Currently viewing the category: "Admissions Tips"
I had a great high school physics and chemistry teacher, Mr. Burdman, and he had a standard line of advice. When seeking the solution to a problem, Mr. Burdman would tell us to “Draw a picture” to reflect the facts we know. Using the Mr. Burdman method, I’m going to provide an answer to a question we commonly hear, “What type of work should I do/should I have done to be a competitive applicant to Fletcher?”
So we can start to answer this question by saying that the questioner wants to go from A to B, where A represents the start of her career:
The applicant thinks that B represents admission to Fletcher. But, dear blog readers, the applicant has it wrong. The picture, correctly drawn is:
Point A still represents the start of the applicant’s career, but B is the applicant’s career following graduate school. So what is the arrow? That’s Fletcher. In other words, studying at Fletcher is an opportunity to develop knowledge and skills that will take the applicant from one point to another, but admission to Fletcher shouldn’t be seen as an endpoint.
How is this relevant for blog readers who are planning to apply to Fletcher this year? Well, it should help you to frame your personal statement and second essay. The best experience leading up to the arrow (admission to Fletcher) will support you when you’re at B (your post-Fletcher career). Given the incredible array of post-Fletcher work our graduates pursue, is it any wonder that the experience that best supports an application would also be varied?
As an example, let’s consider two applicants, Tim and Jim. Tim wants a career in international energy consulting, while Jim is interested in international education. Generally speaking, Tim’s best pre-Fletcher experience would involve either the energy field or consulting. Jim’s would involve education, whether it’s within or outside his home country.
But what if Tim’s and Jim’s career goals were reversed? Would Jim’s teaching experience be equally relevant to a post-Fletcher career in international energy consulting? Well, it’s hard for me to say, but I’d advise Jim to use his essays to explain how his experience to date is relevant to his future work as a consultant. In other words, there’s no single Point B, so there’s also no path to Point B that works equally well for everyone.
When I talk to recent graduates, I advise them to find work that pushes them along the A-B continuum. For those who will apply this year, regardless of your Point B, be sure the Admissions Committee will understand how your experience, augmented by a Fletcher degree, will get you there.
With the November 15 Early Notification deadline less than three weeks away, it’s time for me to turn to tips. And to kick off the admissions tips for the year, I want to start with the solution to our perennial peskiest problem — applicants whose credentials are submitted under different names or multiple spelling variations of the same name.
If your name is now and always has been George Washington, you may have no idea what I’m talking about. But if you attended college several years ago and now go by your married name, we’re talking to you! It’s very important that you inform us that the transcript from your undergraduate university will reflect your maiden name. Of course, the same advice pertains regardless of your reason for changing your name.
Additional challenges for our application compilers?
Your full name is James William Fulbright, but everyone refers to you as William. Make sure your correspondence and documentation reflect your full name.
Your name is Gabriel Garcia Marquez. If we know you’re from a country that follows certain conventions, we’ll assume we should file your GRE scores under G for Garcia. But in the absence of such clues, we’re going to assume that your last name (surname) is Marquez. Into the M’s you’ll go.
Your Chinese name is presented surname before given name on your Chinese transcript, but will appear given name before surname on your U.S. transcript and test score report.
I could go on, but I hope you’re getting the point. If your name is going to appear with more than one spelling, or in more than one format, you need to let us know. Otherwise, what will happen is that your otherwise on-time application will be considered incomplete. We’ll tell you that something is missing, and you’ll scramble around to submit a replacement, which will also be filed incorrectly.
Keep us informed, and we’ll look forward to an admissions process free of name confusion!
Tagged with: Application
Today I’m going to talk about my daughter Kayla. At 6:50 this morning, she was galloping happily through the house, having just checked her latest SAT scores online. This is Kayla’s year to apply to college, and as much as my work helps me guide her through her process, the hyper-competitive field of undergraduate admissions helps me put the Fletcher process in perspective.
So Kayla’s a great kid, and a strong student, which means she hopes to attend one of the many East Coast colleges or universities with insanely low rates of admission. Once a school is admitting such a tiny portion of its applicants, there’s really no way to feel confident of one’s chances of admission, leading to endless worry for these 17-year-olds.
I see the Fletcher process as very different. I know that applying to grad school is stressful for many of our applicants, and I don’t want to imply there’s no reason to fret. Nonetheless, a key difference between us and undergrad admissions, is that Fletcher doesn’t look for reasons to turn away an otherwise qualified applicant. If you have strong academic potential, professional and international experience that supports your goals, and a clear focus, you’ll be admitted. I realize there’s still broad room for interpretation of those factors, but the bottom line is that good applicants are admitted.
Most of the schools Kayla is considering accept the Common Application, which includes a form and two essays. Then most schools have a supplemental application, on which the student can profess love for that particular institution. As Kayla has struggled with each of her essays, I’ve encouraged her to think about her application as a whole, and to ensure that each of its elements tells the colleges something new about her. Her main essay is about how she stumbled onto her academic/future-career focus. It’s written in a straightforward way that seems appropriate to me, but strikes her as dull. So I encouraged her to write a lively second essay (for which the required topic is the applicant’s most significant extracurricular activity). The supplemental application on which she has worked this week includes six short essays, and she has written about a different facet of her life in each one (including a paragraph about her insomnia).
Fletcher applicants should take the same approach. Your application includes a form, a résumé, your transcript(s), test scores, personal statement, supplemental essay (more than one for some of our programs — check the application instructions), and three recommendations. Were you a fantastic student? Your transcript and academic recommendation (as well as, probably, your test scores) will tell us about that part of your life. Thinking about the application as a whole, your remaining recommendations should tell us something new, probably about your professional experience. (The exception is PhD applicants, who should include two academic recommendations.) Even if you have two recommendations from the same area (two from your university, or two from the same employer), try to guide the recommenders to reflect on different aspects of your background.
This will be a long nail-biter of a year for Kayla, and I’ll do my best to support her through it. The Fletcher Admissions staff also aims to support our applicants. We want each of you to be the best applicant you can be. Spend some time on the Fletcher website and the Admissions pages. Learn as much as you can about the School, and consider where your background and our values intersect. Then, carefully put together your application. This year, more than most, I’ll be taking the applicant’s view of the process.
When we hear that an applicant is anxious about the GREs, the specific complaint is generally test-taking anxiety. This year, there’s a new kind of nervousness surrounding the GRE — report-date anxiety. As they roll out a new exam, the folks at GRE are reporting scores on a delayed schedule. (If you have planned or taken the exam between August 1 and now, you already know this.)
The new exam is still somewhat of a mystery to us, but today’s post is designed to reassure. Within reason, we will work with our applicants as we wait for test scores to arrive. Frankly, we don’t even know what accommodations we may need to make. The first application deadline of the year is tomorrow. But the new GRE is out of our applicants’ control, and we will avoid penalizing those who take the exam in a timely way, but who can’t produce the scores in an equally timely manner.
If you have questions about the reporting of your GRE scores, please let us know.
Tagged with: GRE
If you’re actually reading the Admissions Blog in the middle of summer, it may be because you’re a well-organized applicant. Or you may be a less-well-organized applicant who’s wondering what a well-organized applicant would be thinking about. Either way, I should reward your loyalty with a few suggestions for how you can ease your application season workload.
Start with your calendar, and consider if you’ll be able to meet up with Fletcher staffers on the road, or if you may want to visit Fletcher. Our interview and Information Session schedule for the fall is ready and waiting for applicants to grab the slots. You can sign up for an Information Session online, or you can email or phone us to arrange an interview. Note that we accommodate everyone who wants to attend an Information Session, but the interview schedule will fill up midway through the fall. If you have constraints on your time, I recommend you book your interview as soon as possible.
What else could you do? Register for the GRE/GMAT, or TOEFL/IELTS, or even take the exam now. There’s no special reason to leave it to November, and you’ll be relieved to have it out of the way.
Do you have your recommenders lined up? While summer may not be the best time to connect with your professors, it could be a good time to reach a former supervisor from your professional life. You’ll want to update anyone who’s writing on your behalf — send a résumé, and even your personal statement, so that your recommendation letters will reflect your current objectives, not your previous plan to go to locksmith school.
How about funding your education? If you know that you have the funds in the bank to pay for your studies, then you can check this one off your to-do list. For everyone else, now’s the time to start searching for scholarships. You should also be sure you understand the financial aid policies of the graduate schools to which you’ll apply.
Why not give yourself extra time to think about your application essays by starting on them now? Though you shouldn’t start to fill out Fletcher’s application form until the new version is ready next month, I can tell you that our basic essays aren’t going to change this year. The two essays shared by applicants to all degree programs are:
Essay 1 (Personal Statement): Fletcher’s Committee on Admissions seeks to ensure that there is a good match between each admitted student and the School. Please tell us your goals for graduate study at Fletcher and for your career. Why is The Fletcher School the right place to pursue your academic objectives and to prepare you to meet your professional goals? Why have you selected the degree program to which you are applying? If you are planning to pursue a joint degree, please be sure to address this interest in your personal statement.
Essay 2: Choose one of the following essay topics to tell the Admissions Committee something about you that does not fit elsewhere in the application:
• Share something about yourself to help the Admissions Committee develop a more complete picture of who you are.
• Tell us more about how you first became interested in international affairs, or in pursuing an international career.
• Describe the elements of your personal, professional, and/or academic background that have prepared you for your chosen career path.
We like to think that the essays are pretty straightforward. Use the Personal Statement to discuss your goals, and use the second essay to tell us more about you (which may include things you’ve done in the past).
So those are just a few basic suggestions of what you could get started on. Naturally, I also want you to enjoy the summer! But you can smooth the way for a stress-reduced application process if you get an early start on it.
If you like your information to arrive in small bursts, you may want to get your GRE testing updates on facebook. The launch of the new test is coming up on August 1, which makes NOW a good time to familiarize yourself with the new format (particularly if such familiarization may lead you to register for the final dates for the old format test this month).
Tagged with: GRE
If you’re thinking of applying to Fletcher this fall (or if you want to help your friends who are applying), you’ll want to know about the consequences of a new GRE exam that will be launched on August 1. I’m going to let the test designers tell you about the new test via the GRE website. Because Fletcher will accept old scores or new scores, the format isn’t the wrinkle for us — it’s the reporting schedule that will have the greatest impact on Fletcher applications.
So here’s a summary to help you consider how/whether you’ll be affected:
1. If you have already taken the GRE exam and you like your scores, you’re all set! We will happily continue accepting scores from the soon-to-be discontinued exam format for as long as the scores are valid (five years).
2. If you are planning to apply for January 2012 enrollment, with our application deadline of October 15, you should register to take the outgoing GRE format before it is discontinued on July 31. If you wait until after August 1, your scores may not arrive in time to be considered with your application.
3. If you are planning to apply for September 2012 enrollment by our Early Notification deadline of November 15, you can take the exam in the outgoing format or in the new format, but you should be aware of the delayed reporting schedule. Here’s the schedule ETS provides (note the two-month delay for August test-takers):
In addition to the reporting delay itself, Fletcher applicants will want to keep in mind that you may not have information about your own scores before you submit applications. Unless you take the old format test this summer, you won’t have time to learn your score and consider retesting before the Early Notification deadline.
4. If you are planning to apply for September 2012 enrollment by our January 15 deadline, you’ll have more flexibility. You can choose the old format or the new format, and scores will be reported quickly enough that you can consider your score and decide whether to retest. In fact, we hope that the worst of the chaos/turmoil/confusion caused by the changeover will have passed by the time we’re dealing with the majority of our applications.
Remember that you also have the option of submitting GMAT scores, if you want to avoid taking the GRE during their transitional year.
All of us on the Admissions staff have a soft spot in our hearts for the applicants on the waitlist. We’re well aware that waiting for a final decision from March into the summer, after already waiting from January to March, is challenging. And waiting isn’t for everyone. But for those who want to hang in there, or for those who are trying to decide what to do, I have some details for you. (You’ll also receive information by email.)
First, the prospects. Nearly every year, we’ve made offers of admission to applicants who have remained on the waitlist: only a few people in some years, but as many as 20 in others. In my long Fletcher admissions life, there was only one year in which we didn’t make any admission offers to applicants on the waitlist, and that year we offered places in the following January’s entering class to a few of them.
Here’s the process: We’ve made offers of a place on the waitlist to applicants a group of applicants to all the master’s-level programs. For the next six weeks, the waitlist won’t be the focus of much of our attention, but applicants will be making their own decisions on whether to continue to wait. Many will decide to turn down the offer — they’ll attend another graduate school or, maybe, continue to work. Responses have already poured in, but the deadline isn’t until May 1, when we’ll set aside the applications for future review. (And I should note that the applications are in alphabetical order — we don’t “rank” the waitlist.)
Meanwhile…we’re monitoring the responses of admitted students. Some will accept the admission offer, but they’re organizing joint degrees, or balancing educational goals and professional responsibilities, and they’ll decide to defer enrollment for a year. As these fine details of the enrollment situation unfold, we’ll go to the waitlist to admit the students we need to fill the September class.
So what can you do, once you’ve confirmed that you’ll wait? We invite you to update your application with carefully selected materials. Here is my annual list of suggested additions to waitlisted applications:
1. Any update to basic application credentials: Grades for newly completed classes, new test scores, an additional recommendation from your university or workplace, written by someone who knows you well and who can add a new perspective on your background. (Please read that last sentence carefully. You won’t gain much from a recommendation (however positive it might be) that covers the same ground as your previous three recommendations.) You can also update your résumé, or send a copy of a newly published article.
2. A brief essay to complete the sentence, “When I wrote my essay, I wish I had said….” Do you have a better sense of your academic and career goals than you did in January? If so, fill us in! (Keeping your response to about 500 words is a good idea.)
3. A visit to Fletcher. We don’t offer formal interviews during the spring, but we’ll certainly meet with you if you happen to be able to visit. The best time for an appointment is late April to early May. We’ll try to accommodate you whenever you are here, but we’d appreciate it if you could hold off until after April 15.
4. Anything else that you would have put in your application if the instructions had been written differently. While I discourage you from sending a research paper or thesis (and I say this because I know that many applicants would like to send us additional reading materials), there may be something that you wished you could have included.
5. Information that helps explain the gap or shortcoming that you feel may be holding your application back. You may not have chosen to address it in your application, but now would be a good time to explain those crummy grades from your first undergraduate semester, or your limited international experience, or whatever else is a weakness in your application. And a weakness you have noticed is probably one we’ve noticed, too.
You can send a short update by email, but please use postal mail for anything more substantive.
Historically, we have admitted students from the waiting list as early as late April (only once or twice) to early August (also rare). The majority of the waiting list activity will take place from early May to the end of June. It’s always our goal to sew everything up as quickly as possible — both for your sake and for ours.
Last, the scholarship question. At the same time as I can’t guarantee we’ll have scholarship funds remaining in late May or June, I can say that we generally have had some money to work with. Remember that the applicants who decide not to enroll are often returning scholarship funds, too.
Tagged with: waitlist
On the one hand, applications will ideally speak for themselves, containing all the information the Admissions Committee could want regarding academic potential and professional experience. On the other hand, sometimes something major changes, and we really want applicants to tell us about it. While I don’t want to invite a blizzard of new paper, I want to encourage you to consider whether perhaps you should update us. Here are a few examples, from a meeting this morning.
Applicant 1 returned to the U.S. from a Peace Corps posting in September. We don’t have any information on what she has been doing since then. If she has recently started a new job, she should certainly send us that information.
Applicant 2 tells us in the application that he intends to retake the TOEFL exam in February. He should send us his scores immediately.
Ditto for Applicant 3, who recently retook the GRE. Send us the unofficial scores while we’re waiting for the official score report.
Applicant 4 is completing the final year of his undergraduate studies. He should send us a new transcript indicating fall semester grades, and spring semester course selections.
Applicant 5‘s delinquent recommender finally wrote the recommendation. It’s not too late, Applicant 5! Mail us that sealed envelope asap!
There are other examples, but I think you get the point. If there’s a change to tell us about (and this happens more often than you might think), then tell us! It’s the only way we’ll find out. As time is very tight now, I encourage you to email your news. Last call for updates!
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