Currently viewing the tag: "decisions"

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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Continuing to help you prepare to receive and interpret the decision on your Fletcher application, let’s talk about admission.

Offering admission to an applicant should be straightforward, right?  Good application equals admission offer.  Well…when it suits our purposes, we abandon simplicity and take a more complicated approach.

On the straightforward end of the spectrum, most applicants who get good news this month will receive plain vanilla admission.  Everything you need is in place!  Hooray!

But plenty of other happy applicants won’t be the plain-old-vanilla type.  When we offer them admission, we’ll attach a condition to make up for a shortcoming.  The most frequently employed flavors of conditional admission require that, before starting Fletcher classes, the applicant should:  improve foreign language proficiency; improve English language proficiency; or improve quantitative skills.

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.)

We also occasionally (about a dozen applicants each year) admit someone to a future class.  These would be strong students, generally graduating this year, who will be so much happier at Fletcher if they have some work experience behind them.  These “delay admits” will receive a letter that says they are admitted for the September 2011 semester.

Creating all these flavors of admission poses challenges when it comes time to release decisions, 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 we’ll keep offering admission in all its different flavors.

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I bet you’re wondering about my weekend activities.  Yesterday was beautiful outside — I did five minutes of gardening, took a long walk, baked a loaf of bread — but I suspect it’s my Saturday in a windowless office that interests you more.

We accomplished a lot here on Saturday, completing a big files-all-over-the-place task that’s much harder to do when the office is open for business.  Let me give you a sense of where everything is:  Nearly all (let’s call it 90%) of the decisions to admit or deny are set.  Most of the scholarship decisions for admitted applicants have also been made, though we continue to tinker and make sure we don’t go over-budget.  At around this time, it always seems like there’s a lot to wrap up, but experience says that we’ll move quickly through the to-do list.

Meanwhile, we feel the heat as our (friendly) competitors release their decisions.  But our competitive juices are balanced by our need to get everything just right.

Here’s a bit of info I should have shared earlier:  Once we have the decisions posted, we’ll send you an email telling you to check your account in the Graduate Application Management System.  I encourage you to confirm you’re able to log in, but you don’t need to check your account by the hour.  A related key point is that you should be sure you’re receiving our emails.  If you have any doubt, scrounge around your spam folder for past messages, and make sure that Fletcher Admissions is an approved email sender.  Once you receive the email prompting you to check the system, you can log in and find the decision letter.  Students who are admitted will also receive a packet by mail in the coming weeks.

And one last note.  In some years, there’s a small bunch of straggler decisions.  The applications may have been here since January (though many arrived for MIB and LLM on March 1), but for whatever reasons a decision isn’t in place.  We face the challenge of deciding whether to hold all decisions, so that all applicants hear at the same time, or release everything that’s ready, which will leave a few people wondering.  This year, we’re going to go with option #2.  When decisions finally go out, all the MALD and MA applicants should hear at once.  Most MIB, LLM, and PhD applicants will also hear at that time.  A few decisions will be posted within about a 10-day window after the first big batch.  I’m sorry that it’s going to turn out that way this year, but that’s what it looks like.

I had planned to provide information about decisions today, but I’ll hold off just one more day and get to it tomorrow.

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Admissions work is predictably cyclical.  We do many of the same things in the same month, or even on the same day, each year.  But there are, in fact, several “sub-cycles” running at once.  On a single day next week (January 15), we have the deadline for September 2010 applications (the start of a cycle), as well as orientation for students starting their studies this month (the end of a cycle).  Some of the sub-cycles involve mobs of people (September applications), while others have us in contact with much smaller groups.

And that brings me to a sizable bunch who may be feeling neglected right now — those of you who applied by the Early Notification deadline but learned that we’ll reconsider your application within the full applicant pool.  You’ve read the decision letter and may have done your own research, but I thought shedding a little light on your situation would still be a good thing.

First thing I’ll say is that having your application deferred is not the same as having it denied.  A portion of the deferred applicants will end up admitted.  Another portion will be offered a place on the wait list.  It all depends on what we find when we review the applications now pouring into the Admissions Office.

Most likely, you’re applying to other schools, and that process is keeping you busy.  When the dust clears, you should consider whether there is any information in your application that needs updating.  (I’m emphasizing that particular word, because we don’t need you to add anything unless it reflects a change.)  Here are some items we’d like to see:  new transcripts listing grades you received in fall 2009; new standardized test scores that you would like us to consider; a new résumé that includes details on your new job/internship; a short excerpt or a link to newly published work.  Submitting an additional recommendation can be helpful, but only if it shares new information.  For example, let’s say that, in November, you hadn’t yet told your boss you’ll be leaving work to go to grad school in September, and you didn’t have a workplace recommendation.  Now your boss knows and would be happy to recommend you.  This is new information that can support your application.

Please don’t flood us with materials in the hope we’ll wear down in the face of your enthusiasm.  While we really appreciate updates, only information that truly reflects a change since your November application will be useful.  All deferred applications will receive new review, usually starting around mid-February.  If the added materials reach us by February 1, you can be sure they’ll be considered when we re-consider your application file.

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You may be wondering whether I’m going to try to spin being denied admission into an “opportunity” as I did with the Wait List yesterday.  No, not exactly.  There’s no question that it’s disappointing to be told that this is not your year for Fletcher or another grad school.

But for some of our applicants, what separates them from admission is their age and experience, and age is one problem that will inevitably fix itself.  As any of us in the Office would tell you, we receive a large number of applications from students who are recent grads, or who have yet to graduate (the 2008 and 2009 graduates in this year’s pool), but we admit very few of them.  In just a few years, many of these applicants will be competitive for Fletcher.

What about those of you who already have professional experience?  What might have held the Committee back from offering admission?  Maybe there was a problem with the way you wrote your application — it might have been confusing, or off the mark.  Or maybe you are trying to shift careers and we were afraid you “couldn’t get there from here.”  (If you want to go from large-animal veterinarian to micro-financier, you may just need a job that will help bridge the gap between your old career and your new one.) Or maybe you need a little more international experience that links to your goals.  These are “problems” that can also be fixed, even if it takes some time.

But often, the “problem” is that Fletcher is blessed with a highly-qualified applicant pool, and we simply can’t admit everyone.  Every year, each staff member is left feeling sad about an applicant we’ve been rooting for, but who hasn’t been admitted.  It’s part of the job.

What can you do now?  For September 2009, there is (unfortunately) nothing you can do.  We don’t reverse decisions.  Plucking out one denied applicant from the stack is like grabbing at the apple at the bottom of a display.  Bad things will follow!  But every year we admit students who have applied in the past, and we look forward to future applications in a future year from some of those who remain interested in Fletcher, though denied admission in 2009.

Meanwhile, Fletcher offers feedback to applicants.  We’ll ask you to wait until later in the spring — a kind of cooling off period.  But after May 1, if you follow these instructions, we’ll get back to you with more information.  You can use the information to figure out how to improve your application, or whether a future application will be a good use of your time and energy.

On the other hand, if you have been admitted to other schools, and this is definitely your year for grad school, then we wish you all the best in your graduate studies!

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