This year, the Fletcher admissions process will include a revised testing policy for MALD and MA applicants.  While the new policy is sure to make a few people unhappy (and we have held off on making the change for just that reason), it actually affects a fairly small subset of our applicant pool.  So here it is.

Starting with the October 15 deadline for applications for January admission, all applicants to the MALD and MA programs, whether they’re from the U.S. or another country, will need to submit results of the GRE or GMAT exam.  Non-native English speakers, unless their university education was in English, will also need to submit results of an English language assessment exam (TOEFL, IELTS, or PTE).  This has been the policy of the PhD and MIB programs for many years, so we’re bringing the MALD and MA expectations in line with these other programs.

You may be wondering why we have decided on this change.  Often, the Admissions Committee finds itself in a complete muddle over an applicant who submits a transcript with minimal grades, or with strangely cryptic course names, or with an overall grade of 46 that recommenders tell us is a good result.  We don’t expect the GRE or GMAT results to clarify everything for us, but we think they’ll help in a good number of cases.  Finally, professors on the Admissions Committee have asked us to change the policy for several years.

The irony is that we require test scores from applicants who have graduated from the universities we know the best.  If we ask for scores from a student with a 4.0 average in international relations at Tufts, why wouldn’t we also want that piece of information from someone who studied at a university we don’t know well in another country?  As it happens, many of the applicants in the affected group tend to submit scores anyway, and even when they don’t send test results to Fletcher, they’re sending scores to our peers that require them.  That is, they’ve taken the test and simply need to direct the score reports to Fletcher.  So the policy change is significant, but the ultimate impact will be less so.

Here’s why we didn’t make the change earlier:  We know that GREs and GMATs are expensive.  But the cost is minimal compared with the expense of studying in the U.S. for two years.  We know that, in some countries, the exams are not offered as often as they are in the U.S.  Well…this will be a challenge, but we expect our applicants to plan carefully.

So, in the end, we decided that the values of fairness and clarity win out over the inconvenience that we know a small group will experience.  Fortunately, I expect that the new policy will be a subject of conversation for only one year.  After this, anyone doing careful homework on the admissions process will have at least twelve months’ notice and can plan accordingly.

I’ll close with the answer to one question that will surely come up.  Yes — we will adjust our expectations, particularly on the verbal and analytical sections, for the non-native speakers.  We’re already accustomed to making that mental adjustment, and now we’ll simply be doing it more frequently.  If you have other questions about the change, please feel free to ask them as a comment to the blog, or email the office.

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