From the monthly archives: July 2011

All of a sudden, a little Fletcher news.

First (and you may already know about this if you follow The Fletcher School or Fletcher Admissions on facebook), we find out about Dean Bosworth’s week:  he’s meeting with a North Korean government minister in New York.  Nuclear arms and food aid will, according to news reports, be on the agenda.  That will make for an awesome “What I Did on My Summer Vacation” essay, should anyone ask Dean Bosworth to write one.

Next, I was listening to the radio the other day and heard Fletcher alum Elliot Ackerman (class of 2003) discuss the goal of his organization, Americans Elect, to create a new nominating process that would give candidates outside of the usual two political parties a chance to compete in national elections.  Elliot is Americans Elect’s chief operating officer.

Finally, something of personal interest to me.  This afternoon, Fletcher will host a live broadcast of the BBC’s World Have Your Say.  The show will feature 100 young women, ages 15-19, from around the world.  My daughter, Kayla, is one of those young women!  She’s participating all week in Women2Women, and it was quite a surprise to hear she’d be visiting my workplace (along with 99 new friends and a BBC crew).  The word we’ve received is that all of this is taking place from 1:00 to 3:00 local time (which is GMT-4), and the BBC web site confirms that the show is broadcast at 1700 GMT.  I hope you’ll join me in tuning in!

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If you’re actually reading the Admissions Blog in the middle of summer, it may be because you’re a well-organized applicant.  Or you may be a less-well-organized applicant who’s wondering what a well-organized applicant would be thinking about.  Either way, I should reward your loyalty with a few suggestions for how you can ease your application season workload.

Start with your calendar, and consider if you’ll be able to meet up with Fletcher staffers on the road, or if you may want to visit Fletcher.  Our interview and Information Session schedule for the fall is ready and waiting for applicants to grab the slots.  You can sign up for an Information Session online, or you can email or phone us to arrange an interview.  Note that we accommodate everyone who wants to attend an Information Session, but the interview schedule will fill up midway through the fall.  If you have constraints on your time, I recommend you book your interview as soon as possible.

What else could you do?  Register for the GRE/GMAT, or TOEFL/IELTS, or even take the exam now.  There’s no special reason to leave it to November, and you’ll be relieved to have it out of the way.

Do you have your recommenders lined up?  While summer may not be the best time to connect with your professors, it could be a good time to reach a former supervisor from your professional life.  You’ll want to update anyone who’s writing on your behalf — send a résumé, and even your personal statement, so that your recommendation letters will reflect your current objectives, not your previous plan to go to locksmith school.

How about funding your education?  If you know that you have the funds in the bank to pay for your studies, then you can check this one off your to-do list.  For everyone else, now’s the time to start searching for scholarships.  You should also be sure you understand the financial aid policies of the graduate schools to which you’ll apply.

Why not give yourself extra time to think about your application essays by starting on them now?  Though you shouldn’t start to fill out Fletcher’s application form until the new version is ready next month, I can tell you that our basic essays aren’t going to change this year.  The two essays shared by applicants to all degree programs are:

Essay 1 (Personal Statement): Fletcher’s Committee on Admissions seeks to ensure that there is a good match between each admitted student and the School.  Please tell us your goals for graduate study at Fletcher and for your career. Why is The Fletcher School the right place to pursue your academic objectives and to prepare you to meet your professional goals? Why have you selected the degree program to which you are applying?  If you are planning to pursue a joint degree, please be sure to address this interest in your personal statement.

Essay 2: Choose one of the following essay topics to tell the Admissions Committee something about you that does not fit elsewhere in the application:
• Share something about yourself to help the Admissions Committee develop a more complete picture of who you are.
• Tell us more about how you first became interested in international affairs, or in pursuing an international career.
• Describe the elements of your personal, professional, and/or academic background that have prepared you for your chosen career path.

We like to think that the essays are pretty straightforward.  Use the Personal Statement to discuss your goals, and use the second essay to tell us more about you (which may include things you’ve done in the past).

So those are just a few basic suggestions of what you could get started on.  Naturally, I also want you to enjoy the summer!  But you can smooth the way for a stress-reduced application process if you get an early start on it.

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Every summer, the Admissions staff takes a day to look ahead to the coming year and think macro-level thoughts.  Today’s that day.  If you have questions, please hold them until tomorrow, when we’ll be back, refreshed and filled with great new ideas.


Our newest staff member started yesterday!  Dan Birdsall has moved into the space formerly known as Peter’s office, and he’s settling into his new professional life in admissions.  I’m going to ask Dan to introduce himself in the blog a little later this summer.  For now, I can tell you that he’s going to make an unmatched contribution when it comes to helping prospective students envision their Fletcher experience.  He spent two years developing this keen sense of what Fletcher’s about — as a MALD student!  Dan graduated in May, and (as an old colleague of Peter’s) was the first person knocking at our door to express interest in the job.  It has been many years since we had a Fletcher alum working in the Admissions Office, and we’re very excited to welcome Dan to the team.


I encourage you to keep up with the adventure of Fletcher alum Charlie Scott and his two children, but they’re not the only ones taking unusual trips this summer.  Consider Alex Wise and Colin Wood, both 2011 grads, who describe their upcoming trip below.  I know I’ll be following their progress, and I’ll provide updates via the blog.

With each successive trip, the ante is upped:  for Alex, first it was backpacking in Europe, then climbing Kilimanjaro; for Colin it was editing a Sumatran guide book and then moving to Algeria.  Colin and Alex (collectively known as Team Fletch) graduated from Fletcher this past May.

A bit older and a bit wiser, we’ve decided to tackle a new challenge — a road rally, or more specifically, the Mongol Rally.  The Mongol Rally is an adventure-quenching, bone-rattling 10,000 mile drive across three deserts, five mountain ranges, and fifteen countries.  The Rally begins in Prague and ends roughly six weeks later in Ulanbaator, Mongolia roughly six weeks later.  The only real rule is that vehicles must be tiny — with an approximate engine size of 1.2 liters (think your grandmother’s car) — otherwise it would be too easy.

The Mongol Rally is a charitable event and Team Fletch is raising money for two worthy organizations.  The Christina Noble Children’s Foundation supports Mongolian street children, and the Afghan Scholar Initiative (ASI) provides high school and university scholarships to top Afghani students.  ASI is special to us as we’ve both worked in Afghanistan, and our friend and Fletcher classmate, Qiam Amiry, founded the organization.

For the 300 rally cars that have entered, there is no set route, no winner, no adoring fans, no support, and not many paved roads.  Our planned route will take us from Prague eastward to Central Asia and through the (affectionately dubbed) “-stans” (except Afghanistan & Pakistan).  Along the way, we’ll visit cities that evoke grandeur of old — Volgograd (formerly Stalingrad, home to Mother Russia, the tallest statue in the world), Samarkand (trading post on the Silk Road visited by Marco Polo); and Sevastopol (popularized by Lord Tennyson and site of the Charge of the Light Brigade).  This will be our first rally experience and, with limited navigational sensibilities, and zero mechanical know-how, it will be a true pedal to the metal test of whether charm, book smarts, and a lot of travel experience is actually enough to reach Mongolia via tiny vehicle.  As the Rally kicks off on July 25th, follow our progress at where an interactive map will receive location updates every ten minutes.

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Last week’s list of summer blogs missed out on some writing that students have done for sites other than their own.  First, there’s new alum Dahm Choi, who has both written for the U.S. State Department blog, and was written about on the web page of the Embassy in Tanzania.  Note that the project he visited, the Olevolos Project, has Fletcher student, Dory Gannes, as its director.

And then there’s Bilal Biloch, who has been scribing away, both for The Guardian and for Foreign Policy.

Finally, you can check out the next installments of the comic-format account of the spring’s events in Egypt by Asher Berman and his talented artist friend.

I’ll keep sharing links as students send them my way.


Fletcher Admissions likes to experiment, and a new initiative this year is Summer Coffee Hours.  We can only travel to so many places in a year, and our students are in triple that number of places right now.  So we put them to work.  More accurately, we asked them if they would like to put themselves to work, and more than 25 volunteered.  Check out the list, and then, if you’re in Dar es Salaam, Mexico City, Los Angeles, Ho Chi Minh City, Jerusalem, Montreal, Cairo, Houston, Geneva, or Bangkok, plan to join a student for coffee.  And if you’re not in one of those cities, be sure to check the list again soon — new locations are being added daily!

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During the coming year, I’ll be viewing the admissions biz through the lens of my daughter Kayla’s own college-application process.  And this summer, we kick things off with several short road trips.  Up to now, the process has consisted of Kayla taking her standardized exams (seemingly endlessly this past spring) and developing a list of colleges that could be of interest.  Now she needs to refine her list by checking out a few options, and that’s where I step in.

Off we drove last week, armed with a bag of audiobooks and plenty of music for our listening entertainment.  We visited only three schools, but still covered hundreds of miles.  Happily (given the time and effort), at the end of the trip, Kayla had developed a sense of qualities and characteristics she values in a school.

As I did a while back with my son’s year-long college search, I plan to take advantage of the tours, info sessions, and other activities to consider how Fletcher does things.  For example, one of the colleges put Kayla in touch with five students, but no permanent staff member, while the other two colleges had a staff member conduct the info session.  As might be expected, the student-led session was filled with love for these selected admissions interns’ future alma mater.  The staff-led sessions, by contrast, were filled with statistics.  Hmmmm.  What are my info sessions like?  Do I overwhelm the attendees with “useful” details?  Most of Fletcher’s on-site info sessions are led by students, with a visit from a staff member.  Maybe that’s the right combination — love and statistics together.

At one of the sessions, I laughed along when the staff member reinforced the importance of careful editing of the application essay.  I agreed completely that professors (and, in Fletcher’s case, students) who review applications are much less tolerant than Admissions staff members when an applicant refers to the wrong school.  For me, it’s an annoyance, but professors have sometimes called it a deal-breaker.  (Do take this as a warning, blog readers.  Whether you’re applying for grad school or a job, no one likes reading that the other guys are your favorites, even if you’ve also accidentally told the other guys that Fletcher is your favorite.)

Kayla and I will continue with our visits this summer, but my professional development opportunity won’t stop there.  Between the application itself and the notification and enrollment processes, there will be plenty for me to learn from.  Even more helpful is the chance to connect to the process from an applicant’s perspective.  I’ll be blogging about all I discover throughout the year.


Though our students may be flung across the world, we’re still able to keep up with some of their summer lives through their blogs.  Check them out!

Rachel:  I am blogging about development-related issues from my internship location (Morocco, also Middle East and North Africa), and, in August, I’ll be blogging about information technology and communications development (as well as internet access) in Cuba, where I will be doing field research.

Cleia:  I’m in Enoosaen, Kenya, working for a primary boarding school called Enkakenya Centre for Excellence, dedicated to serving the most vulnerable, underprivileged Maasai girls in the region.  The school focuses on academic excellence, female empowerment, leadership, and community development.  This internship was one of the fellowships set up through the Advocacy Project, and one of its goals is to establish a network of advocates against FGM, which is still an issue in Kenya.

Michele:  I’m a Kiva Fellow currently working with BRAC Uganda and Pearl Microfinance Ltd. in Kampala.  I am keeping a Kiva fellows blog which details my experience living in Uganda and my work in microfinance.

Margot:  I’m interning for Search for Common Ground this summer in Freetown, Sierra Leone, and I’ll be blogging on youth, peacebuilding and conflict transformation issues.

Amy:  I’m spending the summer in Belize on an Advocacy Project fellowship.  I’ve just arrived here in Punta Gorda, and I’ll be trying to get the word out about human rights and social justice campaigns of the Sarstoon Temash Institute for Indigenous Management.

Gabrielle:  As a Climate Corps Fellow, my first post for about implementing sustainability at EBay will go up on July 13.


If you like your information to arrive in small bursts, you may want to get your GRE testing updates on facebook.  The launch of the new test is coming up on August 1, which makes NOW a good time to familiarize yourself with the new format (particularly if such familiarization may lead you to register for the final dates for the old format test this month).

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