This was my weekend for remembering that the Boston area can have a small-town feel. Everywhere I went, I ran into people:  on Saturday at the winter farmers’ market (one of two in Somerville and Cambridge) and, later, at the movies; on Sunday, when we went to see Red at the SpeakEasy Stage Company and then at dinner, when we met Anne, one of last year’s Januarians, and her family.  But funniest was bumping into both Laurie and Kristen at the mall yesterday, when we were all taking care of a few shopping errands.

Now we’re back to work and compiling applications is the theme of the day.  We’re fortunate to have had a crack team of student interns working through the break, with the satisfying result that we’re up to date on processing mail (until a big bag of envelopes arrives later today).  But just printing the applications that were ready on Sunday took two hours, and we know it will be days before all the materials in the office (the applications and their corresponding transcripts, etc.) will be united in a folder.

But being realistic, I know you’re primarily concerned with the progress your own materials are making.  So here’s a summary of how everything happens.  Note that many of these steps (some done by machine and others by humans) are taking place simultaneously:

1.  You hit the online “submit” button.  Your application was “stamped” with the date and time, and will wait within the Embark system for your registered online recommenders to submit their letters.  If all your recommenders have already submitted their letters, or if you haven’t registered any online recommenders, the application will be ready for us immediately, and we’ll upload it into our internal program.  (If your recommenders haven’t done their part, it’s your responsibility to remind them that the deadline has passed.)

2.  When your application (with online recommendations) is uploaded, you’ll receive an automatically generated email stating that we have received your application, and that you should wait ten business days before contacting the Admissions Office about any missing materials.  (Note that this means that you don’t receive the email if the application is still waiting for recommendations.)  The email also provides you with a username and password to access the Tufts Graduate Application Management System (GAMS).  GAMS is the best way to track your application throughout the process.  We’ll also be posting decision letters to your GAMS account, so hang on to your username and password!

3.   Uploaded applications are printed in batches.  Once we have the paper copy, we’ll create a file folder for you.  (A big moment in the life of your application!)

4.  Meanwhile, Admissions Office staffers will risk paper cuts and worse while they open an endless stream of envelopes holding test scores, transcripts, letters of recommendation from recommenders who weren’t registered online, etc.  We sort and file the mail.  If the application hasn’t yet been uploaded, the paper materials will “wait” for it to emerge from the system.

5.  Once we have your application in a file folder, we dig out the mail that has already been received for you and include it.  Then we manually update your record in the admissions system to show what materials have come in by mail.  You should track your application through GAMS, but we’ll also email you if there’s a document missing.  Emailing a member of the Admissions staff will, at this point in the process, give you only the information you can access yourself through GAMS.  And I want to stress here that the aforementioned ten business days are the period during which the humans will be entering information into GAMS.  Keep on top of things, but remember that the registering of your materials won’t happen immediately.

6.  Your completed application is then given to Committee members to review, and you’ll receive your admission decision in late March.

The bottom line:  Pressing submit is the easy part for you, and receiving online materials is the easy part for us.  The challenge is that most applicants submitted their applications during this past weekend, and it will take us a couple of weeks of mad scrambling to clear the instant backlog and create a thousand-plus application files.

Be sure to stay on top of the status of your application, but try to give us a little time to pull everything together.  By early February (only two weeks away, though we know it can feel like forever), everyone who has submitted all the materials needed for an application should find accurate and reassuring information on GAMS.

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