Currently viewing the tag: "waitlist"

On Thursday evening last week I was chatting with someone who had asked about my work and who then recalled how stressful she found it when she applied to graduate school.  “Stressful” is, in fact, a common description that we hear from our applicants, too, and it’s why we try to share information about the process throughout the year. (Not that a little information can completely erase the apprehension that accompanies preparing applications, contemplating a move across the country or around the world, leaving a job, etc. — but we do our best.)

With the end of the process on the not-so-distant horizon, it’s also why we want applicants to understand the different decision options, and today I’m going to explain the waitlist.  Acknowledging that other graduate schools may describe their waitlists differently, here’s how Fletcher approaches things.

Each year, we’ll offer a place on the waitlist to a promising group — applicants whose credentials are solid overall, and yet just a little less solid than those of 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.)  In 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.

It can be hard for waitlisted applicants to get a handle on what this decision means for them, which is understandable.  For starters, when decisions go out, we can’t even answer the most basic question:  How many people are on the waitlist?  Surely we should have an answer, but we don’t.  Why?  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 only 40 people decide 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 re-review our notes.

Applicants offered a place on the waitlist can take until April 20 to decide whether to wait.  Most of our work with the waitlist takes place in May or June, though we’ll keep a list into the summer.  Sadly, 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 involved, the waitlist represents a final chance for admission.  We encourage you to make the most of this opportunity by taking a little time to give your application a boost.  For example, you may have experienced changes in your education or professional life, and we want to  know about it.  If you have new test scores (GRE/GMAT or TOEFL/IELTS) or grades for classes, please send them to us.  If you have changed jobs or assumed new responsibilities at your current position, send us an updated résumé.  And don’t hesitate to crow about your latest publication or honors.  Now’s your chance to shine up your application before we return to it when we evaluate the waitlist.

One last thing: Although applicants who have accepted a place on the waitlist still have applications under active consideration, and we won’t offer feedback at this time, we are happy to chat with you in person or by phone.  Get in touch, and we’ll let you know if there’s some special piece of information we need.

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Some readers (specifically, those who have decided to accept a spot on the waitlist) may be wondering about the current state of the enrollment process, and I’m here to report.  Most of our admitted applicants were required to make their decisions on enrolling by April 20, this past Saturday.  A few have until May 1, but the class is starting to take shape.  In the coming week, we’ll be doing some clean-up work and counting enrolling students.

Does this represent new information for those on the waitlist?  Not really, but I know that the correspondence vacuum can be hard to deal with.  And there is something that you can do.  First, if you plan to remain on the waitlist, please be sure that you have indicated that decision to us.  Your deadline is technically May 1, but why wait?  Second, if you or your pal have accepted a place on the waitlist but no longer want to wait, it would be great if you would communicate that decision to us, too.

Please contact us if you have questions.  I’ll be back with more information whenever there is some, most likely not until May.

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We try to provide clear information directly to applicants offered a place on the waitlist, to help them make a good decision on whether to wait.  Still, it never hurts to restate things, and there may be some other prospective students who wonder how the waitlist works.

We’ve offered waitlist spots to a group of applicants for each of the master’s-level programs.  For the next six weeks, the waitlist won’t be the focus of much of our attention, but applicants will be making their own decisions on whether to continue to wait.  Many will decide to turn down the offer — they’ll attend another graduate school or, maybe, continue to work.  We’ll set aside the responses until after the May 1 deadline for future review, grouping the applications of those who want to wait (in alphabetical order — no ranking), ready for us to re-review them.  We nearly always make at least a few offers of admission to applicants on the waitlist, and sometimes more than a few.

Meanwhile, between the release of decisions and May 1, we’re monitoring the responses of admitted students.  Some will say yes, and some will say no.  And even among those who say yes, some are organizing joint degrees, or balancing educational goals and professional responsibilities, and they’ll decide to defer enrollment for a year.  As these fine details of the enrollment situation unfold, we’ll go to the waitlist to admit the students we need to fill the September class.

So what can you do, once you’ve confirmed that you’ll wait?  We invite you to update your application with carefully selected materials.  Here is my annual list of suggested additions to waitlisted applications:

1.  Any update to basic application credentials:  Grades for newly completed classes, new test scores, an additional recommendation from your university or workplace, written by someone who knows you well and who can add a new perspective on your background.  (Please read that last sentence carefully.  You won’t gain much from a recommendation (however positive it might be) that covers the same ground as your previous three recommendations.)  You can also update your résumé, or send a link to a newly published article.

2.  A brief essay to complete the sentence, “When I wrote my personal statement, I wish I had said….”  Do you have a better sense of your academic and career goals than you did in January?  If so, fill us in!  (Keeping your response under 500 words is a good idea.)

3.  A visit to Fletcher.  We don’t offer formal interviews during the spring, but we’ll certainly meet with you if you’re able to visit.  The best time for an appointment is late April to early May.  We’ll try to accommodate you whenever you are here, but we’d appreciate it if you could hold off until after April 15.

4.  Anything else that you would have put in your application if the instructions had been written differently.  While I discourage you from sending a research paper or thesis (and I say this because I know that many applicants would like to send us additional reading materials), there may be something that you wished you could have included.

5.  Information that helps explain the gap or shortcoming that you feel may be holding your application back.  You may not have chosen to address it in your application, but now would be a good time to explain those crummy grades from your first undergraduate semester, or your limited international experience, or whatever else is a weakness in your application.  And a weakness you have noticed is probably one we’ve noticed, too.

You can send your update by email.  Try to send it to us by May 1 (the deadline for deciding whether to stay on the waitlist), though you remain welcome to update your file as the spring goes on. The majority of the waitlist activity will take place from early May to the end of June.  It’s always our goal to sew everything up as quickly as possible — both for your sake and for ours.

Last, the scholarship question.  At the same time as I can’t guarantee we’ll have scholarship funds remaining in late May or June, I can say that we generally have had some money to work with.  Remember that the applicants who decide not to enroll are often returning scholarship funds, too.

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I’m back again to explain (while everyone’s still paying attention) Fletcher’s admissions decisions.  Moving along to Lesson Two of our Primer, the next topic is the waitlist, which has a good news/bad news element.

Each year, along with 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.)  In 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.

It can be hard for waitlisted applicants to get a handle on what this decision means for them, which is understandable.  The challenge is that, when decisions go out, we can’t even answer the most basic question:  How many people are on the waitlist?  Why is that?  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.  Sadly, 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 involved, the waitlist represents a final chance for admission.

One last thing: Applicants who have accepted a place on the waitlist still have applications under active consideration, and we won’t offer feedback at this time.  On the other hand, you may wonder if there’s anything you can do to give a boost to your application, and the answer is, YES!  You may have experienced changes in your education or professional life, and we want to  know about it.  If you have new test scores (GRE/GMAT or TOEFL/IELTS) or grades for classes, please send them to us.  If you have changed jobs or assumed new responsibilities at your current position, send us an updated résumé.  And don’t hesitate to crow about your latest publication or honors.  Now’s your chance to shine up your application a bit before we return to it when we evaluate the waitlist in May.

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Writing about the waitlist is a dangerous exercise for me:  I don’t want to be either excessively rosy or unnecessarily gloomy.  Today, though, I’ll throw caution to the wind and try to shed a little light for you.  Let’s start with the chronology of the waitlist so far.

March:  We made a bunch of offers of a space on the waitlist for each program.

March/April:  Applicants let us know if they wanted to wait.

April 20/May 1:  Admitted applicants responded to their offers of admission.  We added everything up to figure out whether the number of enrolling students was too low, too high, or just right.

May 1-3:  The staff sifted through the boxes of application files of those who had decided to remain on the waitlist.

And that brought us to Friday, when the Admissions Committee offered admission to a very small group of MALD applicants on the waitlist.  Why such a small group?  We need to ensure we meet that “just right” number, but we’ll go slowly so that we don’t end up with more students than will fit in the school.  Having made the offers, we’ll wait for the responses, and check the numbers again.

What does this mean for you, if you weren’t in that small group?  More waiting, I’m afraid, but we admitted so few students that you should not draw any further conclusions about your prospects.

For now, continue to update us on any changes to your profile.  I usually suggest that applicants decide how long they want to wait.  Some people have decided that they’d wait until May 1, but no later.  Others decide that, so long as they can give their employer two weeks’ notice, they’ll take an offer as late as August.  Most people fall between those two points.

Finally, I realize I’m not answering a key question, regarding how many more people we’ll admit.  I simply don’t know.  What I can say is that we’re watching those numbers for all degree programs, and we always aim to have our entering class defined by the end of June.

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The waitlist is its own big story.  It doesn’t have the good or bad news clarity of being admitted or denied, so how applicants see it depends on how they perceived their likelihood of gaining admission.  In any event, though we don’t have predictive powers to make everything clear, we can at least explain the process.

First, note that you have the support of the Admissions Office staff.  We all know well that waiting for a final decision from March into the summer, after already waiting from January to March, is challenging.  If you’re going to decide to keep your place on the waitlist, you’ll want to know what you’re getting into.

Next, the prospects:  Nearly every year, we’ve made offers of admission to applicants who have remained on the waitlist:  only a few people in some years, but as many as 20 in others.  In my long Fletcher admissions life, there was only one year in which we didn’t make any offers.

Then, the process:  We’ve made offers of a place on the waitlist to a group of applicants to all the master’s-level programs.  For the next six weeks, the waitlist won’t be the focus of much of our attention, but applicants will be making their own decisions on whether to continue to wait.  Many will decide to turn down the offer — they’ll attend another graduate school or, maybe, continue to work.  We’ll set aside the responses until after the May 1 deadline for future review, grouping the applications of those who want to wait (in alphabetical order — no ranking), ready for us to re-review them.

Meanwhile…we’re monitoring the responses of admitted students.  Some will say yes, and some will say no.  And even among those who say yes, some are organizing joint degrees, or balancing educational goals and professional responsibilities, and they’ll decide to defer enrollment for a year.  As these fine details of the enrollment situation unfold, we’ll go to the waitlist to admit the students we need to fill the September class.

So what can you do, once you’ve confirmed that you’ll wait?  We invite you to update your application with carefully selected materials.  Here is my annual list of suggested additions to waitlisted applications:

1.  Any update to basic application credentials:  Grades for newly completed classes, new test scores, an additional recommendation from your university or workplace, written by someone who knows you well and who can add a new perspective on your background.  (Please read that last sentence carefully.  You won’t gain much from a recommendation (however positive it might be) that covers the same ground as your previous three recommendations.)  You can also update your résumé, or send a copy of a newly published article.

2.  A brief essay to complete the sentence, “When I wrote my essay, I wish I had said….”  Do you have a better sense of your academic and career goals than you did in January?  If so, fill us in!  (Keeping your response under 500 words is a good idea.)

3.  A visit to Fletcher.  We don’t offer formal interviews during the spring, but we’ll certainly meet with you if you happen to be able to visit.  The best time for an appointment is late April to early May.  We’ll try to accommodate you whenever you are here, but we’d appreciate it if you could hold off until after April 15.

4.  Anything else that you would have put in your application if the instructions had been written differently.  While I discourage you from sending a research paper or thesis (and I say this because I know that many applicants would like to send us additional reading materials), there may be something that you wished you could have included.

5.  Information that helps explain the gap or shortcoming that you feel may be holding your application back.  You may not have chosen to address it in your application, but now would be a good time to explain those crummy grades from your first undergraduate semester, or your limited international experience, or whatever else is a weakness in your application.  And a weakness you have noticed is probably one we’ve noticed, too.

You can send a short update by email, but please use postal mail for anything more substantive.  Try to send it to us by May 1 (the deadline for deciding whether to stay on the waitlist), though you remain welcome to update your file as the spring goes on. The majority of the waitlist activity will take place from early May to the end of June.  It’s always our goal to sew everything up as quickly as possible — both for your sake and for ours.

Last, the scholarship question.  At the same time as I can’t guarantee we’ll have scholarship funds remaining in late May or June, I can say that we generally have had some money to work with.  Remember that the applicants who decide not to enroll are often returning scholarship funds, too.

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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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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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All of us on the Admissions staff have a soft spot in our hearts for the applicants on the waitlist.  We’re well aware that waiting for a final decision from March into the summer, after already waiting from January to March, is challenging.  And waiting isn’t for everyone.  But for those who want to hang in there, or for those who are trying to decide what to do, I have some details for you.  (You’ll also receive information by email.)

First, the prospects.  Nearly every year, we’ve made offers of admission to applicants who have remained on the waitlist:  only a few people in some years, but as many as 20 in others.  In my long Fletcher admissions life, there was only one year in which we didn’t make any admission offers to applicants on the waitlist, and that year we offered places in the following January’s entering class to a few of them.

Here’s the process:  We’ve made offers of a place on the waitlist to applicants a group of applicants to all the master’s-level programs.  For the next six weeks, the waitlist won’t be the focus of much of our attention, but applicants will be making their own decisions on whether to continue to wait.  Many will decide to turn down the offer — they’ll attend another graduate school or, maybe, continue to work.  Responses have already poured in, but the deadline isn’t until May 1, when we’ll set aside the applications for future review.  (And I should note that the applications are in alphabetical order — we don’t “rank” the waitlist.)

Meanwhile…we’re monitoring the responses of admitted students.  Some will accept the admission offer, but they’re organizing joint degrees, or balancing educational goals and professional responsibilities, and they’ll decide to defer enrollment for a year.  As these fine details of the enrollment situation unfold, we’ll go to the waitlist to admit the students we need to fill the September class.

So what can you do, once you’ve confirmed that you’ll wait?  We invite you to update your application with carefully selected materials.  Here is my annual list of suggested additions to waitlisted applications:

1.  Any update to basic application credentials:  Grades for newly completed classes, new test scores, an additional recommendation from your university or workplace, written by someone who knows you well and who can add a new perspective on your background.  (Please read that last sentence carefully.  You won’t gain much from a recommendation (however positive it might be) that covers the same ground as your previous three recommendations.)  You can also update your résumé, or send a copy of a newly published article.

2.  A brief essay to complete the sentence, “When I wrote my essay, I wish I had said….”  Do you have a better sense of your academic and career goals than you did in January?  If so, fill us in!  (Keeping your response to about 500 words is a good idea.)

3.  A visit to Fletcher.  We don’t offer formal interviews during the spring, but we’ll certainly meet with you if you happen to be able to visit.  The best time for an appointment is late April to early May.  We’ll try to accommodate you whenever you are here, but we’d appreciate it if you could hold off until after April 15.

4.  Anything else that you would have put in your application if the instructions had been written differently.  While I discourage you from sending a research paper or thesis (and I say this because I know that many applicants would like to send us additional reading materials), there may be something that you wished you could have included.

5.  Information that helps explain the gap or shortcoming that you feel may be holding your application back.  You may not have chosen to address it in your application, but now would be a good time to explain those crummy grades from your first undergraduate semester, or your limited international experience, or whatever else is a weakness in your application.  And a weakness you have noticed is probably one we’ve noticed, too.

You can send a short update by email, but please use postal mail for anything more substantive.

Historically, we have admitted students from the waiting list as early as late April (only once or twice) to early August (also rare).  The majority of the waiting list activity will take place from early May to the end of June.  It’s always our goal to sew everything up as quickly as possible — both for your sake and for ours.

Last, the scholarship question.  At the same time as I can’t guarantee we’ll have scholarship funds remaining in late May or June, I can say that we generally have had some money to work with.  Remember that the applicants who decide not to enroll are often returning scholarship funds, too.

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Not long after I hit the button to put up my previous post today, a comment came in asking if I could provide an update on the waitlist.  (Thanks, Samantha, for reminding me!)  Here’s what I can say:

A tiny group of students has been admitted off the waitlists for the MIB and PhD programs.  So far, we haven’t drawn from the MALD/MA waitlist.  There are still requests for deferrals coming in, and we continue to assess the number of enrolling students.  We also haven’t told any waitlisted candidates that we won’t admit them this year.  On the other hand, we know that many people who originally said they would wait have since made other plans.

I realize that all of this is to say that there’s no news.  At least, if you haven’t heard from us, you know that almost no one else has either.

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