Currently viewing the tag: "PhD"

I work pretty closely with applicants to the PhD program, and I should write more to help them.  The deadline for applications is December 20.  That’s a little less than three months off and, given the requirements of the application, it’s definitely not too late to get started.  There’s only one deadline each year, and only September enrollment is possible.

The PhD application requires all the usual elements (transcripts, test scores, essays, etc.), but applicants must also submit a master’s thesis (or major research paper) and a preliminary dissertation proposal.  While the proposal should be well developed, it’s understood that a student’s ultimate dissertation will reflect learning and growth from three semesters of Fletcher classes.  Though it is not required that applicants contact members of the Fletcher faculty before applying, I can say that nearly all of our successful applicants have done so.  Reaching out to Fletcher professors gives you a chance to confirm that your interests are aligned with theirs.  All admitted PhD students are assigned an advisor, and the expectation is that students will stick with that advisor all the way through.

Beyond that, most successful PhD applicants will include two recommendations from professors who can reflect on their work, and most will be asking professors from their master’s-level work to write the recommendations.

I should pause to note that applying directly to the PhD program requires a master’s degree.  Students without a master’s degree, or those who have a degree that lasted only one year, need to start with the MALD (usually) or MIB (also possible) degree.

We’ll be conducting two virtual information sessions, on October 15 and November 16.  There’s also more information that I can pass along.  If you’re interested, please contact us!

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Orientation for new students starts today, meaning that Fletcher will not be occupied solely by staff members, as it has been for several weeks.  Classes start up on Monday, which is when we’ll see the returning students.

While everything is so quiet (and we’re waiting for the flood of applications that will pour in at the end of this week), I wanted to share two recent op-eds written by our PhD candidates.  First, David Knoll, who is in the final stages of dissertation writing, took a break to do some other writing, in this case for Time magazine online.  His opinion piece appeared in December, shortly after the release of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee’s report.

More recently, Shahla Al Kli and Torrey Taussig also published an opinion piece.  Theirs is on ISIS, and appeared on The National Interest website.

Finally, if you’re like me, you receive news about Fletcher from many sources — the website, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.  Despite these many prompts, it took me until today to watch the latest video from Dean Stavridis.  If you’re hoping to enroll in 2015-16, I encourage you to take a look.  He lays out many initiatives for the coming year, even as he describes the results of our work in 2014.

Oh, and of course, Dean Stavridis is a graduate of Fletcher’s PhD program.

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PhD applicants:  You’re part of a small subset of our total group of applicants, but you certainly have the most complex application!  Last week, our student interns were taking questions daily about the finer point of the process, but many questions revolved around the dissertation proposal requirement.  Yes, we know that a formal dissertation proposal is often a post-coursework requirement in other PhD programs.  In fact, that’s the case here, too.  So what are we looking for in the proposal that should accompany your application?  Well, let’s start with the instructions.

PhD Proposal (1,500 words maximum, single-spaced, Arial 12 point font)
Your PhD Proposal should include:

  • A title
  • A researchable topic: what question do you propose to study and what evidence are you bringing to bear?
  • A brief overview of the literature of the field
  • A short description of the proposed methodology for research: how does your research question fit into the existing body of scholarship?  How do you propose to answer your research question? What methodologies do you propose to use?

The purpose of this preliminary proposal is to ensure there is a good match between the applicant’s interests and the expertise among the faculty at Fletcher.  It’s expected that your interests will be refined as you complete classes for the program, but it’s also expected that the subject of your research focus will remain essentially the same.

The other most-often-asked question regards the master’s thesis.  Again, let’s turn to the instructions:

MA Thesis or a writing sample of approximately 40 pages (in English)
Please upload a copy of your thesis to the online application.  If your master’s program did not require the writing of a thesis, you can provide a substantial writing sample as a substitute, so long as you are the sole author.

There are two reasons behind this requirement.  First, all Fletcher PhD students must complete a master’s thesis.  If they haven’t done so in their master’s degree program, they need to write one while at Fletcher.  Second, and more important for admissions purposes, the faculty on the PhD Admissions Committee want to see that you can make an argument and follow it through — the kind of research and writing work that you will need to do as a student here.  As the instructions note, you can submit another research paper, but you’ll want to be sure that it’s a good representative sample of your best work.  Often we’re asked whether a shorter paper will do the trick.  Well, um, I guess…but do you want to be judged on the basis of a ten-page paper when everyone else is presenting 50 pages?  Give it some thought and then try to find the best possible example of your writing.

Our online application system tells me that dozens of PhD applicants are in the process of completing their applications.  With five days leading to the December 20 deadline, I hope these notes will be helpful for those who are wrapping up their materials.

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Today we’re hosting a PhD Visit Day.  Like all of our Visit Days (and there is one for MIB applicants coming up next week), the day is light on programming, but still draws together all the activities an applicant might want before applying to Fletcher.  In the case of the PhD Visit Day, this means that at 12:30, I’ll be eating lunch with our visitors and offering information about the program.

Are you interested in the PhD program but not here with us today?  It’s still easy to put together a day of relevant activities.  PhD applicants need to contact us directly to set up an interview, but you can arrange one for a day when there is an Information Session scheduled.  If you have questions about the program even after the session, any member of the Admissions staff can help you.

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Unlike real journalists, I like featuring good news stories.  So, when I sent a note of congratulations to PhD candidate Ivan for receiving the university’s Presidential Award for Citizenship and Public Service, and Ivan responded to my question about the work for which he was honored, my brain lit up:  BLOG POST!

Here’s what Ivan told me:

I was very honored to receive the award.  I believe it was for general work/public service to the university, but also related to my other service work.  The main components included:  being the Resident Director at Blakeley, helping with continuing education through Osher Lifelong Learning, student initiatives such as serving on the PhD Committee and organizing the PhD conferences and colloquium, and, outside of Tufts/Fletcher, the international civic engagement program I helped lead in China (sponsored by Duke University and the Gates Foundation).

That’s a lot to fit in around Fletcher study and the writing of a dissertation!  Congratulations to Ivan on making such a strong contribution to the community!

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