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It’s May 1, the date when incoming international students submit the first round of paperwork to kick off the process to obtain a U.S. visa to study at Fletcher. Most will work closely with Carol Murphy, our International Student Advisor. But in the Admissions Office, we’re also fortunate that Christine came to Fletcher from a position where she was the visa expert. So, for all our international students, here’s Christine’s explanation of the steps of this complicated process.
You’ve been admitted and you have decided to enroll! You are excited about starting your studies in the United States. You are already starting looking at housing and talking with students on the Admitted Student Facebook page. But wait! There is one more big step that you, the international student, need to take: applying for a visa.
Some of you may be familiar with the process already and know terms like I-20, SEVIS, liquid and available funds, and I-94 card. But for those of you who are new to all of this, I am here to help!
THE VISA PROCESS
- Certification of Funds: Your first step is to complete the Certification of Funds form. It is extremely important that you follow the directions exactly and provide all the needed materials so it does not delay the visa process. As you already know, the form is due today, but please note that you cannot apply for a visa more than 120 days from the start of the school term.
- The I-20: Once your Certification of Funds has been approved, the International Student Advisor will issue the I-20. This document will contain your SEVIS number, available funds, and school information. You must have this with you when you attend your visa interview, when you enter the United States, and when you arrive at Fletcher.
- Pay the SEVIS fee: The SEVIS fee can be paid online via credit card for most countries. There are a few restrictions, though, so if you have questions, check first with the U.S. embassy or consulate nearest you. If you are traveling with dependents (spouse or children), you will NOT need to pay a SEVIS fee for them. The fee is only for the student.
- Complete the DS-160 with photograph: You will complete the form online, pay the DS-160 fee, upload a passport-sized (two inches by two inches) photograph and print the form to bring for your interview. If you are traveling with dependents, a form and fee will needed for EACH of them. I recommend you complete the DS-160 at least two days before your interview.
- Schedule an Interview: Once you have received your I-20, paid the SEVIS fee, completed the DS-160, and obtained photographs, you can schedule your interview with the U.S. Consulate or Embassy. Most interviews can be scheduled online, however please check with your specific consulate or embassy. Many of the consulates have a website to answer questions about how they approach the process, such as this one from the U.S. Consulate in Mumbai.
- Prepare for the Interview: The interview is one of the most important parts of the visa process. The consular officer will approve or deny your visa based on your answers and preparedness during the interview. Make sure that you are prepared to answer questions like: Why do you want to study in the United States? Why can you not study in your home country? What do you plan on doing after you have completed your studies? Do you have any relatives in the United States? Where do they live? It is important that you are honest with the officer, but you do not need to share more information than what is directly asked of you.
- Make sure you bring to the interview: your passport, I-20, DS-160, photographs, Certification of Funds and supporting documents, test scores, acceptance letter, and any other pertinent information.
- Obtaining Your Visa: Once your application has been approved, the visa officer will take your passport from you so that they can put in the visa stamp. The process varies by consulate or embassy, so make sure you ask how long it will take and how you will get your passport back. The Department of State offers information about visa wait times by country on its website.
- Travel to the United States: You are finally on board and about to touch down on U.S. soil! On the airplane, you will fill out an I-94 card. Don’t be fooled by its small size: this is THE most important document to have with you. If you lose this, it is extremely costly to replace, takes a lot of time, and can jeopardize your visa standing. Once off the plane, you will go through immigration and customs. An immigration officer will check your documents (make sure you pack everything listed above in the interview section in your carry-on), stamp your passport and I-94, and let you through. Welcome!
The visa process is complicated, so make sure that you ask questions to the International Student Advisor, Carol Murphy, or the consulate/embassy. Become familiar with the Student Visas website and your consulate/embassy website.
Safe travels and we look forward to meeting you!
Today is the last day of classes for the spring 2013 semester, and it’s also the last day of Fletcher classes for (Dear) Ariel. There are many second-year students I will wish to thank in person or in the blog for their contributions to the community, and Ariel will be the first.
Ariel started work as an Admissions Intern in September 2011 and she is the quiet super-charged engine of the student staff. There’s no task that she doesn’t complete efficiently, and that includes writing a Dear Ariel column. A typical week had me sauntering over to her on a Tuesday at noon and asking if, based on questions turning up by email, she had any ideas for a blog post. By 12:30, a perfect piece of writing was in my inbox.
Ariel’s final column today returns to the basics of advising prospective applicants. Next year I’ll face the challenge of finding another writer who may come close to Ariel’s efficiency and skill. For now: Thanks, Dear Ariel!
Dear Ariel: Is my GPA competitive for Fletcher?
Every student admitted by Fletcher’s Committee on Admissions must be able to succeed in Fletcher classes, and the applicant’s academic profile is the most important aspect of an application. But academic potential (which is indicated primarily by GPA, test scores, and recommendations) is still only one part of the application. We seek students who, by virtue of their background, achievement, and experience, can contribute to the education of their peers and to the scholarship and practice of international relations. Even a strong GPA, in the absence of international and professional experience, does not guarantee admission. Since Fletcher students come from a broad range of educational backgrounds that utilize different grading scales, calculating an average GPA for all admitted students is impossible. Among admitted students who attended colleges or universities using a 4.0 scale, the middle fifty percent of GPAs has fallen in the range of 3.4 to 3.8 in recent years.
Tagged with: Dear Ariel
Some readers (specifically, those who have decided to accept a spot on the waitlist) may be wondering about the current state of the enrollment process, and I’m here to report. Most of our admitted applicants were required to make their decisions on enrolling by April 20, this past Saturday. A few have until May 1, but the class is starting to take shape. In the coming week, we’ll be doing some clean-up work and counting enrolling students.
Does this represent new information for those on the waitlist? Not really, but I know that the correspondence vacuum can be hard to deal with. And there is something that you can do. First, if you plan to remain on the waitlist, please be sure that you have indicated that decision to us. Your deadline is technically May 1, but why wait? Second, if you or your pal have accepted a place on the waitlist but no longer want to wait, it would be great if you would communicate that decision to us, too.
Please contact us if you have questions. I’ll be back with more information whenever there is some, most likely not until May.
Tagged with: waitlist
The morning after the Open House for us, but we know that many of yesterday’s visitors are continuing a school-by-school tour of the east coast, so let’s stay with the topic of choosing a grad school.
Responding to last week’s blog reader survey, one wag of a respondent asked: What sets Fletcher apart from X and Y? Please make my choice easier . Of course, the reader didn’t write X and Y, but rather the names of two of our friendly competitor schools. I’ve taken out the names because we never say anything negative about our peers. Not even when they create copycat admissions blogs.
But I digress.
So relying on the power of the Social List, I asked students to tell me why they chose Fletcher. Here, in no special order, are the responses.
Three things. First, the flexibility of the curriculum, which personally I preferred over more structure. Second, the fantastic professors who are very rooted in practice. Third, the dynamic energy of the students, who have more diverse experiences and perspectives than I think I’ve seen anywhere else!
The sense of community I perceived among Fletcher students I met before enrolling was one of the biggest factors for me. I also liked how flexible one could be academically at Fletcher.
The key feature of Fletcher that led me to enroll here was the focus on the intersection of the private and public sectors. I’m interested in how private businesses can work with public sector institutions, and my experiences here at Fletcher, inside and outside the classroom, have helped me further my pursuit of such a career. I applied and was accepted to several joint degree (MBA/MA in IR) programs and Fletcher was able to combine both of these aspects without my needing to enroll in such a three-year program.
I chose Fletcher because I love public service. I plan to work for an international organization, and later return to Colombia to serve my country and further international cooperation in the fight against drug trafficking. Accordingly, I decided to come to The Fletcher School to learn the necessary skills in the area of international law. I want to focus on how international agreements can affect state behaviors on security and foreign policy, and the importance of including human rights in public policies related to security and transnational crime. The Fletcher School is an international forum of leadership. I have access to world-leading professors and experts in international law and security, and that has been awesome! I want to dedicate this period of my life to my education, and in the long-run devote all of my energies to working toward a better future for Colombia.
I chose Fletcher for two main reasons. First, and most important from my perspective, was the incredible sense of community at Fletcher. In all of my interactions with alumni, current students, administration, and faculty, I felt a truly unique sense of community that I really admired and wanted to be part of. Visiting Fletcher confirmed that for me, when I got to see for myself the collaborative and supportive nature of the student body, and just how open, inviting, and incredibly diverse Fletcher students are in their experiences and passions. In addition, I chose Fletcher because of the flexibility of its curriculum. I find it extremely valuable that I have so much autonomy over the classes I take here. I like being able to broaden my academic experience with classes in several fields that interest me (development economics, diplomacy, and gender studies). Having no specific core requirements has left a lot of flexibility to study what I am most passionate about, while still leaving me the opportunity to challenge myself with difficult ‘core-like’ courses (statistics, econometrics, etc.) when I choose to take them.
I just want to respond to one concern that I’ve heard raised about Fletcher, in comparison to some other schools: “I’m not sure if suburban Medford is where I want to be for my mid-twenties” — i.e. I’d rather be in the heart of an urban center with lots of exciting diversions for twenty-somethings. First of all, Fletcher isn’t very far at all from plenty of exciting cultural diversions in Davis/Cambridge/downtown Boston, etc. But I think in general, making a decision about grad school based on whether the location has those types of things is not necessarily very fruitful. The reality is that grad school is a lot of work, and no matter where you’re located, you won’t have that much time to be exploring cities and going to clubs/plays etc. That isn’t really the purpose of grad school, after all. That definitely doesn’t mean that grad school has to be all work and no fun — it just means that in your free time you may be more focused on getting to know the interesting people around you, which you can do whether you’re in a hip club or at a dinner party at someone’s house. I think of my mid-twenties as the last time I’ll be able to really fully immerse myself in an academic community, both a community inside of the classroom and outside, whereas I’ll have more than enough time to live in the heart of big cities for the rest of my life.
Finally, there’s this story:
I decided to enroll in Fletcher after a fairly circuitous path. When I was an 18-year-old international relations major, I always considered Fletcher the place one would naturally aspire to go for grad school. However, instead of following my intended path of becoming a diplomat, I graduated wanting to become a community organizer and urban farmer. Years later, after a variety of professional experiences related to sustainable agriculture and community development in Chicago and Thailand, I thought that urban planning and environmental policy programs would be the best fit for my graduate education. Therefore, I applied to graduate programs that were apples and oranges when compared to each other: urban planning, public policy, agriculture, and environmental management. Fletcher was the only APSIA school to which I applied, and the only one that was explicitly internationally focused. I knew in the back of my mind that Fletcher was the only place that would truly allow me to explore the wide variety of interests I had, particularly as related to human security, systems thinking, environment and resource policy, and international development.
There were multiple aspects of Fletcher that ultimately led me to enroll here. The first was flexibility, both in the admissions process (I deferred so I could stay longer in Thailand to work and travel) and in academics. The second was financial. Fletcher seemed to be the only school that truly understood my situation after volunteering in Thailand for a year. The third, and most important, was the community. Given the fact that I couldn’t attend the Admissions Open House, I relied on Skype and email to contact as many Fletcher students as possible from Thailand. While I waited weeks to hear back from students at other schools, Fletcher students responded promptly and at length. What I loved from the students was a continuous theme of “Tell me about yourself and allow me to help you figure out how your interests could fit in at Fletcher. We want you to make the best decision for YOU, not because ‘Fletcher is the best place.’” Today, I could not see myself anywhere else. The community has been outstanding and, thanks to my Field Studies in Global Consulting class this semester, I’ve rediscovered my passion for urban planning and housing issues, and will be self-designing a field of study in international urban planning and development.
As you can see, students come to their decision in different ways, but I hope you’ll note the two key themes that emerge: flexibility in the curriculum, and the community. They’re two of the consistent qualities of a Fletcher education.
Tagged with: Why Fletcher?
The Open House is still going, but it’s starting to wind down. Quite a few people have already stopped in to say goodbye and ask about getting to the airport. One of the final events of the day is the Student Clubs Fair, which is bustling.
For the second year, I regret that I never attended a roundtable — not even the one I helped to organize! Attending a class is great, but we know that classes aren’t the only forum for sharing the collective knowledge of the School, and Open House roundtables allow us to extend the options for the day. Roundtables this year included discussions of:
- Development and Humanitarian Assistance
- Veterans at Tufts University
- Students in Security Studies
- International Environment and Resource Policy
- Diplomacy and Practice
- Law at Fletcher
- Business in Practice at Fletcher
- Fletcher Writers (the panel I helped put together)
The Open House is our annual opportunity to turn paper applicants into real people. Tomorrow will be just another day in the office while we learn which of today’s visitors will be joining us for Orientation in August.
I’m back with my next Open House Report. Since my first dispatch, I kicked off my personal Open House activities by working the registration table, one of my favorite places to hang out. (I love being busy.) I left my post for just a minute to take this picture.
Then, I heard some words of welcome, including from first-year MALD student Juanita.
From there, I left the Hall of Flags to sit in on the panel for admitted PhD students. Panel is perhaps a bit of an overstatement since we had two Fletcher staffers, two current students, and two admitted students. (So it goes with a very small PhD program.)
Much more panel-like were the presentations for MALD/MA and MIB students. Alas, I don’t know what happened there, beyond the sharing of information.
Then, back to the office for walk-in office hours. It’s always nice to be asked a challenging question. I’ve worked in Admissions for a long time, but there’s no shortage of topics on which I can be stumped. Today’s meetings included two conversations on complicated topics.
Everyone is off at lunch now, and I’m minding the shop. I’m due to be here for more office hours later, but I’ll try to take a minute to drift over to lunch, at least for the presentation by Career Services.
But perhaps you’d like an overall view of what’s happening today. Allow me to share the email that Liz, our Open House guru, sent to the staff on Friday.
A final update before our event kicks off this weekend! We will be welcoming 122 admitted students and six guests Sunday evening, and 134 admitted students and nine guests on Monday.
We will be hosting eight topical roundtables, 22 class visits options, three sets of walk in hours, three student panels, four programmatic sessions, plus tours and the student club fair (where we have 30 clubs participating)! It should be quite a day!
I’m sure Liz would join me as I close with a word of thanks to the weather for cooperating today. It’s sunny and mild — perfect for a busy visit.
If I can file a late-afternoon report, I’ll do so. Let’s see how the next rounds of walk-in office hours go!
We’re revving up for today’s Admitted Students Open House (OH). Admissions staff here early? Check. Muffins and coffee ready? Check. “Fletcher Orange” jelly beans available for snacking? Multi-check.
I’m going to try to report back throughout the day, whenever I have a free minute in the office. That minute may not come until everyone goes to lunch, when I’m going to hang back and staff the office to take questions. More soon, I hope!
Two more-or-less administrative comments today. The first is a NEW SURVEY! Before I blah-blah-blah all spring about the subjects that I think are relevant to newly admitted students or prospective future applicants, I want to ask you to tell me what you really want to know. The survey is only three questions, so please consider giving me some direction for future blog posts.
And then I want to offer an apology on behalf of my Admissions pals and me for any delays in responding to your email messages. Personally, I have felt good to be only about two days behind the contents of my inbox, but the email flow is a hot topic of discussion among the staff. Sometimes answering a question involves a trip to the Registrar’s Office or zapping a question to a professor. Ideally, we would send you a note to tell you the research is in progress. Even if we don’t, please give us a couple of days to get back to you. If you have a time-sensitive question, or if we’re just taking longer than is reasonable, please email us again with a reminder. No need to write to someone else. (And don’t worry — we don’t take offense at a gentle timely reminder.)
Back to my inbox! Looking forward to your suggestions in the survey.
We try to provide clear information directly to applicants offered a place on the waitlist, to help them make a good decision on whether to wait. Still, it never hurts to restate things, and there may be some other prospective students who wonder how the waitlist works.
We’ve offered waitlist spots to a group of applicants for each of the master’s-level programs. For the next six weeks, the waitlist won’t be the focus of much of our attention, but applicants will be making their own decisions on whether to continue to wait. Many will decide to turn down the offer — they’ll attend another graduate school or, maybe, continue to work. We’ll set aside the responses until after the May 1 deadline for future review, grouping the applications of those who want to wait (in alphabetical order — no ranking), ready for us to re-review them. We nearly always make at least a few offers of admission to applicants on the waitlist, and sometimes more than a few.
Meanwhile, between the release of decisions and May 1, we’re monitoring the responses of admitted students. Some will say yes, and some will say no. And even among those who say yes, some are organizing joint degrees, or balancing educational goals and professional responsibilities, and they’ll decide to defer enrollment for a year. As these fine details of the enrollment situation unfold, we’ll go to the waitlist to admit the students we need to fill the September class.
So what can you do, once you’ve confirmed that you’ll wait? We invite you to update your application with carefully selected materials. Here is my annual list of suggested additions to waitlisted applications:
1. Any update to basic application credentials: Grades for newly completed classes, new test scores, an additional recommendation from your university or workplace, written by someone who knows you well and who can add a new perspective on your background. (Please read that last sentence carefully. You won’t gain much from a recommendation (however positive it might be) that covers the same ground as your previous three recommendations.) You can also update your résumé, or send a link to a newly published article.
2. A brief essay to complete the sentence, “When I wrote my personal statement, I wish I had said….” Do you have a better sense of your academic and career goals than you did in January? If so, fill us in! (Keeping your response under 500 words is a good idea.)
3. A visit to Fletcher. We don’t offer formal interviews during the spring, but we’ll certainly meet with you if you’re able to visit. The best time for an appointment is late April to early May. We’ll try to accommodate you whenever you are here, but we’d appreciate it if you could hold off until after April 15.
4. Anything else that you would have put in your application if the instructions had been written differently. While I discourage you from sending a research paper or thesis (and I say this because I know that many applicants would like to send us additional reading materials), there may be something that you wished you could have included.
5. Information that helps explain the gap or shortcoming that you feel may be holding your application back. You may not have chosen to address it in your application, but now would be a good time to explain those crummy grades from your first undergraduate semester, or your limited international experience, or whatever else is a weakness in your application. And a weakness you have noticed is probably one we’ve noticed, too.
You can send your update by email. Try to send it to us by May 1 (the deadline for deciding whether to stay on the waitlist), though you remain welcome to update your file as the spring goes on. The majority of the waitlist activity will take place from early May to the end of June. It’s always our goal to sew everything up as quickly as possible — both for your sake and for ours.
Last, the scholarship question. At the same time as I can’t guarantee we’ll have scholarship funds remaining in late May or June, I can say that we generally have had some money to work with. Remember that the applicants who decide not to enroll are often returning scholarship funds, too.
Tagged with: waitlist
Fletcher is super quiet this week with students out in the world on their spring break vacation. There’s a particular disconnect between their relaxation and Admissions Office un-relaxation. We’re scrambling to keep up with emails and calls from prospective students.
Meanwhile, Mother Nature played a little end-of-winter trick on us yesterday, delivering a pile of soggy snow. I’m hoping the early spring flowers that have appeared in recent weeks are snug below their snowy cover. Snow at this time of year never lasts too long and real spring does eventually arrive on the campus — but not always coinciding with today’s start of solar spring.
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