Advice for the waitlisted

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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