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Trying to figure out where we are in the application review process, Laurie crunched some numbers yesterday.  It seems that there are still 247 applications that were submitted by January 15 but aren’t complete.  If your online recommenders submitted their letters (a necessary step before we can download your application), your file is nesting comfortably in a box, and our staff has sent you an email reminder about the missing materials.  Please be sure to respond to the email.  Is there a reason why your test scores, transcripts, or on-paper recommendations haven’t arrived yet?  Tell us why.  Can you offer a temporary substitute while we wait for the originals?  It’s possible that, with such a placeholder, we’ll be able to go ahead and review your application.

On the other hand, if you know that your online recommender hasn’t submitted his/her letter, it’s probably time to unregister the recommender so that your application can leave cyberspace and arrive at our office.  You’ll need to find another recommender, or ask the original recommender to email the letter to us.  Even the best letter won’t have its maximum impact if it arrives a month late.

If you haven’t yet responded to your “missing materials” email, or for help with any of these issues, please contact us.

 

Listen up, last minute applicants.  Unless you’re going to do yourself a favor and submit the application today, you’re going to be sending it along while no one is in the Admissions Office.  Please don’t assume this means you have extra time — the applications are “date stamped” when submitted, and you should submit yours by 11:59 p.m. EST (GMT-5) on Sunday, January 15, if you’re interested in scholarship consideration.

But what happens if you have a technical problem on Sunday?  Step one would be to consult the Application Support page of the Embark website.  Maybe one of their FAQs will have the answer you need.  As it happens, we virtually never hear that someone was unable to submit an application, so I’m sure you’ll be successful with a little perseverance.  But if problems continue, send us an email.  We’ll get back to you as soon as we can on Tuesday.  Yes, that’s right — Tuesday — because the office, along with the rest of Tufts University, is closed on Monday for the Martin Luther King, Jr. public holiday.

Good luck, everyone.  Looking forward to seeing your applications soon!

 

Could it be that my entreaty to applicants to submit their applications by January 3 yielded a favorable result?  Well, I won’t overstate my own value in the admissions process, but there are certainly a lot of applications around.  Mail has been flowing into the office.  The application forms pour off the printer and go into a file folder.  Some stop there for a while, but if the application matches the mail, a complete file may emerge.  Some of those complete files have even been heading out to be reviewed by student Admissions Committee members.

On the other hand, there are hundreds of applications still in-progress on applicants’ computers, and I’m not looking to raise anyone’s anxiety.  As much as we want to push the process along, you shouldn’t feel pressured to submit until you’re good and ready.

But what can you reasonably do on January 4 to improve your application?  Can you make yourself smarter or more professionally accomplished?  Probably not.  Instead, you should focus on presenting yourself in the best possible way.  Accurately complete all parts of the application.  Be sure what you have written actually answered the question.  Edit your essays.  Proofread.  Proofread again.  Check in with your recommenders to be sure they have their instructions straight (and maybe you’ll find out they have already submitted their letters).  Check over your résumé to be sure you’ve spelled out acronyms that won’t be familiar to those of us outside your industry or sector.  Proofread.

In short, while we might all agree that applications are restrictive, you should still look at the form and additional documents as your opportunity to tell us who you are.  Make good use of each part of the application.  If you do, since we look carefully at every page in the file, we’ll soon develop a multi-faceted picture of you.

One last thing.  Somewhere deep in the application instructions, we ask you to tell us about the grading system at your university if it doesn’t use a standard ABCDF four-point scale.  Please don’t ignore this request.  A short explanation will go a long way toward helping us interpret your academic record.  If you have already submitted an application but you haven’t included the explanation, you are welcome to email it to us.

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My daughter Kayla, under pressure both internally generated and externally imposed by her mother, submitted the last of her college applications early last week.  A brief family celebration marked the final application fee payment.  Now she can start to track the applications and ensure they’re complete, followed by sitting back and relaxing (until it’s time to fret about the results).

Dear blog reader, do you envy Kayla?  Why not join her?  If you submit your application by January 3, we’ll have two work weeks before the January 15 deadline in which to unite your application with test scores and other materials.  In fact, so long as your online recommendations have been received, you’ll be able to monitor your file’s completion before our more, well, deadline-pushing applicants have even submitted theirs.

(And if your recommenders haven’t yet submitted their letters, the fact that your application is waiting for them may just be the little nudge they need.)

To be sure, I’m not telling you to submit essays that you haven’t had time to proofread, or transcripts that will be updated in just a few days.  If there’s a reason why your application will be better or more complete on January 15 than it is now, then you should certainly wait.  But I know there are a lot of you out there, who either aren’t yet feeling much time pressure, or who actually have all the essays written and forms complete, but simply can’t bear to press the button.

Do it, intrepid applicant — take the plunge and submit the application.  Start the year off right.

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Decisions on our Early Notification applications went out on Friday, and we’re receiving questions on what it all means.  If you’ve been admitted, congratulations!  I’ll assume you don’t require much more explanation.  On the other end of the happiness spectrum, for the second year, we denied admission to some applicants and, when appropriate, informed the applicant that the missing piece is professional experience.  We always feel some regret in denying applicants, but we hope it will help applicants make informed decisions on where else they should apply.

That leaves those whose application was deferred to the spring round.  These applicants will have their credentials reviewed again in the context of the larger application pool.  Applicants who were deferred are invited to update us on changes to their status.  New grades or test scores definitely should be submitted.  An additional recommendation or a new résumé that sheds light on your recent activities can also be valuable.  The bottom line is that you’re welcome to update us, but please be sure that whatever you send is really an update.  If the same information is already in your file, there’s little to be gained from sending it a second time.

The deadline for PhD and Map Your Future applications is tomorrow, so the Admissions Office is making a quick shift of focus.  If you have further general questions about the deferrals, please include them as comments below.  If general themes emerge, I’ll address them in an additional blog post.

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I had my reading day at home on Thursday, which was, overall, blissful.  I started off a little slow, but soon got back into a groove and motored through a big pile of applications.  Along the way, I noticed a particular phenomenon that I want to bring to your attention (in order to convince you to avoid it).  I read several applications that included detailed information about the applicant’s job experience — information that, nonetheless, left me in the dark.

If I wanted to, I could be uninformative, too.  For example, instead of wearing down my typing fingers, I could list my employer as “FSLD/TU.”  My résumé could note that I have “transmitted actionable information to customer base via social media.”  Neither is wrong, exactly, but the résumé would be much more helpful if it said that I work at the Fletcher School and I write a blog for the Admissions Office.

When you prepare the résumé to accompany your application, remember that your reader is in a different part of the country/world and works in higher education.  If your organization goes by a name that doesn’t hint at its mission, please give us some clues.  Just a few words (in common English) about what it’s all about will go a long way.  And even if everyone in your industry knows exactly what V2RRX means, when you apply to grad school you’re not writing for people in your industry.  Please provide a hint as to V2RRX’s meaning.

It’s always possible that applicants are trying to obscure the nature of their work, but that wasn’t my assumption on Thursday.  It’s more likely that they didn’t stop to consider that a résumé written for one audience won’t be as useful for others.  If you haven’t yet submitted your application, please be sure that it includes clear information about the nature of your work.

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Continuing to explore the commonalities between undergraduate and grad school admissions processes, I’ll point you toward a New York Times education blog post on cutting an application essay down in length.  Though Fletcher doesn’t limit you to 500 words in the first essay, you’d be surprised how many people find it challenging to state their purpose in even 800 words.

In case you’re curious, we do not count the words in each essay.  But read enough writing on the same theme and you, too, would quickly develop a sense of what’s too short and what’s too long.  My recommendation:  Practice pith!  Our tired eyes will appreciate it.  Word count: 107.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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