Currently viewing the tag: "Application Boot Camp"

Way back in the August archives lives a week-long series that Christine and I put together to help you, dear applicant, with your application.  Consult our Application Boot Camp for tips on arranging supportive recommendations, writing strong essays, test scores and transcripts, and more!

I also wanted to pause for just a minute to tell you what’s happening around the Admissions Office.  Our first batch of applications for 2015 is trickling in, with the deadline for January enrollment coming up next Wednesday, October 15.  This will be our first opportunity to work with our new online application review system (exciting and nerve-racking in equal amounts).  We’re glad that the first batch of applications we’ll read on the new system is small enough to allow us to iron out some wrinkles.

Our travel season is in high gear, and it’s a rare day when every member of the staff is in the office.  We’ve already covered DC, Toronto, New York, the Pacific Northwest, Arizona, Utah, and Colorado.  Chicago, Minneapolis, San Diego, San Francisco, Tokyo, Seoul, Beijing, and other locations are still in front of us.  Having our application readers on the road complicates the January admissions process, but we always get everything done in time for admitted students to organize themselves to arrive here in mid-January.

Our student interviewers are getting into the swing of things, and we’ll soon be selecting students to serve on the Admissions Committee.  We also called on our Admissions Ambassadors to join visitors for lunch on Monday, during our Visit Day.

All in all, we’re enjoying hosting visitors at Fletcher, meeting prospective applicants on the road, and putting our systems together to make the admissions process run smoothly for everyone.

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Christine is one of the members of the Fletcher and greater Tufts team that has developed our new application.  For our last day of Application Boot Camp, let her tell you about it.

After months of hard work, we are thrilled to announce that our brand new application is live!  Why is this so great, you ask?  The application is user-friendly, simply designed, and intuitive.  There is no clunky interface loaded with instructions that seem to be in a foreign language.  There is no formatting that looks like the application came straight out of the 1980s.  Really, it is a dream, and I cannot wait for you to experience it for yourselves!

To enter the portal of excellence that is the online application, go to the Apply to Fletcher page on the Admissions site.  When you are ready, click on the Start an Application button in the right hand navigation, follow the simple instructions to create a profile, and get started!

Make sure to review the application instructions before diving in!  And please feel free to contact us with your questions as you go along!

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Cabot Intercultural Center

Admissions Boot Camp doesn’t lend itself to photos, but here’s one anyway — Fletcher on one of the beautiful days we’ve had this week.  And now we’ll return to business…

There are a few elements of the application that allow you significant freedom to determine their content.  The first (and most flexible) is your résumé — a great place to slip all sorts of information that you want to share with us.  Naturally, you’ll include all the usual elements — professional experience, academic background, etc. — but you can add details that you can’t otherwise fit into the application.  Some of this freedom comes from the amount of space you’ll have to work with.  You don’t need to feel limited to a one-page résumé; up to three pages can be fine, though longer than that is usually a negative.  You can then include descriptions (for example) of community work that is relevant to your application, or links to publications that you want us to look at, or a link to the website for your successful sideline knitting business, or a list of your relevant skills.

Use the résumé to help us understand your workplace, too.  If everyone uses an abbreviation for your organization, the résumé is a great place to spell it out for us, and also tell us what it does.  It’s really best to assume we don’t know — a lot of eyes will review your application, and it’s likely that someone will be seeing the name of your organization for the first time.  If the organization provided great preparation for Fletcher, you’ll surely want to tell us about it — don’t leave us guessing what you did.

For those of you accustomed to a longer c.v., I’d encourage you to look around for a sample of an American-style résumé.  It isn’t that we can’t deal with the c.v., but you’ll end up hiding some of the information you want to highlight.  You’ll find a zillion samples online.

Another area of the application (or application process) that allows you significant opportunity to expand upon your background is the optional evaluative interview.  I never know why people who live near Fletcher don’t at least try to schedule an interview.  The face-to-face meeting really can only help your application, and you’ll have the opportunity to gather information that gives a boost to your essays.  (In fact, I always suggest trying to schedule the interview before submitting the application.  Leave the door open to learning something helpful during your visit!)

For those who are located farther away, there’s really no reason not to do an online interview.  Yes, being recorded is a little awkward for all of us, but some nice crisp answers to our questions will, again, only help your application.  (Embedded in the mostly technical instructions for recording your online interview is the information you’ll be asked for.  Don’t say we didn’t prepare you!)

Both the interview and the résumé are the finishing touches for your application, allowing you to flesh out the story you want to tell.  As I suggested in my post about the essays, think about your application as a whole and slip the details in wherever they fit best.  Your résumé or interview might just be the best place.

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What role do recommendations play in a Fletcher application?  Well, from Fletcher’s point of view, a useful recommendation sheds light on a particular phase of an applicant’s background.  For example, the applicant’s transcript tells us that a student was successful as an undergraduate, but a professor’s recommendation can go much farther in telling us about the student’s experience.  From the perspective of you, the applicant, a useful recommendation affirms that you’re terrific, but also adds detail about your academic or professional experience.  Remember that we would like to see at least one letter from someone who can comment on your academic background.  Ideally, one letter will come from a professional contact.  The source of the third letter is up to you, but if you have been working for a while, a second professional recommendation makes the most sense.

Here’s a recipe for arranging supportive recommendations to accompany your application.

1. Choose your recommenders carefully.  If they don’t know you well, they won’t be able to write a good letter.  Ideally, this process will have started way before you find Fletcher’s online application, but if it didn’t, you can still make up for lost time.

2. Once you have selected the people you would like to ask for a recommendation, be sure to ask them directly if they can write a favorable letter.  Some recommenders would rather write the letter than acknowledge to a former student or employee that they don’t have anything (or anything positive) to say.  A useful technique is to invite them to tell you that now is an inconvenient time — suggesting that you understand they’re busy and they shouldn’t feel obliged to write.  This little bit of diplomacy may go a long way in giving those you ask a gentle way to say no.  We hate reading unfavorable letters that the recommenders should have declined to write.  And, of course, some people are truly too busy at a certain time to take on the additional task.  You want to be sure the letter will eventually arrive.  Someone who agrees to write but never gets around to it isn’t much help to you.

3. Related to the above, ask early, to give the recommenders time to write the letter.  You can keep an eye on their progress through the application management system.  It’s up to you to provide the gentle reminders that the recommender may need.

4. When you ask the recommender to write a letter for you, provide as much information as you can.  If it’s a former professor, send along a current résumé and maybe a piece of writing that you did for him/her.  For both academic and professional contacts, in addition to the résumé, you might want to include a draft of your personal statement, so that they will know what you are planning for your future career.  You should also provide a description of Fletcher (graduate professional school of international affairs) so that it’s clear what sort of degree you’re pursuing.

5. If there’s an aspect of your application that needs an explanation that you can’t find a place for, a good option may be to have your recommender provide it.  For example, let’s say that you worked several years for a small organization.  The recommender can tell us more about your employer than you have space for on your résumé.  Another example: let’s say that your academic record was good, but you started off a little wobbly.  Explain the situation to your academic recommender, and have him/her tell us about it.  Your professor will be familiar with your university and can provide insight into your background.

6.  Send a thank you note after the recommender has written the letter.  Send another thank you note after you have received your admissions decisions.  I hope that your attention to Application Boot Camp will bring you great results in the admissions process, but the reality is that you may be admitted to some programs and not admitted to others.  Send the thank you note regardless of how successful you were.  You may need that recommender again.  Whether you do or not, sending the thank you is just plain good manners.

In case it’s still unclear, I’ll close by saying that you’ll never be able to completely control the content of your recommendation letters.  But putting thought into the selection of your recommenders, and effort into informing them about your background and plans, gives you your best chance of ensuring your letters will be supportive and will meet the needs of your application.  Finally, if your recommender is unfamiliar with the process, consider pointing him/her to a previous post that we wrote with recommenders in mind.

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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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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