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I’m on my way to the last MALD/MA Admissions Committee for this year.  We’re starting 30 minutes early to be sure we can finish our work.  When we wrap up, we’ll have a celebratory cake (Shhhhhh!  Don’t tell the Committee members.  It’s a surprise!) and we’ll debrief and talk about ways to make the process even smoother in the future.  All of the different degree program Admissions Committees will be wrapping up by next week, and we’re starting the final phase of the decision-making process.

Meanwhile, this week was swallowed up by a slew of projects, and I’m turning, a few days later than I would have liked, to writing posts to help applicants make sense of the various admission decisions.  I think it’s really important to do this well in advance of the release of decisions, so that everyone has a chance to digest the information.  Despite having missed my mid-week target, today I’ll share some info about what happens when an applicant isn’t admitted.  Because, much as it saddens us, saying “no” is something we need to do.

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 denied admission 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.

Because gaining admission is your objective, falling short will inevitably feel like bad news, but we do make one distinction among those who will not be offered admission this year.  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 2013 and 2014 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.

Here are two points to file away, in case you may find them useful later this year.  The first is that Fletcher will provide feedback to applicants.  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.

The second is that 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.

Next week, I’ll turn to the waitlist and the various versions of admission.

 

No Faculty Spotlight feature today.  I’m going to take a couple of weeks to collect more entries and load them into the blog format.  Meanwhile, Kristen and I spent a little while in the Hall of Flags on Monday, meeting new friends and catching up with old ones.  For those who haven’t yet been for a visit, the Hall of Flags is the “town square” of Fletcher — everyone goes through there at some point each day.  We reserved ourselves a table (by which I mean I stuck a note on it, saying that Admissions needed the table at 12:15), and we set up.  Kristen was my Wrangler/Photographer.  I asked the questions and took notes.  Keeping things simple and casual, we just asked everyone what they’ve been up to.  It’s a small sample, but it’s clear that students and professors both have a lot going on.

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Kelsey (MALD): We’re both working on the Diplomat’s Ball fundraiser this week.  It’s an activity auction, where students volunteer their skills, and other students bid on them, and it will help reduce Dip Ball costs.  Some of the skills are cooking meals for other people, going rock climbing, and learning about how to drink whiskey.  And then there are midterms.  And my thesis.

Stephanie (MALD):  I need to remember to get a haircut some time in the future.  And I’m going to try to work with a professor for a conference this semester on state failure in Africa.

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Jake (dual MALD and JD): I went skiing last weekend at Killington.  This week I’m doing my problem sets for various classes and working on a Harvard Law and International Development Society project.  This weekend, I’m probably going to the zoo with my 13-month-old daughter.

(Jake explained that the Harvard Law and International Development Society draws students from around the Boston area, including from Fletcher.  Kristen and I noted that it’s not uncommon for the out-of-class activities that students pursue to involve homework.  A happy nerdiness.)

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Becca (MA): I just found out that we’re moving to Japan for three years.  I’m a little bit overwhelmed right now, finishing up all my academic requirements.  And I have two children.  I’ll receive my orders, pack it all up, and move over there.

(Here, Kristen, who is organizing a move of her own, but only across town, commiserated, and shared some of her own move-induced anxiety.)

Becca:  You can’t control everything.  (Becca is in the Marine Corps.)

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Peter (MALD):  I just got off a call from our client for the consulting class, and we have a contact we’re supposed to reach out to this week.  And we have a deliverable due on Friday.

Terrell (MALD): On Thursday, I organized an LGBT event with BU, BC, Harvard, MIT, and Tufts.  We expected 40, and 130 turned up — it was a happy hour.  Everyone was very excited – it hasn’t been done in a few years, and it’s going to be a great way to build community and make connections.

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Prof. Chakravorti: Last week was an interesting week because in one day, I got a sense of the full span of Fletcher.  In the afternoon I was talking to Dr. Mowaffak al Rubaie, the Fletcher Statesman-in-Residence and a former Iraqi National Security Advisor, about establishing a chain of KFCs in Baghdad.  The broader topic was examining business as a stabilizing force in post conflict zones.  Then I spoke with Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen from Google on how the new digital age is spreading power to the periphery of society, where everyone has power in their hands in the form of their smartphones, and what this digital rebalancing of power is going to mean.

(Eric Schmidt is the chairman of Google, and Jared Cohen is the director of Google Ideas.)

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Laura (MALD):  Here’s what my day looks like.  Wake up at 7 a.m. for a call to Nairobi; help organize a silent auction for the Diplomat’s Ball; study for my class on education and armed conflict; bake a birthday cake for a military fellow; turn in an econometrics problem set; attend a fund raiser for the Fletcher Marathon Team; and read my Strategy and Innovation business cases.DSCN1745Prof. Drezner:  I’m finishing the second edition of my zombie book.  (Prof. Gallagher, who indulged us in a previous Hall of Flags visit, then hurried him along to some event that had them both looking pretty spiffy.)

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Michael (dual MA-MD): The Social List has been boring this year, so I instigated some arguments about the situation in Ukraine, and I think we had some positive outcomes.  I asked, why is it really in our interest to care about this?  People got upset, they wrote back.  As an aspiring doctor, I feel you have to be realistic about the options you have, and if you don’t understand your options, you’re not qualified to handle the job.

Anna (MIB):  It’s very nice to be in a place where you can have many different points of view, especially very extreme views, because it’s through discussion that you better understand complex topics.

And with that, Kristen and I headed back to our respective corners.  I always enjoy my HoF sessions.  Maybe there’s still time for one more later this spring.

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The Tufts Energy Conference is still coming up this weekend, and the spring semester is always loaded with activities that were planned throughout the academic year.  Today (sticking with the environment theme), there’s “Fletcher’s Warming Arctic Conference,” which will start off in the Aidekman Arts Center.  Why the Arts Center?  Because Aidekman is the host of a timely exhibit, Seeing Glacial Time: Climate Change in the Arctic.  I haven’t been over there to check out the exhibit yet, but I plan to visit one afternoon.  (The exhibit was among the Boston Globe‘s picks of the week a little while back.)

Shifting gears to a warmer part of the world, and looking ahead about a month, Fletcher will host “Turkey’s Turn?” on April 10 and 11.   The timing is right for admitted applicants to include the conference during an exploratory trip to Fletcher.  Keep it in the back of your mind, or go ahead and reserve a spot.

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As I mentioned last week, nearly all applications have been read twice now, which means they’re hurtling down the track toward final decision-making and processing.  For now, I’ll need to stay annoyingly cagey on when decisions will be released, but we know it will be around the middle of March.  We’re not quite close enough to give a specific date, and we have also been plagued with technical problems through much of this year so we want to leave ourselves some wriggle room.  (Happily, most of the technical troubles have resolved in the last few months, and we’re optimistic that all will go smoothly.)

An applicant asked me recently about the reading process.  I think that each of our Committee readers has a slightly different approach toward an application file, but that ultimately most of us read from front to back.  We arrange each application in a standard way (application form, résumé, transcripts, test scores, essays, recommendations, correspondence, interview report), and it’s just easiest to go through the pages one-by-one.  That said, there’s a lot of flipping back and forth.

What have we been looking for?  The bottom line is always that applicants need to be able to succeed in the classroom.  In some cases, there’s perfect confluence between undergraduate transcripts, test scores, and recommendations.  In other cases, a student may have slipped up a bit as an undergrad, and we’ll rely a little more heavily on the test scores and recommendations.  Or an applicant may be a poor test taker, and we may set aside the test scores, in favor of the transcript.  In any event, we’re looking hard at all the data.

Beyond that, we want to admit students for whom Fletcher is a good match and who, with the benefit of their Fletcher education, are likely to achieve their goals.  For this information, we’re looking at the essays, recommendations, past professional experience, and even the academic record.  (Some applicants travel a linear road from undergraduate studies, through professional experience, to Fletcher and beyond.)  Of course, we also look to bring into our community people who will add to the richness of the student and alumni groups.

None of this information is new, of course, and I’ve written about it before.  What’s new, instead, are the blog’s readers (applicants).  If there’s a message that I’d want you to take away from this post, it’s simply that we look carefully through all the materials in an application.  For some of us (who are bad with names), your identity will be more tied to your experience than what others generally call you.   (As in “remember that guy who went to Tufts undergrad and then did Peace Corps in Ecuador?”)

I know that the decision process remains a mystery to most applicants, so I hope this post at least reassures you that every application is reviewed thoroughly and carefully.

 

The weeks are speeding by for the Admissions staff, but today I’m going to slow things down to give readers an update on what we’ve been up to.

Like most of the rest of the east coast of the U.S., whatever we’ve been doing, both on the weekend and on weekdays, has been interspersed with snow shoveling.  In an unusual reversal, there are areas well south of here that have received more snow than the Boston area (where, though we love to complain about the weather, the fact is that we are having an average snowy winter with an unpleasant snow-laden couple of weeks recently).  But I digress…

So, admissions.  What’s happening with the process for Fall 2014 applicants?  Well, nearly all applications have been read, and most of them have been read at least twice (generally by a student, followed by a staff member, and then sometimes by a professor).  With everything else going on, I’ve missed my chance to cajole one of my Admissions friends into writing about a day of reading applications at home.  Fortunately, Liz anticipated that I would ask and took some pix of her preferred reading set-up, which seems to involve creating a lovely environment:

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keeping herself hydrated

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and arranging the applications in some secret order to break up the reading.  (We all have our own special way of approaching a stack of files.)

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As I said, most of the reading is complete, but the deciding is still in progress.  All the admissions committees for the various programs have sessions coming up, and it will still be several weeks before decisions have been made on all applications, and then another few weeks before decisions are announced.  (Not to mention that the MIB and LLM programs will receive a small batch of additional applications by the March 1 deadline.)  That said, everything is moving along.

A side note, related to Liz’s pile of files.  It’s our plan (ardent wish) that this will be the final year when we’ll be working with paper applications.  The contract has been signed to develop a new application and review system.  Not having to lug home applications will make a big difference to us readers.  (“Thank you,” say my shoulders.)  Equally important, we think that we’re going to be able to structure the application to be friendlier to our applicants.  More on all of that later in the spring, when we have firmer details.

From here, we’ll finish off all of the reading and deciding (on both admission and scholarships) and start the data input process that ultimately results in applicants learning their decision.  Frankly, for those of you sitting at the edge of your seat waiting to hear from schools, there’s still a long slog in front of us.  But at least I can assure you that, almost surely, someone has “met you” by reading your application, and the end of your waiting will be coming soon.

 

HollyMother Nature is up to her wintry wiles again, and the University will be closed today.  It’s a heavy snow that is weighing down the little holly bush near my house, and telling me that it’s already time to shovel the paths.

I’m sure that Fletcher students will find a way to enjoy their snowy day, and we’ll all be back tomorrow.  Stay warm, East Coasters!

 

Having a chance to meet some admitted students was a nice treat yesterday.  It’s fun to reconstitute the paper applicants back into real people.

And speaking of application reading/reviewing, our work continues.  Monday to Thursday, there’s generally a staff member at home, tackling a mountain of applications.  Since we had visitors yesterday, today both Liz and Laurie are reading at home.  On Thursday, both Dan and I will be grabbing files.  We also manage to squeeze in a little in-office reading, though some of us (Dan) are better at that than others (me — perpetually prone to distractions).

So, with everything moving along, I thought I’d share two quick notes today.

The first is that there’s a LinkedIn page for Fletcher that provides some information on careers of our alumni.  Of course, it only reflects the careers of alumni who have linked to it, but it’s still loaded with interesting info.

The second note is that a current student let me know about a blog she has been compiling on India’s upcoming election, which will run from April to May.  Shruti is a second-year MALD student who told me the blog analyzes election data, and she has been using the GIS skills she learned at Fletcher to aid in her analysis.  Read Shruti’s thoughts during the lead-up to the vote on her Indian Election Blog.

 

We’re holding our Visit Day today for admitted Early Notification applicants.  It’s like a mini Open House: many of the same activities we’ll offer to admitted applicants in April, but with much less competition for attention.  With fewer than 20 visitors, we have a nice opportunity both to meet some of the people we’ve been reading about and also to ensure they have all the information they need.

Between the visitors and everything else going on, it’s a busy day and I’ll make this a short post.  For those who may be looking for a little more content, you can check out Secretary of State John Kerry’s remarks at the Munich Security Conference, in which he makes reference to Fletcher.  Secretary Kerry knows Fletcher well, having given the commencement speech in 2011, back when he was the long-serving senator from Massachusetts.  (If you prefer, you can also read the transcript of his remarks.)

 

Our Admissions Committee meeting will start in 45 minutes, but I’m going to try to sneak in a blog post before I head over to the meeting room.  I wanted to update you on news from some of our blog friends.

First, our student bloggers.  They’re back on campus and I’ve been giving them a little time to settle into classes before I start cajoling them for posts.  Meanwhile, if you weren’t in Guatemala City to hear it yourself, you might like to check out Roxanne’s latest TEDx talk.

Also making news — our friend Manjula.  Trying to follow his comings and goings via Facebook, I see that he has spent an extended time in Sri Lanka generating support for Educate Lanka.  At least one of the goals of his trip was to organize a charity “Walk for a Cause,” which took place last weekend.  Along the way, he was interviewed in Sri Lanka’s Sunday Times, and also by Young Asia Television.  (No translation available, but you’ll get the idea.)

Finally, and closer to where I’m sitting right now, our own Christine has made Fletcher news, in that she has been promoted to Admissions Coordinator.  At the moment, she is wearing two different hats (her old one and her new one — both stylish, of course), but that leaves little time for writing Consult Christine posts.  Once she settles into only one job at a time, she can start up writing again.

So that’s the round-up!  And I’m off to the Admissions Committee meeting.

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One of the objectives of the Admissions Blog at this time of year is to fill the long silence between when you submit your application and when you receive your admission decision.  On the other hand, it’s hard to make our January-to-March activities sound interesting.  We process applications.  We read applications.  We decide on applications.  We do other stuff, including planning for next year before we’re even done with this one.  Blog readers should rest assured that we are making progress on all of our work.

But applicants should not interpret the long silence to mean that they needn’t think about their graduate studies.  The hard work of preparing applications may be complete, but you’ll be doing yourself a favor if you set yourself up to make an informed decision in April.  To that end, here are some things you can do or think about while you’re waiting for graduate schools to make their decisions.

1.  If you didn’t have a chance to visit Fletcher (or your other schools) in the fall, it’s not crazy to plan a trip for the coming months.  We hope that admitted applicants will participate in the April events we organize for them, but if you want to see the school in everyday mode, don’t hesitate to come over.  We’ll be offering a few information sessions each month, and you’re always welcome to attend a class, whether or not we have scheduled activities.

2.  Go back to the websites of your selected schools and make sure your interests are truly in line with what the schools offer.  Based on the questions we receive in the spring, we know that many applicants have not thought through their choices quite as carefully as would be optimal.  Or, equally possible, their interests have migrated a bit in the months since applying.  Either way, check over the information so that you’re ready to make an informed choice.

3.  If you sent off your application without a firm financial plan in mind, now is the time to think about money.  Are you eligible to take education loans?  How big a loan burden are you willing to take on?  Are there any scholarships out there for which you’re a competitive applicant?  Every graduate school has its own scholarship policy, but in the world of professional schools, scholarships for full tuition and living expenses are relatively rare.  Even if you receive a full tuition scholarship, how will you cover all of the living expenses that a year in graduate school involves?  What if you don’t receive full tuition, as is the case for the majority of Fletcher students?

4.  Related to #3, now is a really good time to save your pennies.  I’d even suggest a starvation spending diet, so that you can build a cushion for the lean earnings period of graduate student life.  This may be counter-intuitive.  Some people might think that now is the time to enjoy having an income, but the additional funds will be so much more valued when you don’t have money coming in.

So, broadly speaking, I’m suggesting information gathering and financial planning as two worthy activities for the coming months.  Making a decision in April will be ever so much easier when you have all needed information in place.

 

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