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This has been the post-admissions-decision week when I have felt most overwhelmed by the pace of work, made worse by a busy week at home that left no extra time to extend my work day.  Lengthy or detailed blog posts have been one of the casualties.

Today I’m going to share a few sentences that have come my way and that I think capture the nature of Fletcher.  The first comes from Ben Mazzotta, a member of the research staff of the Institute for Business in the Global Context who is also a graduate of the MALD and PhD programs, and who is about to embark on a new adventure on assignment for USAID.  In a note of farewell, Ben wrote:

It has been a privilege to work here, where so many people genuinely come to work in the morning with the belief that we can solve the world’s problems, and then set about doing exactly that.

For students, this is their school, but for faculty and staff, this is our workplace, and Ben has captured the reason why so many of us have dedicated many years to working here.

The second note also came from an alumnus, in this case one who has gone on to become the ambassador from Pakistan to Japan.  After hosting an event for newly admitted students in Tokyo, Ambassador Amil reported back on the brief speech he gave at the event:

My message was that Fletcher has given so much to us in building bridges of understanding and hope, and it is important to maintain that connectivity.  I made friends for life there!

We Admissions staffers are proud of the role we play in building the Fletcher student and alumni communities.  In a busy week, reading these brief but timely notes reminds us of the impact we hope to have.

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Ten days have passed since we released admissions decisions and it has been pretty much nonstop email since then, punctuated only by phone calls.  With spring break over, there will be a return to other commitments that take our time.

I worked quite a bit beyond my usual schedule last week, and I’m proud to say that I am caught up with my email!  As of Wednesday, that is.  I still have a batch of outstanding messages from Thursday through the weekend.  Yikes.

At the same time as we strive to help you gather information about Fletcher, I hope that you’ll understand if there’s a delay in our response.  I try to answer quickly the emails that only contain a simple question.  The messages that require chasing down information or creating documents definitely take longer.  Please be patient with me and my admissions pals.  We’re running/typing as fast as we can.

We’re looking forward to a busy Open House next month, but many admitted applicants can’t attend at that time and would like to visit on another day.  Of course!  Come over!  But just understand that the Admissions Staff won’t be here on weekend days.  We try to line up student volunteers, but sometimes there is so much going on here that it’s hard to find someone.  If you can be flexible in your timing, it’s a big help.  Sometimes we can even group a few visitors and put together an information session for you.  Again, we’ll do everything we can to facilitate your visit, but some requests are harder to satisfy than others.

Have you decided to accept a place on the waitlist?  We welcome your visit, too.  We’ll be able to give you a little extra attention if you wait until April 15.  Meanwhile, feel free to call or email.

Back to my inbox.  My goal for the day is to catch up on all the messages that arrived by yesterday.  With two long meetings today, that may still be too ambitious, but I’ll do my best!

 

Yesterday brought us the full range of late winter weather — from mild and dry in the morning, to mild and raining in the afternoon, to cold, windy, and snowy in the evening.  What’s important is that we have set a new record for annual snowfall, all the more remarkable because December and the first half of January and of March have been pretty much snow free.  Boston is such a competitive sports town that I was hardly the only person cheering for the record to fall.  All this winter hardiness must not be for naught!

This is spring break week, and most Fletcher students are not in the building today, though there are a few thesis writers in the library, and I chatted with a PhD candidate on our way in by bus this morning.  In the lead up to vacation, I heard about plans ranging from a relatively restful week near campus to hiking trips, to a few days on a beach somewhere.  And then there’s a group of 55 students who are traveling together in Israel and the West Bank to meet with prominent Israelis and Palestinians in the political, business, and security sectors.  (I hope to share photos when they return.)

As for the Admissions Staff — we’re all here, answering questions from applicants and reaching out to admitted students.  It’s both quiet and busy in the Office — not a bad combination for spring break week.

 

On the morning after we released our decisions, thank you to everyone for your interest in Fletcher throughout this past year!  Congratulations to those who were admitted!  And for those who were not, please stay in contact with us.  Our door is still open!

Once we had the packets in the mail, yesterday was a day of quiet desk- and inbox-clearing.  We know that today starts a new phase of the admissions cycle, and one of particular frenzy.  We’ll be reaching out to, and hearing from, our admitted students; the emails will fly.

Just as the coming weeks will be hectic for the Admissions Staff, they should also be busy for most of the students who were admitted yesterday.  Doing the research that results in the right decision for graduate school takes time.  You did your preliminary research before applying, of course, but now is when you make doubly sure that the program in which you enroll best matches your academic and career objectives.  Explore the course offerings in detail.  Learn about the student community.  You have a little over five weeks to gather information about Fletcher and other schools, and then to make a well-considered decision.  We’ll do our part to provide you with details by mail and other media, along with opportunities to visit the School, to help in your decision making.  And the Admissions Blog will continue to supply information about our wonderful community and rich intellectual environment.

Speaking for everyone on the Admissions Staff, we encourage you to learn as much as you can before making a final decision.  Of course, we hope you will choose Fletcher, but it’s even more important that September finds you in classes that move you toward your goal.  We welcome your questions!  And, congratulations, once again, on your admission!

 

While we toil away here, putting the finishing touches on our admission decisions, naturally we know that some of our peers are getting out ahead of us with decisions, building the anxiety among our applicants.  Maybe we’d rather be first, but more important, we want to be accurate and thorough, and to provide admitted applicants with all the information they need to make a decision to enroll at Fletcher.  So let me run through what you can expect to learn tonight, when we release decisions.  (All decisions, by which we mean decisions for all degree programs on every complete application that was submitted by the final March 1 deadline.  No trickling of decisions for us.  No releasing of decisions by telephone or email either, so please be patient until 6:00 p.m. U.S. Eastern time.)

First, 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 either click the “Start an Application” link on the Admissions website or the application link.  You’ll log in with the email and password you used when you created your application.)

I’ve already described the different decision options on Monday and Tuesday.  In addition to learning the admission decision, when admitted applicants log in, they will be able to find their scholarship award.  If you’re in a two-year program, the award is renewable for the second year.  (So a $10,000 scholarship is worth $20,000 for your full MALD or MIB.)  We make scholarship decisions based on a combination of merit and need.  That is, 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, to a lesser extent) among the admitted applicants.  Fletcher’s applicant pool is diverse in every possible way.

Beyond all that, let me just say that it is truly a pleasure to work with our applicants.  On the road, here at Fletcher, and through correspondence, Admissions staff members connect with hundreds of people who submit applications each year.  With some applicants, our connection goes back many years.  At the same time as the Admissions Committee’s mandate is to put together a class that will succeed at, contribute to, and benefit from Fletcher, there are many people who may not be admitted at this time but who we know will ultimately be great students.  I want to thank all of you for your interest in Fletcher and for reading the Admissions Blog throughout the year.

Packets!

Admitted student packets waiting for the post office pick-up!

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Having invited applicants who are not initially offered admission to stay in contact with us, I will now turn to those applicants who are admitted.

As soon as we can wrap up the application review process, many Fletcher applicants will soon learn that they have been admitted, and can join us in September 2015.  Woohoo!  We hope that Fletcher will be the next step you take as you craft your future career!

Some of the offers of admission, however, are accompanied by a condition, and today’s post is to clarify what those conditions entail.  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?  The Admissions Committee looks at the materials in an applicant’s file and makes certain assumptions, some of which lead Committee members to 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 foreign language proficiency, English language proficiency, or quantitative skills (MIB students only).

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.)  There’s more flexibility around summer 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.

Does this mean that, if we haven’t attached a condition, we’re absolutely sure your English skills are strong enough to cope with a heavy load of reading and writing?  Not necessarily, and now’s a good time to work on those skills.  Does it mean we’re sure you’ll pass the foreign language exam?  Definitely not.  Applicants who self-assess as having intermediate-level proficiency might have overestimated or underestimated their ability.  Work on those language skills before enrolling!  Not everyone who needs some practice will be admitted conditionally.

Beyond the conditions, there’s one other complication 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 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!  (There’s similar thinking behind offering MALD admission to a tiny number of PhD applicants who lack the master’s level study to enter the PhD program directly.)

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.

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As we edge closer to releasing decisions, I want to take a minute (and two blog posts) to tell readers about potential decision options.  This is an annual theme, but this year, reflecting the views of the Admissions Committee, I’m going to reframe the information.

But first let me interrupt myself to say that we’re still wrapping up the process and some time stands between now and when we release decisions.

THE BASICS

The unfortunate reality is that we cannot admit everyone who applies to Fletcher.  And there are two possible outcomes for those who aren’t admitted right now.  One is that the applicant might be denied admission, and the other is that the applicant could be offered a place on the waitlist (which might result 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 goals for study and a post-Fletcher career.  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 just a little weak in all of them, particularly compared to the overall qualifications of admitted students.

THE DETAILS

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.

It can be hard for waitlisted applicants to get a handle on what this decision means for them, which is understandable.  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.

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 that we may read about you again.

Some applicants to the MALD and MIB programs will receive a letter saying that, though they look great overall, we really want them to gain some relevant professional experience, and it’s the work history that stands between them and the admission they hoped for.  We’ll only use this “work deny” decision for applicants within about a year of their university graduation.  (This year, that means 2014 and 2015 grads.)  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.

MOST IMPORTANT 

Contact us!:  Whether an applicant is denied admission or offered a place on the waitlist, there’s one important thing I want to share, which is that 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 may want some 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, all members of the Fletcher Admissions staff know that the extra waiting is unwelcome.  But for some applicants, the waitlist will ultimately result in admission.  We encourage you to make the most of this opportunity by taking a little 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.

Tomorrow I’ll run through the different categories of admission.

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In the last few days I’ve contacted several applicants by email and haven’t heard anything in return.  I wish I could say that this has never happened before, but it’s sadly not unheard of.  In an age of Twitter, Snap Chat, and all kinds of other communications pathways, I know that email may not be your preferred medium.  On the other hand, it’s the way that Fletcher, and many (most?) other graduate schools will communicate with you.

All of that means that:

1) You should check your email every day and answer questions from your graduate schools immediately.

2) This is true even if you created your email address only for the purposes of applying to graduate school.  I appreciate that many people set up a new email address and folders for the application process, but you can’t simply enter the address in your application and then abandon the account.

3) There are people out there who might have been admitted, but who won’t be, because they haven’t sent along a certain key piece of information when we have requested it.

So, my friends, check your email daily.  Most days there will be nothing there from Fletcher or your other graduate schools, but some days you’ll find a message with a question.  And, eventually (next month — not right away), your email inbox is where you’ll find the news that your admissions decision is ready.

 

First, a note.  I’ve received emails from quite a few people in the last two weeks wondering when they’ll hear from us with the decision on their applications.  The answer is: not for a while!  We’re still mid-process — seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, for sure, but far from done.  Hang tight!

Liz and I are both at home reading today.  More accurately, Liz is reading, and I’m reading when I’m not writing a blog post.  Dan and I have already told you about our reading days.  Today the rest of the staff chimes in, survey style.  (Thank you to Kristen for providing the survey questions!)

Do you listen to music while reading?

Christine: Yes, something that is not distracting, though. Taylor Swift’s “1989” has been great background noise!  I’m also a fan of the iPod Genius mixes for anything moody and 90s (Matchbox 20, Goo Goo Dolls, etc.).

Kristen: On and off.  I find that some well-timed lively Latin American pop can help get me through a long afternoon.

Laurie: I find music very distracting when I am reading applications (or reading anything for that matter).  However, I do like the steady hum of my space heater.  The extra heat is a real plus as well.

Liz: I actually don’t.  I like silence, though sometimes a little background noise is nice.  More recently I’ve been reading during “snow days,” when Tufts has closed due to inclement weather, which normally is a rare occasion.  Given the weather, lately I’ve had the news on in the background while reading to keep up with the storm!  But usually, I don’t have any music, etc.

Favorite beverage to accompany your reading?

Kristen: Coffee, followed by some more coffee and perhaps a cup of coffee after that.

Laurie: I alternate between hot and cold beverages all day long.  Coffee in the morning (of course), cold water throughout the day, and then tea in the afternoon.

Liz: This depends a bit on the time of day! I’m a big fan of hydration, so I tend to have a large water bottle that I refill throughout the day.  In the morning I also will have a nice hot cup of coffee, and in the afternoon, I sometimes will make a fruit smoothie.  It breaks up the day and is a nice treat to look forward to!

Christine: Water, always water.  Sometimes a nice hot tea when the mood strikes.

Pet peeve while reading applications?

Laurie: My biggest pet peeve is when I misspell or mistype words when I am writing my notes.  Our new system does not have an auto correct and I always need to go back and edit my work.

Liz: My biggest pet peeve when reading is when an applicant doesn’t follow directions or pay attention to details within the essays.  We’ve seen it all as readers — including applicants whose essays are written for other schools.  A word to the wise: stick to the word limit, answer the questions we have asked and read through your essays to ensure you’ve uploaded the essay for the right school!  Attention to detail is important, and is something we keep our eye on.

Christine: Applicants not filling out their academic information completely.

Kristen: A cold room and a shoddy application.

What incentive do you give yourself to help make it through a pile of applications?

Liz: For me, my incentive is always food!  I won’t let myself eat breakfast until I’ve read at least a few files on a long read day.  The same thing is true for eating lunch or a snack.  I always make a “hot” lunch on read days as well, since I don’t normally do that during the week.  I usually will give myself a goal and when I meet that goal, my reward is a tasty treat.

Christine: If I get through five applications, I can take a stretch break.  If I get through 10, I can have a snack break!

Kristen: Coffee. Is the coffee thing coming through?

Laurie: Reading days are all about incentives!  Throughout the day I set reading goals to meet before getting a drink, eating lunch, moving to a new reading location, taking a shower, etc.

Your reading “mascot”?

Christine: Not really a mascot, but reading means I can cuddle up in my favorite blanket on the couch, and have the fire on when it is chilly.  It is especially idyllic when the snow is falling, which has happened a lot this reading season!

Kristen:  I’ve got two little kiddos, so seeing them (or even a picture of them) livens up the day.

Laurie: I do not have any mascots, but I do need my reading space organized to maximize comfort and efficiency before I can start.  I need pillows, a blanket, a place for my water, a stool for my feet and a surface for my mouse.  I rarely read at a desk or on a table because it is uncomfortable and slows me down.

Liz: I unfortunately don’t have a reading mascot; I do however have a favorite chair I sit in with my lap top.  The key to a great reading day is yummy food, a good lap desk, a warm blanket and cozy socks.  Reading days are one of my favorite things about my job!  We get to learn all about amazing applicants and help build, what we hope will be, a truly remarkable Fletcher class!

Since none of us have mascots that can top Murray for cuteness, here he is again:

Murray sunbathing

 

Ordinarily, Admissions staffers each dedicate one day a week to reading applications, and then fit in additional reading whenever they can.  Our schedule this winter has been hijacked by Mother Nature, and we’ve all found ourselves at home on snow days, grateful for the ease of grabbing files from our new online reader system.  Yesterday was one of those days, and Dan kindly sent me a report late in the afternoon.  As the only staffer with a resident dog or cat, Dan has the most photogenic reading companion.

It’s application reading season once again!  Regular blog readers know that we all have our routines to help us give quality reads to as many files as possible in a day.  The biggest change in those routines this year is physical.  In the past, a read day has involved an unwieldy stack of paper files, stretching ominously toward the heavens like Isengard (for those of you whose nerd alerts just went off, I swear I had to look up the proper spelling of “Isengard”).  Now the entire mountain of files is reflected conveniently on my computer screen.

Having our application system entirely online is, in most ways, totally sweet.  No carting around boxes of files!  No paper cuts (believe me, you do NOT want a manila folder paper cut)!  But with great power comes great responsibility, which in this case is that nagging realization that you always COULD read one more file.  The e-pile is always there taunting us.

breakfastMurray!Otherwise, though, a read day follows the familiar dynamics.  Breakfast: check.  And yes, I am lame enough that I end up eating the exact same thing I bring in to the office every morning.  Music: check.  For some reason I find Sigur Ros to be among the ideal soundtracks for reading.  Maybe I’m just hoping for a few apps from Iceland.  Murray: check.  Sure, he looks harmless now, but just wait until he starts making demands.  It’s important to read as much as I can early, before this monster takes over completely.

As always, I’m amazed by the quality of our applicant pool.  Balancing out the total feeling of inadequacy that reading Fletcher applications gives me is the knowledge that I’ll be getting to know many of these folks personally in the next year.  A full day of reading is intense, and ultimately tiring, but also very enlightening and inspiring.  It certainly beats a sharp stick in the eye.

Murray weather readyMurray usually gives me 15-20 files before putting forth his agenda items. Item #1: go outside:

With all the snow we’ve had recently, he needs to seriously suit up to go on a real walk.  The only other option is to quickly pop out into the trough we’ve dug in the snow in our backyard for him.  Poor guy looks like Moses crossing the Red Sea out there, so a full-on walk it is.  It’s a good head-clearing break for me, too.

I always imagine I’ll dive right back into reading once we get back into the house. Murray has other ideas, though:

Murray ready to play
You’ve submitted some fantastic reading material, Applicants, and I promise I’ll get back to it soon.  But first, I have an urgent plush-donut-toy-related matter to attend to.

 

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