From the monthly archives: February 2011

On the one hand, applications will ideally speak for themselves, containing all the information the Admissions Committee could want regarding academic potential and professional experience.  On the other hand, sometimes something major changes, and we really want applicants to tell us about it.  While I don’t want to invite a blizzard of new paper, I want to encourage you to consider whether perhaps you should update us.  Here are a few examples, from a meeting this morning.

Applicant 1 returned to the U.S. from a Peace Corps posting in September.  We don’t have any information on what she has been doing since then.  If she has recently started a new job, she should certainly send us that information.

Applicant 2 tells us in the application that he intends to retake the TOEFL exam in February.  He should send us his scores immediately.

Ditto for Applicant 3, who recently retook the GRE.  Send us the unofficial scores while we’re waiting for the official score report.

Applicant 4 is completing the final year of his undergraduate studies.  He should send us a new transcript indicating fall semester grades, and spring semester course selections.

Applicant 5‘s delinquent recommender finally wrote the recommendation.  It’s not too late, Applicant 5!  Mail us that sealed envelope asap!

There are other examples, but I think you get the point.  If there’s a change to tell us about (and this happens more often than you might think), then tell us!  It’s the only way we’ll find out.  As time is very tight now, I encourage you to email your news.  Last call for updates!


Monday was a public (and University) holiday, and this is school vacation week for my daughter, Kayla.  Flying in the face of all this official relaxation is the work scene.  So I was home on Monday, and working at a fevered pace on Tuesday.  Wednesday found me splitting my time between reading applications and doing vacation chores with Kayla (such as taking her for a haircut and to pick up a pair of lacrosse gloves).  More applications yesterday, plus I finally took care of some other too-easily-put-off  tasks that I have been meaning to do for weeks.  And here I am today, ready for the week’s Admissions Committee meeting.  We have low attendance this week, since most students are in Washington, DC, networking at the Career Trip.  But between the professors, about half the students, and the Admissions staff, there are enough heads to put together and come up with some decisions.

Given the week’s schedule, I haven’t been a diligent blogger.  With promises to do a bit better next week, I’ll close with links to some news that other people did me the favor of putting together.  First, the Tufts Daily ran a piece about Dean Bosworth and his multiple hats.  And Prof. Vali Nasr is everywhere, speaking about the difference between revolutions in Egypt and Iran, and on NPR discussing the Egyptian middle class.  Finally (and speaking of multiple hats), there’s second-year MALD student, Michelle Kwan, who uses her winter break and vacations to do a bit of diplomacy, including a January trip to Singapore.


My email inbox seems to receive a message a day with the same question:  When will admissions decisions be released?  The answer is, as noted above:  Before the end of March.  Out in the real world, it’s not too far off.  In our Office of Admissions alternate universe, decisions are still ages away.

But that doesn’t mean it’s too early to ensure you’ll be able to find your decision whenever it’s ready.  Now is a great time to check that you’re able to log on to the Graduate Admissions Management System. Perhaps you’re already checking GAMS so often that the idea of being unable to log on is alien to you.  That’s good — your job is done.

But if there’s a possibility that you’re among the applicants who have lost the login instructions, please take care of it.  Back when your application was first complete, you received an email with the details.  If this rings only the faintest of bells, look for that original email, because you’ll need to log in to access your admission 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 don’t know how to log in.

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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Kristen has a toddler hanging out in her house, so she does her reading out of the house.  Here’s her report.

If you are a regular blog reader, you have probably pieced together the life cycle of an application after it leaves your hands:  the first sorting/assembling phase, the second reading and assessing stage, and then the committee process.  Being visually inclined, I thought you might like to know what this all looks like, so I decided to help by documenting my reading day yesterday in pictures.

But first one note:  for me, reading days are some of the most satisfying and challenging aspects of this job.  Virtually every applicant has some unique and interesting element that holds the reader’s interest, but the sheer burden of keeping up the pace all day — while still focusing on every case, can be daunting, so we each have our own way of structuring the day.  Here’s what I did:

First I settled down at Bloc 11, a local café and my favorite reading space, namely because of the warmth of its fireplace:

I then retrieved all the files from my bag and assessed the situation:

The pile on the left includes the files to be read, and the files on the right are completed.  That pile on the right is still waiting to fulfill its destiny.  But after not too long, I make some progress:

Which means, that I get to treat myself:

Soon after, catastrophe strikes!  My favorite pen (on the top) has run out of ink.  I’ll have to settle for the poor substitute on the bottom.  When you do a lot of handwriting, things like this matter!

I’m soon rewarded with a happy event, though.  This application was just a joy to read — perfectly suited for Fletcher in every way.

After forging ahead for a while longer, I’m at the satisfying halfway mark:

Which means a lunch break of a delicious curry chicken salad:

A post lunch energy surge pushes me forward, and before you know it, I’m three-quarters of the way there:

But I know myself, and it’s time for a quick break to stretch my legs and take a little stroll.  First I check out the events board, which is always entertaining:

And then check to see if any of the snow outside has melted:

Still there.  Which makes me think, maybe I deserve a sweet treat:

The brownie was delicious, and gave me just the sugar boost I needed.  I finished the day with energy to spare, which is exactly what each and every applicant deserves.

Happy waiting to you all!

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When I mention the Admissions Committee in the blog, I’m primarily talking about the one that considers the majority of our applications, which are for the MALD and MA programs.  The MALD/MA Committee and the one considering MIB applications, which is modeled after the MA/MALD, are composed of professors, students, and Admissions staff.  It’s a good mix that allows many viewpoints to be represented.  Students have a sense of who is actually in class at Fletcher, and what those people add to class discussion and the community.  Professors provide their view of who makes a successful student in their classes.  And the Admissions staff has seen just about every kind of application there is, so we bring the big picture, long-term perspective.  (The LLM and PhD programs have their own committees, with a lot of faculty involvement.)

We have a really great Committee this year.  I wish I knew why, because I would certainly do everything in the same way next year.  The students have provided detailed write-ups and their intuitions are perfect.  That makes the work of the staff and the professors easy, and also means that our meetings move along at a rapid pace.  Discussions are clear and efficient, as we aim to treat every applicant with respect while making decisions that are logical for the School and (we hope) the applicant, too.

Last Friday’s meeting had an unusual “visitor” in the form of news from Egypt.  I suspect that phones were buzzing with incoming text messages.  (Since the alerts didn’t disrupt the flow of the meeting, I didn’t bother thinking about how everyone was staying so up-to-the-minute.)  By the conclusion of the meeting, we had definite confirmation that Hosni Mubarak had stepped down.

We took only a brief lunch break, leading Laurie to point out that meetings at which we work while eating result in food-soiled file folders.  But even the ten-minute break was enough to have a discussion of the sleep patterns of newborns (one of our students has a less than two-month-old baby) and a sleep-measurement gizmo that another of the students had helped develop in a pre-Fletcher life.

We have only three full Committee meetings left, and I know it will be a letdown when they’re over.  Review on most cases will be complete by then, but we’ll have a lot of clean-up work to do and will meet in subsets of the Committee to finish the work.  Friday Committee meetings remain a highlight of my winter work, and I value the chance to get to know our students and professors.  Nonetheless, the time will come for us to wrap up this year’s admissions process.


The Grammy award ceremony took place last night, but I know what you were thinking:  What I really want to know is which albums were considered best of 2010 by the Fletcher community! Am I right, reader friends?  Well, the Admissions blog has got your back.  Thanks to a time-killer of an email sent out last December by Fletcher Academic Dean Peter Uvin, I can share the top picks of 2010 with you.  First, you may want to know how Dean Uvin kicked off the discussion.  His message to the Social List said:

OK, students, it is time to have more important discussions here than the critical topics of international affairs. What are the 10 best albums of 2010?  There seems to be no official Fletcher position on the matter, and I believe we need to address this right away.  So here is my first take on it (in no order).  All feedback welcome.

Arcade Fire, The Suburbs
Deerhunter, Halcyon Digest
Maximum Balloon, Maximum Balloon
Cloud Cult, Light Chasers
Blue Water White Death, Blue Water White Death
The Kissaway Trail, Sleep Mountain
Doveman, The Conformist
The Young Gods, Everybody Knows

I should point out that Dean Uvin is also Henry J. Leir Professor of International Humanitarian Studies and Director of the Institute for Human Security, titles that surely reinforce his qualifications as a music critic.  Nonetheless, additions to his list poured in.  Here are some of the student picks, both those that turned up several times, and those that seemed special.  They’re in no particular order — just how I plucked them off of email responses.

Sleigh Bells, Treats
Tallest Man on Earth, The Wild Hunt
Jónsi, Go
Big Boi, Sir Luscious Left Foot:  The Son of Chico Dusty
Cee Lo Green, The Lady Killer
Example, Won’t Go Quietly
Kanye West, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
Janelle Monae, Archandroid
Girls, Broken Dreams Club
Girl Talk, All Day
Nevermore, The Obsidian Conspiracy
Kvelertak, Kvelertak
Erykah Badu, New Amerykah
Gil Scott-Heron, I’m New Here
Group Inerane, Guitars from Agadez Vol. 3
Black Mountain, Wilderness Heart
Neil Young, Le Noise

A metal lover listed:
Slash, Slash
Audrey Horne, Audrey Horne
Black Label Society, Order of the Black
Black Keys, Brothers

A Nordic jazz/electronica lover included:
Efterklang, Magic Chairs
Röyksopp, Senior
Jaga Jazzist, One Armed Bandit

There were more suggestions.  Many, many more.  More than I’m able to sort through and add to the list, but I’m sure the titles above will keep your ears busy for a while.  Despite the over-abundance of listed choices, when I told my husband, Paul, about the discussion, he noted a few that have received a lot of ear-time in our house:

Corinne Bailey-Rae, The Sea
Mumford & Sons, Sigh No More
Sade, Soldier of Love
Florence & The Machine, Lungs

Any noteworthy omissions from your perspective?  Feel free to include your choices as a comment.  Happy listening!


I finally had a normal reading day yesterday — one with no snow involved.   (Apparently Oklahoma is getting all the snow this week.)  Because my reading days this year have involved a blend of applications and snow shoveling, I needed to think back to previous years to remember how to keep a steady pace over the course of a long day with a tall pile of applications.

I’m always playing with different methods for staying on task, so I had a few options to choose from.  I decided on a tried-and-true technique from many past reading days.  It goes like this.  First, I write down the time when I start reading (7:48 yesterday) and then read five files.  If less than an hour has passed, I fill the time with additional applications.  After an hour I can get up, make a cup of tea, and stretch my legs.  Then back to reading (8:51) for five more files or an hour, whichever comes second.  And so on through the day.  It sounds a little nutty, but the result was that I was reasonably productive.

The day’s pile of applications included the usual cornucopia — all sorts of people from all sorts of backgrounds.  There was one noteworthy pair who, coincidentally, came up one after the other:  two women who graduated in the same year, had selected the same Fletcher fields (and not necessarily the most commonly chosen ones, either), and were both wicked smart.  The differences came in how they arrived at the point where they’re looking at graduate study.  That’s what keeps my work interesting.

I feel like I’m only just getting into the swing of things, which makes it surprising that I have no more than three reading days left.  But that’s still three days during which I’ll need to think up new games to keep myself on task, while getting to know more of you.

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Jeff told me this story yesterday, and of course I told him to stop talking and start writing it up for the blog.  It’s always nice to know Fletcher students are loved by more than just the Fletcher community.  Here’s his story:

Over the weekend, one of my friends hosted a Super Bowl party that I happily attended.  To be honest, I’m not a football fan, and I had no interest in watching the game; I was there purely for the food, conversation, and commercials.  In between munching (pizza, chips, cookies, carrots) and commenting (on commercials, not the game), I chatted with a friend who is a professor at Harvard Law School.  He mentioned that he has a few Fletcher students in one of his courses this semester, and he thinks they’re great.  This isn’t the first time he has taught Fletcher students, and each time he does, he enjoys the interesting perspective they add to his class.

As you may already know, Fletcher students in all degree programs can take up to a quarter of their classes outside of Fletcher.  Whether they participate in an exchange or a dual-degree program, or take advantage of cross-registration opportunities at graduate schools at Tufts or Harvard, there are many interesting options for supplementing their class choices.  And it’s also a great opportunity for Fletcher students to meet other students in the area, and to spread the Fletcher perspective.

Whether you watched the game or not, I hope you at least enjoyed some good (or, at least, fun) food over the weekend.  For those of you who watched the game, I didn’t root for either team, but I’m a fan of the Darth Vader Volkswagen commercial.


If you’re expecting to take loans to pay for graduate school, in particular if you are a U.S. citizen or permanent resident planning to take federal loans, here’s an important bit of information to keep in mind.

After Fletcher makes a scholarship award (and notifies an admitted student of both the admission decision and the award amount), we provide that information to the University’s Student Financial Services office.  There, using information from the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), the SFS staff “packages” each student for scholarship and loans, based on the University’s calculation of a budget for Fletcher study.  The budget includes tuition, fees, health insurance, room and board, books, and incidental expenses.  The budget is standard for all students, though it can be adjusted slightly if a student has an unusual expense related to study (such as the need to replace a broken computer).

What the budget cannot be enlarged to include is repayment of consumer or credit card debt.  These expenses can’t be financed through scholarships or U.S. government loans.  So, as part of the process of preparing for graduate school, you should be paying off your debt now, with the goal of starting your studies debt free (and preferably with some cash in the bank).

As a final note, though different schools will approach the process differently, the general story is the same.  Monthly repayment of consumer debt or credit card debt cannot be included in the budget for study.

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It took me a few weeks to remember why I always post less from January to March than I do at other times in the year.  We’re busy — but our work is also, in some ways, routine and uninteresting.  On the other hand, it’s the routine and uninteresting work that results in a timely release of decisions in March.

This winter’s weather has definitely had an impact on our office, but we’re finding ways to work around it.  Fortunately, we’ve had ample notice before each new storm, and we all bring applications home to read.  We’ve also been encouraging our student readers to consider the weather when deciding how many applications to sign out.  So application review and the Admissions Committee process have been moving along pretty smoothly.  The weather has had a greater impact on application processing.  The University was closed yesterday, and we had a late start one day last week, so we need to pick up the pace on days when staff and students are in the office.  Applicants may experience a delay in when their Graduate Application Management System records indicate that their applications are complete, but we’re getting closer to the bottom of the pile of files waiting for processing.

Winter’s far from over.  But whether or not there’s more snow in front of us, rest assured that our work sleds along.


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