Posts by: Jessica Daniels

On Sunday I made a last-minute decision to jump-start my application reading on Monday.  We’ve often written about our “reading days” at home.  Past posts have always involved piles of green files (and, occasionally, cute dogs).  These days, no paper files!  Here’s how my day went.

7:30:  Move a laptop to a kitchen counter, grab a cup of mint tea in favorite frog mug, and kick off the day, starting with a quick review of email but soon moving on to the applications that were waiting for me in my queue.

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9:30:  The pain in my shoulder from being perched over a keyboard tells me it’s time for a break.  Switch to coffee (half caf/half decaf — I want to be alert but you wouldn’t want me too jumpy) in a theme-appropriate mug.  Do shoulder rolls while switching to another location — a desktop with a more comfortable chair.

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12:00:  I’ve now cleared out my queue, which means I can start plucking applications at random.  But first, lunch — a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  So far as I’m concerned, peanut butter is always #1, and being at home means I can toast the bread for the sandwich.

1:00:  After lunch, I read another couple of files, but at 1:00 it’s time to park myself somewhere warm and comfortable for a conference call.  After the call, I switch back to the laptop, but on a different counter — changing chairs throughout the day is part of my reading strategy.  More tea in yet another world-map mug.

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3:30:  Emails distract me for a while.  Once I regain focus, I return to my application queue and try to finish whatever I’ve loaded in there.

4:45:  That’s it for the day.  Time to put together a quick dinner and then head out to a meeting of a community board I’m on.  A little human interaction (and a chance to be outside) won’t be a bad thing.

There are so many great things about our new online application reader system, but I’m still working on strategies for pain-free reading.  More changes of chair?  More cups of tea?  By the end of this year’s application cycle, I’ll have it all worked out.  Meanwhile, I’ve already read some inspiring essays and I know there’s more to come!

 

Well, here we are, on the other side of the general application deadline.  Processing of the applications we received over the weekend has already begun, and will keep us busy for the next two weeks or so.  In some cases, almost no work is needed — everything was submitted online and we simply need to confirm it’s all there.  In other cases, we need to scan a transcript or recommendation and make sure the scan is added to an applicant’s credentials.  And then there are applications that are missing a couple of pieces, and we need to notify the applicant.  Whether your application needs effort or not, everyone is in one big line and your patience will be appreciated.

To that end, let me share Christine’s FAQs to guide you on tracking your application.  Note, especially, the instructions on how to access your Application Status page.

Frequently Asked Questions: Application Edition

I Submitted My Application!  Now What?

Your Application Status page will display information about your status.

To access your Application Status Page you can either click the “Start an Application” link on the Admissions website or save the application link.  You will login with the email and password you used when you created your application.

How Do I Know If My Application is Incomplete or Complete?

Even after you have submitted all the required materials, your application is not complete until a staff member has reviewed each document to check that it is correct and legible.  Your Application Status page displays the most up-to-date information on your application.  Please allow us up to 10 days after we receive your materials to update your status.

Your application will be marked as incomplete if we find that items are missing, your transcripts are difficult to read or not translated into English, or your application fee has not been received (with the exception of fee waivers).  If we are missing materials or cannot read application documents, we will contact you.

Fletcher Admissions will send you a confirmation email when all of your application materials have been compiled and your application is ready to be reviewed by the Admissions Committee.  Once your application is complete, no further action is required.

Please Note: the order in which your application is processed has no bearing on your admissions decision.

When Will I Receive My Decision?

Admissions decisions will be released before April 1.  We will send a message to the email address you used on your application with information regarding your decision.

If you have further questions, please email us or call us at 1-617-627-3040.

Use the same email address from your application on all email messages.  Due to the high volume of communications we receive, it can take several days for us to reply to you.  We appreciate your patience!

 

Well, only about 36 hours remain before the application deadline.  A nice little batch of applications came in early, meaning (perhaps) that someone responded to my plea to submit early.  On the other hand (sigh), hundreds remain unsubmitted, so on balance, I’ve been ignored.  That’s o.k., I can take it.

Student readers on the Admissions Committee have been keeping our process ticking along, taking time during their winter break to read applications — a huge benefit of our new online application reader.  (Going paperless also earned the Admissions Office “Silver Level” recognition from the University Office of Sustainability’s Green Office Certification Program.  Hooray for us!)

When we return to work on Monday, the team — including our returning student interns — will focus on processing applications and will kick off the heart of the application review period.  There will be a bit of a frenzy for a couple of weeks, but this is the time of year that many of us like best.  We look forward to “meeting” you through your applications, and to working with you throughout the spring.

 

Thanks to a little advance planning, I was able to keep the blog running from December 22 to January 2, while I was sitting in my mother-in-law’s North London living room.  We spent two weeks away, mostly visiting with my husband Paul’s family.  We also made a side trip to Copenhagen, where I had never visited before.  That was fun!  Also fun — seeing my daughter, Kayla, who is spending the year studying in London.  She even proved that she’s been learning something, as she was the only one with the correct answers to the British politics questions on the traditional family holiday quiz.  Go Kayla!

(As a side note, I’ll mention that Kayla saw someone in a Fletcher Fútbol sweatshirt running down a street near her London flat.  She didn’t think quickly enough that day, but next time she’ll chase the runner to ask who it is.  Fletcher is everywhere!)

Until today, my week has mostly been tied up with catching up after time away, and preparing for the months to come.  To that end, the Admissions staff will be gathering this morning for a half-day retreat to talk about all those things that will keep us busy between now and May, when the work flow will finally slow.  It’s always a useful exercise to take a few hours to talk about the big picture.  We tend to get wrapped up in the fine details of our work while reviewing applications and doing the rest of what needs to be done from January to March.

We’ll be back in the office this afternoon, ready to take whatever questions may come in, now that we’re down to the wire before the application deadline.

 

Orientation for new students starts today, meaning that Fletcher will not be occupied solely by staff members, as it has been for several weeks.  Classes start up on Monday, which is when we’ll see the returning students.

While everything is so quiet (and we’re waiting for the flood of applications that will pour in at the end of this week), I wanted to share two recent op-eds written by our PhD candidates.  First, David Knoll, who is in the final stages of dissertation writing, took a break to do some other writing, in this case for Time magazine online.  His opinion piece appeared in December, shortly after the release of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee’s report.

More recently, Shahla Al Kli and Torrey Taussig also published an opinion piece.  Theirs is on ISIS, and appeared on The National Interest website.

Finally, if you’re like me, you receive news about Fletcher from many sources — the website, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.  Despite these many prompts, it took me until today to watch the latest video from Dean Stavridis.  If you’re hoping to enroll in 2015-16, I encourage you to take a look.  He lays out many initiatives for the coming year, even as he describes the results of our work in 2014.

Oh, and of course, Dean Stavridis is a graduate of Fletcher’s PhD program.

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Even as you’re putting the final flourishes on your Fletcher application, you should be working on your plan for financing your graduate education.  (Even better would be that you already have a plan!)  While it’s fine to wait and see what funding you receive from the schools that offer you admission, it’s important to have a plan in place for if you receive less scholarship funding than you hope for.

In that context, I want to bring your attention to the Tufts University Loan Repayment Assistance Program.  Through LRAP, alumni who take post-graduation jobs in the public or not-for-profit sectors can receive support for the duration of the time they are making loan repayments.  The actual amount each LRAP applicant will receive depends on level of debt and current income.  Naturally, there are guidelines for applying, but for those who meet the guidelines, LRAP can be a big help with finances after graduation.

I hasten to note that students should not see LRAP as an invitation to take on more loans than are absolutely needed.  Still, the program can be an element of your overall plan for financing your Fletcher studies.

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Welcome to 2015!  I’d like to start off the new year by bringing your attention to the work of one of my favorite ever Fletcher students, Patrick Kabanda, F13.  I first met Patrick many years before he applied to Fletcher, and it was always the greatest of pleasures to see him around the building during his two years here.  Recently I learned that a policy research working paper he wrote was published by the World Bank Group.  The paper, “The Creative Wealth of Nations: How the Performing Arts Can Advance Development and Human Progress,” has a foreword by Nobel Prize winning economist, Amartya Sen and was adapted from Patrick’s thesis, “Where Culture Leads, Trade Follows, a Framework for Developing Uganda’s Music as International Trade in Services.”  It explores how the World Bank can increase cultural activities as part of its development strategy.

 

It’s December 31, the last day of 2014 and the day on which I’m going to beg applicants to resolve to be kind to themselves in 2015.  Yes, the kind thing to do is to submit your application on a day that is earlier than January 10.

You can certainly make the choice to be that person who emails me on the morning of the 10th asking whether the deadline refers to the close of business or 11:59 p.m.  (Or, we can skip that step — the deadline is 11:59 p.m. EST on the 10th.)  Why, for the sake of all that is admission-worthy, would you do that?  Instead, pick your own personal target deadline — January 9 at 1:00 p.m. sounds enticing — and submit the application then.

You may wonder what benefit there could be to submitting early, especially because an early application doesn’t increase your likelihood of gaining admission.  The benefits are partly internal (your peace of mind on the 10th, when you know that your fellow applicants are super stressed) and partly practical.  The 10th is a Saturday and the office will be closed.  On the 9th, if you encounter any sort of technical problem, you’ll be able to call us and fix it.  If you aim even earlier than the 9th — the 5th for example — you may even receive confirmation that your application is complete before other people have submitted theirs!

I hasten to add that you should not submit an incomplete or sloppy application ahead of the deadline, solely for that peace of mind that I referred to.  I’m making the assumption that you’ve been working on this for some time, and all that’s holding you back is a vague sense that you shouldn’t yet press “go.”  I’m here to tell you to do it!  Submit that completed application, and then relax.

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At the start of each academic year, the Admissions Office reaches out to a group of students to ask if they would be willing to have their profiles included on the website.  Around that same time, I reach out to a few students to ask them if they’d like to write for the Admissions Blog.  This year we achieved significant overlap in our groups — four of the six students writing for the Admissions Blog also have profiles.  If you would like to know more about the students behind the Student Stories posts, check out the profiles for Diane, Alex, Ali, and Aditi.

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The other day, Liz dug deep into the blog archives and found a post that is no less relevant now than it was in 2012.  The post considered what a good application looks like, and I’m going to shamelessly draw from it today — not quite repeating it completely, but not writing something fresh, either.  The office may be closed today, but I know that applications are still being prepared — here’s a little bit of help for you.

So what does make a good application?  Naturally, the best applications will reflect strong academic potential, relevant and rich international and professional experience, and a clear focus for your graduate studies and beyond.  Well, from where I stand in December, there’s not much someone can do to improve those credentials before applying by January 10.  On the other hand, it’s really important for applicants to note that even the best of you can be bumped down a couple of notches with a sloppily constructed application.

Let’s talk, then, about those aspects of your application that you can still influence.  What distinguishes a good application from a crummy one?  Two key points.  The first should be obvious, but apparently it isn’t:  Follow the directions!  Answer every question on the form thoroughly.  Never (ever ever) say “please refer to résumé.”  Be sure to list all your key professional experiences, even if they were unpaid.  Don’t assume we don’t want to know about the two years you spent working in a laboratory when, by omitting this information, you make it appear you were unemployed for all that time.  I could go on, but the point should be clear — complete every part of the application form with care.

And the advice is essentially the same for the essays.  Follow the directions and make sure you have answered the questions.  It’s very frustrating for Admissions Committee readers when they reach the end of the personal statement and still don’t know what the applicant wants to do at Fletcher and beyond.  A frustrated application reader is bad news for the applicant.  We know you want to recycle the same essay for different schools with different essay prompts.  Go ahead and recycle selectively (after all, that’s what I’m doing today!), but you still need to be sure to answer the question.

The second point may be slightly less obvious.  Your application has many parts, all of which should work on your behalf.  Make sure that each piece of the application tells a little more of your story.  Beyond the form itself, make sure your résumé is very clear.  Avoid acronyms.  We know that you know what your organization, Xybrav, does, but we don’t know, and you should tell us.  Do you work for the UN agency UNRAITUSAL?  Please remind us what that agency does.  Remember that Fletcher is a multidisciplinary place — it’s not realistic (or in your interest) to expect everyone to be equally conversant in all areas.  And please, I estimate that there are fewer than five applicants each year who need a résumé longer than about three pages.  Carefully consider whether you are truly one of those five.  (Hint:  Is your graduation year 2013 or later?  You do not need more than three pages.)

Make sure your recommendations are all written in English.  I know that this is a genuine challenge for many of you, but I cannot guarantee your application will be reviewed by someone who speaks your native language.  A letter written in a language no one on the Admissions Committee reads is a wasted letter.  And note that recommenders can also help you tell your story.  Talk to them, and explain what would be helpful for them to say.  Were you taking an impossibly heavy course load as an undergraduate?  That’s a point that your recommender can make even more effectively than you can!

When you upload your transcripts, ensure they will be legible for us, or we’ll need to contact you to send new ones.  Remember that what we want is a scanned copy of an OFFICIAL transcript.  Not a copy that is covered with warnings that the photocopy is unofficial.  And way too many people ignore the requirement that they explain their education system’s grading, if it’s not on the 4.0 scale that is common (but not universal) in the U.S.  Is your grade of “5″ out of a maximum of 6?  Out of 10?  Out of 12?  Out of 20?  All these options would reflect grading systems we have seen.  Is your GPA of 1.3 as awful as it looks in the U.S. context?  Or is it as good as it looks in the German context?  A passing grade in the U.S. is usually 65.  Did your university follow the British convention, in which a 56 might be a good result?  As many universities and systems as we know, it is a mistake for you to assume we know yours.  If your transcript doesn’t explain it, you should!

Use your essays mindfully.  Make sure the second essay tells us something that promotes your candidacy.  We still talk about the essay (which, to be fair, was written in response to a since-abandoned prompt) that an applicant sent about how his life’s greatest challenge was getting drunk on his 30th birthday.  Need I say more?

Next, DO NOT WASTE SPACE in your personal statement or second essay addressing shortcomings in your application.  Use the “Additional Information” section for that.  And if you need to explain your grades or test scores, do not whine.

And, finally, both before and after you have completed the application (but before you submit it), review the application instructions.  Make all needed corrections before you submit the application so that you’re not one of those people who asks us to ignore something they’ve already sent.

There you go.  Make us happy with a well-constructed application that tells your story in the best possible way.  It will make us respect you as an applicant, and respect is a good thing.

 

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