Currently viewing the tag: "Application"
We tinkered with our application essays this year. Our intention was to ensure applicants would provide the information we need in the personal statement (Essay 1). The unintended result is that we’re hearing a lot of questions about Essay 2. For those of you who haven’t started the application yet, Essay 2 asks:
Share something about yourself to help the Committee on Admissions
develop a more complete picture of who you are. (500 words, maximum)
What applicants are asking is what, exactly, we really want them to tell us in answer to Essay 2. The implication of their question is that we’ve left the question too structureless.
As I’m sure savvy blog readers would expect, I’m going to tell you that there’s no correct or expected answer to the essay question. And I’d understand if you roll your eyes while muttering blah, blah, blah in your heads. But it’s true: there’s no correct or expected answer to the essay question.
Still aiming to be helpful, I’ll suggest, instead, a way of approaching the essay. Think about the information you have provided in your application through all its parts. What dimension of you/your background might you still want to share? That is, don’t view the essay as a throw-away, and use it to fill in some gaps left after the rest of the application is complete.
Elaborate on your international experience. Share your thoughts on leadership. Talk about your hobbies (assuming there’s a link to your international affairs interests). Describe a challenge you have faced. Tell us how you needed to learn Spanish to speak to your rescue dog. Describe the importance of community to you. Tell us how your family upbringing made you the person you are. Provide more detail on the origins of your interest in international affairs. Write about your quest to cook the perfect dish from a country you love. Any of these approaches (and many, many others!) would be a nice addition to an application.
In past years, we’ve used essay prompts that resulted in a few interesting responses and a zillion similar ones. When we asked applicants to describe an item of particular importance to them, nearly all the responses were: passport, bookcase full of IR books, hiking boots, or backpack. We moved away from questions that draw such responses because we really want to know about you — not about what you think we want to know about you.
So, friendly applicants, choose a subject that boosts your application and go for it. There’s no correct or expected answer to Essay 2, and we’ll enjoy learning about what’s important to you.
For those folks who want to get an early start on their applications for January or September 2014 enrollment, please note that the new application is ready and waiting for you! And if you don’t complete the application in a single sitting, you will (of course) be able to save your work.
Tagged with: Application
Here’s a little update for readers planning to apply to Fletcher for 2014 enrollment.
First, you’ll want to note that the online application will be unavailable for most of August. To be honest, this is a good thing. There’s no benefit to starting now to fill in the blanks — wait until the new application is in place.
On the other hand, eager applicants might want to outline their answers to the essay questions. As I mentioned earlier in the summer, we have (for the first time in many years) tweaked the questions. We took one option from essay two and inserted it in essay one, leaving only one option for essay two. In other words, here are the questions you’ll be asked to answer on this year’s application:
Essay One: Personal Statement
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? (600-800 words)
Share something about yourself to help the Committee on Admissions develop a more complete picture of who you are. (500 words, maximum)
I’m happy to provide essay-writing tips. Tell me (in a comment below) what you’d like to know!
When I made my annual plea for staffers to write about their reading days, Dan jumped forward to volunteer. Which is excellent, because Dan has an adorable dog, and reading days are always enhanced by the company of an adorable dog. Here’s how things went last week for Dan and Murray.
There are lots of nice things about a day at home reading applications. Sleeping in a bit on a Wednesday is a treat. I also find it easier to focus on reading closely without the intrusion of various other projects. And when the weather reports in New England break out the phrase “bitter cold,” you know it’s a day made for staying in. Bring it on, applicants!
Now about that “sleeping in.” I live farther from Fletcher than some, so getting going at 7:30 feels almost like a weekend to me, though even our dog Murray isn’t awake yet.
Without fail, my first thought upon surveying a stack of applications is “this shouldn’t take too long.” Doesn’t look like so much, right?
A few things to keep in mind: 1. Note that my application pile is considerably larger than the ones in back, which are my wife’s high school English portfolios, still to be graded. To be fair, she’s been working through hers for the past several days, and each represents a semester’s worth of work. But still, my pile is bigger, so I win. 2. You may have heard elsewhere that we read every part of the application. Seriously. We really do. Some files go more quickly than others; while a decision is sometimes pretty easy to determine, many times I find myself picking through an application several times, and sitting and thinking about it for a few minutes before deciding. The point is that this stuff takes a while.
Reading Fletcher applications is fascinating and humbling. In the first few hours of my day, I’ve “met” World Food Programme staffers, Marines with multiple overseas deployments, fair trade researchers, clean energy specialists, a couple of Peace Corps volunteers, and an engineer focusing on post-Fukushima safety regimes, and I’m sitting here in sweats and a hoodie trying to avoid paper cuts. Time for some breakfast, I think.
Reading days are all about pacing. I like to make a bit of a dent in the day’s task before my first reward. On a sub-zero January day, the menu choice is a no-brainer – an egg white, veggie bacon and cheese breakfast sandwich, and a coffee refill. (Coffee isn’t part of the pacing/reward paradigm, if you were wondering. It’s considered a reading day staple food, and therefore is available at all times. This is cup #2). Applicants, I apologize for any errant grease stains I may or may not get on your files.
After another couple hours, it’s time for another break. On these frigid days, poor Murray doesn’t get to go outside as much as he’d like (which, in a perfect world, would be always), but he still needs a stretch every now and then, and so do I. It’s nice to take a breather, and having me energized and alert is to your benefit as an applicant.
Back at my reading station, I’m making progress. While I read about the experiences of Supreme Court clerks, gender-based violence researchers, and youth NGO founders, Murray is hard at work on his own project: sunbathing.
I find it’s easy to lose track of time on reading days. I can get into a groove and not realize that several hours have passed. I don’t really notice that my pile is dwindling, until it hits me that I’m on my last application of the day. Maybe it’s yours?
I feel a nice sense of accomplishment, and in serious awe of our pool of candidates. Murray, on the other hand, is harder to impress. Looks like it’s time to suit up for another jaunt into the frozen outdoors.
It’s Day One after the main application deadline: the printer is whirring and the files are forming. As an annual service to our applicants and the Admissions staffers who would otherwise answer applicants’ questions, this post gives you the information you need to remain patient for a few days while we compile and process your application. Please read it, and then, at the risk of sounding harsh, do not contact us for a few days. Right now, it’s a challenge to put our hands on any particular application, but hearing that over the phone about your own materials is unnecessarily alarming. Hold tight, and when you start to worry anew about whether you’ve done everything you need to, reread this blog post. Meanwhile, here’s the rundown of what has happened since you submitted your application, whether you followed my advice and applied early or waited until 11:59 EST last night.
1. Once you hit the online “submit” button, your application was “stamped” with the date and time. The electronic application then waits within the Embark system for your registered online recommenders to do their work. If all your recommenders have already submitted their letters, or if you haven’t registered any online recommenders, the application will be ready for us immediately, and we’ll upload it into our internal program. (If your recommenders haven’t done their part, it’s your responsibility to remind them that the deadline has passed.)
2. When your application (with online recommendations) is uploaded, you’ll receive an automatically generated email stating that we have received your application, and that you should wait ten business days before contacting the Admissions Office about any missing materials. The email also provides you with a username and password to access the Tufts Graduate Application Management System (GAMS). GAMS will be the best way to track your application. We’ll also be posting decision letters to your GAMS account, so hang on to your username and password! Remember that we don’t receive your application (and you don’t receive the email) if the application is stuck in Embark, waiting for recommendations. And emailing a member of the Admissions staff will generally give you only the information you can access yourself through GAMS. (After a few weeks, there’s more that we can do to help track materials down.)
3. Uploaded applications are printed in batches. Once we have the paper copy, we’ll create a file folder for you, giving you a tangible presence in the Admissions Office.
4. Meanwhile, Admissions Office staffers will open the daily piles of envelopes holding test scores, transcripts, letters of recommendation from recommenders who weren’t registered online, etc. We sort and file the mail. If the application hasn’t yet been uploaded, the paper materials will “wait” for it to emerge from the system.
5. Once we have your application in a file folder, we dig out the mail that has already been received for you and include it. Then we manually update your record in the admissions system to show what materials have come in by mail. You should track your application through GAMS, but we’ll also email you if there’s a document missing. This is the ten-day process I referred to in point 2 above. If you’re not patient, GAMS will alarm you by indicating we haven’t received anything at all. Until we manually process your application materials, the information in GAMS is not complete. Keep on top of things, but remember that the registering of your materials won’t happen immediately.
6. Your completed application is then given to Committee members to review, and you’ll receive your admission decision in late March.
Though the post-submit process hasn’t really changed for applicants or for the Admissions Office, we’re hoping that everything will come together more quickly than in the past, because we’ll be waiting for fewer transcripts. In another few weeks, we’ll know what the impact of this year’s tweaks to our process will be.
The bottom line: Make sure you monitor your application, but give us a little time to pull everything together. In only about two weeks, everyone who has submitted all the materials needed for an application should find accurate and reassuring information on GAMS.
Despite the looming application deadline (or, perhaps, because of it), the Admissions staff will be meeting off-site today to plan for the coming deluge and all that follows. Fortunately, Katherine thought ahead and has tips for those of you putting the finishing touches on your application.
The pace is really picking up here in the Admissions Office! Just as many of you are scrambling to pull together your applications by the big deadline — January 10 — we’re already busy processing the first waves of applications we’ve received. By now you’ve all heard your share of tips from other members of the Admissions Staff: Liz offered up suggestions on how to approach the new online interview, Christine gave her seasoned advice specifically for international applicants, and there’s even a blog category dedicated to Admissions Tips. As the admissions coordinator, I see every beautiful/messy/thorough/spotty application that passes through the office, so I thought I would offer up my advice on how to put all the physical pieces together to put forward your strongest possible application.
First, and you’ve heard this before, read the directions! It should be obvious from the application and the instructions exactly what you need to submit. The application inspector (Step 6) is a huge help. The instructions can be found in a lot of places, including here. (Read them now, even if you don’t plan on applying until next fall.) Remember to plan extra time for some pieces to reach us, such as test scores that need to come directly from the testing service.
Second, double-check your uploads! It’s rare that applicants submit two copies of their personal statement instead of both their personal statement and their essay, but it happens. Even more unfortunate is when an applicant uploads a draft of the personal statement, complete with comments we’re never meant to see.
Third, provide clear transcripts! We prefer to see a scanned copy of your official transcript as opposed to a printout of the online version. If, for some reason, you need to submit an online printout, please make sure it clearly states the institution you attended. We won’t give you credit for a transcript if it doesn’t have the school’s name! Remember to submit a transcript for each institution you listed on the educational institutions page (page 3 of the application form). And remember that, if we can’t read your transcript, your application will be incomplete and we are going to ask you for another one. Make sure it’s legible!
Fourth, use page 11! The Additional Information section is invaluable to you and to us. Use it to explain anything that may not be obvious in your submitted materials. Perhaps your study abroad semester is buried within a different school’s transcript. Perhaps you took a summer language course but it didn’t provide a transcript. Maybe you are currently enrolled in a class and the grade(s) will be available after our deadline. Don’t make us guess about these things — use the Additional Information section to tell us.
Fifth, make it clear who your recommenders are. There are two places on the application where you have to list their information: page 1 of the application form and step 5. Make sure that these sections match. If they don’t, I look like this: [imagine person sitting at a desk with a big speech bubble above her head filled with question marks].
Sixth, make sure your information is clean and clear. Capitalize your name. Spell out your street address. We know it’s a lot of work to put together a complete application: make it shine!
Seventh, don’t send duplicates. Feel free to upload an unofficial transcript if the official one is going to take longer to get to us. Please do not send us or email us all of the pieces that you already submitted online — if we are missing anything, we will notify you directly.
Eighth, standardized test scores are required. An application is incomplete without them. If you want your application to be complete, submit your official test scores. If you took them shortly before submitting your application, indicate your test date so that we can keep an eye out for them.
Ninth, try to get everything to us at the same time. We happily accept pieces, when appropriate, though mail and email, though in most cases you should be able to submit everything online. If we can pair everything up and complete your application at once, you’re golden! Having a complete file that follows the directions is a good way to indicate right off the bat that you’re prepared for the demands of a rigorous graduate program.
Finally, relax! If you’ve done all of these things, chances are you’ve submitted an excellent physical application. We look carefully at every application that comes in and we will assuredly reach out to you in the event we need anything. In this case, no news is good news.
Tagged with: Application
Christine just handed me an idea (nay, a plea) for today’s post. She told me that, as the staffer who answers the questions of most callers and emailers (particularly while our student interns are in the middle of exams), she has been fielding endless special requests this week, mostly related to taking and submitting results for the GRE/GMAT. Requests such as: Can I submit scores late? Can I take the exam after the application deadline? Can you waive the requirement for me, because I haven’t studied for the exam? Or because I graduated from college many years ago?
So, with Christine and all the applicants who take the exam in a timely way (and don’t make special requests) in mind, here’s the deal: Fletcher requires submission of GRE/GMAT scores because we find them to be a useful analytical tool, even though GRE/GMAT scores are never the sole basis for an admissions decision. Our expectation is that you will make your application complete as quickly as possible after the deadline. That is, you must submit the online application materials before the deadline, but supporting credentials (test scores, recommendations) can arrive a little bit later without having a negative effect on your application. Today’s date is December 13. If you’re aiming for the January 10 deadline, you have about three weeks to take the exam and still expect to complete your application in time.
(Note that, even within the structure outlined above, you can still see a typically Fletcher-ish flexibility. We could (but don’t) say we refuse to review an application if all materials don’t arrive by the deadline. We want to give our applicants every opportunity to put together a strong application. But that flexibility doesn’t extend as far as offering special arrangements to each of the thousand people Christine feels she has spoken to this week.)
Since many graduate schools have January deadlines, testing centers tend to be very busy this time of year. That is why, if you haven’t taken the test yet, you need to act RIGHT NOW and find a test date.
What happens if on January 10…January 15…January 20…February 1, your scores still haven’t reached us? Well, we’re just going to hold all your materials in a folder while we wait. Leaving your application in that endless purgatory is, let’s say, not a great strategy for obtaining admission.
As for all the other reasons people give for not wanting to take the exam (graduated long ago, math skills are rusty, etc.), I can only say that your fellow applicants would probably say much the same. No one likes taking these exams. We understand that. But like many unpleasant things in life, you simply need to do it. In this case, you also need to do it on our schedule — not because we seek to inconvenience you, but because not following our schedule may hurt your own chances of gaining admission.
On Saturday, October 27, my friend Joann was in her house, just north of New York City. She said to her son, Alec, that Hurricane Sandy was coming, and that they should submit all his college (undergraduate) applications RIGHT AWAY, so that they wouldn’t need to worry about the storm. Sandy arrived around mid-day on Monday (October 29) and knocked out Joann’s electricity until Friday, November 2, one day after the deadline that Alec needed to meet.
Dear blog reader, every year I beg applicants to submit their applications early. Do they listen to me? Well, some do. But 75% of our applicants do not. This year, I once again implore you to submit early, but if you don’t want to listen to me, then listen to Joann.
Lest I leave any doubt, I am not suggesting you submit an application that is incomplete or somehow wanting. Rather, I’m telling you to create a personalized deadline that is ahead of our deadline, and work back from there to ensure your application is perfect and complete. For example, if you’re aiming for our January 10 deadline, then:
January 3, complete the application form (short answers) while continuing to polish essays
January 5, add your essays to the application, and proofread everything
January 6, do something completely different that will clear your head
January 7, reread the application instructions and, with special attention to ensuring you have followed those instructions, review each part of your application
January 8, submit the application
January 9-10, in your head (not out loud, please), gloat about your timely application submission
If, like Joann and Alec, you’re concerned about the potential for technical problems, set your personalized deadline earlier than January 8, and start the final polishing earlier, too. The idea is to aim for a date that enables you to present a flawless document, but also leaves breathing room before the actual deadline. Remember, too, that meeting the deadline requires that you submit the online application (and included materials) by 11:59 p.m. EST (GMT-5) of the due date. If test scores or recommendations arrive slightly after the deadline, we’ll still consider your application to be on-time.
I assure you that this is good advice. But if you don’t believe me, ask Joann. Alec doesn’t yet recognize the value of his mother’s wisdom, but you can still learn from it.
Once again drawing ideas from the results of my little survey, today I’m going to talk about the application, and what a good application looks like. But first, exciting news! We have now officially launched our new online interviews! If you have already started an application, you’ll be given a link to access the interview site. Meanwhile, you can read all about it in this article from the Tufts Daily. I did a test interview myself. My suggestion: take advantage of the opportunity to record a practice video. I learned everything I needed to know by seeing my own mistakes in the test recording. (Note that there is no penalty to EN applicants who applied before we had the system in place. Those whose applications are deferred for reconsideration in the spring will be invited to submit an online interview.)
And now, turning to the application. The reader’s suggestion was actually to talk about what makes a good applicant, and I promise to return to that subject soon. But today, I want to talk about the application itself. The fact is that applicants who will apply in January can no longer make many significant changes to their credentials. Can you change your work history? Grades for your undergrad study? International experience? No. No. And no. So what power can you still exert over your prospects for admission? Well, you can make sure you submit a good application.
So what distinguishes a good application from a crummy one? Two key points. The first should be obvious, but apparently it isn’t: Follow the directions! Answer every question on the form thoroughly. Never (ever ever) say “please refer to résumé.” Be sure to list all your key professional experiences, even if they were unpaid. Don’t assume we don’t want to know about the two years you spent working in a laboratory when, by omitting this information, you make it appear you were unemployed for all that time. List your recommenders, even though you also need to register them through a separate part of the application. I could go on, but the point should be clear — complete every part of the application form with care.
And the advice is essentially the same for the essays. Follow the directions and make sure you have answered the questions. It’s very frustrating for Admissions Committee readers when they reach the end of the personal statement and still don’t know what the applicant wants to do at Fletcher and beyond. A frustrated application reader is bad news for the applicant. We know you want to recycle the same essay for different schools with different essay prompts. Go ahead and recycle selectively, but you still need to be sure to answer the question.
The second point may be slightly less obvious. Your application has many parts, all of which should work on your behalf. Make sure that each piece tells a little more of your story. Beyond the form itself, make sure your résumé is very clear. Avoid acronyms. We know that you know what your organization, Xybrav, does, but we don’t know, and you should tell us. Do you work for the UN agency UNRAITUSAL? Please remind us what that agency does. Remember that Fletcher is a multidisciplinary place — it’s not realistic (or in your interest) to expect everyone to be equally conversant in all areas. And please, I estimate that there are fewer than five applicants each year who need a résumé longer than about three pages. Carefully consider whether you are truly one of those five. (Hint: Is your graduation year 2011 or later? You do not need more than three pages.)
Make sure your recommendations are all written in English. I know that this is a genuine challenge for many of you, but I cannot guarantee your application will be reviewed by someone who speaks your native language. A letter written in a language no one on the Admissions Committee reads is a wasted letter.
If you’re going to upload your transcripts, ensure they will be legible for us, or we’ll need to contact you to send new ones. Will your transcript copy be covered with warnings that say the photocopy is unofficial? You may need to mail us the original. And way too many people ignore the requirement that they explain their education system’s grading, if it’s not on the 4.0 scale that is common (but not universal) in the U.S. Is your grade of 5 out of 6? Out of 10? Out of 12? Out of 20? All these options would reflect grading systems we have seen. Is your GPA of 1.3 as horrible as it looks in the U.S. context? Or is it as good as it looks in the German context? A passing grade in the U.S. is usually 65. Did your university follow the British convention, in which a 56 might be a good result? As many universities and systems as we know, it is a mistake for you to assume we know yours. If your transcript doesn’t explain it, you should!
Use your essays mindfully. Make sure the second essay tells us something that promotes your candidacy. We still talk about the essay (which, to be fair, was written in response to a since-abandoned prompt) that an applicant sent about how his life’s greatest challenge was getting drunk on his 30th birthday. Need I say more?
Finally, DO NOT WASTE SPACE in your personal statement or second essay addressing shortcomings in your application. Use the “Additional Information” section for that. And if you need to explain your grades or test scores, do not whine.
Last, both before and after you have completed the application (but before you submit it), review the application instructions, which you can find to the right on this page for each program. Make the corrections before you submit the application so that you’re not one of those people who asks us to ignore something they’ve already sent.
There you go. Make us happy with a well-constructed application that tells your story in the best possible way. It will make us respect you as an applicant, and respect is a good thing.
I’m taking a class this fall. It isn’t a regular offering, but it’s taught by a professor at a nearby university, and I’d describe it as similar in workload to the classes I took in college back in the day. Why I didn’t think about homework before signing up is a little bit of a mystery. By the time the class met in September, I was already behind in the reading. I tried to catch up from the first week and didn’t do any of the reading for the second week. Then there were two weeks when we didn’t meet. Good opportunity to catch up, right? No. I was utterly undisciplined and was lucky to have finished the reading for the third class, having abandoned the idea of finishing the work for weeks one and two. I’m prepared for tonight, but I wouldn’t describe my preparation as thorough. Sigh. At least this experience allows me to connect with our sometimes-overwhelmed students.
Whenever I manage to do the reading, there’s another way in which the class connects to my work. As I’ve read, I’ve been contemplating the nature of academic writing. Must it have big multisyllabic words? Or can complex thoughts be expressed in clear language?
Regardless of my ability to achieve my own ideal when I write, I adhere to the concept that clear language is something to which we should aspire, and that use of big words should not be our goal. Why, then, do so many applicants seem to write a draft of their application essays and then randomly select words to which they’ll give the thesaurus treatment? It’s as if they ask, “Why use an ordinary word like ‘ordinary’ when we can substitute ‘quotidian’”?
Dear blog readers, I implore you to consider the readers of your application. We’re all educated people, and we won’t be won over by a thesaurusized essay. Instead, make your essays clear and straightforward. Use a ten-dollar word if it’s natural for you and suits your sentence, but don’t strive to do so because you think the Admissions Committee expects it. Your aim should be to make your experience and objectives clear to the Committee. As you put the finishing touches on your essays for an Early Notification application, or start the process of writing essays for a January application, keep this in mind: plain language can go a long way toward winning over your readers.
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