From the monthly archives: February 2012

Planning to be in the Boston area this week?  Take advantage of this once-in-four-years opportunity to attend the Los Fletcheros Leap Day Extravaganza.  Fletcheros and fans will be gathering Wednesday, February 29 at Johnny D’s at 8:00 p.m.  Fletchero press releases claim that the “The Los Fletcheros Leap Day Extravaganza Event is one of the most highly anticipated events of Davis Square’s quadrennial celebration!”

Blog readers, don’t be disturbed by the Fletcheros’ tendency to overuse articles (“the” and “Los”) in English and Spanish.  And do consider attending.

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With all the application reading we’ve been telling you about, a reasonable blog reader might assume that we’re just about done with the process.  Alas, there’s still plenty of work in front of us.  What happens after all the applications have been reviewed?

Well, first, the Admissions Committees for the different programs continue meeting and discussing.  Most of them will wrap up work within the next two weeks, but the LLM and MIB programs are still facing March deadlines.

When everything has been read and discussed, someone (generally Laurie) needs to do an official sign-off on each application.  Then all the files go back into boxes.  But not for long, because through this whole period, there hasn’t been any discussion of scholarships.  The application review process is essentially need-blind, and scholarship decisions are made by a subgroup (no students this time) of the Admissions Committees.  So back out of the boxes come the applications of admitted applicants.

With admissions and scholarship decisions made, the brain straining work is over, but there are still plenty of administrative tasks and details in front of us.  For starters, decisions need to be entered in the system, checked and rechecked.  Only when we’re sure that everything is correct can we release the decisions.

When we’re asked, we always say that decisions will be released in March.  More specifically, we’re aiming for no later than the week of March 19.  We’ll be able to provide a better estimate in another week or so.


There are no classes today or tomorrow, as students travel to Washington, DC and participate in an intense two days of job-hunt related activities organized by the Office of Career Services.  The schedule is a solid wall of presentations, panel discussions, networking events, lunch with alumni, and receptions.  Students use a bidding process to sign up for sessions, making their own decision on how completely exhausted they want to be at the end of each day.  I frequently hear about job offers that connect back to the career trips, and students who are looking to DC (or NY) for their future work are enthusiastic participants in the trips.

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When my Admissions pals and I talk about our reading days, we tend to focus on the circumstances in which we read, rather than the work aspect of the day.  So what are we doing when we read an application?

First, a bit of background.  Applications are placed in file folders, with a different color for each degree program.  Green–MALD; blue–MA; red–LLM; yellow–MIB; grey–PhD.  (We’re also using pink (MIB) and purple (MALD) for Map Your Future applicants.)  They’re loaded into “ready-to-read” boxes, from which students grab them FIFO style (first-in-first-out).  When the student readers return the files, staff members can take them home.

Each application file is arranged the same way:  the readers’ notes sheet, the pages of the application form, résumé, transcripts, test score reports, personal statement, second essay, third essay (when applicable), additional information, recommendations, interview report, and correspondence.

Personally (and I think that most readers share my approach), I read the file from front to back, but I shift between pages as needed.  I start by looking at the first reader’s notes.  Then I review the application form.  If a student transferred schools or took more than the usual number of years to complete a degree, I’ll make a note.  If an applicant moved around a lot with her family, I’ll note that.  Otherwise, on to the résumé, where I read through and note the applicant’s job responsibilities, as well as hobbies and whatever else is included.

When I review a transcript, I do a combination of scanning and careful parsing.  I scan to see the overall pattern of grades, but then I zero in on a few semesters to see the type of classes and the results.  That works for most applicants, but I’ll slow down further if something jumps out at me.  The method is also challenged by certain education systems that can only be described as, well, stingy in providing information about the student’s results.  In those cases, I read all the information available and sometimes jump directly to academic recommendations (or the internet) for further elucidation.

Test scores usually correlate with grades, so I only spend a lot of time with the score reports when there’s something surprising.

On to the essays, where we’re looking for exactly what the questions request.  With the personal statement, we should be able to derive a clear sense of what the applicant wants to achieve at Fletcher and beyond.  We’ve tinkered with the question many times, and I feel that, “Please tell us your goals for graduate study at Fletcher and for your career” is as clear as it needs to be.  There are no specific expectations for the second essay — we simply want to know more about you.  I’ll make notes about the personal statement (what does the applicant want to do and how clearly can he describe it), sometimes quoting a line or two.  If the second essay does its job, I’ll add a comment on what I’ve learned.

In most cases, the recommendations tell us something we already know, but in more detail.  Good students tend to have good recommendations from professors.  People who have assumed increasing responsibility in the workplace tend to have strong professional recommendations.  But the letters are still important, as they provide detail and background that help us understand the applicant in greater depth than other sections of the application allow.  I love reading supportive recommendations — they’re filled with warm and fuzzy feelings.

The interview report provides a glimpse of how the applicant connected with a representative of the community.  Sometimes, the applicant will be clearer on goals in the application than the interview, and that’s a good thing — we know that there’s a lot of research going on through the fall, and we’re happy to learn that our applicants have taken time to clarify objectives and learn about Fletcher.

Finally, the additional correspondence.  Not much to be found in there, in general, but sometimes it will answer a question that comes up in reading the file.

So that’s how it goes — front to back.  The experience of learning about people one-by-one through their documents is a fascinating one, though it’s difficult to make the mechanics of paging through a file sound anything but dry.  Maybe that’s why, every winter, we write about our favorite teas for reading days, or what we’ve put in the crock pot.

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Every now and then, I take a look at the spiffy new blog page put together by the undergraduate admissions office at Tufts.  As the parent of a high school senior going through the college admissions process, I find that the blog has the power to make me FREAK OUT on her behalf.  (Who are all these talented kids?!?)  To keep my nerves in check, I try to look at it only through my professional lens.  And in that way, I was reassured when I saw that two of their writers have apologized for not blogging.  I feel your pain, fellow admissions bloggers!  It can be hard to generate creativity in the limited time available during the heart of the admissions cycle.

This week, in particular, nearly all of my hours in the office were spent in meetings, and my hours at home were spent reading applications and catching up on the things I didn’t do while in meetings.  So today’s blog is just a placeholder — to let you know that everything is moving along in our process.  Applications are being read, and the Admissions Committees for each of the degree programs are hard at work making those final decisions.

I’ll be back with more to say next week.  But not on Monday, which is a public holiday and the office will be closed.  Save your questions until Tuesday, or contact us by email, and we’ll respond when we’re back in the office.


The next deadline that I’ve been hearing about has nothing much to do with the Admissions Office.  This time, it’s students who are racing against the clock.  Second-year MALD and MIB students must submit their theses by tomorrow, February 15.  All Fletcher students write a thesis as a way of wrapping their coursework together and linking to their future careers.  (Those in one-year programs (the MA and the LLM) have a few extra months to complete it.)  The topic and format is up to the student and his or her advisor, and the diversity of student interests ensures there’s a wild range of topics.

In the lead-up to the deadline, Fletcher students behaved as Fletcher students do, and found a way to support each other by creating “Thesis Fridays.”  An invitation went out to the thesis-writing community:

Thesis Fridays are now officially scheduled for the rest of the semester.  Thesis Fridays are when we sit around in a room in Cabot basement and work on our theses (or whatever).  That’s all.  Sometimes we chat about them, and sometimes people get questions answered or make lucrative proofreading deals.  Sometimes we chat about other things, but we try to minimize that.  There’s nothing formal about it, but it’s a great way to get your butt in a chair for dedicated work time. Plus, misery/creativity loves company!  Just keep repeating:  Everything will be fine when I write my Master’s thesis….

I asked one of the co-creators, Rachel, to tell me more.  She said that she and another student who graduated in December came up with the idea last semester.  “We had a core group of about six or seven of us throughout the fall, sometimes up to 10 or 12. There are more this semester, since it’s (past) crunch time. I’ve definitely made a few new friends and practiced my pumpkin-bread-baking skills because of it.  🙂

Pumpkin bread isn’t the only potential caloric result of thesis productivity.  Students who submit their thesis one day early (i.e. today, Valentine’s Day) have been told, “Nothing says ‘I love you’ more than by submitting your thesis a bit early on Valentine’s Day.  So beat the rush, ahead of those getting it in on the deadline of February 15.  In return, the Registrar’s Office will show a bit of our love with some chocolate treats.”

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Every year we like to give blog readers a sense of how we use our “reading days.”  Though I always feel pretty worn out after reviewing applications intensely for eight hours, there’s no denyng the pleasures of working at home.  I asked Jeff to tell you about his reading day last week.

Unlike some of my colleagues who enjoy reading applications at local cafés, I prefer the comforts of my own home.  Staying at home is nice because I can lounge around in my pajamas all day, and also because I am much more efficient.  (In public, I have a hard time concentrating, as I am extremely nosey.)  Not needing to leave the house has other advantages, especially on those cold, blustery winter mornings; however, this wasn’t the case last Wednesday, when it almost hit 60 degrees in Boston.

I have a routine that I stick to each reading day, although this time I diverged a bit, in order to prepare dinner for the evening.  I woke up at 5:30 a.m. to prepare a crock pot recipe (Guinness Beef Stew) and to start a loaf of bread, so I wouldn’t need to cook at the end of a long reading day.  After that was settled, I perched myself in my usual spot — the breakfast bar that that adjoins my kitchen and dining room (sunny and bright).  My piles of applications were stacked, I had my favorite pen (Pilot G-2, Blue), and I had a hot latte (beverage preference dependent on time of day — latte, coffee, tea, or water).   This is the scene:

My dog (Sydney) usually doesn’t hang out in the kitchen, but she could smell that something was cooking, and it smelled good.  The mug featured is my favorite, which I purchased when I was in Shanghai recruiting this past September.  (If you happen to make your way to Shanghai, check out Spin for some great pieces and prices.)

Anyway, back to the reading.  It is great to have the opportunity to fully immerse myself in reading applications for an entire day.  In the office, there are constant interruptions, and I find it hard to get through more than a handful in a day (if that).  Learning about applicants’ interests and experiences is truly entertaining.  So many of you are doing such interesting work that I often find myself wanting to change careers, but alas, I will live vicariously through you.  Some of my favorite applications are from those who had previously applied and were unsuccessful in the admissions process.  It’s nice to see how these applicants have taken time to develop their professional skills and hone their career interests.

After hours of reading and snacking (and a walk to the park with the dogs to enjoy the near 60 degree weather), I completed my reading, packed up the applications to go back to Fletcher, and enjoyed a delicious dinner.  All in all, it was a good day.

Sydney and her friend, Baloo, hanging at Savin Hill Park.

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The Hall of Flags is Fletcher’s town square.  Everyone passes through here at some point in the day.  Yesterday, to capture a little of the atmosphere, Jeff (my partner in on-location blogging) and I parked ourselves at a table (which we reserved, as if this were a restaurant), equipped with my laptop and a basic camera, and waited to see who came by.  We made a slight miscalculation, having chosen a time when traffic was light, but the upside was that we had a chance to chat with everyone who visited the table.

When we set up camp, two students, Vanessa and Jon, were already in place at their own (better decorated) table.  They’re raising funds for their participation in the Tufts Marathon Challenge.  Jon is from New Orleans, so (in keeping with the season), they put out some plastic babies and called it King Cake.  The cake, fortunately, looked better than the handwritten sign.

After chatting with Vanessa and Jon, we looked to see who else was around.  Jamie, one of our volunteer interviewers from last fall, greets blog readers from the balcony.

Mollie (also an Admissions volunteer), Adam, and Khanh from Fletcher Students in Security were planning a reception that will take place during the DC Career Trip in a few weeks.

Bilal stopped by on his way to this week’s event in the “Denial and Deception” lunch/lecture series (organized by the Security Studies program), on practices and best practices throughout the intelligence community.  He insisted that I should be in the photo.

Nick walked through while doing his work.  We always enjoy chatting with him when he helps us out by keeping the office in order.  He has also brought new life to one of the Admissions Office plants.

Shinhee (yet another Admissions volunteer) stopped by on her way from Prof. Babbitt’s office to an accounting class.  Jeff told Shinhee (a musician) she should have brought her violin so that she could play for us.  Next time!

My Fletcher Futbol friend Sebastian picked up a piece of cake.  He was on his way to meet up with a student who had worked at an NGO he’s interested in.

Summer is also on her way to the “Denial and Deception” lunch/lecture.  She’s looking spiffy for the special event.

Dan, Fletcher’s IT guru, was talking IT with Kevin, the face of the Hall.  (Kevin would have been able to tell us when the HoF is at its busiest.  Mental note to check in with him before we plan another on-location blog.)

Matt, also on the way to the lunch/lecture, stopped by.  (Gonna be a busy luncheon!)  Matt’s a PhD candidate who’s working in Oslo for the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs as a visiting research fellow.  He’s on campus now to put the finishing touches on his formal dissertation proposal about organized crime and state security in West Africa (while working remotely for the Institute).  Matt moved on to the PhD program from the MALD (like most of our PhD students).  He has clocked many hours in the HoF, generally toting a coffee mug.

Morgan is on his way to accounting class, carrying the lunch that was lovingly prepared by his wife (complete with special notes).  The word is that Morgan has the BEST lunches (and sometimes dinners) in that little cooler.  Jeff and I are totally jealous!

Vanessa and Jon packed up their table.  Why?  The “Denial and Deception” lunch/lecture, of course.  Vanessa says she can’t be late.  The lecture runs on military time.

Tomo came out of his microfinance class where there were two guests from Spain.  He’s off to have lunch with them.

Geoffrey was here to kick off the marketing of the Tufts Energy Conference — mailing cards to speakers from past years.  The conference is coming up in April.

Vickie, Carolyn, Rachael, Naomi, Winnie, and Shuvam met up at the elevator.  (They’re all in the photo, but not necessarily easy to find.)

Lily just came out of her class, and is chatting with Emily while waiting for others.  She’s going to join Tomo for lunch with the microfinanciers from Spain.

Food for the “Denial and Deception” lunch!  (Delivered with a smile by Dan from Dave’s Fresh Pasta, a Davis Square eatery that is a favorite source of food around here.)

Brand new Januarian Alessandra and soon-to-graduate second-year Charlie, were also coming from the microfinance class.  This time I think to ask which class it is.  The answer:  Microfinance and Inclusive Commerce with Prof. Kim Wilson.  Then, along comes Prof. Wilson.  Jeff convinces her to join the photo.  (Love Prof. Wilson’s red shoes!)

Kristen avoids the paparazzi on her way to the Tufts Educational Day Care Center for an appointment.  (Fingers crossed that there will be space for little Lucia in the day care in September!)  More relevant to Fletcher, Kristen was coming out of a discussion of the launch of a new initiative to offer conference calls with recent alums, during which current students can ask about job search tactics in particular industries or locations.  The first conference call will be with a 2011 MIB alum and former Admissions intern, who will describe the process that landed him with a job in Brazil.

Once we let Kristen go, we noticed a crowd of people waiting for the elevator.  More people from the microfinance class, including the Spanish visitors.  They were very gracious in allowing Jeff to snap a couple of photos, and we learned they’re from ACAF in Barcelona.

Hanging out in the Hall of Flags was a fun way to connect with people we don’t see as often as we’d like, not to mention a real treat during this busy time of year for Admissions.  After our allotted 45 minutes, Jeff and I packed up and went back to the office.  We’re going to do this again, though.  Next time, we’ll try for live blogging.  Stay tuned!

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Because most of our applicants aim for the January 15 deadline, later applicants may feel neglected.  The first of the remaining dates is coming up on Friday, February 10.  For those of you aiming to submit your MALD or MA application this week, I can give you the good news that we easily handle this smaller batch of incoming applications.  If your transcripts and other materials are in the office already, you’ll find accurate information on GAMS in only a few days.  Though we might forget to talk about the upcoming deadlines, I assure you that we don’t neglect you in the review process.


I’m going to breeze straight past disappointing sports news from yesterday, and recall, instead, a happier weekend a couple of weeks back.  That’s when much of Fletcher relocated to the mountains of Maine for the annual ski trip.  I asked two students to describe the Sugarloaf experience.

Second-year student, Jenny, fills us in on the organization of the trip:

As a Fletcher student, I never get tired of hearing about the sense of community that students experience here at Fletcher.  In fact, this is what attracted me to the MALD program in the first place.  And now that I am a part of it, I completely understand what I had heard from Fletcher faculty, students, and staff.  Fletcher’s annual ski trip to Sugarloaf Mountain Resort in Maine showed once again why the Fletcher community is so strong.

The annual ski trip is a student-organized event that you do not want to miss.  It’s a chance for all of us to stretch our legs, put down our books, turn off our computers, and get some fresh air during a weekend away.  The dedicated group of students who form the Ski Trip Committee work hard to organize and plan a trip that only strengthens the student community and creates great memories.  Even though the resort is huge, and we are spread out in various cabins, you will always run into a fellow Fletcher student on the slopes, in the cafeteria, in the rental shop, or even in the cabin right next to you.  In the evening, we all convene to show our support for our very own Fletcher band, Los Fletcheros, and share stories of skiing for the first time, falling hard on the slopes, or relaxing in the hot tub all day.  Needless to say, we all thanked the student organizers for planning a great event.

The ski trip is just one example of how students help build a tight-knit community.  Many Fletcher students are involved in planning events such as the Diplomat’s Ball, Fletcher Follies, the four cultural nights, and various speaker events that bring students together in a cultural, diverse, academic, and social environment.  The ski trip shows that the community is not confined to Fletcher’s campus, but exists even when we are away from school.  What connects all student-organized events is that they strengthen the community; and that is the Fletcher experience.

First-year student, Beth, wrote about her first experience with this Fletcher tradition:

The legendary Fletcher ski trip took place recently.  While I was looking forward to it, I had no idea how it could live up to the expectations set by the second years.  All through the fall semester, second years raved about last year’s trip and talked endlessly about the bonding experience.  Somehow, I was doubtful that having 400 students spread over a mountain would really bring us that much closer, when we already spend endless hours together in class, the library, Mugar Café, and Davis Square.

Predictably, I was wrong.  Without the distraction of homework and internship searches, our class finally had the chance to talk about everything else.  Sitting on the ski lift, we chatted about sports, family ski trips, the prior night’s party, and our winter break.  I noticed my friends getting to know other students better and forging new relationships.  My classmates had always impressed me with their hobbies and skills, but I hadn’t had the chance to see most of their talents at work.  Watching them instantly befriend new people, teach each other to ski, fearlessly take on a new sport, or fly down the mountain was truly impressive.

Everything I like about my classmates in school — their supportiveness, their inclusiveness, their confidence, and their sense of adventure — translated perfectly onto the mountain.  As the second years had promised, the ski trip was an opportunity to see my classmates in a new light, and once again be impressed.

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