As I mentioned last week, Application Boot Camp is a joint effort between my Admissions pal, Christine, and me.  Today, Christine gives you the skinny on test scores and transcripts.

Test scores and transcripts are two key parts of your application, and they can take time to prepare.  Let’s start by delving into what standardized tests are required.

All MALD, MA, MIB, and PhD applicants are required to submit scores from either the GRE or GMAT exam.  Fletcher does not use cutoffs for GRE or GMAT scores, as we review all applications holistically and the scores are just one part of the overall application; however, they are an important part, and should be taken seriously.  Preparing for the tests can be time consuming and some locations do not offer testing days as often as others.

A good strategy for picking a test date for the GRE or GMAT is to work backwards from the application due date.  Pick a test date early enough for the scores to arrive by the deadline, but also leave yourself time to at least familiarize yourself with the exam format (or even put in some serious review).  Do you want the option of taking the exam twice?  Be sure to factor in the extra time for two exam dates.  For applicants who have taken the tests more than once, we look at the highest score from each section.  Additionally, we require official test score reports that must be sent to us directly from the testing service.  This typically takes about two weeks, so if you are planning to apply by the January 10th application deadline, you should have your scores ordered by the end of December.  GRE and GMAT scores are valid for five years — after that you will not be able to order an official score report.

International applicants for all programs (including the LLM) may be required to take the TOEFL, IELTS, or PTE in addition to the GRE or GMAT.  You must submit this additional test if your native language is not English and you have not earned a university degree (undergraduate degree, or graduate degree lasting two or more years) in which English was the language of instruction.  A score of 100 on the Internet-based TOEFL (with sub-scores of 25 on each section), 7 on the IELTS (with sub-scores of 7 on each section), or 68 on the PTE is generally considered evidence of sufficient English language ability for admission to Fletcher.  As with the GRE or GMAT, it does take some time for these test scores to reach us, and you should plan accordingly.

TRANSCRIPTS are another central part of your application as they provide us with insight into your prior academic work.  A transcript is required for all previously attended undergraduate or graduate institutions.  (Note that we do not need high school results, regardless of where you attended high school.)  Transcripts are required for study-abroad semesters if the grades and course names do not appear on your home institution’s transcript.  If you transferred schools during your studies, you will need to provide transcripts from both the transfer school and graduating school.  Additionally, if your transcripts are not in English they will need to be accompanied by a certified English translation.  This means you cannot translate it yourself!  You will need to take the transcript to a certified translator, and then submit to Fletcher both the original transcript and the translation, accompanied by the translator’s signed and stamped declaration of a true translation.  A bank, post office, or university may be able to help you find translators.

Unlike test scores, transcripts can be uploaded to your online application and do not need to be mailed to us in hard copy.  (We actually would prefer not to receive any hard copies at this stage!)  You will need to upload a scanned copy of your official transcript.  We cannot accept a copy of your unofficial online print-out.  Like test scores, transcripts can take time to obtain and we would recommend that you start gathering these as soon as possible.

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The heart of the application to Fletcher is the essays — both the personal statement and the second essay.  Through the essays you give us your pitch for how you’re right for Fletcher and Fletcher is right for you.  I’d hazard a guess that all graduate schools would say roughly the same thing.

How should you approach writing the most important element of an application that may influence the trajectory of your professional life?  Despite the weightiness of the situation, my first suggestion is always the same:  Read the questions carefully and FOLLOW THE DIRECTIONS.

The two essays required for all Fletcher applications are:

Essay 1: Personal Statement (600-800 words)
Fletcher’s Committee on Admissions seeks to ensure that there is a good match between each admitted student and the School.

Please tell us your goals for graduate study at Fletcher and for your career.  Describe the elements of your personal, professional, and/or academic background that have prepared you for your chosen career path.  Why is The Fletcher School the right place to pursue your academic objectives and to prepare you to meet your professional goals?  Why have you selected the degree program to which you are applying?  If you are planning to pursue a joint degree, please be sure to address this interest in your personal statement.

Essay 2 (500 words maximum)
Share something about yourself to help the Committee on Admissions develop a more complete picture of who you are.

I acknowledge that these questions can seem challenging, but I also think that they’re straightforward and appropriate for an application of this sort.  Moreover, from vast experience, we know that applicants who organize their thoughts carefully will be able to stay within the word limits.  For the Personal Statement, the inability to write 600 words may indicate that you haven’t thought through your objectives clearly enough; more than 800 words means you need to use your favorite method for trimming back what you have written.

If you read the essay prompt carefully, you’ll note that the Personal Statement starts by asking you to look ahead to your time during and after Fletcher.  The other questions incorporated within the prompt are there to guide you to provide the details needed to convince us that your objectives are realistic and carefully considered.  (What is it about your background that makes your goals achievable?)  It will almost surely be a mistake if you start your narrative way back in your childhood (unless you quickly skip from age 6 to age 18).  Your professional trajectory probably didn’t begin until you were at least in your undergraduate studies.  Think carefully about the elements you want to include — make your essay a convincing argument, not a basket full of random thoughts.  (And leave off the footnotes — this isn’t a research paper, and you should include your definitions and references (if truly necessary) in the body of the essay.)

That second essay question — so vague and unhelpful, right?  Well, maybe.  But here’s how you should approach it.  Before you start writing, think about all the other information that you’ve already loaded into your application.  What else can you say that will add to your argument that you’re a good match for Fletcher and your future career?  There’s no universal best answer to the question, but a poor choice of topic is one that doesn’t link in any way to your goals, your background, or the special qualities you would bring to Fletcher.  Remember that we love enrolling a diverse group of students.  Help us understand who you are.

Beyond all of the above, it’s really important (and presumably obvious) that you need to check over your writing. There’s no excuse for misspellings, and we cringe when we read the name of one of the other fine schools of international affairs that an applicant forgot to swap out when using the same essay for multiple applications.  (Huge frown for that scandalously common error!)

An interesting annual observation is that many admitted students do a much better job of articulating their goals in March conversations than they did via the application in January.  I’m going to guess that this is, in part, because they didn’t take enough time to prepare their essays.  So my final word of advice is to start early.  Think through your objectives and how you want to express them.  Write a first draft and let someone else read it.  If your goals aren’t clear to your first reader, they won’t be clear to us either.  When you have a final draft, triple check it for stupid (and not-so-stupid) errors.

And those are my tips for the essay.  All common sense, really, but critical for convincing the Admissions Committee that your objectives and Fletcher are the perfect match.

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There have been several interesting stories this week about triple Jumbo Nahid Bhadelia, who completed her MA degree at Fletcher and her MD degree at Tufts University School of Medicine in 2005, after graduating from Tufts Arts and Sciences in 1999.  As she prepares for a trip to Sierra Leone to work with Ebola patients, Nahid has been profiled in the Boston Globe and on Boston’s local CBSNBC, and ABC, stations, as well as on MSNBC, WBUR, and in a piece in the Huffington Post that describes the disease in detail.

Though the current circumstances are extreme, Nahid exemplifies the professional profile of our MA-MD graduates.  Just as Emerson Tuttle wrote in the blog this spring about the MA-DVM dual Fletcher-veterinary degree, the relatively small number of students for whom the MA-MD is the right fit are seeking a particular path for their career — one where the international dimension is inseparable from the medical/veterinary core of their work.

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Applicants, listen up!  My Admissions pal, Christine, and I have been cooking up a week of tips and suggestions to help you as you think about your application to Fletcher for January or September 2015.  We’ll be running through all the key parts of the application and we strongly encourage you to pay attention!

Christine and I have been thinking about this little feature since the summer began, actually sitting down to write it only last week – yes, even we procrastinate!  We’re calling it Application Boot Camp, and here’s the schedule:

Monday: Writing good essays

Tuesday: Test scores and transcripts

Wednesday: Arranging for supportive recommendations

Thursday: Finishing touches – interviews, résumés, and other things under your control

Friday: Using the online application

The posts will be tagged so that you can read them now and refer back later on to double check that you’re following our instructions.

See you at Boot Camp on Monday!

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At the end of the spring semester, Liam, one of our student bloggers, offered an end-of-year post.  I eagerly grabbed it, but I’ve held it until now because it reflects both Liam’s first year at Fletcher and also his suggestions for incoming students.  I’ll just note that Liam wrote his post when the Red Sox season was looking a little brighter than it is now!

Sitting here, finally having some time to reflect on the blur that is the spring semester, I’m at a loss to describe what an incredible experience my first year at Fletcher has been.  A few words come to mind — demanding, challenging, (extremely) busy — but what it really boils down to is one of the most remarkable and rewarding years I’ve had.  From making new friends, to learning an incredible amount about the world in which we live, to taking the time to really comprehend my life’s journey to this point, this year at Fletcher was incredible.  Taking all that into consideration, I thought about the experiences I’m glad I’ve had both in and out of school, and I wanted to share a few “musts” for students at Fletcher.

1.  Go to Fletcher events.  From culture nights, to the Blakeley Halloween party, to The Los Fletcheros concerts, to simple gatherings of friends on a Friday, some of the best times to be had at Fletcher are outside the classroom.  Taking the time to relax and get to know my classmates has been so incredibly rewarding.  Time goes by pretty fast here and it will be over before you know it, so enjoy it while you can.

2.  Go to the Boston Marathon.  I was blessed with the opportunity to run this year through the Tufts Marathon Team, but if running for four(-ish) hours is not your cup of tea, experiencing the event is still an absolute must.  Over a million fans lining the street for over 26 miles, coming together in support of the city and the runners, was just an indescribable thing to see.  The Boston Marathon is, in my eyes, the most egalitarian sporting event in the world and it is not to be missed.

3.  Go watch the Red Sox.  I might be a bit biased as a life-long Sox fan, but anyone who spends time in Boston should experience Fenway Park.  Especially after the Sox won the 2013 World Series, taking in an afternoon or evening at “America’s Favorite Ballpark” is a great distraction from school, and singing “Sweet Caroline” with 36,000 friends is pretty great, too.

4.  Get to know Boston.  Boston is so full of history and culture — it’s critical to get out and see it.  Running along the Esplanade on the Charles River, exploring the Freedom Trail, relaxing at Boston Common, going to concerts — there is so much to do year-round in the city, so putting down the books and getting out is something you just have to do.

5.  Get out of Boston.  New England offers a ton of things to do.  Whale watching off Cape Cod, skiing in Maine, hiking in New Hampshire, seeing the foliage in the fall, these are just a few of the awesome things this area of the country offers.  Taking a backpacking trip out in the Berkshires during spring break was probably the most relaxing thing I’ve done in the past year, and it was vital to helping me reset to finish the semester strong.

In summary, it’s been an incredible year — one I wouldn’t trade for the world — and I’m looking forward to a 2014-15 academic year that is just as incredible and memorable.

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The few students at Fletcher for the past two weeks were in the GMAP program, but they took off during the weekend.  Next up for GMAP:  the mid-program residency in Tallinn, Estonia for the students who started the program in March.

Though the GMAP students may have gone, the Fletcher staff is not alone this week. The MIB pre-session starts today!

All incoming MIB students are required to take the pre-session, but it is open to new and continuing students in other programs as well.  The pre-session wraps up just in time for new student Orientation, meaning we’re within two weeks of a full house.  I’m looking forward to it, even as I’m scrambling to wrap up some summer projects!

 

I’d like to draw your attention to the Fletcher Forum website, which includes several articles posted in recent weeks.  (Forum writers and editors never rest!)

Click through the photos on the front page, and you’ll find:

The Peace Corps We Deserve, by Emily Cole

It Still Takes a Network:  Defeating the Progeny of al-Queda in Iraq, by Travis Douglas Wheeler

How the Internet Became a Focal Point for Espionage, by James Lewis

A few weeks back, I pointed readers toward the book lists that I had compiled in past years for incoming students.  Along the way, I was included (essentially for eavesdropping purposes) in an email discussion among a few professors, who were each considering what books might be included in a list of foundational readings for their corner of the International Affairs field.  A more complete list may become a reality in the future, but for now, I wanted to share the introductory list.

Ian Johnstone, Fletcher’s academic dean, recommended this “short list of influential IR books that spill over into international law and organizations”:

Kenneth Waltz, Theory of International Politics
Robert Keohane and Joseph Nye, Power and Interdependence
Martha Finnemore and Michael Barnett, Rules for the World: International Organizations in Global Politics
Rosalyn Higgins, Problems and Process: International Law and How We Use It

Prof. Joel Trachtman noted:

“I would recommend Rethinking Social Inquiry, edited by Henry Brady and David Collier, as an introduction to how we know and argue in social science.  For an introduction to international law, there’s Sean Murphy’s Principles of International Law.”

Prof. Michael Klein wrote:

“For a background book, I would suggest Alan Blinder’s book on the financial and economic crisis, After the Music Stopped.”

Finally, for this very short list, Prof. Alan Henrikson said:

“My top candidate for inclusion on such a list now is Robert Gates, Duty, a truly instructive book about American government and much more, including personal ethics and the dilemmas of public policy.”

Naturally, I’m still not assigning reading for blog readers, but I wanted to share what I had learned.

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In case you missed it, Fletcher compiled a set of videos reflecting the Best of 2013-2014 at the School.  (More specifically, the videos share some highlight moments from the year’s conferences and visitors.)  Check ‘em out!

 

A few pieces of news worth sharing have passed my way recently.

First, Tufts University’s news service recently highlighted the thoughts of two Fletcher faculty members.  In a recent “Tufts Now” newsletter, we read Dean Bhaskar Chakravorti‘s ideas regarding the future of money, and also Prof. Kelly Sims Gallagher‘s views on how the U.S. could take a lesson from China on competing in the clean-energy market.

For that matter, and this is actually BIG news that I have neglected, I should also note that Prof. Gallagher will be on leave from Fletcher in 2014-15 to work in The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.  She is serving as Senior Policy Advisor and will be working on climate change and energy policy, as well as international climate policy.  You can read more here.

This week, I heard from two continuing students whose writing has been picked up by major publications.  Emily Cole wrote a letter to the editor of The New York Times about health care for Peace Corps Volunteers, a topic the Times has been covering lately.  Ameya Naik wrote a column for Mint, the Indian edition of the Wall Street Journal.  He pointed out that one hyperlink in the piece (“modern terrorism”) takes you to a Huffington Post column by another continuing student, Tara Dominic.  Ameya also has a blog, which is a combination of his own writing and compiled writing of other people.

 

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