Currently viewing the tag: "waitlist"

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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Everyone on the Admissions staff has gone through at least one round (undergraduate) of competitive admissions, and many of us have gone through two or more.  So I’m being completely sincere when I say that we understand that waiting for a final decision from March into the summer, after already waiting from January to March, is a drag.  You want to move on, but there’s this process that’s still holding you back.  We get it.  And waiting may not be for everyone, but if you make the decision to remain on the waitlist, here are some tips for you.

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.  We didn’t end up making any offers for last September (a surprise to us), but some of last spring’s waitlisted students were offered admission for January.

And here’s how the waitlist works at Fletcher.  (Please don’t assume that other schools do things the same way.)  We’ve made a bunch of offers of a place on the waitlist for applicants to all Fletcher 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.  By May 1, all the responses are in, and 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, such as…

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 that 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.

So there you go.  Some tips on how to boost your application while you wait.  You can send a short update by email, but please use “snail 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.  And, 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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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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