From the monthly archives: October 2011

I had a great high school physics and chemistry teacher, Mr. Burdman, and he had a standard line of advice.  When seeking the solution to a problem, Mr. Burdman would tell us to “Draw a picture” to reflect the facts we know.  Using the Mr. Burdman method, I’m going to provide an answer to a question we commonly hear, “What type of work should I do/should I have done to be a competitive applicant to Fletcher?”

So we can start to answer this question by saying that the questioner wants to go from A to B, where A represents the start of her career:

The applicant thinks that B represents admission to Fletcher.  But, dear blog readers, the applicant has it wrong.  The picture, correctly drawn is:

Point A still represents the start of the applicant’s career, but B is the applicant’s career following graduate school.  So what is the arrow?  That’s Fletcher.  In other words, studying at Fletcher is an opportunity to develop knowledge and skills that will take the applicant from one point to another, but admission to Fletcher shouldn’t be seen as an endpoint.

How is this relevant for blog readers who are planning to apply to Fletcher this year?  Well, it should help you to frame your personal statement and second essay.  The best experience leading up to the arrow (admission to Fletcher) will support you when you’re at B (your post-Fletcher career).  Given the incredible array of post-Fletcher work our graduates pursue, is it any wonder that the experience that best supports an application would also be varied?

As an example, let’s consider two applicants, Tim and Jim.  Tim wants a career in international energy consulting, while Jim is interested in international education. Generally speaking, Tim’s best pre-Fletcher experience would involve either the energy field or consulting.  Jim’s would involve education, whether it’s within or outside his home country.

But what if Tim’s and Jim’s career goals were reversed?  Would Jim’s teaching experience be equally relevant to a post-Fletcher career in international energy consulting?  Well, it’s hard for me to say, but I’d advise Jim to use his essays to explain how his experience to date is relevant to his future work as a consultant.  In other words, there’s no single Point B, so there’s also no path to Point B that works equally well for everyone.

When I talk to recent graduates, I advise them to find work that pushes them along the A-B continuum.  For those who will apply this year, regardless of your Point B, be sure the Admissions Committee will understand how your experience, augmented by a Fletcher degree, will get you there.

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With the November 15 Early Notification deadline less than three weeks away, it’s time for me to turn to tips.  And to kick off the admissions tips for the year, I want to start with the solution to our perennial peskiest problem — applicants whose credentials are submitted under different names or multiple spelling variations of the same name.

If your name is now and always has been George Washington, you may have no idea what I’m talking about.  But if you attended college several years ago and now go by your married name, we’re talking to you!  It’s very important that you inform us that the transcript from your undergraduate university will reflect your maiden name. Of course, the same advice pertains regardless of your reason for changing your name.

Additional challenges for our application compilers?

Your full name is James William Fulbright, but everyone refers to you as William.  Make sure your correspondence and documentation reflect your full name.

Your name is Gabriel Garcia Marquez.  If we know you’re from a country that follows certain conventions, we’ll assume we should file your GRE scores under G for Garcia.  But in the absence of such clues, we’re going to assume that your last name (surname) is Marquez.  Into the M’s you’ll go.

Your Chinese name is presented surname before given name on your Chinese transcript, but will appear given name before surname on your U.S. transcript and test score report.

I could go on, but I hope you’re getting the point.  If your name is going to appear with more than one spelling, or in more than one format, you need to let us know.  Otherwise, what will happen is that your otherwise on-time application will be considered incomplete.  We’ll tell you that something is missing, and you’ll scramble around to submit a replacement, which will also be filed incorrectly.

Keep us informed, and we’ll look forward to an admissions process free of name confusion!

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Since my daughter Kayla occupies a lot of my mental space these days, I will continue to talk about her.  This past weekend was supposed to have been her personal deadline for deciding whether to apply early decision (ED) to one college.  Since the application creates a binding agreement between the applicant and the college, it’s not something that should be done on an impulse.  If she were admitted, she would be obligated to enroll.  She started the weekend fairly confident she would apply, but by Sunday she was wondering if she really had all necessary information.  She’s going to think about it for another day.  The application is due Tuesday, November 1, so her thinking time is limited.

Fortunately, for those who are thinking of applying to Fletcher before the Early Notification (EN) deadline of November 15, there’s no need to feel Kayla’s level of worry.  The application is non-binding, and while we certainly hope admitted students will want to enroll at Fletcher, you’re still free to apply to other schools.  The only factor that you need to consider is:  Will my application be complete by November 15?  If the answer is yes, then there’s no reason not to apply.

On the other hand…there’s also no admissions advantage if you do apply.  While there’s a perceived or actual advantage to applying ED for undergraduates, Fletcher is different.  We carry a consistent set of standards from November through March, and (so long as you’re not a PhD applicant for whom the only deadline is December 20) you can freely choose the EN deadline or the regular deadline — whichever suits you best.

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The back-story is a mystery to me, but some students put together an order for Fletcher flags to be flown in their choice of locations.  The first went up on the Green House, home to generations of Fletcher students and the focus of much socializing.  Here it is:  the first of the flag-festooned locales:

 

Today I’m going to talk about my daughter Kayla.  At 6:50 this morning, she was galloping happily through the house, having just checked her latest SAT scores online.  This is Kayla’s year to apply to college, and as much as my work helps me guide her through her process, the hyper-competitive field of undergraduate admissions helps me put the Fletcher process in perspective.

So Kayla’s a great kid, and a strong student, which means she hopes to attend one of the many East Coast colleges or universities with insanely low rates of admission.  Once a school is admitting such a tiny portion of its applicants, there’s really no way to feel confident of one’s chances of admission, leading to endless worry for these 17-year-olds.

I see the Fletcher process as very different.  I know that applying to grad school is stressful for many of our applicants, and I don’t want to imply there’s no reason to fret.  Nonetheless, a key difference between us and undergrad admissions, is that Fletcher doesn’t look for reasons to turn away an otherwise qualified applicant.  If you have strong academic potential, professional and international experience that supports your goals, and a clear focus, you’ll be admitted.  I realize there’s still broad room for interpretation of those factors, but the bottom line is that good applicants are admitted.

Most of the schools Kayla is considering accept the Common Application, which includes a form and two essays.  Then most schools have a supplemental application, on which the student can profess love for that particular institution.  As Kayla has struggled with each of her essays, I’ve encouraged her to think about her application as a whole, and to ensure that each of its elements tells the colleges something new about her.  Her main essay is about how she stumbled onto her academic/future-career focus.  It’s written in a straightforward way that seems appropriate to me, but strikes her as dull.  So I encouraged her to write a lively second essay (for which the required topic is the applicant’s most significant extracurricular activity).  The supplemental application on which she has worked this week includes six short essays, and she has written about a different facet of her life in each one (including a paragraph about her insomnia).

Fletcher applicants should take the same approach.  Your application includes a form, a résumé, your transcript(s), test scores, personal statement, supplemental essay (more than one for some of our programs — check the application instructions), and three recommendations.  Were you a fantastic student?  Your transcript and academic recommendation (as well as, probably, your test scores) will tell us about that part of your life.  Thinking about the application as a whole, your remaining recommendations should tell us something new, probably about your professional experience.  (The exception is PhD applicants, who should include two academic recommendations.)  Even if you have two recommendations from the same area (two from your university, or two from the same employer), try to guide the recommenders to reflect on different aspects of your background.

This will be a long nail-biter of a year for Kayla, and I’ll do my best to support her through it.  The Fletcher Admissions staff also aims to support our applicants.  We want each of you to be the best applicant you can be.  Spend some time on the Fletcher website and the Admissions pages.  Learn as much as you can about the School, and consider where your background and our values intersect.  Then, carefully put together your application.  This year, more than most, I’ll be taking the applicant’s view of the process.

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The first of our Visit Days for the academic year were yesterday (MIB) and today (PhD).  We created the Visit Days as a way to offer targeted information for those two programs — information that may not come through as clearly at one of our general Information Sessions.

For the MIB visit, I conducted one interview, but I otherwise spent much of yesterday preparing for the PhD Visit Day today.  Now that the PhDers are here, doing their thing, I’m free to write a blog post. Freer, anyway.  Now and then, a small crowd of people (interviewers, PhD/MIB visitors, current students) flows into the office, adding a little frenzy to our day.

As I scrambled to prepare for today’s visitors, I was struck by the incredible number of emails hitting my inbox with announcements of events.  In fact, the pace of activities has been at its max since last week for the Fares Center Conference.  No major symposia this week, but plenty of speakers.  You can get a sense of what’s going on from the month’s calendar, but there are student-initiated and other events that don’t end up listed.  The Fletcher Development Seminar, for example.  Or the internship panel put together by students in the Human Rights Project, to connect students who have worked or interned in the human rights field with those who might want to.

While School activities keep up a steady pace, my own schedule quiets a bit in the next few weeks.  I look forward to providing application tips for those intending to apply by our November 15 Early Notification deadline.

 

When we hear that an applicant is anxious about the GREs, the specific complaint is generally test-taking anxiety.  This year, there’s a new kind of nervousness surrounding the GRE — report-date anxiety.  As they roll out a new exam, the folks at GRE are reporting scores on a delayed schedule.  (If you have planned or taken the exam between August 1 and now, you already know this.)

The new exam is still somewhat of a mystery to us, but today’s post is designed to reassure.  Within reason, we will work with our applicants as we wait for test scores to arrive.  Frankly, we don’t even know what accommodations we may need to make.  The first application deadline of the year is tomorrow.  But the new GRE is out of our applicants’ control, and we will avoid penalizing those who take the exam in a timely way, but who can’t produce the scores in an equally timely manner.

If you have questions about the reporting of your GRE scores, please let us know.

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The blog is flooded by spam comments every day.  They’re generally caught neatly by the spam filter, but some end up in my inbox.  An amusing one today, from someone named “Rolling Duffle Bags,” read, “I love your writing style.  MARRY ME!!”  Despite Duffle’s enthusiasm, I’m leaving the writing today to our returning Admissions interns.  Remember that these are the people who may be answering your calls or emails, or in the case of Caitlin yesterday, scrambling to keep up with all the questions at our weekly online chat.

Caitlin:

Hello again! I’m happy to be in my second year in the MALD program here at Fletcher, after an exciting summer interning in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.  I wrote last year that I was excited to be joining the diverse community at Fletcher, and I’m glad to report that my first year exceeded my expectations in almost every way.  I’ve met incredible people from all over the world and learned much more than I thought was possible from them.  Though it’s exciting to begin looking for jobs and thinking about my next steps, I’m already a bit sad that my time at Fletcher is halfway over!

My Fields of Study here are Human Security and International Negotiation and Conflict Resolution, and this year I’m trying to fit in a third — International Public and NGO Management.  I was lucky to be able to combine many of these interests this summer, while working on gender policy implementation and communications for the Millennium Challenge Corporation in Tanzania.  Back at Fletcher this year, I’m looking forward to organizing events as the UN Club co-President, continuing to volunteer with the Tufts University Refugee Assistance Program (TU-RAP), and, of course, working in the Admissions Office!  Best of luck to everyone with the application process!

Lauren:

Hi!  I’m Lauren, a second-year MALD student and intern in the Admissions Office. I’m originally from Colorado and spent a few years at the American Chamber of Commerce in Germany before coming to Fletcher.

After interning in Boston this past summer (which is beautiful that time of year!), with a non-profit focusing on engaging companies and investors on issues of sustainability and corporate citizenship, I’m getting back into the Fletcher routine:  Figuring out how to fit all those great, challenging classes into my schedule, interacting with professors and students who share their amazingly diverse experiences and knowledge, learning new skills and tools for my subsequent career, running to and from dozens of can’t-miss speakers and events on campus, catching up with friends and meeting new ones, writing my thesis on supply chain sustainability reporting and reputation management, and training for a marathon.  Whew!

With everything moving so fast, it won’t be long until I’ll be back out in the “real world.”  With my Fields of Study in International Business Relations and Communications (and maybe a third in Energy and Environmental Policy if I’m feeling ambitious next semester), I aim to work in corporate citizenship for a consumer-facing company.  Continent, country, city:  All TBD.  But no matter where I end up, I know the Fletcher community will continue to support and inspire me.  In the meantime, if you have any questions about my experiences or anything Fletcher-related, please feel free to contact me!

And, Kartik:

Hi, my name is Kartik!  I am a second-year MALD student at Fletcher and an Admissions intern, and my Fields of Study are International Resource Policy and Global Political Economy.  I’m mainly interested in the geopolitical and economic issues related to oil and gas.

I’m a member of the leadership committee of the Fletcher Energy Consortium and was involved in organizing the Tufts Energy Conference last spring, which was attended by more than 200 people and had 30 speakers on issues of interest in the energy sector, including the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.  I have grown up around the world, in India, Saudi Arabia, Japan, and France, and I’ve lived in the U.S. for the last decade.  Before coming to Fletcher I was working as a electricity policy consultant in Boston.  This past summer, I interned at an energy and political risk firm where I learned a lot about global gas production, delivery, and demand.

 

Here’s something we think is pretty cool.  As a way of capturing the complex questions that are frequently discussed at Fletcher, both inside the classroom and out, the business program is putting together a series of interviews between Bhaskar Chakravorti (our dean for business programs) and Fletcher business professors.  New interviews will be posted each week, but the first three are available now.  Rather than grasping for a way to summarize the interviews, I’ll just share the MIB program’s description:

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This past week was so busy that, alas, I didn’t have a chance to tell you about the Honk Fest or the dueling Davis Square and Harvard Square Oktoberfests, or any of the other events that kept us busy last weekend.  I don’t have much planned for this weekend, but I hope the weather will hold out for some apple picking.  Meanwhile, a quick note that the Office will be closed on Monday, October 10 for a public holiday.  We’ll be back on Tuesday the 11th, and counting down to our first application deadline of the year, for students who wish to enroll in January 2012!

 

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