From the monthly archives: October 2012

Those who have been reading the blog for a while and others who have scrolled through the archives may remember Manjula, a rock-star 2012 graduate.  When we talked in the spring, Manjula agreed to my request to follow his story a little further, especially since he is continuing work started at Fletcher (as described in the spring’s blog post).  Recently, he sent me the first of what I hope will be a series of updates.  He wrote, “My post-Fletcher life as a social entrepreneur dedicated to Educate Lanka has been a challenging journey, but a very exciting one at the same time.”  And he listed some of the highlights of the four short months since he left campus:

Manjula and Educate Lanka are still benefiting from the support of his former classmates. Last spring, Fletcher students, faculty, and staff recorded two videos to kick off the “It Only Takes Ten” campaign. The videos are similar, but I’m going to share both anyway.

Many languages, One Meaning

and Many Countries, One Meaning

Quite a few Fletcher students have a goal to establish a nonprofit, and it’s an inspiration to all of us to observe Manjula’s work.  He tells me that he has a few more projects lined up for the coming months.  I’ll be checking in with him so that I can provide an update toward the end of the year.

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The Admissions Office (and all of Tufts University) is back in action today.  Hurricane Sandy brought a lot of flooding to coastal areas, but left Medford/Somerville in pretty good shape.  I managed to accomplish quite a bit yesterday, reading my small batch of applications without benefit of electricity when we lost power around mid day, and cooking up my applesauce once the power came back on and I knew I’d have a refrigerator to store it in.

Digressing just a bit here, I’ll show you my Yankee apple peeler:

It takes off the peel and cuts the apple into spirals:

A classic kitchen tool that I happen to love.

But, as I said, we’re back to work today, and there’s catching up to do.  A quick reminder that the deadline for Early Notification applications is coming soon:  Thursday, November 15.  We’ve just offered positions on the Admissions Committee to a group of students and, once they respond (accepting the offer, I hope), we’ll be ready to gear up for reading!

 

As anyone in the U.S. will have heard, the Boston area is within the very broad territory that will be affected by the so-called Frankenstorm, Hurricane Sandy.  As a result, for the first time in my Tufts experience, the University is closed today while we wait for a hurricane to blow through.  We hope to be back in the office tomorrow (Tuesday).

I wasn’t at Fletcher on Friday, and I left on Thursday in my own whirlwind.  That frenzy worked to my advantage, as I brought home some of the materials I need to keep my work moving forward today.  Among other things, I have a small batch of applications for January enrollment.

But being at home certainly has its advantages and, since I have an overabundance of apples from a day of picking, I may toss some into a pot to make applesauce.  A nice autumnal activity to accompany a hurricane day at home.

Back on the Fletcher front, last week I let a key event pass by.  The annual SIMULEX program, a crisis-management exercise, offered by the International Security Studies Program took place on Friday evening and Saturday.  The simulation’s scenario, set in 2014, was inspired by the events of the Arab Spring.  It’s a highlight of the fall for many students who participate.  Maybe next October’s scenario will be based on an East Coast super-storm.

 

Dear Ariel: I don’t have a score of 100 on my TOEFL iBT. Can I still get into Fletcher?

In addition to the GRE or GMAT, if your native language is not English and you have not earned a university degree (undergraduate degree, or graduate degree lasting two or more years) in which English was the language of instruction, you are required to take either the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), the International English Language Testing System (IELTS), or the Pearson Test of English (PTE). A score of 600 on the standard TOEFL, 100 on the Internet-based TOEFL (iBT), 7 on the IELTS, or 68 on the PTE is generally considered evidence of sufficient English language ability for graduate study at The Fletcher School.

Non-native English speakers will succeed in Fletcher’s rigorous curriculum only if they have sufficient English language ability. Occasionally we will admit students with a score just below or above 100 but require that the student complete additional language training before enrolling. If you are concerned about your TOEFL scores, we encourage you to take the test again.

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I’m taking a class this fall.  It isn’t a regular offering, but it’s taught by a professor at a nearby university, and I’d describe it as similar in workload to the classes I took in college back in the day.  Why I didn’t think about homework before signing up is a little bit of a mystery.  By the time the class met in September, I was already behind in the reading.  I tried to catch up from the first week and didn’t do any of the reading for the second week.  Then there were two weeks when we didn’t meet.  Good opportunity to catch up, right?  No.  I was utterly undisciplined and was lucky to have finished the reading for the third class, having abandoned the idea of finishing the work for weeks one and two.  I’m prepared for tonight, but I wouldn’t describe my preparation as thorough.  Sigh.  At least this experience allows me to connect with our sometimes-overwhelmed students.

Whenever I manage to do the reading, there’s another way in which the class connects to my work.  As I’ve read, I’ve been contemplating the nature of academic writing.  Must it have big multisyllabic words?  Or can complex thoughts be expressed in clear language?

Regardless of my ability to achieve my own ideal when I write, I adhere to the concept that clear language is something to which we should aspire, and that use of big words should not be our goal.  Why, then, do so many applicants seem to write a draft of their application essays and then randomly select words to which they’ll give the thesaurus treatment?  It’s as if they ask, “Why use an ordinary word like ‘ordinary’ when we can substitute ‘quotidian’”?

Dear blog readers, I implore you to consider the readers of your application.  We’re all educated people, and we won’t be won over by a thesaurusized essay.  Instead, make your essays clear and straightforward.  Use a ten-dollar word if it’s natural for you and suits your sentence, but don’t strive to do so because you think the Admissions Committee expects it.  Your aim should be to make your experience and objectives clear to the Committee.  As you put the finishing touches on your essays for an Early Notification application, or start the process of writing essays for a January application, keep this in mind:  plain language can go a long way toward winning over your readers.

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Yesterday, Prof. Leila Fawaz shared with the community a piece she had written about Monday’s presidential debate.  One paragraph seemed particularly relevant to our professional school of international affairs.  She wrote, “Happily for us, the United States possesses a deep reservoir of foreign experts and diplomats who have spent their life studying a region, issue, or people.”  She goes on to conclude that, “No matter who wins this election, my hope therefore is that the United States in 2013 draws upon its unprecedented expertise and contacts to construct a strong foreign policy of consistency and empathy. Such a policy, surely, might well win the support of ordinary people the world over, tired of the ravages of war and the brutality of bombs.”

You can read more of Prof. Fawaz’s comments, along with other thoughts on the election from her fellow historians, on the American Historical Association’s Perspectives Online site.  (Scroll down to the Election 2012 special.)

 

A member of the faculty recently sent around a note pointing us toward this Washington Post technology column that describes work done by a Fletcher student during his summer internship.  The student (Josh Rogers) wrote his thesis under Prof. Salacuse’s supervision.  I thought blog readers might want to see this record of a summer internship’s interesting and valuable result.

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As you know, the Admissions Office has been joined by three new (though increasingly experienced) staff members this fall, and Christine, Katherine, and Liz are all making their mark on how we do things.  Recently, Christine decided our small interview room needed a little brightening.  She added a miniature zen garden, along with folders containing information on topics helpful to applicants.

On Thursday, I held my breath as I worked with another Fletcher staffer, Geoff, who has far stronger technical skills than I do, to transition the blog to a new and more modern theme.  Not much changed (and the breath-holding was just an ill-informed fear that all past posts would vaporize mysteriously in the transition), but I finally have the ability to wrap text around photos.  Some of the fonts are changed, too, to better match the rest of the Fletcher website.  All-in-all, applicants will benefit more from Christine’s colorful files of information than from the new photo placement, but I still thought I’d mention the reason behind the blog’s somewhat-altered appearance.

 

Dear Ariel:  I have only limited (or no) professional, full-time work experience. What are my chances for getting into Fletcher?

Unfortunately, we are unable to assess your candidacy for admission before you apply to Fletcher.  This means that we aren’t able to tell you that with Y number of years work experience, you have a Z% chance of being accepted to Fletcher.  There just isn’t an easy algorithm for determining which students get in! The Committee of Admissions actively seeks to enroll a diverse class of students who have demonstrated academic excellence, have a wide range of personal, professional, and academic experience, and have a strong commitment to an international career.  We seek students who, by virtue of their background, achievement, and experience, can contribute to the education of their peers and to the scholarship and practice of international relations.  We’re looking to see, based on your background, if you have the ability to succeed and actively contribute to the diverse and vibrant Fletcher community.

What I can tell you, is that while full-time work experience is not required, it is strongly recommended. The Committee on Admissions carefully reviews each applicant’s personal and professional experience to assess readiness for graduate study at Fletcher.  Voluntary positions, internships, and part- and full-time experience all play a role in preparing students for study.

It is important to look at your program requirements as well.  For example, in the MIB and MALD programs, most successful applicants will have at least two to three years of full-time work experience.  Meanwhile, the MA is a mid-career degree program requiring eight or more years of professional experience.  Another thing to keep in mind is that the average age of entering Fletcher students is generally around 27.  The class entering in fall 2012 has students ranging in age from 21 to 46.

If you are concerned about your level of professional work experience and are currently an undergraduate senior, I would encourage you to check out Fletcher’s newest option:  Map Your Future.  Map Your Future guarantees admitted applicants a place in the MALD or MIB degree program after completing two to three years of professional work experience in a Fletcher-approved position.  This highly selective program is intended for those with excellent academic credentials and preparation, a clear professional focus, foreign language proficiency, and a demonstrated track record of success to date.  The program allows for professional development and career exploration while guaranteeing a position in a future class.

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As I wrote yesterday, today we’ll start an occasional series of posts profiling students and their paths before and during their Fletcher years.  Mirza Ramic is a first-year MALD student.  He immigrated from Bosnia, and listed for me the other places he lived before coming to the U.S.:  Croatia, Italy, Czech Republic, Tunisia, and Egypt.  For his undergrad studies at Bowdoin College, he double-majored in Government and Legal Studies along with Eurasian and East European Studies.  Here’s Mirza’s description of how he ended up at Fletcher.

Applying to graduate programs is not meant to be easy.  The application process itself requires that you showcase your ability to take initiative and tackle new challenges.  Of course, not everyone will be successful — or more specifically, successful at gaining admission to his or her dream school.  For me, “success” was realized only after bitter disappointment.  This is a brief vignette about the lows and highs of that often turbulent process.

My journey to Fletcher began in 2009.  At the time, I was a full-time musician.

I was traveling the world, meeting wonderful people, and spending most of my days at home with strange instruments.  Things were going well.  Still, I was fully aware that my passion for music had its career limits, and that the demanding travel schedule would not allow me to pursue other personal interests.  As an immigrant to the U.S. and a transnational nomad for most of my youth, an international affairs program seemed like an ideal choice for me.  I visited Fletcher for an information session, and was immediately fixed on the MALD program.

I didn’t apply that year because my music career demanded all the attention I could offer.  I would wait until the following year, when I had more time to devote to assembling the “perfect” application.  I was convinced of my abilities, of my personal story, professional experience, and future aspirations, and of my willingness to work hard.  In fact, I was so sure of myself that I only applied to Fletcher.  In January 2011, I submitted the online application.

The day I received my rejection letter from Fletcher was not a good day.  It was cold and rainy, and I was already tense in anticipation of a hectic travel schedule.  I was disappointed with myself and suddenly doubtful of where my life was going.  The next few months would be filled with adventure and an opportunity to experience the world from a unique perspective, but upon my return home, I would be facing difficult questions.  I realized that if I was to reapply next year, I would need to work much harder at convincing the admissions committee of my potential.

A couple of days after my flight from Singapore landed in New York City, I composed an email to the Office of Admissions requesting application feedback.  Though not all IR graduate schools will provide it, receiving feedback is quite a wonderful way to pinpoint the parts of your application that need improvement.  (Of course, it is up to you to implement these changes.)  When I received my response, I printed a copy of the e-mail.  I stared at it for a while, feeling overwhelmed and less convinced of my abilities than the year before.  Much work needed to be done to be successful in applying to graduate school.

The next five months would test my academic, writing, and organizational stamina.  I enrolled in two night classes while working full-time, increased my participation in relevant community activities (including managing a United Nations World Food Program USA fundraising campaign), continued traveling and performing as a musician, and submitted applications to Fletcher and seven other graduate school programs.  I entirely rewrote my essays and recruited friends and co-workers to provide advice for improving my application.  I carefully and stubbornly followed the feedback that Fletcher provided.  A successful application very much depended on a deep personal commitment to every step along the way.

Fall and winter of 2011/12 was one of the most challenging periods of my life, and was followed by two long months of compulsive e-mail checking.  Unlike before, this time I was absolutely terrified of rejection.  I could not fathom receiving another e-mail that opened with “We regret to inform you….”  I also could not envision applying for a third time — this would almost certainly be my last shot at getting in.   While I was excited about hearing back from the other programs I applied to, Fletcher remained my top choice, and I knew that I would attend if was I to be admitted.  Still, my convictions guaranteed nothing; the matter was now out of my hands.

The day I received my admission offer from Fletcher was a good day.  It was sunny with clear skies.  I thought back to my feeling of disappointment exactly a year before.  Then I remembered the application feedback that I received.  I had needed to make a daunting list of improvements, and I had nearly given up on it.  Now, all of that was behind me, and the top of Packard Avenue was directly ahead.  At 9 am on Monday, August 27, I would officially be a Fletcher student.

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