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Cabot Intercultural Center

Admissions Boot Camp doesn’t lend itself to photos, but here’s one anyway — Fletcher on one of the beautiful days we’ve had this week.  And now we’ll return to business…

There are a few elements of the application that allow you significant freedom to determine their content.  The first (and most flexible) is your résumé — a great place to slip all sorts of information that you want to share with us.  Naturally, you’ll include all the usual elements — professional experience, academic background, etc. — but you can add details that you can’t otherwise fit into the application.  Some of this freedom comes from the amount of space you’ll have to work with.  You don’t need to feel limited to a one-page résumé; up to three pages can be fine, though longer than that is usually a negative.  You can then include descriptions (for example) of community work that is relevant to your application, or links to publications that you want us to look at, or a link to the website for your successful sideline knitting business, or a list of your relevant skills.

Use the résumé to help us understand your workplace, too.  If everyone uses an abbreviation for your organization, the résumé is a great place to spell it out for us, and also tell us what it does.  It’s really best to assume we don’t know — a lot of eyes will review your application, and it’s likely that someone will be seeing the name of your organization for the first time.  If the organization provided great preparation for Fletcher, you’ll surely want to tell us about it — don’t leave us guessing what you did.

For those of you accustomed to a longer c.v., I’d encourage you to look around for a sample of an American-style résumé.  It isn’t that we can’t deal with the c.v., but you’ll end up hiding some of the information you want to highlight.  You’ll find a zillion samples online.

Another area of the application (or application process) that allows you significant opportunity to expand upon your background is the optional evaluative interview.  I never know why people who live near Fletcher don’t at least try to schedule an interview.  The face-to-face meeting really can only help your application, and you’ll have the opportunity to gather information that gives a boost to your essays.  (In fact, I always suggest trying to schedule the interview before submitting the application.  Leave the door open to learning something helpful during your visit!)

For those who are located farther away, we hope you’ll appreciate the option of participating in an interview via Skype.  Yes, video conversations are a little awkward for all of us, but the interview will, again, only help your application.

Both the interview and the résumé are the finishing touches for your application, allowing you to flesh out the story you want to tell.  As I suggested in my post about the essays, think about your application as a whole and slip the details in wherever they fit best.  Your résumé or interview might just be the best place.

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I had my reading day at home on Thursday, which was, overall, blissful.  I started off a little slow, but soon got back into a groove and motored through a big pile of applications.  Along the way, I noticed a particular phenomenon that I want to bring to your attention (in order to convince you to avoid it).  I read several applications that included detailed information about the applicant’s job experience — information that, nonetheless, left me in the dark.

If I wanted to, I could be uninformative, too.  For example, instead of wearing down my typing fingers, I could list my employer as “FSLD/TU.”  My résumé could note that I have “transmitted actionable information to customer base via social media.”  Neither is wrong, exactly, but the résumé would be much more helpful if it said that I work at the Fletcher School and I write a blog for the Admissions Office.

When you prepare the résumé to accompany your application, remember that your reader is in a different part of the country/world and works in higher education.  If your organization goes by a name that doesn’t hint at its mission, please give us some clues.  Just a few words (in common English) about what it’s all about will go a long way.  And even if everyone in your industry knows exactly what V2RRX means, when you apply to grad school you’re not writing for people in your industry.  Please provide a hint as to V2RRX’s meaning.

It’s always possible that applicants are trying to obscure the nature of their work, but that wasn’t my assumption on Thursday.  It’s more likely that they didn’t stop to consider that a résumé written for one audience won’t be as useful for others.  If you haven’t yet submitted your application, please be sure that it includes clear information about the nature of your work.

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During our on-line chats earlier this week, we were asked several times about the preferred format for the résumé that applicants include with their application.  And to be honest, while we do leave the choice of format to the applicant, we readers certainly have preferences.  Here are some of mine, along with those of my résumé-reading Admissions pals.

First, the role of the résumé in the Fletcher application is to provide a relatively complete chronological account of work and academic experience.  Though the application form has questions that touch on these topics, your résumé is the place to provide detail and dates.

Second, everyone in this office would agree that there’s only very rarely a need for a résumé running more than three pages.  Constructing a résumé is an exercise in synthesis.  There’s an art to transmitting significant amounts of information in a small space, and I don’t mean that you should resort to teeny-weeny type size!

To help you out, here are some categories of information that are not relevant to your Fletcher application:

1.  As Roxana puts it:  “Do not list activities you did in high school.”  The only exceptions I can think of would be study abroad/exchange years, or if you win a national prize of very high stature.  There aren’t too many awards like that in the U.S., so the award you’re thinking of probably doesn’t fit the bill.  And the few relevant high school notes should be included with “Additional Information” at the end of the résumé.

2.  All the different articles you have written for college publications.  Simmer them all down to a single line within the academic portion of the résumé.  Please don’t provide the name of every article.  For that matter, even professional publications don’t need to be listed individually.  It isn’t that we don’t value writing — it’s that you can transmit the information, that you write for op-ed pages or journals, without listing every article.  Pick out the most recent pieces, or the most relevant, or the ones written for the most prestigious publications.  If you have written any published books, certainly include those titles.

3.  Every single award you received as an undergrad.  Stick to the prestigious ones.

4.  Every meeting of Model UN you attended.  Boil them down to a statement in the academic notes.

5.  Work experience of very short duration or involving very few hours per week.  If you have several such jobs, group them together somewhere.

I think the overall message here is that listing every iteration of an experience takes up tons of paper, but tells us little.  Make sure you’re using the space effectively!

And here’s the answer to a question that may not have occurred to you:  Yes, if you were working as a barista, camp counselor, wilderness guide, or computer sales person to save money while searching for work or before entering the Peace Corps, you should probably include that information somewhere.  Particularly if it will help to explain an extended gap in your chronology.  You don’t need to go into detail, but sometimes info on a pay-the-bills type job is much more helpful than leaving an extended gap unexplained.  On the other hand, if you have a part-time irrelevant job at night while working days at a relevant internship, feel free to omit details about the part-time job.

Here are a few last notes from the office.  Liz says, “Don’t lie or make stuff up.  It’ll come back to get you.”  Oh, yes.  It will.

Laurie says, “The résumés for the application can be longer than job résumés, and should include items such as travel and skills.  The dates should be clear and the order should be chronological.  Spell out acronyms.  Be descriptive.  Label sections clearly.”  (Note:  Job résumés in the U.S. are one to two pages!  When Laurie says “longer,” she means two to three pages.  Not twelve.)

I hope these tips will help get you started as you shape your résumés.  When you have completed your first draft (remember — these are works of synthesis and synthesis takes time…and editing), take a step back and ask yourself the question:  Will they easily be able to see what I have done, and when/where I have done it?  If not, try again.  I can tell you that it’s very frustrating when the Admissions Committee needs to spend time figuring out your chronology.  You don’t want your application readers to be frustrated.  Make us happy with a clear résumé, of three pages or less!

P.S.  Weren’t invited to the chat but want to participate in the future?  Make sure you have connected with us!

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This entry has more detail than our previous tips, but here Kristen provides her thoughts on what to include in (or exclude from) the résumé that you attach to your application. If you want us to understand your background in detail, a good résumé is key!

The Fletcher application asks you to include a résumé, and much like any company hiring for a job, we refer to it in order to understand your background. These résumés usually include education, professional experience, and travel/international experience, but many applicants also include hobbies, publications, and volunteer activities.

Some tips to help give your résumé maximum impact in the Fletcher application process:

  • Please be sure to include months and years for each job. For example, we would like to know that your job lasted from January 2006 until January 2007, not just 2006-2007.
  • Though there is no page limit, most polished résumés are just a page or two long. Unless you are submitting an academic CV for the PhD program, most applicants should be able to adequately represent their experiences in less than three pages.
  • Generally speaking, you should not include high school activities, or events that required very little participation such as attending a lecture. We are most interested in more recent activities and sustained commitments.
  • Spell out acronyms! DOS and OAS, for example, represent different organizations depending upon your professional context.
  • We ask you to list information on your résumé that is also located in other parts of the application, such as job titles and duration, international experiences, and degree. Please include this information in both places even though it may seem redundant.
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