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Yes, sure, it’s a University holiday today, but I can still give you a link or two, can’t I?

You’re wrapping up your application, I hope, so let me point you to our latest word on the essays: our thoughts on Essay One and Essay Two.  While I’m at it, here’s everything else we’ve posted.

Happy writing!  Don’t forget to proofread!


Let’s talk about that deadline thing.  Yes, I know, you’ve got plenty of time before January 10.  Sure, the New Year’s holiday is coming up and you don’t want to work on an application on a special day.  And of course, you certainly don’t want to zap through an application loaded with errors.  On the other hand…do you want to submit your application on Sunday, January 10, along with nearly 1000 other people?  No.  You do not.

HomerSo let me, once again, assume my position on your right shoulder as your Deadline Angel.  Allow me to persuade you to submit your application ahead of the deadline.  Because January 10 is a Sunday, I would like to suggest Thursday, January 7 as an ideal day.  If you zap it through next week, you will soon know — before your less persuadable peers even click submit — whether your application is complete or if we need you to follow up with additional materials.  Won’t that be nice?  And won’t that be much nicer than potentially needing to wait until mid-January to know that we are unable to read your transcripts (or that there is some other easily fixable problem)?

Best of all, by submitting the application a few days ahead of the deadline, you ensure that you are not “that guy.”  You know, the guy who contacts us after the deadline and tells us he was confused as to whether we meant before or after midnight (we mean 11:59 p.m. EST (UTC-5) on January 10), or something else like that.  Don’t be that guy.

Finally, the materials due by the deadline are your parts of the application: the form, the essays, etc.  DO NOT hold your application to wait for recommenders or for test scores.  While we prefer to have everything in place before the deadline, your application will not be considered late because a recommender is still working on your letter.

Is that enough to convince you to submit early?  I hope so.  You’ll be happier if you do.  And we will, too.

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All Early Notification applicants should know by now that decisions were released last week.  To those who were admitted, congratulations!  I hope you’ll enjoy the extra time to plan for your graduate studies.  You will be hearing from members of the Admissions staff to whom you can send your questions.  We’re really happy to start growing the September 2016 entering class!  All that said, this post is not so much for you.

Next, let me say that I’m sorry to bid farewell to a group of applicants who were denied admission.  We always regret making these difficult decisions, but we hope it will help the applicants make their choices on where else they should apply.

This post is really for those applicants whose applications were deferred for review in the spring, a good news/bad news situation.  The bad news is the lack of happy admissions news, but the good news is that you still have the opportunity to try to bring about happy news in March.  Our Admissions Committee will gladly review an update to your application!  But what makes a useful addition?  Here’s a list of updates that we particularly value:

  • An updated transcript that reflects grades received since you submitted your application;
  • New standardized exam (GRE, GMAT, TOEFL, IELTS) score reports;
  • A revised résumé that includes information on a new job position;
  • An additional recommendation that sheds light on an aspect of your background you weren’t able to illuminate in other parts of the application.

Before I go on, I’ll emphasize that no one is required to submit an update.  Not at all!  But you are invited to submit one, and why would you turn down this opportunity?

What type of optional update is best for you?  Well, the first thing to do is consider whether you have your own suspicions regarding weaker aspects of your application.  Are those aspects something you can improve on?  For example, did you decide it would be better not to mention the causes of your weak undergraduate semester?  I’d encourage you to explain it, particularly if it pulls down your overall GPA.  Did you indicate that your language skills are not strong enough to pass our proficiency exam?  Send us information on your plan for achieving proficiency before the end of the summer.  Did you mistype your years of employment at a certain job, making it look like you were there for two months, rather than four years and two months?  You can make that correction now.  And, if your GRE/GMAT scores were significantly lower than you expected, you may want to take the test again.

Another suggestion:  If, upon reflection, your essay didn’t state your goals as clearly as you would have liked, send us a clarifying email!  We won’t substitute it for your personal statement, but it will certainly be reviewed.  This could be particularly helpful if you’ve taken steps to learn more about your ultimate career goal.

Possible additions to your application need not be limited to what I’ve listed above.  The key question to ask yourself is:  Does this actually add anything?  If the information is already included in your application, then there’s there’s not much value in sending it again.  That is, an additional academic recommendation will add little to an application that already includes three.  On the other hand, a professional recommendation will add a lot to an application that only includes academic recommendations.  Think it through before you flood us with info, but don’t hesitate to send us something that will give your application a happy bump.

Whether you were offered admission this week, or you were told we’ll reconsider your application in the spring, we look forward to hearing from you and to working with you during the coming months.  Please be sure to be in touch if you have questions.

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It’s a cool and crisp morning — perfect for November — but I’m snug in my kitchen for a day of (mostly) reading Early Notification applications.  Before I get started on my reading, a quick blog note.

You know the old image of someone trying to make a decision with a devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other?  Like this, for example:


I would like to volunteer to be your “deadline angel,” and if I’m to take my volunteer gig seriously, I cannot wait until January to start pestering you to get your application in before the deadline.  Rather, I want to plant the idea now that you should set a pre-deadline deadline for yourself.  January 1 would work.  Or earlier!  And then you need to work back from your personal deadline to create a plan for yourself.

Have you taken your standardized exams and had results sent to Fletcher?  If not, you should not wait another minute to schedule the exam.  Wait any longer and it will be difficult to book a convenient test date.  Depending on where you’re located, it may already be tricky.

Have you asked your professors and/or professional supervisors to write recommendation letters for you?  Nearly all the applications that linger in our “incomplete” bin in February are being held up by missing recommendations.  Ensuring those letters arrive on time is up to you, and you can ease the job for yourself by contacting your recommenders early to request their letters.

Essays can take a while to perfect.  Create a draft now, and continue to work on it.  Wait until January to write your first draft and it’s likely you’ll submit something you’re not happy with.  Every year we receive requests from applicants who want to continue revising their applications even after submitting them.  Ummm, no.  Sorry.  What you submit is what we review.  (Of course, if you have new test scores or course grades, we will certainly look at those.)

Is your résumé current and in good shape?  Two or three pages maximum, with education and professional experience both listed in reverse chronological order.  Other formats will not serve you as well for this purpose.

My decision to get a jump on the deadline reminders came to me last week when we had several calls from applicants who had waited until the last minute to book an interview appointment and could no longer arrange what they had hoped for.  There are still some on-campus interview appointments, but Skype interviews have been snatched up as quickly as we have created them (and we have, in fact, added a few for each week).  On the other hand, we had plenty of availability in October, both for October and for plan-ahead appointments in November/December.

I won’t go on, because the point is that you need to consider your own work habits and the requirements of the schools you’ll apply to, and then make a plan that works for you.  If you haven’t already made such a plan, your deadline angel suggests that you should not put it off any longer.

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I didn’t start the week thinking I would dedicate every post to Early Notification applications, but I was inspired by the ideas generated by my survey, so why not?  Today I’m answering a question about the first essay, though not exactly the way the survey respondent suggested (sorry…).

To refresh our memories, the prompt for the first essay reads:

Essay 1 (600-800 words, single-spaced, Arial 12 point font)
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. Describe the elements of your personal, professional, and/or academic background that have prepared you for your chosen career path. 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?

You might remember from last summer that I wrote about how we ditched the term “personal statement,” because we felt we were inviting applicants to glue their personal statements from other schools into our application and, in the process, they failed to answer our questions.  I’m sure there will still be people who do that, but at least we’re not the ones leading them in that wayward direction.

To capture the Admissions Office’s thoughts on this essay, I decided to crowdsource my post.  Not quite a crowd, actually.  Just a cluster of Admissions pals — Dan, Liz, and Kristen.  I created two lists and noted my own thoughts and then they added theirs.  With these lists in hand, your objective will be to respond thoroughly to the question above, while keeping in mind the likes and dislikes of the Admissions Office application readers.

List 1: Things we like to see in Essay #1

  • The applicant has read the essay instructions (included suggested essay length) and responded to the questions.
  • The applicant’s career goals and objectives for study at Fletcher are clear and easy to find in the essay, not buried in paragraph 11.
  • The applicant has put some thought into why graduate school, why now, and why Fletcher is the best fit.
  • The applicant provides details on why Fletcher is a good match, so that the essay is Fletcher-specific, and doesn’t read like one written for another application.
  • The essay is not just a narrative version of the résumé, but a contextualization of information in the résumé and elsewhere in the application.
  • The essay is well written, with an authentic voice that hasn’t been edited so much that it no longer tells us about the applicant.

List 2: Things we don’t like to see in Essay #1

  • The name of other schools that the applicant has neglected to swap out.
  • Proofreading errors.
  • Essays that start their narrative with the applicant at age six and build slowly from there.
  • Whining about grades or GRE scores.  Save explanations – no whining – for the Additional Information section.
  • Footnotes.  This is not a scholarly paper.  Find another way to incorporate the information you might have put in a footnote.
  • Fancy-shmancy highfalutin vocabulary words that the applicant has just discovered in the thesaurus (and may or may not use correctly).
  • Unnecessary name dropping (which is different from naming one or two Fletcher professors with whom you’d like to work).
  • Getting Fletcher’s name wrong or spelling it incorrectly.  It’s The Fletcher School or The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.  Not The Fletcher School of International Affairs.  And not Flechter.
  • Long quotations from inspiring historical figures.  We know they’re inspiring.  No need to reinforce.
  • Essays that ignore the word count limits.
  • Essays that could be for any school, lacking specifics.
  • Essays that tell us all sorts of stuff we already know about Fletcher, but don’t tell us much at all about you, the applicant.
  • Essays that are, by any standards, inappropriate.  (Sorry, I can’t provide any further details on this one.  You’ll need to trust me, and stick to the topic.)
  • Information that doesn’t jibe with other parts of the application, such as mentioning employers that aren’t listed on the résumé or application.

And that’s it.  The essay likes and dislikes of Liz, Kristen, Dan, and me.  While I hasten to add that most of the essays we read are anywhere from serviceable to terrific, I hope the list will help you avoid any pitfalls.

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Today I want to discuss the Fletcher application’s second essay.  The prospective student who raised the question on my recent survey (keep the suggestions coming!) asked: What are you looking for in the second essay? Are personal experiences and anecdotes welcome, or does it have to be more work-centric?

The first thing I need to say is that we have no special expectation for the content of the essay.  It truly is up to you, just as the essay prompt says:

Essay 2 (500 words maximum, single-spaced, Arial 12 point font)
To help the Committee on Admissions get to know you better, please share an anecdote, or details about an experience or personal interest, that you have not elaborated upon elsewhere in your application.

So my answer is that personal experiences and anecdotes are absolutely welcome.  Your essay does not need to focus on your professional life.

That said…your essay should support your application in some way, adding depth or detail about an aspect of how you meet the basics we seek in our admitted applicants (strong academic potential, relevant international and professional experience, and clear objectives for Fletcher study and future career).  As an example of the different forms this might take, while one strong second essay could discuss the applicant’s international life, another might describe the obstacles that stood in the way of living internationally and what the applicant has done to fill that gap.  Both can make terrific essays.

An essay that goes into detail about a professional experience can be a good way to use the essay space, as it allows you to tell us more than any of the other application questions permit.  But we would be very bored readers, indeed, if every essay focused only on professional experience.

Over the years, we have used many different essay prompts, including “your greatest challenge,” and “something you especially value.”  None of those prompts yielded consistently good essays, and we have instead gone toward the vanilla topic above.  But your response need not be vanilla.  Tell us something interesting and important about you, whether it relates to your work or not, and it will make a good essay.  Just remember that your objective is to use all the different application components (application form, essays, recommendations, transcripts, résumé, interview) to build your case.  Don’t lose the opportunity that the second essay provides.

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Sticking to nitty-gritty admissions subjects today, I want to address a question that came up not in my survey (responses still welcome!) but in yesterday’s online chat.  No one actually asked the question directly, so I’m going to need to frame it myself.  The question:  I’m racing to complete my application before the November 15 Early Notification deadline, and I’m worried that it won’t be as good as it could be.  What should I do?

The Early Notification (EN) deadline serves applicants well in offering them the opportunity to learn before the end of 2015 that they are admitted to Fletcher for the Fall 2016 semester.  Whether they use that information simply to bask in the glow of success or to start serious planning is up to them.  Students who aren’t admitted may be less satisfied with the result, but they can take the information and use it to shape the list of schools to which they’ll apply in January.  In other words, there are plenty of reasons you may want to aim for our Early Notification deadline to kick off your application process.

On the other hand, there is no admissions advantage to applying early.  We look at the EN applications with the same standards and expectations that we will employ in reviewing the applications we receive in January.  So if you are concerned that you will submit a sub-par application, it may be best for you to pass on the EN deadline.  You can still submit your application well before the January deadline, but you don’t need to rush right now.

The exception to the above would be where you are submitting an application you are 100% happy with, but your GRE scores will arrive five days late.  Or one recommendation will arrive a little late.  Or you will be unable to upload your official transcript until November 17.  In those situations, go ahead and submit the application.  It takes us a few days to review each application and mark it as complete, and there will be no penalty for a late recommendation if your high-quality application arrives before the November 15 deadline.

Cutting corners to meet a deadline is something we’re all familiar with from our academic and professional lives.  But shortchanging yourself by doing less than your best when you race for a deadline, knowing there is another equally good deadline two months from now, is something you should think carefully about.

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On Friday, I sought inspiration from blog readers via a one-question survey and, as I had hoped, you delivered.  I now have fresh topics that I know will meet the needs of at least one reader each (and, I hope, more than that).  The first suggested topic I will take on is: Can you discuss the interview for the Fletcher School?  What will it cover and how should we prepare for it?

Let’s start with the basics.  To sign up for an interview, go to our online schedule, where you’ll see available appointments for both on-campus and Skype interviews.  Are you an Early Notification applicant?  So long as you complete your interview by Tuesday, November 24, we will ensure that the interview report will catch up with your application before the application review is complete.  (Yes, we usually recommend interviewing before submitting the application, but you can trust me that this will work.)  I hope that prospective students within about 200 miles will take the time to come to campus (a visit is still much more informative than a Skype interview), but we are excited about the number of locations from which applicants have been able to Skype in.  As I wrote earlier this semester, the Skype interviews have been an experiment, and now I can say that they have been largely successful.  (What hasn’t succeeded?  We’re never going to fix all technology problems, so instead we will make sure everyone’s expectations are in line with internet reality.)

I suppose we shouldn’t have been surprised that the Skype interviews have been very popular.  To accommodate last-minute Early Notification interviewees, I will tweak the calendar this week to add additional Skype interviews for next week and the week after.  If you haven’t been able to book an interview on a day that suits you, check again later this week.

Beyond the basics, then, how should you prepare for your Fletcher interview.  To register for a Skype interview, you will need to upload a résumé.  If you are coming over for an on-campus interview, please remember to bring your résumé with you.  We suggest business casual clothing.  Our student interviewers always appreciate an applicant’s professional approach to the interview appointment.  For further details on what to expect, I’m going to share the information that all interviewees receive once they have scheduled an appointment.  In our confirmation email, we note:


There’s one last important point that I need to emphasize.  Fletcher interviews are offered through December 11.  That is, the last day of the interview schedule falls nearly a month before the application deadline.  We are well aware that other schools/programs do things differently, but if you are interested in a Fletcher interview, now is the time to sign up for one.

I hope this information is helpful to at least the person who requested it.  Keep those suggestions coming on the survey and I’ll respond to as many as I can in the coming weeks.

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Though I was content to be the office slacker for a week, I finally put together the time and concentration needed to read a bunch of applications for January enrollment.  My limited sample included experienced professionals and compelling personal stories — exactly what makes reading applications so interesting.

Because the vast majority of our 2015-16 applicants have not submitted applications yet, I want to take a minute to share a tip.  More than a tip, it’s an annual plea.  Is it regarding some obscure aspect of the application?  Ummm, no.  Actually, my tip concerns just about the most fundamental aspect of applying.  And here it is: please answer the questions in the application form.

I know that the application form can seem tedious or repetitive, but the questions are there for a reason.  When you don’t answer them, you can leave us wondering about holes in your background narrative.  We might find ourselves asking: What accounts for this long gap in time?  At what level are your foreign language skills?  In what years did you live in the country of your birth before you emigrated?  What is/was your parents’ work, and what led them to move the family for part of your childhood?

Beyond the fact that Admissions Committee readers are left with questions, by not completing the application thoroughly, you are giving up an opportunity to tell us the maximum amount about yourself.  I do understand that there may be questions that strike applicants as excessively nosy — and skipping those questions remains an option — but we ask for a reason and we do appreciate it when the application is complete.

So there it is, my annual plea.  Take the time to complete the application as thoroughly as possible.  The Admissions Committee members who read your story will appreciate it.

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I work pretty closely with applicants to the PhD program, and I should write more to help them.  The deadline for applications is December 20.  That’s a little less than three months off and, given the requirements of the application, it’s definitely not too late to get started.  There’s only one deadline each year, and only September enrollment is possible.

The PhD application requires all the usual elements (transcripts, test scores, essays, etc.), but applicants must also submit a master’s thesis (or major research paper) and a preliminary dissertation proposal.  While the proposal should be well developed, it’s understood that a student’s ultimate dissertation will reflect learning and growth from three semesters of Fletcher classes.  Though it is not required that applicants contact members of the Fletcher faculty before applying, I can say that nearly all of our successful applicants have done so.  Reaching out to Fletcher professors gives you a chance to confirm that your interests are aligned with theirs.  All admitted PhD students are assigned an advisor, and the expectation is that students will stick with that advisor all the way through.

Beyond that, most successful PhD applicants will include two recommendations from professors who can reflect on their work, and most will be asking professors from their master’s-level work to write the recommendations.

I should pause to note that applying directly to the PhD program requires a master’s degree.  Students without a master’s degree, or those who have a degree that lasted only one year, need to start with the MALD (usually) or MIB (also possible) degree.

We’ll be conducting two virtual information sessions, on October 15 and November 16.  There’s also more information that I can pass along.  If you’re interested, please contact us!

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