours.  As for yesterday, I managed to read a lot, but the day was arranged differently.

My usual plan is to start reading early and keep motoring through.  Yesterday, I started early, but took an 8:00 break for snow shoveling, the East Coast having been hit by an impressive late-night storm.  Then I read for two hours, before my second shoveling “break,” this time accompanied by my daughter, Kayla, for whom school was canceled.  More reading and a lunch break, and then my third and final round of shoveling.

All the fresh air seemed to keep me alert, and I was surprised by how much I was accomplishing.  On the other hand, moving the snow was tiring and my handwriting was worse each time I sat back down to read.  Illegible scrawl notwithstanding, I returned a healthy pile of applications today — all ready for the next stage of their admissions journey.

 

Every morning this week, the Fletcher Admissions email inbox has been filled with inquiries about the status of applications.  We know how unsettling it is to log onto the Graduate Application Management System and see that your recommenders appear not to have submitted the letters that you know they have submitted.  It’s also unsettling to us to look in our back office and see stacks of application folders that need to be processed and updated.  Those two unsettling conditions are firmly linked.

For this week, and maybe next, we’ll just need to ask you to be patient.  We’re getting the job done as fast as we can, but it’s time consuming work.  And it’s also the type of work that can be plagued by errors if we rush.  So while we’re plodding along, you can relax a bit.  If you’re sure that you have submitted all necessary materials, your GAMS record will soon provide the confirmation you need.

 

The most recent annual Fletcher student ski trip took place this past weekend.  I’m not sure exactly how many trips preceded this one, but it’s not a large number.  (I wrote about it in 2009, which might have been the second year.)  But the interesting thing is how quickly the trip has become a celebrated Fletcher tradition.  More than 400 students, spouses, friends, and even some children attend each year as part of the Fletcher group.  I hear that Sugarloaf also accommodates a few people not from Fletcher, but outsiders may have been flummoxed by lift-line conversations about Role of Force or International Finance.

For many students, the trip is their first exposure to snow sports.  Last year, it may even have been their first exposure to snow.  This year, it was certainly a test of everyone’s ability to tolerate cold temperatures, as well as 1980s ski attire (which was the theme of the planned Saturday night party).  But there was plenty of warmth off the slopes.  There’s nothing like a ski trip with 450 of your Fletcher friends.

 

It’s very cold outside.  Coldest day in seven years, in fact.  But that hasn’t stopped 15 newly-admitted students from making the trip to Fletcher for our Early Notification Admitted Student Visit Day.  It’s a mellow event — a little chatting over coffee, a couple of informational panels, the opportunity to sit in on classes.  Those who attend have a chance to see what the School normally looks like — an atmosphere we unfortunately can’t create during the spring Open House, when well over 100 visitors increase the student community by 25 percent.

For the Admissions staff, it’s a nice opportunity to start matching names, faces, and back-stories.  When we read applications, we tend not to focus on the applicants’ names.  So when we meet prospective students, we need a few hints before we can figure out what we know about them.  Beyond that, the day is also a welcome reminder that the interesting applications we read are only representations of the very interesting people behind them.  It’s not that we ever forget that applications are sent by real people, but meeting admitted students gives us a sneak preview of the September class we’re working to create.

 

Blog readers may be wondering how the application processing is going.  And the answer is FANTASTIC!  I’ve already noted that having Kartik, Lauren, and Caitlin in the office during the break was a gift, and we were in unbelievably good shape when the paper started to attack.  Since Tuesday, we’ve been closing the office in the morning to minimize disruptions, and we’ve all alternated application processing with the other stuff for which we’re responsible.

At this point, broadly speaking, applications can be found in several different places:
1.  Stuck in “the system” waiting for recommendations to be submitted.
2.  On a table, waiting to be put in a file folder.
3.  In a folder, waiting to be paired with transcripts and other materials we have already received by mail.
4.  In a box, waiting for transcripts (or whatever) to arrive by mail.
5.  In a different box, waiting for a student to read them.
6.  In yet another box, waiting for a member of the Admissions Staff to read them.
7.  On someone’s desk, waiting for final Committee discussion or processing.

We start reviewing applications as soon as they’re complete.  The student members of the Committee on Admissions are all back in town now, and they have reading targets to meet.  After they do their work, the Admissions staff can get started on serious reading — no more grabbing the occasional handful.

There are a few hundred files that we just formed today, and we’ll be updating each applicant’s information in the Graduate Application Management System.  Until that batch was printed, we were up-to-date on all the updating.  In other words, applicants whose materials have all arrived will be seeing reassuring information in a timely way on the Graduate Application Management System.  Applicants whose recommendations or transcripts (or whatever) are lagging behind the application should continue to be patient.

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Admissions blog readership always picks up in January and a reintroduction seems in order.  You’ve already figured out that this is the blog for Fletcher School Admissions, and I’m the chief blogger.  Now that Fletcher has had a blog for several years, we’ve covered many aspects of the key topics represented by the Categories (listed over to the left of this post).  If you’re new to the blog, I encourage you to poke around a little bit — you no longer need Admissions Tips, but you’ll find information about the local area and what it’s like to be a member of our community.

With everything happening during this busiest time of the year for Admissions, generating creative posts can be a challenge — but I still aim to post several times each week.   One objective of the blog is to help fill the information void that exists after you submit your application, and we wouldn’t want you to misinterpret blog silences!  Generally, for the next two months, the focus will be on keeping applicants informed about the review process, and helping you prepare for the possibility you’ll be coming to Fletcher in September.

I’m always open to suggestions!  If there’s something you’d like to know more about, please let me know!

 

I’m sorry that I forgot last week to give you advance notice of our schedule for today.  The University (and the Admissions Office with it) is closed today for the public holiday honoring Martin Luther King, Jr. 

We’ll be back tomorrow, attacking a pile of mail and a computer full of applications.

 

Between Early Notification applications, PhD applications due December 20, and regular (January 15) applications, nearly all applicants will have been heard from by 11:59 tomorrow night (Eastern Standard Time = GMT-5).  We complicate our own lives with a few late deadlines, especially for those not seeking scholarship support, but even applicants with external funding tend to aim for January 15.

(If you have any last application questions, don’t forget our “virtual office hours” this morning!)

The office staff will be working at maximum effort for the next week, which will be about the time we need to process the applications for which we’ve received all needed materials.  We’ll be closing our doors every morning to minimize interruptions.

But, meanwhile, student life is gearing up after the winter break.  Yesterday and today, while continuing students are participating in the New York career trip, our newest students, the Januarians, are attending Orientation.  On Tuesday, the Hall of Flags will be buzzing with happy “shoppers” — students sampling an assortment of classes on shopping day.  And classes start on Wednesday.

So off we go — heading straight into the busiest time of year.

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Lots of snow all around, but we’re more-or-less back in business.  Even without having missed a day of work yesterday, we are SOOOOO LUCKY this week to have our super student interns, Caitlin, Kartik, and Lauren, sacrificing their vacation time to help us out.  They’ve been keeping the mail mountains to molehills, updating applications in the online system, and generally serving as the barricade separating us from nuttiness.  But, with the application deadline coming on Saturday, we’re getting ready for chaos (of the controlled variety, we hope) next week.

Meanwhile, it seems that, for some applicants, completing the application is the easy part.  The real stress comes during the post-submit information void — that stretch of time between hitting the submit button and learning that the application is complete.  (It’s worth noting that the chaos and the duration of the void are intricately linked.)  To try to ease some concerns, here is the blog’s annual rundown of what’s happening after you submit the application.  Note that many of these steps are (thanks to the wonders of technology and human effort) taking place simultaneously:

1.  You hit the online “submit” button.  Your application will be “stamped” with the date and time, and will wait within the Embark system for your registered online recommenders to submit their letters.  If all your recommenders have already submitted their letters, or if you haven’t registered any online recommenders, the application will be ready for us immediately, and we’ll upload it into our internal program.

2.  When your application (with online recommendations) is uploaded, you’ll receive an automatically generated email stating that we have received your application, and that you should wait ten business days before contacting the Admissions Office about any missing materials.  The email also provides you with a username and password to access the Tufts Graduate Application Management System (GAMS).  GAMS is the best way to track your application throughout the process.  We’ll also be posting decision letters to your GAMS account, so hang on to your username and password!

3.   Uploaded applications are printed in batches.  Once we have the paper copy, we’ll create a file folder for you.  (A big moment in the life of your application!)

4.  Meanwhile, Admissions Office staffers will risk paper cuts and worse while they open an endless stream of envelopes holding test scores, transcripts, letters of recommendation from recommenders who weren’t registered online, etc.  We sort and file the mail.  If the application hasn’t yet been uploaded, the paper materials will “wait” for it to emerge from the system.

5.  Once we have your application in a file folder, we dig out the mail that has already been received for you and include it.  Then we update your record in the admissions system to show what materials have come in by mail.  You should track your application through GAMS, but we’ll also email you if there’s a document missing.  Emailing a member of the Admissions staff will, at this point in the process, give you only the information you can access yourself through GAMS.

6.  Your completed application is then given to Committee members to review, and you’ll receive your admission decision in late March.

The bottom line:  Pressing submit is the easy part for you, and receiving online materials is the easy part for us.  The challenge is that most applicants will submit their applications within 48 hours of the deadline, and it will take us a couple of weeks of mad scrambling to clear the instant backlog and create a thousand-plus application files.

Be sure to stay on top of the status of your application, but try to give us a little time to pull everything together.  By early February (only two weeks away, though we know it can feel like forever), everyone who has submitted all the materials needed for an application should find accurate and reassuring information on GAMS.

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Of course I don’t believe that Mother Nature has a particular interest in complicating the work of admissions offices.  That would be silly.  What could Mother Nature have against us?  We’re just trying to do our job, Mother!

But regardless of whether today’s snowstorm reflects heavenly mischief or mere meteorological events, the University is closed.  The Admissions staff will be doing what can be done from home — answering emails, reading a few applications — and we expect to be back in place and in action tomorrow.

If you’re on the East Coast of the U.S., stay safe and enjoy the snow!

 

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