Every summer, I cook up some blog assignment for my admissions pals, generally designed to shed light on the people applicants will be interacting with throughout the year.  This year, I thought: what better way to have the staff introduce themselves than by offering a bit of advice.  So I gave them the prompt: Something I would want applicants to know is… And then I got out of the way and let them send me anything they wanted. 

I’m going to start with Dan’s advice, because it gets at the foundation of an application to Fletcher.  That makes sense, since Dan is our resident staff member/alumnus.  I’ll follow up next week with thoughts from the rest of the team.  Here’s what Dan wants you to know:

“International Affairs” is not a field.

DanAs you can imagine, there are certain application tropes we in admissions see frequently. Goals of working in the Foreign Service or the UN are common, as are formative brushes with seminal political and social moments (“I remember watching 9/11 on TV,” “I was studying in Cairo during the Arab Spring,” etc.).  These can be effective, or not; regular readers will know that the curious alchemy behind a strong application involves many ingredients, and that the same thing can strike different readers in distinct ways.  A familiar one I hereby discourage goes something like this: “I aspire to a career in the field of international affairs.”  What’s the big deal, you ask?  Isn’t Fletcher an international affairs school, after all?  Don’t you admissions types always harp on the importance of professional goals?  And aren’t you the guy who lets his dog read applications?

It is, we do, and he mostly writes blog posts (dogs are famously poor readers, and demonstrate questionable judgment).  The issue is that “International Affairs” is not itself a field, but rather an inter-related group of fields.  Microfinance, monitoring & evaluation, social entrepreneurship, development aid policy, national security law, international climate change negotiations, EU monetary policy, mobile banking, maritime policy, and nuclear non-proliferation are all fields (along with dozens of others) that have an equal claim for inclusion under the “international affairs” umbrella.  Essays that include phrases like “the field of international affairs” often signal that an applicant hasn’t quite identified a sufficiently specific set of interests or professional objectives that often translate to success both at Fletcher and with career development afterwards.  The fact that you’ve submitted an application tells us you’re interested in “international affairs,” but we want to hear more!  Tell us what field or fields interest you most, and try to identify some of the linkages between them.  This shows us that you’re ready to construct a coherent course of study from Fletcher’s famously flexible curriculum.  The more you can do so the stronger your case for admission, and the less you need to worry that your application is maybe being read by a dog.

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