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The Early Notification deadline was Friday, and we are well into the process of compiling and reviewing applications.  Now that most applicants submit scanned copies of their transcripts, compiling the application generally requires only that we connect test scores and interview reports with the materials that are submitted online.  We should easily keep up with the applications that come through each day and, by the end of this week, everyone should be able to log into GAMS and find good information on what items, if any, are missing.

But this simple description of the process ignores one important part of the application, which is recommendations.  Because most applicants ask their recommenders to submit their letters online, the applications emerge from the system with recommendations included.  On the flip side, if any of your recommenders don’t submit their letters, your application will be stuck in the system, waiting for the letter to be attached.

For EN applicants, that means that your next step is to ensure your recommenders have submitted their letters.  If not, a gentle reminder is warrented.  The EN review period is short, and incomplete applications will be reviewed after January.  That’s not a terrible outcome, but it’s surely not what you intended.

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We tinkered with our application essays this year.  Our intention was to ensure applicants would provide the information we need in the personal statement (Essay 1).  The unintended result is that we’re hearing a lot of questions about Essay 2.  For those of you who haven’t started the application yet, Essay 2 asks:

Share something about yourself to help the Committee on Admissions
develop a more complete picture of who you are.  (500 words, maximum)

What applicants are asking is what, exactly, we really want them to tell us in answer to Essay 2.  The implication of their question is that we’ve left the question too structureless.

As I’m sure savvy blog readers would expect, I’m going to tell you that there’s no correct or expected answer to the essay question.  And I’d understand if you roll your eyes while muttering blah, blah, blah in your heads.  But it’s true:  there’s no correct or expected answer to the essay question.

Still aiming to be helpful, I’ll suggest, instead, a way of approaching the essay.  Think about the information you have provided in your application through all its parts.  What dimension of you/your background might you still want to share?  That is, don’t view the essay as a throw-away, and use it to fill in some gaps left after the rest of the application is complete.

Elaborate on your international experience.  Share your thoughts on leadership.  Talk about your hobbies (assuming there’s a link to your international affairs interests).  Describe a challenge you have faced.  Tell us how you needed to learn Spanish to speak to your rescue dog.  Describe the importance of community to you.  Tell us how your family upbringing made you the person you are.  Provide more detail on the origins of your interest in international affairs.  Write about your quest to cook the perfect dish from a country you love.  Any of these approaches (and many, many others!) would be a nice addition to an application.

In past years, we’ve used essay prompts that resulted in a few interesting responses and a zillion similar ones.  When we asked applicants to describe an item of particular importance to them, nearly all the responses were:  passport, bookcase full of IR books, hiking boots, or backpack.  We moved away from questions that draw such responses because we really want to know about you — not about what you think we want to know about you.

So, friendly applicants, choose a subject that boosts your application and go for it.  There’s no correct or expected answer to Essay 2, and we’ll enjoy learning about what’s important to you.

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Today, Christine tackles one of the topics about which we’re asked the most:  test scores.

The Who, What, When, Where of Standardized Tests.  I purposely did not put “why” in the title.  Why?  Because we all know we have to take standardized tests.  They are not fun, nor are they meant to be, but they give the schools you’re applying to a quantitative base for reviewing your application.  Here at Fletcher, we look at the entire application as a whole, but tests are required nonetheless.  More importantly, we will not consider your application complete until you submit your test scores.  So now that we have gotten the “why” out of the way, let’s move on to look at the other aspects of testing.

Who needs to send test scores?  Ready, all together now: everyone!  The GRE or GMAT is required of all applicants (except for LLM applicants).  For non-native English speakers or those who have been educated less than two years in English, a TOEFL or IELTS will need to be submitted with your application as well.

What will Fletcher accept for test score reports?  We will only accept official test score reports sent directly from the testing center — no exceptions.

For the GRE or GMAT, the scores must be no more than five years old.  Some good news: if you have taken the exam multiple times, we will look at the best scores from each section.  In addition, we do not have a cutoff for scores.  In recent years the middle 50% for the GRE verbal score has been in the 77th to 96th percentile range, the middle 50% for the GRE quantitative score has been in the 61st to 84th percentile range, and the middle 50% for GRE analytical writing in the 49th to 92nd percentile range.  For the GMAT, the middle 50% has been in the 73rd to 92nd percentile range.

For the IELTS or TOEFL, the scores must be no more than two years old.  The scores listed below are generally considered evidence of sufficient English language ability for graduate study at Fletcher.  Occasionally we will admit a student with a score just below the listed minimum but require that the student complete additional language training before enrolling.  Minimum acceptable scores are as follows:

  • TOEFL: 100 (with sub-scores of 25 on each section)
  • IELTS: 7.0 (with sub-scores of 7 on each section)

When do I need to send my scores?  We strongly prefer that your scores arrive on or before the date you submit your application.  However, we will allow a grace period of a few days after the application deadline. Keeping this in mind, you should take your exams at least a few weeks before you plan to submit your application.  For the GRE and GMAT, it usually takes about two weeks for us to receive your scores if you take the test electronically.  If you take the exam on paper, it could take upwards of six weeks before we receive the scores. The TOEFL and IELTS exam reports usually arrive in about two weeks.

Where do I send my scores?  Scores should be sent directly to the Fletcher School, Office of Admissions and Financial Aid.  For the GRE and TOEFL please use the code 3399.  For the GMAT, please use 7JB-L3-70.

Taking the exams may be unpleasant, but at least the rules for reporting scores are straightforward.

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Today, Christine gives you all the details on Fletcher’s evaluative interview program.  Remember to check this page when you plan your interview!

The Evaluative Interview program has kicked into high gear!  Appointments are starting to fill throughout the fall, leading to many happy interviewers, who are eager to get to know you!

By now you may be thinking, how can I interview and meet one of Fletcher’s highly trained student interviewers?  Well, I am here to answer your interview-related questions.

What is an evaluative interview?  Great question!  A personal evaluative interview is a valuable way for you to share information about yourself and learn how The Fletcher School will meet your academic and professional goals.

Should I interview?  The interview is recommended, but not required, for all applicants; however, PhD applicants are encouraged to interview.

When should I have my interview?  Interviews should generally be completed at least one week prior to the application deadline.  The interview program kicked off on September 23 and will run through Friday, December 6.  Interviews are offered Monday through Friday during business hours (9 a.m. to 5 p.m.).  Additional interviews will be conducted on a very limited basis until January 9.

When should I schedule my interview?  You should schedule your interview as soon as possible, once you have an idea when you would like to visit.  We have a good number of appointments available, so it is helpful if you can name a few dates that would be convenient for you.  (Note, though, that dates in late November and December fill early!)  If you are visiting from out of town (or even down the street!), you may want to schedule your interview in conjunction with an Information Session.  More details regarding Information Session dates and times can be found here.

How should I schedule my interview?  Please call the office directly at +1.617.627.3040.  You should have dates and times in mind when you call, to allow us to best schedule you!  If you are unable to call, you can also schedule your interview by email, though this can involve a long back-and-forth process until we find a convenient date.  Scheduling by phone is more efficient.

I’m all scheduled!  Now what?  Once you have scheduled an appointment, you will receive an email confirmation with the date and time of your interview.  Make sure you save and read this email thoroughly as it includes directions to the school, as well as what to bring with you (your resume!), practical suggestions (how to dress), and even hints as to the interview content!

If you have questions about the interview program or anything else Admissions related, please call us at +1.617.627.3040 or send us an email.

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While Christine is busy getting the on-campus interview program up and running (leaving little time to being consulted), I’ll step in to offer a tip for your communication with the office.  No matter what the linguistic origin of your name, you may refer to yourself in a way that is different from your legal name.  Robert might call himself Bob, or Xiaoyu might call herself Shelley.  Totally normal in everyday life!

But grad school applications are not exactly like everyday life, and I want to encourage you to refer to yourself in a consistent way, or at least help us to connect your application materials by informing us of the name(s) you’ve used.  Shelley might, for example, put Xiaoyu in parentheses, so that it’s clear both how she prefers to be called and also that she has a legal name that is different.  Just be sure that we’ll know who you are, and please don’t rely on our memories, which may or may not work on a given day.

On a related note, be sure that email correspondence actually notes both your first and last name.  Sometimes we try to file correspondence and discover that the writer hasn’t provided a last name.  This is even more true if your email address doesn’t include your full name.  (A special email address that includes your name could be a good addition to your application.  It helps us keep track of things if your email address is johnsmith1000@gmail.com, instead of, say, starcatcher@gmail.com.)

All of this is to say that you’re best served in the admissions process by professional-level correspondence.  And anything you can do to help us keep your materials organized will help you in the long run!

 

With the graduation of Dear Ariel last spring came a dilemma.  Who would write a weekly blog post answering applicants’ hot questions?  The answer was as plain as the front desk of the Admissions Office — Christine has the FletcherAdmissions email inbox clearly in her sight at all times.  Thus, Consult Christine was born.  Today, Christine provides her perspective on the most efficient ways to connect with us.

Christine

The hands that may answer your next admissions question.

After a year of sitting at the “Command Center” of the office, I have fielded calls, emails, and walk-ins with many different questions.  I often hear, “I am not sure if this was the right way to reach you,” or “I am not sure if this is the right place to be asking,” so I thought I would take the opportunity for my first Consult Christine post to break down the best ways to reach us.  From Information Sessions to Interviews, and Visit Days to off-campus events, we have a lot going on this fall and want you to be able to contact us in the most efficient way possible.

With the Evaluative Interview program starting on September 23, it is timely to start with this!  I will have an upcoming post going into more depth on the interview program, but for now the best way to schedule an interview is to call us at +1 617-627-3040.  This is the easiest option for both you and us, so we can tell you what times are available and you can provide us with all the information we need.  Plus, it’s a great opportunity for you to ask questions.  If you are not able to reach us by phone, you can certainly email us to set up an appointment. But I would encourage you to call if you can!

Information Sessions, which will be in full swing starting next week, are a great way to get a general feel for Fletcher, see the campus, and interact with students and staff.  The best way to register for an Information Session is to use our online registration portal.  However, if you are already on the phone with us, we would be happy to register you.  The same applies for Visit Events.

Questions or comments can be forwarded by phone or email.  We answer email in all of our inboxes consistently, and try to have answers to you in a timely fashion.  I would recommend email if you have more in-depth questions!  If you feel that it would suit you better to call us with questions, we welcome the opportunity to talk with you over the phone.  Both staff and our team of student interns is happy to speak with you about whatever you may need.

And you can always pop in for a visit!  We welcome visitors to Fletcher to chat with an Admissions Officer, sit in on a class, or interact with our students.  Note that the office is open from 9:00 to 5:00 U.S. East Coast time.

I look forward to hearing from you as the year goes on, however you choose to connect with us!

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There’s a certain irony that the week when Fletcher turns lively is also a week when I don’t have much time to write about it in the blog.  I’ll do better next week!

Meanwhile, I wanted to say a quick word about the Fletcher approach to admissions interviews.

We’ll be kicking off the season for on-campus interviews on Monday, September 23.  There is also an option to record an interview as part of your application.  Both forms of interviews are strictly optional.  But I would encourage you to try to include one in your application.

We’re going to have plenty to say about both the on-campus and online interviews in the coming weeks.  Today, I’ll just cover two key organizational points about scheduling an on-campus interview.

Point One:  Interviews are generally offered only through the first week of December, and most applicants plan to schedule their interview before submitting their application.  It isn’t an invitation process — it’s your decision.  (Yes, I know that many professional schools take a different approach, but their approach is not relevant for your Fletcher application.)  So if you’re going to want to interview on campus, you should make your plans to visit now.

Point Two:  If you’re going to visit, you should call us soon to schedule your interview.  Right now, there are appointments available nearly every hour on nearly every day (Monday to Friday) throughout the fall.  Come up with a visit concept (date, morning/afternoon) and then call (or email, though calling can be more efficient) and grab a time.

As I said, more details will follow, but I want to get the word out there that now is a good time to plan your Fletcher visit.

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A prospective applicant asks:  What can an applicant with a less quantitative background do before applying, to enhance chances of admission?

My answer is going to depend on the applicant’s goals and where the applicant is in life.

If the applicant is still pursuing an undergraduate degree, my advice is certainly to take micro- and macro-economics and statistics courses before graduating.  A solid economics foundation is what many of our peer schools are looking for, too.

If that undergraduate ship has already sailed, and if the applicant is interested in Fletcher’s MIB program or a quant-focused curriculum in the MALD, MA, or PhD program, I would generally suggest either taking classes in economics and/or statistics before applying, or at least making arrangements to take them before the wished-for enrollment date.  Getting strong grades for the quantitative work before applying is particularly important for those who either have lackluster quantitative scores on the GRE or GMAT exams, or who had only modest success in quantitative courses while an undergraduate.  (If you can do better than your grades or test scores indicate, you’ll want to prove it!)  If, on the other hand, you can present evidence (such as test scores and grades) of strong quantitative ability, you may be able to get away with simply telling us in advance of your January-to-August plan to make up for your lack of quantitative training before starting Fletcher classes.

If the applicant predicts a complete life of quantophobia and has no interest in quantitative Fields of Study at Fletcher, I would probably suggest taking economics and statistics/quantitative reasoning before enrolling anyway, but not necessarily for admissions purposes.  So long as past testing and course grades demonstrate adequate command of quantitative matters, what the Admissions Committee will want to see is proof of ability to survive our basic economics and quantitative reasoning classes (or even to test out of them).

What does this lack of a single standard mean?  It means that, for all degree programs, Fletcher’s Admissions Committees review an applicant’s full application.  There’s never a lone criterion on which decisions are based.  Rather, depending on which degree program an applicant hopes to pursue, we look at all the information in an application to gauge potential for success both overall, and in quantitative coursework in particular.

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Sticking with the idea of helping this year’s applicants get their minds around the process, I’m going to lay out the application deadlines for you.  In fact, you can find them on our website, but my contribution will be to format them in an even plainer way.  Then, assuming you’re applying to one of the programs with more than one deadline, you can pick your own.  Here are the dates and the details on which program applications are due on those days.

October 15
Deadline for January 2014 enrollment in the MALD program.  This is the only deadline for January enrollment, and only MALD students may apply to start their studies in January.

November 15
Early Notification deadline for September 2014 enrollment in the MALD, MA, MIB, or LLM programs.

December 20
Deadline for September 2014 enrollment in the PhD program.  Note that this is the only deadline for the PhD program.
~and~
Early Notification deadline for Map Your Future applicants to MALD and MIB programs.

January 10
Regular deadline for September 2014 enrollment in MALD, MA, MIB, or LLM programs.

February 10
Final deadline (no scholarship consideration) for MALD and MA programs.

March 1
Final deadline (no scholarship consideration) for MIB and LLM programs.

May 15
Regular deadline for Map Your Future applicants to MALD and MIB programs.

Once you’ve made your choice, mark it in your calendar.  And then also put a note on the day one week before the deadline.  That’s the date you should aim for, to minimize wear and tear on the brain and nerves.

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Swinging back to application-related topics, a prospective student asked me to write about the sort of information that should be provided to a recommender when requesting a letter.  GOOD QUESTION!  Applicants don’t always maximize the value of their recommendations.  For example, the best (i.e. most convincing) person to explain the reasons behind a student’s academic difficulties is a professor, but few applicants ask their professors to provide context on their overall academic record.

This summer, we’ve pulled together some suggestions for recommenders.  Eventually, the list will find a home on the website where recommenders can see it, but today’s post offers a sneak preview of points that could be helpful as you ask professors and supervisors to write for you.

First, though, some suggestions for you, as recommendation requester:

  • Tip #1 is to give the recommender plenty of time/warning to write the recommendation letter.  You can’t expect a high quality letter if you’re making requests two days before the deadline.  (Also be sure to make the deadline clear.)
  • Tip #2 is to share your résumé and your statement of purpose (first application essay) with your recommender.  The statement will tell your recommender what you hope to accomplish at Fletcher, so that the letter can be relevant to your goals.
  • Tip #3 is to provide your recommender with a little information about Fletcher.  Though many letters we receive each year were written by people whose names we see regularly, you shouldn’t assume that someone knows the school.  It’s frustrating for us when we read a letter about an applicant’s potential for law school.

And now, our suggestions for the recommender:

A typical letter of recommendation for a Fletcher application is between one and two pages in length.  A letter that is too short may provide insufficient detail, while a letter that is longer than two pages may be more than needed for the application.  Your letter will be of greatest value if you provide specific and targeted observations, particularly regarding your personal interactions with the applicant.

If you are writing about the applicant’s academic experience:

  • Indication of why a student succeeded (or failed) in a class is helpful. Even if it seems obvious that an “A” grade demonstrates the student’s strength, the context for the grade is useful.  The academic recommendations are among the few qualitative ways we have to understand a student’s academic capacity, and we appreciate understanding how a student excels (not simply that the student did excel).  It can also be useful when recommenders mention what percent of students get an A in the class.
  • Be sure to note it if a student took the time to get to know you outside of class (through research, office hours, etc.).  This is often a helpful indicator of how they will act in graduate school.

If you are writing about the applicant’s professional experience:

  • It is useful to know about the applicant’s progress in and contributions to your organization, rather than simply what position the individual held.
  • If the applicant performed any functions that are relevant to academic work, it is helpful if you bring them to our attention.  Some examples are research, writing, data collection or analysis, or work within a team.
  • An assessment of the applicant’s professional potential also contributes to our evaluation of the application.  As a professional school, we want to know that students will be able to achieve their career goals.
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