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Without a doubt, the April day on which we hold the Open House for newly admitted students is the craziest of the year.  I managed to snap a pic this morning before the crowds arrived.  Here’s the registration table.

Name tags, information packets, and water bottles all lined up.  Sunshine streaming in.  It was all good.  It’s now just after 10:00 a.m. and visitors have had their breakfast, attended a welcome presentation by the dean and two current students, and are now attending either a class or a faculty panel.

Both last night, when we held a reception, and this morning, Kristen and I staffed the registration table — my favorite job during the Open House.  I get to meet lots of people with whom I’ve been corresponding or whose application I read.  And it’s busy!  I like being busy.

In less than an hour, I’ll be meeting with the visiting incoming PhD students.  Other activities scheduled for 11:05 include attending a class or a Career Services presentation, or participating in a roundtable on environment issues or one on security studies.  Then lunch and even more options.

Liz is a masterful Open House organizer.  It’s a jam-packed schedule and we’ll keep the 160+ visitors moving throughout the day.  Then, I imagine, they’re nearly as tired as we are as they leave Fletcher and continue to consider their options for graduate study.

 

My request for suggestions last week yielded one that follows neatly on Friday’s post.  A blog reader asked about opportunities to audit or take language courses while at Fletcher.  The reader specifically asked about taking courses in a third language (in addition to the testing language and native language), but my answer about the policy would pertain to anyone, including folks who want to brush up before taking the language exam.

The answer is that YES, students definitely have the opportunity to take or audit classes.  MALD and MIB students can take two language classes for credit, following a simple request process.  A good number of students will go that route, particularly if the language is key to their future career goals.  Language courses can be taken at Tufts (super convenient!) or Harvard (not as convenient, but doable if you’re committed to it).  Tufts currently offers classes in Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.

Auditing language classes is the route more commonly chosen.  The terms of the audit will be up to the instructor and some will ask for a significant investment of time — definitely something to discuss at the outset.  The advantage of auditing is that you don’t need to use a Fletcher credit for a language class.  While a student who tested in French but still wants to develop Arabic skills would see value in using a course credit to do so, most of our students arrive with language skills and would prefer to focus their course selections on the Fletcher curriculum.

Keep sending me suggestions via the survey and I’ll do my best to answer!

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The five-week stretch from releasing admission decisions in March to April 20, when admitted students make their enrollment decisions, is marked by several recurring themes.  One that is turning up a lot in my inbox is Fletcher’s language requirement.

As I hope all native-English-speaking prospective Fletcher students understand, we require all of our students to pass a language proficiency exam in order to graduate.  For non-native speakers, English is their second language.  For everyone else, a two-part test awaits.  The first part is a reading exam — essentially a translation exercise.  And the second part is an oral exam — essentially a conversation with a language instructor.  If you are comfortable reading and writing in your language of choice, you’re probably going to have no problem with this requirement.  The proficiency level required is short of fluency, and no one is trying to put a roadblock in your way.

On the other hand, if you know that you’re not truly proficient, you should develop a plan for passing the exam.  (And, in some cases, we have made that a condition of your admission.)

Within a few weeks of the start of classes, the School administers the reading exam in a bunch of different languages.  The exam is routinely offered in Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Swahili, and Urdu.  Additional exams are offered when a student wants to demonstrate proficiency in a less-commonly selected language.

I’ve looked at the exams in French, Spanish, Italian, and Mandarin, and my reaction is that the level of the piece to be translated is appropriate.  That is, anyone would think that if you can’t translate something of that complexity, you can’t really call yourself proficient.  There’s no intention to trick you with arcane vocabulary, but the passage to be translated won’t be simplistic, either.

The oral exam is self-scheduled, and my sense is that almost everyone schedules them for after the reading exam.  We don’t have a preference, though.  If you want to schedule it for the first week of classes, you can do that.

There’s quite a bit of information on the language requirement on this page.  (Scroll down to language requirement, and then when you’ve opened the page, scroll down again to find sample reading exams.)  You’ll see that the reading exams for most languages are an hour in length, but others last longer, and there are also differing required proficiency levels.  If you’re planning to enroll at Fletcher for September, I hope you’ll spend a few minutes reviewing the requirement.  Then think about whether you need a refresher in your chosen language.  If you use the language with ease, the exam will merely be a half-morning’s exercise.  A graduation requirement that you can check off during your first month at Fletcher!  That’s what we want — for everyone to sail right through the exam.

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Spring and summer find me guessing what blog readers — particularly, but not limited to, incoming students — would like to know.  You can save me from writing valueless nonsense by giving me your suggestions.  Just note them here in my two-question survey.  All topic suggestions are welcome and, as they say, there are no dumb questions.

I’ll look forward to finding lots of suggestions logged in the survey soon!

 

Last Tuesday, while I sat inside my cozy kitchen watching the storm swirl outside, I could also see the emails piling up in the Fletcher Admissions inbox.  Every day since then, there have been long stretches when all you can hear in the office is the tappety tappety of fingers on keyboards as we catch up with the tide of questions flowing our way.

I dare say that all of my Admissions pals are like me in having anywhere from a few to a lot of emails awaiting answers in their inboxes.  On their (and my) behalf, I want you to know that we’re working hard and we’re going to get back to you.  I know it’s annoying to wait for an answer, but it does take us time to work through all the requests for information.  We appreciate your patience!  (Even you, Cookie Monster.)

As a practical suggestion, I’ll mention that folks who send simple emails tend to receive their simple responses relatively quickly.  When we receive an email or a call with requests for several different types of information, just doing the research can take some time.  I’m not saying you should hold back on your questions — but if you need us to gather a lot of information on your behalf, a little extra patience may be needed.

Speaking of waiting, you should know that the U.S. has already shifted to Daylight Savings Time.  Our current time zone is UTC-4.  Keep that in mind when you set a time for a phone appointment.  Occasionally we find ourselves waiting for a call from someone who is confused about the time and will be an hour late (assuming we’re still available to take the call).

Now back to my inbox!

 

Sure, I know.  Decisions were released two whole days ago.  Some people have already accepted (or declined) their offers.  But by “some,” I mean only a small number.  Most folks are gathering information.  To that end, let me try to explain a few of the finer points of this process.

First, scholarship awards.  Fletcher has a scholarship budget for new and continuing students.  All of the funds allocated for incoming students (including those who applied by the Early Notification deadline and were admitted in December) were distributed this week.  The well is now completely dry.

Beyond dry, in fact.  Because here’s what you need to know about the scholarship business.  If we have $100 in our special pot of scholarship cash, we don’t simply distribute $100.  Instead, we reckon that half of the award recipients will decide to continue working, attend another program, or, for whatever reason, decline our offer of admission.  This is predictably the case and, with enrollment history in mind, we actually distribute $200 in scholarships.  It’s a gamble, but if we’ve done our math right, it’s a safe gamble.

And here’s how I like to describe what this means to the recipient of a 2018 scholarship.  Let’s imagine that Jim and Bill are friends who have applied to Fletcher.  Both are admitted and receive $100 scholarships.  Bill decides to enroll at Fletcher, but Jim decides to postpone graduate school for a year.  Bill knows that Jim has received a $100 scholarship, and Bill would like to claim it for himself.  Now that you’ve read this post, you know that the $100 that was returned to our scholarship fund is imaginary money.  That is, we’ve already calculated that Jim (0r someone like Jim) will return the scholarship, and no funds were actually liberated.  At the end of the enrollment process, we’ll calculate how much genuine money has been added back to the scholarship account.  One thing you can be sure of is that we will distribute all of the available funds.

Even as we can’t solve all financial problems for every student, we aim to provide clear and useful information to allow you to plan.  Students in a two-year program learn their two-year scholarship when they’re admitted.  And you might want to know how the Committee on Admissions makes awards.  Our scholarship decisions are based on a combination of merit and need: for any level of merit — as determined through the application review process — the larger awards go to those with greater need.  We hope that all applicants will be happy with their awards, though we know that only Admissions Committee members have the full picture of the breadth of need (and merit, for that matter) among the admitted applicants.  Fletcher’s applicant pool is diverse in every possible way.

Next, waitlist ranking.  As I mentioned last week, we don’t rank the waitlist, and there’s really no way to talk your way to the top of the list.  But we do encourage you to update us with information that brightens up your application.  Each time we make an offer of admission from the waitlist, we’ll be re-reviewing the applications and if you’ve updated any aspect of your file, we’ll review it then.  Oh, and remember Jim and Bill from the scholarship example?  When Jim makes his decision not to enroll, it doesn’t mean we’ll be going right to the waitlist.  We need to wait until after April 20 before we’ll know how close we have come to our planned enrollment.

Finally, this year, like every year, we’ll be asked whether we will reverse decisions.  I’m sorry.  We do not reverse decisions.

 

Yesterday’s storm really was something, but we’re all digging out today.  If you haven’t already checked your application status page, you’ll find that it probably has your admission decision (assuming your application was complete).  If you had deferred your enrollment from a previous term, or if you were admitted last fall (Early Notification), and if you applied for a scholarship, you’ll find award information there, too.

And today I want to offer my congratulations to everyone who was admitted!  We’re excited to start the next phase of our work — meeting you (in person or virtually) and taking your questions.  In the next five weeks, student-by-student, the Fall 2018 class will form and we know the Hall of Flags will be filled with talented and inspiring people in September.

Five weeks should be plenty of time to choose a graduate school, but it’s not necessarily more time than you’ll need.  Even if you have already decided to enroll at Fletcher, we suggest you use these weeks to collect useful details to guide your planning.  If you haven’t already selected a school, we hope you’ll make an informed decision — often we find that a lot of research goes into the selection of schools to apply to, but the more complex questions are raised only after admission decisions go out.  To that end, contact us, review the Fletcher website, and be sure to look at the student profiles, which will connect you with our community.  We’ll also be sharing tons of information with you during the next few weeks, aiming to surround you with Fletcher love.  Naturally, we hope you’ll decide to enroll here.

To those who were offered a place on the waitlist, we know that extra waiting is not what you want to do.  A little advance notice that, if you are offered admission down the road, you’ll have a very narrow window for making your decision.  Please be sure you’re ready, should the opportunity arise.

And, finally, if you were not offered admission, remember that you can request feedback after May 1.  We will offer you information that will help you understand the Admissions Committee’s decision.  Following the guidance we provide is often the pathway to a successful future application.

Even without yesterday’s storm, this would be a busy day.  The Fletcher Admissions email inbox was filling up quickly by yesterday afternoon.  As I said, we’re digging out — both from the snow and the email and phone messages.

 

March 13, the birthday of Austin Barclay Fletcher, and here we are, hunkered down during a major snowstorm.  The “nor’easter” swirling off the coast of the U.S. is due to leave us with at least a foot of spring snow, and Tufts University, along with nearly every other school or university in the area, is closed.

What does this mean for anxious applicants?  Nothing to worry about!  Following hours of intense work yesterday and continuing throughout today (not so much by me, I hasten to add — I don’t want to steal the thunder of my colleagues), admission decisions will be available by this evening for all MALD, MA, MIB, LLM, and PhD applications that are complete.  (That’s evening in U.S. East Coast terms.  UTC-4.)

When your decision is ready, you’ll receive an email to check your Application Status Page.  (Reminder for those who haven’t bookmarked the page:  To access your Application Status Page you can click the application link, or the “Start an Application” link on the Admissions website.  You’ll log in with the email and password you used when you created your application.)  If you haven’t already done so, read the posts from yesterday and Friday.  These will help you interpret the decision you receive.

Needless to say, with the office closed, there’s even less benefit than usual to phoning and asking for your decision today.  Just stay patient, like our little buddy Murray (who is keeping cozy during the storm), and the information will soon be available.

While we’re all waiting, let me add that reading applications and getting to know our applicants is one of the best parts of the yearly admissions cycle.  We read so many inspiring stories and learn so much.  Releasing decisions marks an end to the application review part of the year, but it starts a six-month phase of building more meaningful relationships with future students.  Wherever you will be in September 2018, please know that we appreciate your interest in The Fletcher School!

 

In Friday’s post, I provided the information that applicants who are not offered admission in this round can use to understand their decisions.  Today, as the staff creeps ever closer to being ready to release decisions, we’ll look at the different categories of admission.

Within the next week (and we’re really working as fast as we can), many Fletcher applicants will learn that they have been admitted for September 2018 enrollment.  Some of the offers of admission, however, will be accompanied by a condition.  The first thing to remember is that we don’t bother to admit someone conditionally unless we’re very enthusiastic about other aspects of the application; don’t let the condition diminish your sense of accomplishment!

What is the basis for a conditional offer of admission?  After reviewing a prospective student’s application, the Admissions Committee may suggest the applicant needs further preparation before enrolling at Fletcher.  We’ll make that preparation a condition of admission.  The most frequently employed conditions require that, before starting Fletcher classes, the student should improve:

  • English language proficiency
    We tend to be inflexible about the nature of the pre-Fletcher English training, for reasons I hope are obvious.  (In case they’re not as obvious as I think, I’ll spell it out:  No one can succeed in Fletcher classes with weak English skills.)
  • Foreign language proficiency
    There’s more flexibility around foreign language training for native English speakers.  We’ll ask students to choose the best program for their level and their choice of language — there are too many variables involved for us to dictate any particular option.
  • Quantitative skills (MIB program only)
    We will suggest several options for those who face this requirement.

The remaining (majority of) admitted applicants will have no condition attached to their admission. Nonetheless, we’ll encourage everyone to do an honest self-assessment and brush up any skills (English, foreign language, quantitative) that might need brushing before starting classes.  No condition on your admission doesn’t mean you shouldn’t work on any shortcomings.

For the last few years, some students admitted to the MALD program have also been asked to focus on their quantitative skills.  This year, instead, we are going to put a greater emphasis on advising all incoming students so that they make the right course choices for their quantitative requirements.  We’ve been thinking for a couple of months about what this might look like.  In any case, no quantitative conditions on admission to the MALD program.

Beyond the conditions, there’s one other noteworthy aspect to the admit category:  Occasionally, we admit applicants to a program other than the one to which they applied.  Most common example:  You applied to the mid-career MA program, but you don’t have sufficient professional experience to meet Fletcher’s standard for mid-career.  On the other hand, you look great for the MALD program, so we’ll admit you to the MALD!

Our process would certainly be simpler if there were only one type of admit, but the option to attach a condition to admission is the difference between admit and deny for some applicants.  We would hate to turn away a highly qualified applicant who needs a little brush-up on English skills, but we would be obliged to do so if we couldn’t require pre-Fletcher English study.

The happy bottom line is that conditional admission is (once the condition is met) ADMISSION!  And we’re convinced that fulfilling the condition will enhance the admitted student’s experience at Fletcher.  So we’ll maintain our portfolio of admits, sometimes with conditions attached.

 

 

While readers are paying attention, but before you all get too anxious, I want to help you understand the options that the Committee on Admissions selected from when making admissions decisions.

In general terms, as I’m sure you could have figured out, the decision choices range from admission to no admission, with the offer of a place on the waitlist somewhere in the middle.  I’m going to write about these latter two options today, and I’ll focus on admission options on Monday.  I do this annually, but we have actually made a few changes for this year.

THE BACKGROUND

As I know you are well aware, we will not be able to admit everyone who applied to Fletcher for September 2018 enrollment.  There are two possible outcomes for those who aren’t admitted now.  One is to deny admission and the other is to offer the applicant a place on the waitlist, possibly resulting in admission later in the spring/summer.

When we review applications, we’re looking for a combination of academic potential, professional and international experience, and clear academic and career goals.  Applicants who are not admitted, or who are offered a place on the waitlist, might be missing one or more of those elements, or they might be a little weak in all of them when compared to the qualifications of admitted students.

THE PARTICULARS

For those not admitted: We’re always sorry to say goodbye to an applicant.  We’ve read your story and we know how important gaining admission to graduate school is for you.  The fact is that many of the students not admitted this year could be admitted in a future year.  We hope you will continue to develop your experience and credentials, and that we may read about you again.

Some applicants will receive a letter saying that, though they look great overall, we want them to gain relevant professional experience, and it’s the work history that stands between them and the admission they hoped for.  We’ll only use this decision option for applicants within about a year of their university graduation.  We encourage them to work for a couple of years, although (depending on their internship record) it could take more or less time for them to build their professional experience and become competitive applicants.

For those offered a place on the waitlist: Each year, we offer a place on the waitlist to a promising group — applicants whose credentials are solid overall, and yet just a little less solid than those of the applicants we’ve admitted.  (A waitlist is what it sounds like — a list of people waiting for a place to open up in the entering class.)  In some years, we admit a significant number of students from the waitlist.  Occasionally, we don’t admit any.  But most years we admit a few.  This is true for each degree program, and each maintains its own waitlist.

It can be difficult for waitlisted applicants to get a handle on what this decision means for them.  Understandably so.  For starters, what matters is not how many waitlist offers we make, but rather how many people decide to accept a spot on the list, and we won’t have that number until the end of April.  We don’t rank our waitlist, and when it comes time to make an offer of admission, we go back to the applications and review our notes.  Applicants offered a place on the waitlist can take until April 20 to decide whether to wait.  Most of our work with the waitlist takes place in May or June, though we’ll keep a list into the summer.

MOST IMPORTANT 

Contact us!  Whether an applicant is denied admission or offered a place on the waitlist, our door is still open for communication, and we hope you will contact us.  Increasingly, the Admissions Committee expects to see a record of correspondence from those who are applying for the second time.

Students who are not offered admission have the opportunity to request feedback on their application.  If you’re planning to reapply, I encourage you to ask for feedback this spring.  (That is, don’t wait until the month before your next application — you will want time to make improvements.)  We’ll accept feedback requests on May 1 and you’ll hear back from us within a month or so of your request.

As for the waitlist, trust that we’re well aware that no one wants to wait.  But for some applicants, the waitlist will ultimately result in admission.  We encourage you to make the most of this opportunity by taking the time to give your application a boost.  For example, you may have experienced changes in your education or professional life, and we want to know about it.  If you have new test scores (GRE/GMAT or TOEFL/IELTS) or grades for classes, please send them to us.  If you have changed jobs or assumed new responsibilities at your current position, send us an updated résumé.  Now’s your chance to shine up your application before we return to it when we evaluate the waitlist.

Although applicants who have accepted a place on the waitlist still have applications under active consideration, and we won’t offer feedback at this time, we are happy to chat with you in person or by phone.  Get in touch, and ask us if there is a special piece of information we need.

Finally, Fletcher welcomes applicants to reapply.  Someone who applies unsuccessfully, smooths up some of the rough points in the application, and reapplies in a subsequent year, has shown determination and a strong interest in the School — two qualities we love in our applicants.

On Monday, I’ll run through the different categories of admission.

 

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