From the monthly archives: March 2011

There was some nail-biting around the office yesterday, as we waited for the GAMS pros to load the decisions.  It was impossible for me not to feel the anxiety of the waiting crowd, but the process can go only as fast as it can go.  Finally, all the decisions were posted, and the notification emails were sent.  It sounds like most people were able to access their decisions, even if it took a little perseverance.  Overall, much better than the last two years when there were persistent problems.

Now it’s time for us to turn to the next phase of our work.  First:  Congratulations admitted students!  We’re excited to welcome you to the Fletcher community.  You’ve been waiting and waiting, and now you have just a few weeks to make a decision on where you’ll be studying for the next year or two.  Time to plan and think think think!  The Admissions Office is here, as needed, to plug in the information you can’t find elsewhere.

Later this week, I’ll provide information for applicants on the waitlist, as well as details on how to request feedback (after May 1) for those not admitted this year.  Thank you to everyone for your patience these last few days.


I hope you all took my advice and gave your GAMS-refresh finger a rest over the weekend.  I certainly took a break from admissions work, and my admissions pals and I have traded our weekend stories of movies, restaurants, and visits to the Somerville Winter Farmers’ Market.

But with blinders refitted and focus renewed, it’s back to the final stages of the process.  So we’ve taken steps to reduce interruptions:

And we’re benefiting from a little quiet.  Before I go on, a quick note about which decisions will/won’t be released this week.  Almost all applications fall into the “will” category, including:

— All MALD, MA, and PhD applications;
— MIB applications that were complete by March 1.  Kristen tells me that the people whose applications weren’t complete have heard from her, so I trust you know who you are;
— Most LLM applications, except for applications that arrived for the March 1 deadline, and a few that were completed late;
— And…scholarship decisions for Early Notification admits, as well as last year’s admitted students who deferred their enrollment, and last year’s “delay admits.”

By the end of the day Friday, we had finished putting together the admission packets, and now they’re all ready to go to the mail room, both the domestic:

And the international:

And we’ve alphabetized and reboxed all the application folders, which were strewn throughout the office last week:

The current tasks don’t involve me directly, so I am using my time today to catch up a bit (email, long-neglected projects), while remaining available to help with anything that needs doing.  I’m also taking time to consider what’s ahead in the next few weeks.  One busy phase will soon end, clearing the way for the next one to begin.


I want to devote a minute to Japan.  Fletcher has many Japanese students and alumni, and — most relevant for the Admissions Blog — there are many applicants currently in Japan (whether or not that’s where they originated) and from Japan (even if they are living elsewhere in the world).  The Admissions staff and all of Tufts University are shocked by the devastation caused by the earthquake and tsunami.  We hope that all Japanese members of the Fletcher family, including applicants, are safe, and we send our wishes and hopes for the country’s rapid recovery.

I’ll post a regular update on where the admissions process stands in a couple of hours.


The way we do things here is to double/triple/quadruple check decisions both in the system and on paper.  Yesterday and today have been paper days.  Once we’re sure a letter offering admission is correct, it goes in a packet.  And once the packet is all set, it goes in a box.  And once the box is full, it sits around waiting for someone to take it to the mail room, along with all its packet friends.  Like this:

Progress is being made!  But…as I said earlier this week — we’re not releasing decisions this weekend.  We’ll be finishing up the final steps at the beginning of next week, and we’ll send you an email when you can find the decision online.  That’s your cue to relax this weekend, far from GAMS.


Erin, a current student, thought you all need a break from decision talk and she sent information about an upcoming conference, conveniently timed for one of the weeks when admitted students sometimes come by for a visit.  Here’s the info:

2011 Tufts Energy Conference

“Exploring Energy’s Great Debates:
Moving Past Posturing to Arrive at Achievable Energy Solutions”
April 15 – 16, 2011, Cabot Intercultural Center, Medford, MA

We welcome you to attend the 6th Annual Tufts Energy Conference.  Learn from and engage with key energy industry experts, policymakers, and the rising generation of energy leaders in a thought-provoking discussion on the pertinent challenges and opportunities facing today’s energy sector.  Registration NOW OPEN!  Sign-up by March 15 to get your early-bird discount!

Our goal is to create constructive debate on how incremental policy changes and business model innovations can make a meaningful impact on global energy challenges in the next 10 years.  In addition to learning from our diverse expert panelists, you’ll have the opportunity to network with energy-industry professionals and learn about career and internship opportunities in a variety of fields at our showcase.

Features of the 2011 Tufts Energy Conference include:
• Two day conference with keynotes, panels and workshops covering a wide range of pressing energy debates in energy efficiency, mass transit, clean energy, shale gas and deepwater drilling.

• Energy Showcase — an educational and interactive platform intended to indulge the curiosity of all energy enthusiasts. Presentations on diverse projects and technologies developed by companies, NGOs, governmental organizations, and student research groups

• Professional Networking, career & internship recruitment opportunities

• Inaugural Energy Challenge — Tufts undergraduate and graduate students compete to win $1000 to fund energy research and action projects

• 1st Hot Rod Show — Car companies & student groups display energy-efficient autos for the public.

The Tufts Energy Conference is organized by a diverse mix of Tufts undergraduates and graduate students from the Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy, the Urban and Environmental Policy & Planning program and the School of Arts, Sciences & Engineering.

Contribute to our Tufts Energy Conference Blog
Join us on our Facebook page
Watch & Share the 2011 Tufts Energy Conference promotional video!

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When March comes around, I’m the Justin Bieber of admissions bloggers.  All of a sudden, people are writing to me with questions, checking the blog compulsively, and providing input.  Such a change from the rest of the year when I write and write, trying to cover subjects of interest to readers, but always wondering if I sound like blah, blah, blog.

And that’s why now is such a good time to thank you for reading the blog throughout the year, and of course, to thank you generally for your interest in The Fletcher School.

The relationship between admissions folks and applicants is a strange one.  Sometimes we have met — at an info session, an interview, a college visit, or some other time when we or you are out and about.  Other times, we haven’t met directly, but you’ve introduced yourself through your application.  In the latter case, we often don’t remember your name, but remember, instead, your story.  So one of us will say to the other, “You know the guy who went to such-and-such a college and then worked for ABC company in XYZ country?”  And the other will respond, “Oh, yeah!  That guy is awesome!”  But we’ve still never met face-to-face.

People who work, or want to work, in an international setting are cool.  You’re worldly and motivated, enthusiastic and thoughtful.  It’s very satisfying for us to help such impressive people as they build their careers.  I know that some of you are already hearing from your schools.  By the end of next week, you’ll have heard from Fletcher, too.  Wherever you end up for grad school, thank you for enriching our work with your stories.  And thanks, again, for reading the admissions blog, in March and throughout the year.


“The Admits” comprise a family of variations on the theme of:  YAY!  You’re in!  There’s the ordinary admit, the King of Decisions — you’re in, and there’s no fine print!  But some of our admitted students will need to read the fine print, and today’s post is to help in deciphering it.

By “fine print,” I’m talking about conditions that we may attach to the offer of admission.  Conditions that, based on information provided by the applicant in the application, and our own best judgment, we believe will give the incoming student the best possible chance of academic success.  The most frequently employed conditions require that before starting Fletcher classes, the applicant should:  improve foreign language proficiency; improve English language proficiency; or improve quantitative skills (MIB students only).

A more substantive condition:  We’ll occasionally (a dozen or fewer people each year) admit applicants for a future class, asking them to obtain a year’s professional experience before they enroll.  These “delay admits” would be strong students, generally graduating this year, who will gain so much more from Fletcher if they have some work experience behind them, and they will be admitted for the September 2012 semester.

Not exactly a condition, but still in the admit family:  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.)

Our process would certainly be simpler if there were only one type of admit, 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 The Admits will carry on as a big happy family, sometimes with conditions attached.

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Today’s post was supposed to continue the Decisions 101 class, but I’m going to shift gears a bit.  Shortly after I arrived this morning, I saw this graphic representation of our applicants’ growing collective anxiety level.

It’s the Google Analytics report on visits to the Admissions Blog.  Looks like you all were able to relax on the weekend, but something kicked off your nerves yesterday.  Then we found out the culprit:  the Graduate Application Management System went down for a while.  Our GAMS guy said he knew about the problem.  We, unfortunately, did not, and couldn’t prevent our applicants from creative interpretation of the tech troubles.

Every year around this time, I try to share a message that will help applicants be patient just a little longer, and every year, I learn that (despite my best intentions) there’s nothing I can say that really helps.  Undaunted, I do want to encourage you all to hang in there a little longer.  We’re simply not ready to post decisions, and won’t be releasing them this week.  Yes, the review process is essentially complete, and yes, one of our office interns is currently stuffing information packets for admitted students.  But the final stage of the process involves a zillion tasks and details, and we take things slow to avoid errors.  And…because the release process has brought GAMS down repeatedly in the last two years, we’re not going release decisions on a Friday; we want that GAMS guy to be in the office and available to take care of glitches.

We work pretty hard in these last few weeks of the process, and it’s always a huge relief when it’s over.  But, much as releasing decisions is good news for us, our real reason for wanting to get the decisions out is that it’s good news for applicants, even if the good news is bad news.  We understand that waiting is stressful (and, let’s face it, a little annoying), and you want to move on to the next phase of your grad school planning.  Whether you’re admitted or not to Fletcher or any other school, it’s only with complete information that you can move along.  We get that.

Back to those details for me.  But first the bottom line for blog readers:  We’re making steady progress to ensure that the waiting phase will soon be over, but it’s not over yet.  I can’t make life easy for you by telling you when the waiting will end, because we don’t yet know.  Nonetheless, if you feel able to give your GAMS login a little rest, please know that we will send you an email once your decision has been posted.


The waitlist can be seen as an opportunity or a curse.  Each year, after admitting a group of students, we’ll offer a place on the waitlist to another promising group — applicants whose credentials are solid overall, and yet just a little less solid than the applicants we’ve admitted.  (A waitlist is what it sounds like — a list of people waiting for a place to open up in the entering class.)  Some years, we draw a significant number of students from the waitlist.  Occasionally, we don’t admit any.  But most years we admit a few.  That’s the opportunity part.

It can be hard for waitlisted students to get a handle on what this decision means for them, which is understandable because it’s all a bit amorphous.  For one thing, it doesn’t matter whether we make 10, 100, or 1,000 waitlist offers.  What matters is how may people decide to accept a spot on the list.  So let’s say we make 100 offers.  If 60 people decide not to wait, then the relevant number is 40 people on the list.  We don’t rank our waitlist, so we haven’t determined if someone is number 1 or 40.  When it comes time to make an offer of admission, we go back to the applications and figure things out.

Applicants offered a place on the waitlist can take until May 1 to decide whether to wait.  It would be very unusual for us to make an offer of admission before May 1 — most of our work with the waitlist takes place in May or June, though we’ll keep a list into the summer.  That’s where the curse (or cursing) comes in.  The waitlist involves, well, waiting.

All members of the Fletcher Admissions staff know that the extra waiting is sometimes (always?) unwelcome.  We feel your little “ouch” on receiving the news.  But for some applicants who focus on the opportunity rather than the curse, the waitlist represents a final chance for admission.

One last thing:  While we won’t provide feedback for applications still active on the waitlist, we will answer this question (which is to say that I encourage you to ask):  Is there any further information that the Committee on Admissions would like from me at this time?  That gives us a chance to check your application and see if the Committee wanted to see, for example, a higher TOEFL score.  Even if the Committee didn’t want anything special, waitlisted applicants are invited to send us an update.  New grades or test scores, an updated résumé, a link to a publication — any new information that would be valuable to the Committee, but which the Committee doesn’t know to ask for.  I’ll post a bit more about this after decisions have finally been released.


As Admissions staff members don our blinders, all the better to focus on the task at hand, we hear rumors that the rest of Fletcher is carrying on as normal.  Normal, that is, so long as we consider hyper-drive to be a typical state.  Consider the comments of second-year MALD student, Jasmine, as presented to the Social List this week under the heading “Huge Dilemma:  Six Great Events on at Fletcher this Friday:  How do I decide?”  Here’s Jasmine’s message:

I love the dynamism of Fletcher, but looking at my calendar for this Friday, I find myself strangely disappointed that there are six wonderful events on that day.  Why would I be disappointed at so much greatness?  Because I can’t be in more than one place at once, and therefore have to decide, somehow, which of the events to attend.

This Friday we have:

1.  Professor Ibrahim Warde on the current crisis in Libya at 2:00 p.m.

2.  The U.S. – China Symposium, from 2:00 to 6:00 p.m.

3.  “Implications of Regime Collapse in North Korea,” the Korea Policy Study Group discussion, from 12 to 2 p.m.

4.  “U.S.-Vietnam Relations: Past, Present and Future,” the ASEAN Society discussion with Vietnamese Deputy Ambassador to the U.S. Tung Nguyen, F’96, 2 to 4 p.m.

5.  The Marketing Workshop, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

6.  “The Clash of Titans:  Hitler and Stalin and the German Invasion of Russia,” the talk by Gabriel Gorodetsky, from 1:30 to 3 p.m.

Anyone facing a similar dilemma?

Love you Fletcher,

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