Currently viewing the tag: "decisions"

Admissions work, as you may have heard me say, is ultra-cyclical, but I still try not to repeat myself in the blog.  The exception comes in March and April, when I freely steal content from previous years.  Today’s stolen post covers the questions we answer most routinely for each year’s newly admitted students.  Here are the questions (and related answers) that may be on your mind.

Q: I hope to work when I’m at Fletcher.  How can I arrange it?
A: There are many administrative jobs available each year at Fletcher, as well as elsewhere at the University. Fletcher jobs are usually “advertised” via a student email list. Jobs elsewhere at the University can be found through the Student Employment office.

Q: What about research or teaching assistantships?
A: These positions are arranged directly with the hiring department or professor. It can be difficult for you to arrange a teaching assistant position for your first semester, regardless of your qualifications, but there are often opportunities in the second semester. Many professors hire research assistants in the fall, so even first-year students will be eligible. Research assistants are paid an hourly wage, while teaching assistants are often paid per course. (Note that teaching assistants do not teach Fletcher students. Professors teach, but the assistants might arrange course materials or do other “behind the scenes” work.)

Q: How do second-year scholarships compare to those awarded to first-year students?
A: We know that there are schools out there that reserve much of their scholarship budget to distribute to second-year students.  That isn’t Fletcher’s model.  We split our scholarship budget between first-year and second-year students.  Students who remain in good academic standing can expect their awards to be renewed for the second year.  Students who do not receive a scholarship in the first year can also apply for a scholarship for the second year, but funding cannot be guaranteed.

Q: I would like to pursue a joint degree. Will Fletcher allow me to defer my enrollment?
A: Fletcher will approve a deferral of up to one year (two semesters) to allow students to start a joint degree at another institution.  Prospective students needing more than one year before enrolling should plan to reapply.  Anyone wanting a deferral needs to request one — it isn’t automatic — but you can submit your request by email.

Q: I’m not doing a joint degree, but I want to defer for other reasons.  Can I?
A: Fletcher allows deferrals for up to one year so that candidates can pursue professional opportunities.

Q: Tell me more about how to request the deferral.
A: Follow these instructions.

Q: The law/business/other school with which I want to pursue a joint degree is not on Fletcher’s list of “official” joint or dual degrees.  How will that work?
A: Fletcher will support your efforts to arrange a joint degree that suits your career and academic goals. The process is to transfer courses from your other program so that you also receive Fletcher credit for them.  When I speak to students putting together an ad hoc joint degree, I always suggest that they contact the registrar as soon as they enroll at Fletcher. You won’t be able to transfer in your first-year torts/finance/language class, but with careful homework, you will find classes that meet Fletcher’s requirements. (You should also be sure to work with the other school. Our experience is that many other schools are less flexible than Fletcher.)

Q: Can I make my decision after the deadline named in my admission letter?
A: No. There are many administrative reasons why Fletcher needs to know how many students will enroll, but we don’t expect you to care about that. On the other hand, we want you to remember that there are students waiting on the waitlist, and we hope you will respect their need for a speedy answer as to whether they will be admitted. We won’t know if we need to go to the waitlist until we have heard from the students we have already admitted.

Q: Do I really need to respond officially?  Can’t I just email you?
A: We enjoy your emails, but we really prefer you respond through the online system or with the enrollment reply form.  It helps us keep track of information.

Q: What classes will be offered in 2011-2012?
A: The schedules for next year aren’t set yet, but many courses are offered on a yearly basis.  You can see the class schedules for 2010-2011 on our web site.

Q: I was put on the waitlist.  Can I request feedback now?
A: Although the waitlist is not the same as being offered admission, it’s also not the same as being denied admission.  We only offer feedback to applicants once their applications are no longer active, which is not the case for those on the waitlist.  On the other hand, there may be one key item we want to see from you, and it is reasonable for you to contact us and ask directly if there is a particular item the Committee on Admissions would like to see.  If there is, we’ll tell you.  If there isn’t, we’ll leave it to you to decide what you should send to update your application.


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“The Admits” comprise a family of variations on the theme of:  YAY!  You’re in!  There’s the ordinary admit, the King of Decisions — you’re in, and there’s no fine print!  But some of our admitted students will need to read the fine print, and today’s post is to help in deciphering it.

By “fine print,” I’m talking about conditions that we may attach to the offer of admission.  Conditions that, based on information provided by the applicant in the application, and our own best judgment, we believe will give the incoming student the best possible chance of academic success.  The most frequently employed conditions require that before starting Fletcher classes, the applicant should:  improve foreign language proficiency; improve English language proficiency; or improve quantitative skills (MIB students only).

A more substantive condition:  We’ll occasionally (a dozen or fewer people each year) admit applicants for a future class, asking them to obtain a year’s professional experience before they enroll.  These “delay admits” would be strong students, generally graduating this year, who will gain so much more from Fletcher if they have some work experience behind them, and they will be admitted for the September 2012 semester.

Not exactly a condition, but still in the admit family:  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 of 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 The Admits will carry on as a big happy family, sometimes with conditions attached.

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As promised earlier this week, I’m going to devote a few posts to the different decision options.

For our first class on Fletcher admissions decisions, I would like to start with the bad news.  Much as we like to focus on admitting students (which is the fun part of our Committee work), we regretfully acknowledge that not everyone will be admitted (which is the sad part of our Committee work).

The reasons why applicants aren’t offered admission are the flip side of why they are.  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 two 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.  We’re sorry to say good-bye to these applicants, but that’s the unfortunate reality of the admissions business.

For applicants who have been denied admission, it may be hard to look past the bottom line.  But from our perspective, we do make one distinction among students 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 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 2010 and 2011 grads).  We encourage them to work for a couple of years, although (depending on their internship record), it could take more or less time than that for them to look competitive.

There are two final points to make on this sad topic.  The first is that Fletcher welcomes applicants to reapply.  I’m often asked if we have a bias against second-time applicants.  Quite the contrary!  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.

Our next class will consider the waitlist.

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My email inbox seems to receive a message a day with the same question:  When will admissions decisions be released?  The answer is, as noted above:  Before the end of March.  Out in the real world, it’s not too far off.  In our Office of Admissions alternate universe, decisions are still ages away.

But that doesn’t mean it’s too early to ensure you’ll be able to find your decision whenever it’s ready.  Now is a great time to check that you’re able to log on to the Graduate Admissions Management System. Perhaps you’re already checking GAMS so often that the idea of being unable to log on is alien to you.  That’s good — your job is done.

But if there’s a possibility that you’re among the applicants who have lost the login instructions, please take care of it.  Back when your application was first complete, you received an email with the details.  If this rings only the faintest of bells, look for that original email, because you’ll need to log in to access your admission decision.

Every spring we receive calls from people complaining that they haven’t received a decision.  In fact, the decision is there for them to see, but they can’t access it because they don’t know how to log in.

So check your email inbox and find that message.  (It would have reached you when your application was uploaded, complete with all online recommendations — not the day you first submitted it.)  If you can’t find it, go back to the Application Management System site, where you can click “Don’t know your username and password.”  You’ll soon be in business.  Spread the word!

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Despite all the work our applicants put into researching graduate school options, there will surely be some admitted students who will race around in April, frantically gathering information as if the thought had never occurred to them that they might go to graduate school in the fall.  Or that they might need to choose among several good options.  Please don’t be one of those people.

This is a perfect time to prepare for the next phase of your application/admission process.  How will you make a decision if you are admitted to several of your preferred schools?  What will you do if you’re not admitted to your top schools?

Beyond the decision-making process, what do you need to know that you don’t know yet?  For example, do you have a good understanding of the curricula of Fletcher and other schools to which you’ve applied?  Naturally we want all of our admitted students to enroll here, but we don’t want them to enroll if Fletcher isn’t a good match for their interests.  Prepare by checking out our academic program.

What about some of those assumptions you’ve made along the way?  “If I go to Fletcher, my spouse will find a job in the area,” for example.  Is there some prep work you can start now, in order to make the assumption become a reality?

And, perhaps you have thought to yourself:  “If I’m admitted to graduate school, I’ll brush up on English/second language/economics/statistics.”  Do you really have so little confidence that waiting is the best strategy?  Why not start working on it now?

There’s lots more to prepare, but my final suggestion for today is to consider your financial situation.  Fletcher and its peers all offer some full-tuition scholarships but, to be completely honest, most of our students receive scholarships for less than the cost of tuition.  How are you going to fund that gap?  And how big a gap can you fund?  If you haven’t already worked this out, please don’t wait until April to start.  Check out the scholarship information on Fletcher’s page, and the loan information on the Tufts Student Services page to get you started.  And while you’re at it, stop spending and start saving.  In September, you’ll be glad to have the extra cash from having cut your daily coffee allowance.

In conclusion, dear blog readers, though your admissions fate is still unknown, it’s time to prepare.

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We’re well aware that no one wishes to be in that winter middle ground of having an Early Notification application deferred for review in the spring.  Nonetheless, you needn’t feel helpless.  Instead, you should take the opportunity to update us.  Since November, when you submitted your application, have you:  completed a class (or classes); retaken a standardized exam; started a new job or internship; had your writing published; received an honor of any kind; or generally experienced a change in your profile that we should know about?  Then please tell us.  Send us your official transcript or test score reports, or mail a description of your new job or any of those other changes.  We’ll add the new information to your application file, and it will be there for readers to see when your application is re-reviewed in the coming months.

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Fletcher has had an Early Notification application process for many years now, but we’re shaking things up this year.  For the first time, our decision options will include admit, defer the application for further review in the spring, and deny.  We had previously had all sorts of administrative and programmatic reasons why we didn’t deny applicants in the fall.  No point going into them now, but I’ll explain a bit about our change of mind.

Last year, we came to the conclusion that it was in the interest of our Early Notification applicants to provide a clear answer if we knew they would not, in the end, be admitted.  Some prospective students whose applications were deferred to spring were investing time and energy in promoting their cause — time and energy that might more productively have been poured into applications to other schools.

But having decided on a change to our practice, the new process has still been a learning experience for us.  In particular, we hadn’t originally planned to offer “work deny” decisions, but in the end, we decided to do so.  So here are the specifics of the decisions.

On the good news side:  An offer of admission!  You’re welcome to confirm your enrollment now, but you’re not obligated to do so until the spring.  Admission may be made conditional on completion of (for non-native English speakers) an English program or (for native English speakers) on foreign language study.  Note that there’s certainly no reason to wait until the summer to brush up foreign language proficiency.

On the other end of the spectrum are the decisions to deny (straightforward, if sad) or “work deny” (which means that applicants look solid overall, but need some professional experience).  Applicants who are denied admission in the Early Notification process can request feedback according to standard feedback protocols, but cannot reapply until at least next fall for January 2012 enrollment.

Finally, there are the applications that we’ll defer for reconsideration in the context of the entire applicant pool.  Those applicants will receive a final decision letter in March.  If your application is deferred, note that you’re encouraged to provide updates on any changes to your credentials (test scores, grades, professional experience) since you first applied.

Two last points.  The first is that many, or even most, of the applicants who will not be offered admission could be admissible in a future year.  They could improve their test scores, work a few more years, take some graduate level courses that show their potential to succeed at Fletcher, improve their English or foreign language proficiency, or simply do a better job on the application so that we can really figure out who they are.  We’re glass-half-full people, and we can see potential in all our applicants.  But we also have the task of finding the best matches between the School and incoming students, and that inevitably leads to denying admission to some.

My last point, and a very important one:  NO! We are not releasing decisions right away.  You know they’re coming in December, but we’re not yet done with the final decision-making or processing.  I’m just providing this information now so that curious applicants can prepare themselves.

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In addition to being the day for dancing around the maypole or celebrating the efforts of workers, May 1 is also the date by which all admitted students should notify us of their enrollment plans, and waitlisted applicants should let us know if they want to continue to wait.  Both of those processes can be completed through the Graduate Application Management System.

A little side note on the waitlist.  If you follow the news, or if you happen to know high school students applying to college, you may have heard that U.S. colleges and universities are building enormous waitlists to hedge against enrollment uncertainty, given the economic environment.  Waitlists are always a hedge, but what’s different is that more applicants are being left in this gray zone.

If this news has been making you anxious, I want to reassure you that Fletcher did not approach the waitlist differently this year.  The number of waitlist offers we made was in the normal range, and we expect to find that the usual percent will continue to wait.  By next week, we should be able to get a fairly accurate count of matriculating students (though deferral requests continue to mess up our math) and then we’ll figure out our next steps.

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It’s spring break for our students this week and the building is quiet.  Though students wandering into the office can distract us from our work, it’s generally a welcome distraction.  On the other hand, I need to motor through some tasks this week, and I’ll take advantage of the quiet.

Today I’m going to brazenly steal from myself, and re-post a list of questions (and their related answers) that come up each year.  Maybe one of these answers will help you as you scramble to collect all the information you need.  I’ll post more questions and answers as they come in throughout the spring.  For now, here we go:

Q: I would like to pursue a joint degree. Will Fletcher allow me to defer my enrollment?
A: Fletcher will approve a deferral of up to one year (two semesters) to allow students to start a joint degree at another institution. Prospective students needing more than one year before enrolling should plan to reapply. Anyone wanting a deferral needs to request one — it isn’t automatic — but you can submit your request by email.

Q: I’m not doing a joint degree, but I want to defer for other reasons.  Can I?
A: Fletcher allows deferrals for up to one year so that candidates can pursue professional opportunities.

Q: Tell me more about how to request the deferral.
A: Follow these instructions.

Q: The law/business/other school with which I want to pursue a joint degree is not on Fletcher’s list of “official” joint or dual degrees. How will that work?
A: Fletcher will work with you to arrange the joint degree that suits your career and study goals. The process is to transfer courses from your other program so that you also receive Fletcher credit for them.  When I speak to students putting together an ad hoc joint degree, I always suggest that they contact the registrar as soon as they enroll at Fletcher. You won’t be able to transfer in your first-year torts/finance/language class, but with careful homework, you will find classes that meet Fletcher’s requirements. (You should also be sure to work with the other school. Our experience is that many other schools are less flexible than Fletcher.)

Q: Can I make my decision after the deadline named in my admission letter?
A: No. There are many administrative reasons why Fletcher needs to know how many students will enroll, but we don’t expect you to care about that. On the other hand, we want you to remember that there are students waiting on the waitlist, and we hope you will respect their need for a speedy answer as to whether they will be admitted. We won’t know if we need to go to the waitlist until we have heard from the students we have already admitted.

Q: Do I really need to respond officially?  Can’t I just email you?
A: We enjoy your emails, but we really prefer you respond through the online system or with the enrollment reply form.  It helps us keep track of information.

Q: I hope to work when I’m at Fletcher. How can I arrange it?
A: There are many administrative jobs available each year at Fletcher, as well as elsewhere at the University. Fletcher jobs are usually “advertised” via a student email list. Jobs elsewhere at the University can be found through the Student Employment office.

Q: What about research or teaching assistantships?
A: These positions are arranged directly with the hiring department or professor. It can be difficult for you to arrange a teaching assistant position for your first semester, regardless of your qualifications, but there are often opportunities in the second semester. Many professors hire research assistants in the fall, so even first-year students will be eligible. Research assistants are paid an hourly wage, while teaching assistants are often paid per course. (Note that teaching assistants do not teach Fletcher students. Professors teach, but the assistants might arrange course materials or do other “behind the scenes” work.)

Q: How do second-year scholarships compare to those awarded to first-year students?
A: We know that there are schools out there that reserve much of their scholarship budget to distribute to second-year students.  That isn’t Fletcher’s model.  We split our scholarship budget between first-year and second-year students.  Students who remain in good academic standing can expect their awards to be renewed for the second year.  Students who do not receive a scholarship in the first year can also apply for a scholarship for the second year, but funding cannot be guaranteed.

Q: What classes will be offered in 2010-2011?
A: The schedules for next year aren’t set yet, but many courses are offered on a yearly basis.  You can see the class schedules for 2009-2010 on our web site.

Q: I was put on the waitlist.  Can I request feedback now?
A: Although the waitlist is not the same as being offered admission, it’s also not the same as being denied admission.  We only offer feedback to applicants once their applications are no longer active, which is not the case for those on the waitlist.  So that means we’ll ask you to make your own determination of what materials will help strengthen your application at this point.

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Up to now, I’ve tried to keep everything upbeat by focusing on admitting students.  But blog readers aren’t so uninformed as to think we admit everyone.  While I have your attention, I want to share a little Admissions Committee perspective on why an applicant may be denied admission.

The first is the most obvious.  We have 1800-ish applications.  We couldn’t possibly fit everyone in the School.  Even if every single applicant were completely qualified, we’d need to find a way to select among them.

Given our actual applicant collection, we’re always looking to create a strong match between the School and our students.  Broadly speaking, applicants are denied admission because they don’t present clear enough evidence of:

♦academic strength or potential; or
♦the experience (professional and international) that will help them achieve their goals; or
♦clearly defined goals in line with Fletcher’s offerings.

We’ll make the decoding easier for some of our youngest applicants by telling them, in the decision letter, that everything is in place except work experience.

Every year we’ll receive a few calls or emails from applicants who challenge our decision, saying (for example) that we’re wrong, and that he (or she) really does have potential.  In fact, when the Committee makes a decision to deny admission, we’re not exactly saying that the applicant doesn’t have what it takes to succeed at Fletcher.  We’re saying that, based on the data and other information in the application, the applicant hasn’t presented a convincing enough case.  That difference leaves the door wide open for future successful applications.

The last decision category that doesn’t fit the “admit, admit” model is the waitlist.  Neither good news nor bad news.  I’ll have some specific advice later on for waitlisted applicants.  For now, I’ll only say that we understand that the offer of a place on the waitlist can seem like an extension of the admissions process — possibly unwelcome news, given the several months of waiting already behind you.  But the waitlist is an opportunity, too, and in most years a good number of waitlisted applicants will ultimately be admitted.

Between last week’s and this week’s posts, I’ve shared all the information I can think of to prepare readers to access and interpret their admission decision.  Now we just need to crank those decisions out.

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