Currently viewing the tag: "decisions"

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.

Remember that cold I mentioned?  I wasn’t kidding.  Hard not to feel on your toes after a few minutes in this kind of weather – it’s a cold day out when even ice cream freezes.

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.


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We posted Early Notification decisions on Friday, and applicants will probably have seen their results by now.  Some of you will also have wandered through the blog archives and found previous years’ posts about the decision options.  Here’s the outline for those who want fresh info.

First, congratulations to our newly admitted students!  You probably don’t need further explanation of what the news means.  If we have made the decision conditional upon pursuing study to improve your English or to raise your foreign language proficiency, you’ll be hearing from us directly about the requirement.

Then there are applicants for whom we’ve decided to defer decision-making until the spring.  I realize this is a good news-bad news place to be.  On the good news side, we encourage you to update us before the end of February if there are changes to your application.  New grades, new test scores, updated résumé, or even an additional recommendation can be good additions.  Please, though, make sure that the additional information reflects something new.  We don’t need a fresh copy of your résumé if nothing has changed.  Send the new materials by mail or email — there’s no special defined protocol.

Finally, applicants to whom we have already said no.  It’s only in the last three years that we have been telling EN applicants that they would not be admitted, and we were initially very reluctant to take the step.  Now we feel more comfortable, knowing that the best in this group will use the information to make good decisions about where/whether to apply in January.

Before we call it a wrap on this phase of the admissions cycle, let me give you the details on the very wide geographic spread of this rather small group of admitted students.  Whether they are only temporarily in these places or it’s their home town/country, we have admitted students currently in:

Afghanistan,  Kandahar and Kabul
Albania,  Rreshen,  Mirdite
Armenia,  Yerevan
Bangladesh,  Chittagong and Dhaka
Brazil,  Rio de Janeiro
Cambodia,  Battambang town and Phnom Penh
Canada,  Toronto
China,  Manghuai,  Yunxian County; Beijing; Shanghai
Democratic Republic Of Congo,  Bukavu
Germany,  Berlin and Hamburg
India,  Kolkata, Mumbai, New Delhi
Indonesia,  Tanjungpandan,  Belitung
Japan,  Urayasu-shi,  Chiba; Kashihara; Tokyo; Yokohama
Macedonia,  Prilep
Mexico,  Guadalajara and Mexico City
Nepal,  Kathmandu
Nigeria,  Lagos
Pakistan,  Karachi
Philippines,  Guiuan,  Eastern Samar and Dingle, Iloilo
Singapore,  Singapore
South Africa,  Kuruman
South Korea,  Seoul
South Sudan,  Juba
Switzerland,  St. Gallen and Zurich
Tanzania,  Monduli and Moshi
Thailand,  Bangkok
Timor-leste,  Dili
Turkey,  Ankara and Istanbul
Ukraine,  Voznesensk
United Kingdom,  London and St. Ives

And, in the U.S., outside of the Maine-Virginia corridor (always well represented), our EN admits live in California, Colorado, Georgia, Kansas, Minnesota, North Carolina, and Texas.

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Never content to keep things simple, even when it comes to admitting applicants, our decisions include multiple options.  The bottom line for all is:  YAY!  You’ve been admitted to Fletcher!  Congratulations!  But some of the offers of admission are accompanied by a condition, and today’s post is to clarify what those conditions entail.

The Admissions Committee looks at the materials in an applicant’s file and makes certain assumptions, some of which lead Committee members to suggest the applicant will need further preparation.  We’ll make that preparation a condition of admission.  The most frequently employed conditions require that, before starting Fletcher classes, the student should improve foreign language proficiency, improve English language proficiency, or improve quantitative skills (MIB students only).

We tend to be inflexible about the nature of the pre-Fletcher English training, for reasons I hope are obvious.  (In case they’re not as obvious as I think, I’ll spell it out:  No one can succeed in Fletcher classes with weak English skills.)  There’s more flexibility around summer foreign language training, because the best program depends on the student’s choice of language and current ability.

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

Beyond the conditional admits, there’s one other complication to the admit category:  Occasionally, we admit applicants to a program other than the one to which they applied.  Most common example:  You applied to the mid-career MA program, but you don’t have sufficient experience to be admitted.  For the MALD program, on the other hand, you’re looking good, so we’ll admit you to the MALD!  (There’s similar thinking behind offering MALD admission to a tiny number of PhD applicants who lack the master’s level study to enter the PhD program directly.)

Our process would certainly be simpler if there were only one type of admit, but the option to attach a condition to admission is the difference between admit and deny for some applicants.  We would hate to turn away a highly qualified applicant who needs a little brush-up on English skills, but we would be obliged to do so if we couldn’t be sure he would pursue a language program.

The happy bottom line is that conditional admission is (once the condition is met) admission.  And we’re convinced that fulfilling the condition will enhance the admitted student’s experience at Fletcher.  So we’ll maintain our portfolio of admits, sometimes with conditions attached.

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The work is proceeding apace here in the Admissions Office.  Our workplace attire is sliding from business, to business casual, to nice casual, to…whatever.  Meanwhile, I’ll keep moving up the spectrum of possible admissions decisions.

Continuing along the spectrum from deny to admit, the next decision category is the waitlist, which can be seen as an opportunity or a curse.  Each year, after admitting a group of students, we’ll offer a place on the waitlist to another promising group — applicants whose credentials are solid overall, and yet just a little less solid than the applicants we’ve admitted.  (A waitlist is what it sounds like — a list of people waiting for a place to open up in the entering class.)  Some years, we draw a significant number of students from the waitlist.  Occasionally, we don’t admit any.  But most years we admit a few.  That’s the opportunity part.

It can be hard for waitlisted applicants to get a handle on what this decision means for them, which is understandable.  We’ve tried to help by creating an FAQ list.  But even the FAQ list will leave waitlisted applicants wondering about their own prospects.  The challenge is that, when decisions go out, we can’t even answer the most basic question:  How many people are on the waitlist?  And that’s because, in March, it doesn’t matter whether we make 10, 100, or 1,000 waitlist offers.  What matters is how may people decide to accept a spot on the list.  So let’s say we make 100 offers.  If 60 people decide not to wait, then the relevant number is 40.  We don’t rank our waitlist, and when it comes time to make an offer of admission, we go back to the applications and figure things out.

Applicants offered a place on the waitlist can take until May 1 to decide whether to wait.  It would be very unusual for us to make an offer of admission before May 1 — most of our work with the waitlist takes place in May or June, though we’ll keep a list into the summer.  That’s where the curse (or cursing) comes in.  The waitlist involves, well, waiting.

All members of the Fletcher Admissions staff know that the extra waiting is unwelcome.  But for some applicants who focus on the opportunity rather than the curse, the waitlist represents a final chance for admission.

One last thing:  While we won’t provide feedback for applications still active on the waitlist, we will answer this question:  Is there any further information that the Committee on Admissions would like from me at this time?  That gives us a chance to check your application and see if the Committee wanted to see, for example, a higher TOEFL score.  (Send the question by email, and mention that the blog told you to ask!)  Even if the Committee didn’t want anything special, waitlisted applicants are invited to send us an update.  New grades or test scores, an updated résumé, a link to a publication — any new information you wish to share will be welcome.  I’ll post a bit more about this after decisions have finally been released.

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As promised last week, I’m continuing to lay the groundwork for decision time (COB March 19) by devoting a few posts to Fletcher’s different decision options.

Today I’ll start with the bad news end of the spectrum. While I understand that applicants don’t want to prepare for the possibility of disappointment, I also know that once people receive the news, they’ll shut down their RSS feed and never read the blog again.  (A fact that is both sad and understandable.)  I need to seize this moment to share information.

The truth is that admitting applicants is the easy part of admissions work, and naturally we focus on the easy and fun.  But denying admission is an inescapable aspect — the most challenging aspect — of what we 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.

While it’s true that bad news is bad news, we do make one distinction among those who will not be offered admission this year.  Some applicants 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 2011 and 2012 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.

There are two final points to make on this sad topic.  The first is to emphasize 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.

The second point is related to the first.  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 (more on this topic later in the spring) and you’ll hear back from us within a month or so of your request.

The next post about the decision spectrum will describe the waitlist.

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Even while Committees are still meeting and final applications are being read, we’re laying the necessary back-office groundwork.  We started by testing applicants’ email addresses.  If your application to Fletcher was complete as of yesterday (February 29), you should have received an email message from the Fletcher Admissions address.  Messages that bounced back told us that the applicant either discontinued use of the original email address or, perhaps, entered it incorrectly on the application form.  But if your application is complete, and you didn’t receive the email, please check your spam folder (and the settings for your spam filter).  If you think there was a problem with your email address, contact us as soon as possible.

The second purpose of yesterday’s email was to tell applicants that decisions will be released by close of business on Monday, March 19.  (We’ll do our best to release decisions for late deadline (March 1) applications, but we can’t guarantee the quick turn-around.)  We hope that being a little more forthcoming than in the past about our decision release schedule will ease some nerves.

I also want to tell blog readers about a change to our procedure that we hope will play out in a positive way.  This year, the email you receive by COB March 19 will provide your decision.  Admitted applicants will still need to log on to GAMS for the details, but applicants who have not been admitted will learn their decision by email.

We know that we may hear a few complaints that email is a harsh medium for providing bad news, but we believe it’s better than our previous procedure, which required the applicant to go to GAMS for the decision.  The result was that the system got jammed up, and some applicants were spending an hour trying to access GAMS, only to learn they were not granted admission.  Seeking to prevent the irritation applicants felt last year, we’re trying something new, and we hope that even applicants who are disappointed with their decision will be happy to avoid the hassle of dealing with a balky system.

So there it is.  We have just over two weeks to get everything together and out the door.  Next week, I’m going to describe the different decision options — more groundwork to help the decision phase go smoothly.

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Decisions on our Early Notification applications went out on Friday, and we’re receiving questions on what it all means.  If you’ve been admitted, congratulations!  I’ll assume you don’t require much more explanation.  On the other end of the happiness spectrum, for the second year, we denied admission to some applicants and, when appropriate, informed the applicant that the missing piece is professional experience.  We always feel some regret in denying applicants, but we hope it will help applicants make informed decisions on where else they should apply.

That leaves those whose application was deferred to the spring round.  These applicants will have their credentials reviewed again in the context of the larger application pool.  Applicants who were deferred are invited to update us on changes to their status.  New grades or test scores definitely should be submitted.  An additional recommendation or a new résumé that sheds light on your recent activities can also be valuable.  The bottom line is that you’re welcome to update us, but please be sure that whatever you send is really an update.  If the same information is already in your file, there’s little to be gained from sending it a second time.

The deadline for PhD and Map Your Future applications is tomorrow, so the Admissions Office is making a quick shift of focus.  If you have further general questions about the deferrals, please include them as comments below.  If general themes emerge, I’ll address them in an additional blog post.

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It appears that Early Notification applicants are getting jittery, wondering where we are in the notification process.  That’s completely understandable, though we tend to figure that, as long as we’re well ahead of our stated January 1 notification date, all is good.

Keeping our feet to the fire are blog-reading detectives who have noticed that last Friday’s Admissions Committee meeting occurred a week later than the similar gathering in 2010, and I want to acknowledge that notification will also be later than it was last year.

Here’s a bit of an explanation.  The EN deadline is always November 15, but Thanksgiving falls at different times in November, as does the last day of Fletcher classes.  We put these and other calendar issues together and come up with a schedule for ourselves.  This year, we were also set back by the off-site meeting that Laurie, Jeff, and Dan are attending this week.  They’ll be back on Wednesday, which is when we’ll start the final-process clean-up work.  So I encourage you to relax.  We’re on a different schedule from last year, but we’re right on track for this year, and you’ll be hearing soon.

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I’m still having trouble believing that October is over, so imagine my surprise that the first application deadline for September 2012 admission is tomorrow!  Our newly selected student members of the Admissions Committee are already busy reading files, grabbing two last week and two today — a pace that will soon be unsustainably (laughably) slow.  (I think they know that, but we’re glad to allow them to breathe for a few days more.)  Time for me to get going, too!

For the majority of you who have not yet submitted your EN application, it’s not too late to avoid running up against the precise deadline of Tuesday, November 15, 11:59 p.m. EST (GMT -5).  Submit your application today, and you can pat yourself on the head that you were early.  Note that the piece that must arrive by the deadline is your online application.  It’s preferred that your recommendations, transcripts, and test scores arrive by tomorrow, too, but please don’t hold your application simply because your professor hasn’t zapped through a letter.

Once you’ve submitted your part of the total file, you can monitor our work through the Graduate Application Management System (find details here).  Fortunately for you ENers, we’ll receive a very manageable number of applications tomorrow, and we can compile files much more quickly than in January.  In fact, the whole turnaround for the EN process is super rapid.  You’ll hear from us well before the end of December (exact date still TBD).

Finally, the decision options for Early Notification fall in three groups.  We may choose to admit applicants (occasionally with a condition, such as additional foreign language study); to defer the decision to the spring, when we’ll look at the application in the context of the larger pile; or to deny.  Last year was the first year we denied some applicants and, while I appreciate how disappointing this is, we believe it’s better for the applicant to have clear information that can be used in deciding which other schools to apply to in January.

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The last batch of responses from admitted applicants was due yesterday, and it looks like nearly everyone has been heard from.  We’ll double-check with anyone who hasn’t responded, just to be sure there wasn’t a communications glitch, but it looks like the response phase of the admissions process is pretty much complete.  Also due yesterday were the responses to our offers of a spot on the waitlist, and I’m sure that those who have chosen to wait would like an update.

I can remember one year (more than one?) when we were nervous about enrollment and admitted a few people from the waitlist before May 1.  If you’re waiting in 2011, you’ll be happy to know that we have not yet turned to the waitlist at all.  Our next steps are to look at the enrolling class in detail, figure out where our scholarship budget stands, and start re-reviewing waitlisted applications.  If we discover that we don’t have all the students we need, we’ll make some new offers of admission as quickly as possible.  We never drag the process out more than necessary, but I should warn you that we’ll maintain a short waitlist into the summer.  (Even students who tell us they’re enrolling sometimes change their plans in June/July/August to take advantage of a career opportunity.)  Of course, you always have the option of declining to wait.

A related sidenote:  Our waitlist is not ranked, which is hard for some waitlistees to get their mind around.  Our colleagues at Tufts undergraduate admissions have put better words to the concept, writing that the waitlist, despite its name, is a pool of applicants, not a list.  When we look at the files of waitlisted applicants, we’re doing exactly what we did between January and March — trying to make the best match between prospective students and Fletcher — though this time with a much more limited “pool.”

If you have remained on the waitlist to be considered for a place in September’s entering class, you’re still invited to update your application or send a letter of continued interest (nothing fancy — an email will do).  We’ll be communicating through the next couple of months, but you should feel free to contact us if you have questions about the waitlist or where the process stands.

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