Admissions Decision Primer, Lesson One

Having worked in admissions for many years now, and also having shepherded my own kids through the college admissions process, I know that anxiety ticks up day-by-day with increasing intensity as of March 1.  Every year, I try to get in ahead of the worst of the frenzy to explain Fletcher’s admission decision options.  And because my objective is to help applicants understand our process, I prefer to start with the bad news.  I’m realistic (and empathetic) enough to know that many applicants who are not admitted will curse the day they started reading the blog, and I’ll never hear from them again.

So I will seize the moment and share the explanation.

The truth is that admitting applicants is the easy part of admissions work, and naturally we focus on the easy and fun.  But denying admission is an inescapable aspect — the most challenging aspect — of what we do.  When we took a break at our final MALD/MA Admissions Committee last Friday, even the professors on the Committee walked out of the room discussing the time we spent on a particularly vexing application.  We gave the applicant a very thorough review but, ultimately (and sadly), decided we needed to say no.  I can assure you that no one is happy in those circumstances.

When we review applications, we’re looking for a combination of academic potential, professional and international experience, and clear goals for study and a post-Fletcher career.  Applicants who are denied admission might be missing one or more of those elements, or they might be just a little weak in all of them, particularly compared to the overall qualifications of admitted students.

With gaining admission as the objective, falling short will inevitably feel like bad news, but we do make one distinction among those who will not be offered admission this year.  Some applicants to the MALD and MIB programs will receive a letter saying that, though they look great overall, we really want them to gain some relevant professional experience, and it’s the work history that stands between them and the admission they hoped for.  We’ll only use this “work deny” decision for applicants within about a year of their university graduation.  (This year, that means 2012 and 2013 grads.)  We encourage them to work for a couple of years, although (depending on their internship record), it could take more or less time for them to build their professional experience and become competitive applicants.

Here are two points to file away, in case you may find them useful later this year.  The first is that Fletcher will provide feedback to applicants.  If you’re planning to reapply, I encourage you to ask for feedback this spring.  (That is, don’t wait until the month before your next application — you may want some time to make improvements.)  We’ll accept feedback requests on May 1 and you’ll hear back from us within a month or so of your request.

The second is that Fletcher welcomes applicants to reapply.  Someone who applies unsuccessfully, smooths up some of the rough points in the application, and reapplies in a subsequent year, has shown determination and a strong interest in the School — two qualities we love in our applicants.

I’ll be back tomorrow with details on the waitlist.

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