Currently viewing the category: "Fletcher’s Admissions Policies"

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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We try to keep our application requirements and policies clear, but there are always gray areas, some of which we discover only after launching a new policy.  There’s nothing new about our requirement for an English language assessment as part of the application of non-native speakers, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some murky edges to it.  The policy, in the wording of our application instructions, is:

If your native language is not English and you have not earned a university degree (undergraduate degree or graduate degree lasting two or more years) where English was the language of instruction, you are required to take either the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), the International English Language Testing System (IELTS), or the Pearson Test of English (PTE). A score of 600 on the paper-based TOEFL, 100 on the Internet-based TOEFL (iBT), 7 on the IELTS, or 68 on the PTE is generally considered evidence of sufficient English language ability for graduate study at The Fletcher School.

Seems straightforward enough, but we continue to hear from people whose profiles make the policy seem less than clear.  The first gray-area group includes those who study in their home countries, but English is the language of instruction  When it comes to applicants (such as many from India) whose entire education was in English, there’s nothing to be gained by submitting a score report.  The score is likely to be very high, but won’t provide any new information, and you can save a little money (and paper) when you don’t have a score report sent to us.  On the flip side are those (such as many from Turkey), who have been taught in English only at the university level.  Some of those applicants will still score relatively low on the verbal portion of the GRE or GMAT.  In that case, they would certainly benefit from sending along a TOEFL/IELTS/PTE score.

Another murky area of the policy turns up when we make our admission decisions.  Not infrequently, we’ll require supplemental English study from enrolling applicants who have scored a 102 on the iBT.  The 102 should do the trick for them, but it may not if the subscores are uneven.  We’ll worry about the ability to contribute in class of someone with top scores on reading and writing, but low scores on speaking and listening.  We’ll also worry about someone whose conversation skills are strong, but whose reading and writing are weaker.  Students need to succeed both in and out of the classroom.

As an applicant, you should follow the rules.  If we don’t ask for a test score, you don’t need to send one.  But…if you feel that a score on an English assessment will help clarify an aspect of your application, feel free to send it along.  So long as your score is strong enough, you’re all set.  Except…if your skills are not consistent across the four categories, in which case we may ask you to brush up before starting your studies.  Clear or murky?  How you see the policy probably depends on your background.

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I’m still having trouble believing that October is over, so imagine my surprise that the first application deadline for September 2012 admission is tomorrow!  Our newly selected student members of the Admissions Committee are already busy reading files, grabbing two last week and two today — a pace that will soon be unsustainably (laughably) slow.  (I think they know that, but we’re glad to allow them to breathe for a few days more.)  Time for me to get going, too!

For the majority of you who have not yet submitted your EN application, it’s not too late to avoid running up against the precise deadline of Tuesday, November 15, 11:59 p.m. EST (GMT -5).  Submit your application today, and you can pat yourself on the head that you were early.  Note that the piece that must arrive by the deadline is your online application.  It’s preferred that your recommendations, transcripts, and test scores arrive by tomorrow, too, but please don’t hold your application simply because your professor hasn’t zapped through a letter.

Once you’ve submitted your part of the total file, you can monitor our work through the Graduate Application Management System (find details here).  Fortunately for you ENers, we’ll receive a very manageable number of applications tomorrow, and we can compile files much more quickly than in January.  In fact, the whole turnaround for the EN process is super rapid.  You’ll hear from us well before the end of December (exact date still TBD).

Finally, the decision options for Early Notification fall in three groups.  We may choose to admit applicants (occasionally with a condition, such as additional foreign language study); to defer the decision to the spring, when we’ll look at the application in the context of the larger pile; or to deny.  Last year was the first year we denied some applicants and, while I appreciate how disappointing this is, we believe it’s better for the applicant to have clear information that can be used in deciding which other schools to apply to in January.

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Here’s some news we’re really excited about:  A new Admissions opportunity called the Map Your Future Program.  Students currently in their final year of undergraduate studies can apply to Fletcher for the class entering two years after their admission.  In other words, those about to begin (or currently in) their final year in September 2011 would apply during the 2011-12 admissions cycle, and if they’re admitted, they’d start at Fletcher in September 2014.

This is a great way for our future students to pursue professional opportunities with grad school admission already in hand.  It’s also a great way to reassure mom, dad, professor, adviser, etc., etc., that YES you’re going to grad school…but not right now.

I’ve mentioned Map Your Future at only one Information Session so far, but I’ve already received questions in response from attendees.  We’re thinking there are a lot of you out there who will be equally excited about this opportunity.

Reviewing the MYF applications will be new and should be fun for us!  There’s something really special about reading applications to discern potential, rather than accomplishments.  (Although we’re assuming that our MYF students will be accomplished 22-year-olds, they won’t have the professional experience of our typical 27-year-old admitted student.)  I’ll post more as we get closer to the first deadline, but let us  know if you have questions that aren’t answered on the FAQ page.

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This year, the Fletcher admissions process will include a revised testing policy for MALD and MA applicants.  While the new policy is sure to make a few people unhappy (and we have held off on making the change for just that reason), it actually affects a fairly small subset of our applicant pool.  So here it is.

Starting with the October 15 deadline for applications for January admission, all applicants to the MALD and MA programs, whether they’re from the U.S. or another country, will need to submit results of the GRE or GMAT exam.  Non-native English speakers, unless their university education was in English, will also need to submit results of an English language assessment exam (TOEFL, IELTS, or PTE).  This has been the policy of the PhD and MIB programs for many years, so we’re bringing the MALD and MA expectations in line with these other programs.

You may be wondering why we have decided on this change.  Often, the Admissions Committee finds itself in a complete muddle over an applicant who submits a transcript with minimal grades, or with strangely cryptic course names, or with an overall grade of 46 that recommenders tell us is a good result.  We don’t expect the GRE or GMAT results to clarify everything for us, but we think they’ll help in a good number of cases.  Finally, professors on the Admissions Committee have asked us to change the policy for several years.

The irony is that we require test scores from applicants who have graduated from the universities we know the best.  If we ask for scores from a student with a 4.0 average in international relations at Tufts, why wouldn’t we also want that piece of information from someone who studied at a university we don’t know well in another country?  As it happens, many of the applicants in the affected group tend to submit scores anyway, and even when they don’t send test results to Fletcher, they’re sending scores to our peers that require them.  That is, they’ve taken the test and simply need to direct the score reports to Fletcher.  So the policy change is significant, but the ultimate impact will be less so.

Here’s why we didn’t make the change earlier:  We know that GREs and GMATs are expensive.  But the cost is minimal compared with the expense of studying in the U.S. for two years.  We know that, in some countries, the exams are not offered as often as they are in the U.S.  Well…this will be a challenge, but we expect our applicants to plan carefully.

So, in the end, we decided that the values of fairness and clarity win out over the inconvenience that we know a small group will experience.  Fortunately, I expect that the new policy will be a subject of conversation for only one year.  After this, anyone doing careful homework on the admissions process will have at least twelve months’ notice and can plan accordingly.

I’ll close with the answer to one question that will surely come up.  Yes — we will adjust our expectations, particularly on the verbal and analytical sections, for the non-native speakers.  We’re already accustomed to making that mental adjustment, and now we’ll simply be doing it more frequently.  If you have other questions about the change, please feel free to ask them as a comment to the blog, or email the office.

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The last batch of responses from admitted applicants was due yesterday, and it looks like nearly everyone has been heard from.  We’ll double-check with anyone who hasn’t responded, just to be sure there wasn’t a communications glitch, but it looks like the response phase of the admissions process is pretty much complete.  Also due yesterday were the responses to our offers of a spot on the waitlist, and I’m sure that those who have chosen to wait would like an update.

I can remember one year (more than one?) when we were nervous about enrollment and admitted a few people from the waitlist before May 1.  If you’re waiting in 2011, you’ll be happy to know that we have not yet turned to the waitlist at all.  Our next steps are to look at the enrolling class in detail, figure out where our scholarship budget stands, and start re-reviewing waitlisted applications.  If we discover that we don’t have all the students we need, we’ll make some new offers of admission as quickly as possible.  We never drag the process out more than necessary, but I should warn you that we’ll maintain a short waitlist into the summer.  (Even students who tell us they’re enrolling sometimes change their plans in June/July/August to take advantage of a career opportunity.)  Of course, you always have the option of declining to wait.

A related sidenote:  Our waitlist is not ranked, which is hard for some waitlistees to get their mind around.  Our colleagues at Tufts undergraduate admissions have put better words to the concept, writing that the waitlist, despite its name, is a pool of applicants, not a list.  When we look at the files of waitlisted applicants, we’re doing exactly what we did between January and March — trying to make the best match between prospective students and Fletcher — though this time with a much more limited “pool.”

If you have remained on the waitlist to be considered for a place in September’s entering class, you’re still invited to update your application or send a letter of continued interest (nothing fancy — an email will do).  We’ll be communicating through the next couple of months, but you should feel free to contact us if you have questions about the waitlist or where the process stands.

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Go to your favorite news source, be it newspaper, television, or website, and try to find a day’s news that is free of economics.  Unless your idea of news is celebrity gossip, the search will likely end unsuccessfully.  Similarly, you simply can’t study international affairs if you’re going to play out your most extreme quant-phobia.

Just like the language learners I wrote about recently, I can divide Fletcher students into three groups:

1.  Quant/econ lovers and experts
2.  Those with basic quant/econ exposure
3.  Those who, for reasons of preference or academic program design, haven’t had any quantitative coursework after high school.

The MIB program has (not surprisingly) a strong quantitative focus, and consequently is the only program that may decide to make admission conditional on pre-Fletcher quantitative study (but did so for only a few applicants this year).  This post is not really for the MIBers.

In fact, I’m going to focus on the MALD students who comprise the majority of the entering class.  You’ll face two requirements relevant to today’s topic.  First, you need to take at least one course in the Division of Economics and International Business.  Unless you pass the placement test offered before each semester, the course you’ll take is EIB E201, Introduction to Economic Theory.  Second, you have a quantitative reasoning requirement, which can be fulfilled through a placement test or by taking one of five courses.

Returning to my three groups.  Those in Group One will pass the placement exams, and will have every opportunity to take as many courses in the Economics and International Business division as their schedules allow.  Finance!  Econometrics!  Accounting!  It’s all here for you.  The econ/quant requirement at Fletcher is gentle, but not limiting!  Crunch those numbers, Fletcher friends!

Those in Group Two have two choices.  One is to take the basic economics and quantitative reasoning courses.  The other option is to study a bit this summer to brush up your skills with the intention of passing the placement tests.  While the basic courses are valuable, Fletcher gives you the mechanism (and choice) to move past them and go directly to the material that most interests you.

Those in Group Three face a decision similar to that of Group Two.  You can simply go along and take the basic courses — the path of least resistance, which will still provide you with the skills you need.  But if you want to try to test out, you should plan to pursue formal study this summer.  The good news is that economics and statistics classes are among the easiest to find; they’re offered by a wide range of local colleges or even online.  Either way, if you discover a heretofore unknown love of numbers, you can move on to pursue as many EIB courses as you want!

The flexibility of Fletcher’s curriculum frees you to approach economics and quantitative reasoning in the way that suits you best:  start with the basics here, or test out and fill your curriculum with classes of your choosing.  Give it some thought now, so that you’re ready to make the right decision when you start your studies.

 

Native English-speaking Fletcher applicants can be organized by language proficiency into four groups:

1.  Those with essentially no foreign language skills at all.  It’s very rare that we admit someone in this group.
2.  Those with beginning-level skills in one or more languages.
3.  Those with intermediate-level skills in one or more languages.
4.  Those who are truly proficient in one or more languages.

I’m going to ignore group 4 for this post.  You don’t need me.

Those in the other three groups may have been admitted outright, or may have been admitted with the condition that you pursue a language program this summer.  If your admission wasn’t conditional, but you know in your heart of hearts that you won’t be able to pass the language exam, you may also want to pursue formal study this summer.  But what kind of program is the right kind of program?  I wish there were a formula I could share with you, but it turns out to depend on a collection of factors, such as:

What language do you plan to test in?
What is your level of proficiency?  (This is between you and yourself now — be honest!)
What skills do you need/want to focus on?
Do you want to study in a country where that language is spoken, or in your home country?
What’s your schedule for the summer?

Once you’ve figured out all that, you’ll want to look around for a program.  Maybe a two-month intensive program will be required.  Maybe a single upper-level course will be enough.  Maybe two weeks in the country where your language is spoken will refresh your speaking skills enough to get you through the exam.  We know what the requirement is, but we don’t have much information (besides your self-assessment) on your current skill level.

So let me use myself as an example.  If I were applying to Fletcher, I’d probably list all of the languages to which I have any exposure at all.  (O.K., I’ll leave off Italian, which is limited to some basic tourist phrases and the names of my favorite restaurant dishes — not likely to get me through the exam.)  The language section of my application would then look like this:

Spanish:  Speaking — beginning; Reading — beginning;
French:  Speaking — beginning; Reading — beginning;
Mandarin:  Speaking — intermediate; Reading (simplified characters) — intermediate;

It would be unrealistic for me to test in Spanish.  There’s only so far those residual skills from high school are going to take me.

I’ve given myself the same self-evaluation in French as in Spanish, but French would be a realistic testing language for me.  I have many more years of study, continuing through my first year of college.  But to test in French, I would definitely need a summer course, preferably in a French-speaking environment.  With reading and speaking practice (and a chance to refresh my listening comprehension), I feel confident I could study my way back to proficiency.

But almost surely I would test in Mandarin.  I studied in both the U.S. and China, where I lived for two years.  I visited a few years ago and was able to get around easily (though my vocabulary needed refreshing to capture technology terms).  Fletcher wouldn’t have made language study a condition of my admission, but I know I should brush up.  In this case, though, I wouldn’t need formal study.  A daily session with a newspaper and a dictionary will take care of the reading requirement.  I’d watch some Chinese movies or find online resources for radio or television shows, and by the first administration of the reading exam in October, I’d be all set.

So, incoming students, unless you’re truly proficient in reading and speaking a second language, consider what steps you need to take before starting your Fletcher classes.  There’s no one-size-fits-all approach.  Instead, you’ll want to consider your own starting point and make choices to ensure you’ll be proficient in both the reading and speaking of your chosen language.

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Admissions work, as you may have heard me say, is ultra-cyclical, but I still try not to repeat myself in the blog.  The exception comes in March and April, when I freely steal content from previous years.  Today’s stolen post covers the questions we answer most routinely for each year’s newly admitted students.  Here are the questions (and related answers) that may be on your mind.

Q: I hope to work when I’m at Fletcher.  How can I arrange it?
A: There are many administrative jobs available each year at Fletcher, as well as elsewhere at the University. Fletcher jobs are usually “advertised” via a student email list. Jobs elsewhere at the University can be found through the Student Employment office.

Q: What about research or teaching assistantships?
A: These positions are arranged directly with the hiring department or professor. It can be difficult for you to arrange a teaching assistant position for your first semester, regardless of your qualifications, but there are often opportunities in the second semester. Many professors hire research assistants in the fall, so even first-year students will be eligible. Research assistants are paid an hourly wage, while teaching assistants are often paid per course. (Note that teaching assistants do not teach Fletcher students. Professors teach, but the assistants might arrange course materials or do other “behind the scenes” work.)

Q: How do second-year scholarships compare to those awarded to first-year students?
A: We know that there are schools out there that reserve much of their scholarship budget to distribute to second-year students.  That isn’t Fletcher’s model.  We split our scholarship budget between first-year and second-year students.  Students who remain in good academic standing can expect their awards to be renewed for the second year.  Students who do not receive a scholarship in the first year can also apply for a scholarship for the second year, but funding cannot be guaranteed.

Q: I would like to pursue a joint degree. Will Fletcher allow me to defer my enrollment?
A: Fletcher will approve a deferral of up to one year (two semesters) to allow students to start a joint degree at another institution.  Prospective students needing more than one year before enrolling should plan to reapply.  Anyone wanting a deferral needs to request one — it isn’t automatic — but you can submit your request by email.

Q: I’m not doing a joint degree, but I want to defer for other reasons.  Can I?
A: Fletcher allows deferrals for up to one year so that candidates can pursue professional opportunities.

Q: Tell me more about how to request the deferral.
A: Follow these instructions.

Q: The law/business/other school with which I want to pursue a joint degree is not on Fletcher’s list of “official” joint or dual degrees.  How will that work?
A: Fletcher will support your efforts to arrange a joint degree that suits your career and academic goals. The process is to transfer courses from your other program so that you also receive Fletcher credit for them.  When I speak to students putting together an ad hoc joint degree, I always suggest that they contact the registrar as soon as they enroll at Fletcher. You won’t be able to transfer in your first-year torts/finance/language class, but with careful homework, you will find classes that meet Fletcher’s requirements. (You should also be sure to work with the other school. Our experience is that many other schools are less flexible than Fletcher.)

Q: Can I make my decision after the deadline named in my admission letter?
A: No. There are many administrative reasons why Fletcher needs to know how many students will enroll, but we don’t expect you to care about that. On the other hand, we want you to remember that there are students waiting on the waitlist, and we hope you will respect their need for a speedy answer as to whether they will be admitted. We won’t know if we need to go to the waitlist until we have heard from the students we have already admitted.

Q: Do I really need to respond officially?  Can’t I just email you?
A: We enjoy your emails, but we really prefer you respond through the online system or with the enrollment reply form.  It helps us keep track of information.

Q: What classes will be offered in 2011-2012?
A: The schedules for next year aren’t set yet, but many courses are offered on a yearly basis.  You can see the class schedules for 2010-2011 on our web site.

Q: I was put on the waitlist.  Can I request feedback now?
A: Although the waitlist is not the same as being offered admission, it’s also not the same as being denied admission.  We only offer feedback to applicants once their applications are no longer active, which is not the case for those on the waitlist.  On the other hand, there may be one key item we want to see from you, and it is reasonable for you to contact us and ask directly if there is a particular item the Committee on Admissions would like to see.  If there is, we’ll tell you.  If there isn’t, we’ll leave it to you to decide what you should send to update your application.


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We’ve been offering feedback to our applicants for quite a few years now, and we’ve moved from an informal call-me-and-I’ll-see-what-I-can-figure-out arrangement to more of a system.  And as the system has developed, so has the expectation on the part of the Admissions Committee that someone intending to apply a second time should ask what went wrong the first time.  If you weren’t admitted this year and you hope to reapply (and if you haven’t, in frustration, given up on the blog), I want to encourage you to ask us for feedback on your application.

Here are the rules.  After May 1, send us a feedback request by email with this information:

♦The semester/year for which you originally applied (for example, September 2011);
♦Any specific questions you have about your application or the process;
♦Your plans for the coming year;
♦The term for which you intend to reapply.

One of us will review your application.  We’ll read through everything in the file, but much of what we write will reflect the comments of the reviewers, not our own opinions.  We only offer opinions if we think there’s a key point that the reviewers didn’t note.

Regardless of when you intend to reapply, I encourage you to request feedback this year.  We received some requests last December for January applications.  Unless the problem with an applicant’s first application was in the personal statement, what exactly can he do to improve his profile in only one month?  So contact us this spring, and you’ll have some ideas to work with until you reapply.  Until then, I’m sorry you didn’t receive admission this year, but experience tells us that many applicants will be successful in a future round.  I hope we’ll see another application from you in the future.

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