Currently viewing the category: "Admissions Tips"
My email inbox seems to receive a message a day with the same question: When will admissions decisions be released? The answer is, as noted above: Before the end of March. Out in the real world, it’s not too far off. In our Office of Admissions alternate universe, decisions are still ages away.
But that doesn’t mean it’s too early to ensure you’ll be able to find your decision whenever it’s ready. Now is a great time to check that you’re able to log on to the Graduate Admissions Management System. Perhaps you’re already checking GAMS so often that the idea of being unable to log on is alien to you. That’s good — your job is done.
But if there’s a possibility that you’re among the applicants who have lost the login instructions, please take care of it. Back when your application was first complete, you received an email with the details. If this rings only the faintest of bells, look for that original email, because you’ll need to log in to access your admission decision.
Every spring we receive calls from people complaining that they haven’t received a decision. In fact, the decision is there for them to see, but they can’t access it because they don’t know how to log in.
So check your email inbox and find that message. (It would have reached you when your application was uploaded, complete with all online recommendations — not the day you first submitted it.) If you can’t find it, go back to the Application Management System site, where you can click “Don’t know your username and password.” You’ll soon be in business. Spread the word!
Lots of snow all around, but we’re more-or-less back in business. Even without having missed a day of work yesterday, we are SOOOOO LUCKY this week to have our super student interns, Caitlin, Kartik, and Lauren, sacrificing their vacation time to help us out. They’ve been keeping the mail mountains to molehills, updating applications in the online system, and generally serving as the barricade separating us from nuttiness. But, with the application deadline coming on Saturday, we’re getting ready for chaos (of the controlled variety, we hope) next week.
Meanwhile, it seems that, for some applicants, completing the application is the easy part. The real stress comes during the post-submit information void — that stretch of time between hitting the submit button and learning that the application is complete. (It’s worth noting that the chaos and the duration of the void are intricately linked.) To try to ease some concerns, here is the blog’s annual rundown of what’s happening after you submit the application. Note that many of these steps are (thanks to the wonders of technology and human effort) taking place simultaneously:
1. You hit the online “submit” button. Your application will be “stamped” with the date and time, and will wait within the Embark system for your registered online recommenders to submit their letters. If all your recommenders have already submitted their letters, or if you haven’t registered any online recommenders, the application will be ready for us immediately, and we’ll upload it into our internal program.
2. When your application (with online recommendations) is uploaded, you’ll receive an automatically generated email stating that we have received your application, and that you should wait ten business days before contacting the Admissions Office about any missing materials. The email also provides you with a username and password to access the Tufts Graduate Application Management System (GAMS). GAMS is the best way to track your application throughout the process. We’ll also be posting decision letters to your GAMS account, so hang on to your username and password!
3. Uploaded applications are printed in batches. Once we have the paper copy, we’ll create a file folder for you. (A big moment in the life of your application!)
4. Meanwhile, Admissions Office staffers will risk paper cuts and worse while they open an endless stream of envelopes holding test scores, transcripts, letters of recommendation from recommenders who weren’t registered online, etc. We sort and file the mail. If the application hasn’t yet been uploaded, the paper materials will “wait” for it to emerge from the system.
5. Once we have your application in a file folder, we dig out the mail that has already been received for you and include it. Then we update your record in the admissions system to show what materials have come in by mail. You should track your application through GAMS, but we’ll also email you if there’s a document missing. Emailing a member of the Admissions staff will, at this point in the process, give you only the information you can access yourself through GAMS.
6. Your completed application is then given to Committee members to review, and you’ll receive your admission decision in late March.
The bottom line: Pressing submit is the easy part for you, and receiving online materials is the easy part for us. The challenge is that most applicants will submit their applications within 48 hours of the deadline, and it will take us a couple of weeks of mad scrambling to clear the instant backlog and create a thousand-plus application files.
Be sure to stay on top of the status of your application, but try to give us a little time to pull everything together. By early February (only two weeks away, though we know it can feel like forever), everyone who has submitted all the materials needed for an application should find accurate and reassuring information on GAMS.
A good proportion of the callers and emailers we’ll hear from this week will be asking some variation of the question, “What will happen if my recommendation/test score/transcript arrives after January 15?” Ideally, all the bits and pieces of your application, including those that someone else needs to send on your behalf, will be here before January 15. But life is often less than ideal, and we’re used to that.
If you haven’t already submitted your application (note that there’s still time to adopt the Personal Deadline approach), just be sure that you submit all the components of the online application by January 15. (That is: the form, the essays, the scholarship application, and anything you need to upload, such as your résumé.) For the other materials, while we prefer that they also arrive by January 15, you can take advantage of a grace period until February 1.
I want to be sure that, in the process of answering one question, I don’t create ten others. What I’m saying is that if (for example) you took the GREs on January 10, and scores won’t arrive for another two weeks, you don’t need to worry — we’ll still consider your application to have arrived by the January 15 deadline, so long as you have submitted your part on time. Please don’t assume that I’m saying that everyone is free to submit all materials by February 1 just because it’s more relaxing.
The obvious reality is that we can’t process, let alone review, 1800 applications on the day they arrive. Pulling everything together takes time. So we’ll review applications in order, as they become complete, with the expectation that all materials will arrive by February 1.
And here’s one more answer to a question we’ll be hearing: January 15 means that the online application should be time-stamped January 15 by 11:59 p.m. U.S. Eastern Standard Time. But do yourself a favor, don’t wait until that almost-midnight hour.
We’re well aware that no one wishes to be in that winter middle ground of having an Early Notification application deferred for review in the spring. Nonetheless, you needn’t feel helpless. Instead, you should take the opportunity to update us. Since November, when you submitted your application, have you: completed a class (or classes); retaken a standardized exam; started a new job or internship; had your writing published; received an honor of any kind; or generally experienced a change in your profile that we should know about? Then please tell us. Send us your official transcript or test score reports, or mail a description of your new job or any of those other changes. We’ll add the new information to your application file, and it will be there for readers to see when your application is re-reviewed in the coming months.
Maybe you have a few days off this week and you’re going to dedicate some time to completing your grad school applications. Here’s a little input on what you should keep in mind as you put those final flourishes on your application to Fletcher.
• The form: Answer (completely and thoroughly) the questions we ask. Please don’t refer us to your essay or résumé for information that belongs (in our opinion) in the form. If you have lived in too many countries, or speak too many languages, to fit all the information in the form, then list the most important information and include the rest in your résumé. Make sure that your abbreviations are easily understood. Shortening University to Univ, in the interest of space, will be clear to application readers. Abbreviating the name of your workplace to XLVPR will not.
• The essays: Again, follow the directions. Make sure you have answered the questions. Keep to the word limits — we’re not going to count them, but we’ll know if you give us 1200 words instead of 800. Editing is a life-skill.
• Your résumé: No matter how many pages of activities and awards an applicant submits, it’s rare that anyone needs more than three pages to share information that is relevant to the admissions process. Think it through carefully — if you overload us with information, we may not be able to pick out the truly important stuff.
• General: Do provide the materials/information we request, but don’t provide materials/information we don’t request. No high school transcripts or diplomas. No videos. Please.
Most important of all: Please remember that if you go by more than one name, tell us clearly! Don’t make us try to figure it out, because the result may be that your application appears incomplete, when everything is actually in the Office, distributed among different files.
Those are the big points that come to mind right now. Take a look through the Admissions Tips category for other ideas that I haven’t included here.
The following comes from Peter, who organizes our online chats:
As winter approaches and our various application deadlines grow near, you might be thinking more seriously about graduate school and starting to pull together the various pieces of your application to Fletcher. You may have a few questions to which you can’t quite locate an answer on our website, or perhaps you’d like to get a current student’s perspective on Fletcher life.
This week, we’re bringing together members of the Fletcher community to help answer your questions in two online forums. Joining those of us from the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid will be staff members from the Office of Career Services and the Office of Student Academic Programs. We’ll also have a small group of current students on hand, eager to tell you about their experiences at Fletcher.
To participate, visit this page at the dates and times listed below:
Tuesday, December 7th, 9:30 to 10:30 AM (EST)
Thursday, December 9th, 12:30 to 1:30 PM (EST)
If you are unable to participate this time around, don’t worry — we will hold additional chats in January. The dates and times for future chats will be announced via e-mail, so if you haven’t already connected with us, we encourage you to sign up here.
Tagged with: Community
Not all students have as accurate a view on essays as Marc does, so I’m especially lucky that he volunteered to take on the topic yesterday. There’s not much more I can add. I’ve always thought that the question/prompt for the first essay (personal statement) is pretty clear. To refresh your memory, we ask:
Essay 1: Personal Statement (600-800 words, single-spaced, Times New Roman 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. 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.
Given the tips built into the question, applicants who follow Marc’s advice and ensure they answer the question should be in good shape. Note that we also like to know the motivations behind your goals, and your preparation to achieve them — just be careful where you start. It’s rarely a good idea to go back to when you were six. On the other hand, it’s often the applicant’s experiences that make a personal statement interesting, so go ahead and include some key points from your back-story.
The other place to present interesting information from your personal history is the second essay. We want you to view the second essay as a chance to round out the picture of you that we’ve developed from the rest of the materials in your application. It can be nice when your second essay links in some way (however tangentially) to your interests, but it doesn’t need to. We have certainly read some poor essay choices over the years, but we don’t have a preferred essay topic.
One last tip is that you should not waste space in either of the essays to explain a problem in another part of the application. Use the “Additional Information” section to tell us that your study abroad grades are included on your university transcript, that your GRE scores aren’t what you hoped they would be, or that your maiden name is different from the name you’re using now. You don’t have much “space” in the personal statement (600-800 words) or second essay (500 words maximum) and you don’t want to throw them away on routine business.
I had an email exchange last week with a 2011 applicant and friend of the blog, whom I’ll call “Friend.” I asked Friend if he had any suggestions for future blog topics, and he asked us to talk about the application essays. Friend also mentioned that he had liked the previous post by Marc Frankel. Lucky for me, Marc volunteered to take on the new topic, too. Although Marc’s an application writer, rather than an application reader, I think he has hit the nail on the head. Here’s his take on the essays:
A few weeks ago, on the blog, I provided a few pointers on the interview process and how to prepare for it. Today, I’d like to do the same with the two essay questions Fletcher requires of all applicants. (Note: PhDs and MIBs have a third required question, so if you’re applying for one of those two degree programs, please make sure you do the third one, too!)
The first thing I want to stress is that you need to answer the question being asked. Question One asks about your professional goals and why the Fletcher School is the right place to achieve those goals. Your #1 priority on this question must be to answer the question you’ve been asked. A good way to ensure you’ve done this is to take the prompt off the top of the document, hand it to a friend, and see if he can guess what question you’re trying to answer. If your friend guesses that the question asks about your summer internship, it’s a sign you need to review the topic and what you’ve written.
During their interviews, a few applicants have asked me about Question Two and whether there’s one question or another that Fletcher would “prefer” to see. The answer is no. The Admissions Office provides three options to give you flexibility to address what you want to write about, but there’s no wrong or right choice.
Another tip on Question Two is to read the top of the essay prompt and remember that it asks you “…to tell the Admissions Committee something about you that does not fit elsewhere on the application.” (My italics.) This is your time to shine: share something new about you with the Committee. When I applied, I answered this question by writing about a research trip to Siberia during my senior year of college. Before my trip, I heard many horror stories and cautionary tales of crime and corruption. When I finally went, I dispelled each of those rumors for myself by actually meeting with local people. The importance of seeing a remote place firsthand was a valuable lesson for me. Given the limited space in an application, I could never have done justice to the significance of that trip anywhere but the essay.
The last thing I’d say (and yes, I know I wrote this in the interview blog post, too) is to be yourself. Just like the interview, the essays are an opportunity to talk about yourself — who you are, who you strive to become through Fletcher, and why. The only wrong answer is one that doesn’t accurately represent you. A few hundred words isn’t a lot to express your career goals or the uniqueness of your life experience, but make sure to at least give the Committee a glimpse of who you are, beyond the test scores and GPA.
One of the best things I do at Fletcher each year is work with the students who have volunteered to conduct evaluative interviews. (Note: Take advantage of their generous contribution of time by arranging for an interview today! Student interviews run only through December 10.) And we have a really great group this fall — great not only because they show up on time, but because they have wonderful insights into the process. Today, Marc Frankel, a MALD student who started last January, shares his unusual dual perspective.
Interviewing for graduate school can be tough – not only have I been there myself, but I’m still there now. I’m Marc and I’m in my second semester here at the Fletcher School. I play on the intramural soccer team, I’m in the Fletcher Business Club, and I write the occasional article for the local humor newspaper, the Fletcher Ledger. I’m also an admissions volunteer, which means that once a week, I spend an hour or so interviewing prospective Fletcher candidates.
During my time here at Fletcher, I’ve decided that I’d like to pursue a joint degree with an MBA program. I’m in the process of applying to schools now, so I’m writing the same types of essays and enduring the same interview anxiety as many of the prospective students I interview. Being both an interviewer and an interviewee has given me a few insights I’d like to share with this year’s applicants:
#1) Be candid. As an interviewer, I can tell whether you’re legitimately passionate about what you’re applying for or whether you’re just saying what you think we want to hear. If you’re going to drive all the way up here, get dressed up, and spend an hour with us in an interview, you owe it to yourself to let us get to know you openly and honestly. I’m a lot more impressed with people who are proud of their accomplishments than I am with someone who spends 20 minutes trying to explain how their job “kinda sorta” fits their idea of a program here.
#2) Be informed. This doesn’t mean that you can’t ask questions about the program, but it does mean that you’ve done your homework on the easily-researched basics such as required courses, fields of study, and the number of students here. These points are all easy to find online, and familiarity shows that you’re serious about your application.
#3) Do the little things right. The logo on your shirt or the bond weight of your résumé paper isn’t going to make much of a difference to us, but if you’re late or sloppily dressed, or if you don’t bring a copy of your résumé, we’re going to notice. Be comfortable at your interview, but treat it professionally. On that note…
#4) RELAX! Believe me, I had the sweaty palms and the jitters before my business school interviews, so I know what you’re going through, but just take it easy. Your interview is a half-hour when all you really need to do is talk about yourself (the subject you know the most about). So perk up, smile, and look forward to it.
I know a lot of this is common sense, but I also know how hard it can be to heed common sense when it’s time for your interview. Just remember to be yourself: the interviewer on the other side of the table will appreciate it.
Tagged with: Interviews
Most of our on-campus Information Sessions are conducted by current students, but a member of the staff joins the conversation to discuss admissions issues. Way back in September (seems so long ago…), there weren’t many admissions/application-specific questions for us. With the application deadline for January 2011 enrollment already passed, and the deadline for Early Notification applications (November 15) almost upon us, attendees are more plugged in, and they have many questions, a few of which will be like “What exactly do you mean on question #6 of the application?”
There are definitely parts of the application that may seem tricky, given a mismatch between the applicant’s experience and the constraints of the form itself. For example, some people have more travel, or more professional positions, than we include room for. But that doesn’t mean that there’s some hidden agenda behind the way we pose the questions. For most applicants and most problems with the application, here’s what I suggest.
Approach the application with the assumption that the Admissions Committee is trying to gather information that it needs, while also giving you an opportunity to present many different facets of your background. Yes, the online system constrains us from offering space to list all 11 languages you speak. (That’s where the résumé and the “additional information” section of the application step in.) But, as you figure out how to squeeze your life into a multi-question form and two essays, you’ll find that a little common sense will take you a long way. Answer the questions in the way and location we ask. Give careful thought to whether the additional information you want to add will actually enhance our understanding of you or your background. You may find that what fits into the form is sufficient, but if not, use one of the free-form sections of the application to complete the information.
Tagged with: Application
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