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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