Decoding the application form

In an ongoing effort to provide a bit of helpful insight to the various pieces of the Fletcher application, today I’ll turn to the application form itself. This portion of the application may feel like a formality, a bit of necessary throat-clearing before the “good stuff,” but there’s a lot of detail that we learn about an applicant here, and it’s important that you complete it fully and accurately. I like to think that the form is mostly straightforward and self-explanatory, but there are a few segments that can cause mild confusion or uncertainty for applicants. I’ll do my best to give a bit of context for a few of these:

International Experience: There are a couple of things to keep in mind here. An important one is that we appreciate that spending time overseas is a privilege, and that not all applicants have had such opportunities by the time they apply. Direct experience abroad is not a requirement for admission to Fletcher, and you shouldn’t fear that your application will be disadvantaged if you haven’t spent much, or any, time outside your native country. Many applicants have significant international exposure through work with international policies or populations rather than physical travel, and we value this equally in reviewing applications (details of this type of experience will come through elsewhere in your application). Another thing to know is that we’re not looking for an exhaustive catalogue of every international experience you’ve had in your life. In the past few years we’ve tweaked this section to encourage applicants to focus on their most meaningful or substantial abroad experiences. If you’ve lived or worked extensively overseas, no need to enter that vacation to Cancún as a separate item, as well. If, on the other hand, a brief personal overseas trip is one of your primary abroad experiences thus far, feel free to draw more attention to it. Use your judgment, and aim for a representative rather than comprehensive portrait of your experience.

Other Schools: Some applicants seem to think that this prompt needs to be approached strategically, as if disclosing other schools to which they’re applying will somehow be used in an evaluative manner. I assure you that this is not the case. The prompt underscores that this information is used only for “institutional review,” a bit of a vague term that perhaps has nefarious undertones for some applicants. Learning what other schools to which applicants most commonly apply is useful in understanding our own marketplace, and staying abreast of what programs, on average, our applicant pool views to be our most direct peers. It’s information that helps us do our work better, and helps Fletcher as an institution understand how we can best meet the needs of our applicants and students. We know most applicants apply to several schools at once, and are grateful to those who share these details. There’s no possible response to this prompt that will affect your admissions decision.

Prior Degrees: When filling out the “Academic Record” portion of the application, please remember to specify both the type of degree you received (e.g. Bachelor of Arts) as well as the month/year conferred, even if both of those data points are pending. While it’s not the end of the world if you neglect to do so, it will make your application readers have to hunt through your transcripts to verify this information, and our application processing team go back to edit your file accordingly to maintain data integrity. In short, a minor pain in the tuckus that we’d rather avoid.

Gaps in Employment: In the “Professional Experience” section, you’ll see that we ask you to “Please explain any significant gaps in employment.” Don’t read a chiding tone into this prompt, similar to how you’d tell your new puppy to please explain why she unrolled and shredded an entire package of toilet paper in the kitchen. There are lots of completely normal reasons that you might have some breaks between your major gigs, but it makes reviewing your application much easier if we’re not left to guess what they might be. Most applicants have bits of their background they don’t feel make major contributions toward their case for graduate school, but understanding the entirety of your path – including the occasional detour – gives us a much fuller picture of how you’ve gotten to where you are now.

Scholarship ApplicationFletcher’s admissions process is need-blind, which means that an applicant’s financial situation does not factor into the decision process. If you’re intending to apply for Fletcher scholarship aid, please remember to indicate this at the prompt in the application, and complete and submit the scholarship application with the rest of your materials. There’s no benefit to you in not submitting the scholarship application on time, and doing so at a later date could cause processing delays.

I’ll wrap this up with a blanket reassurance about the application form as a whole. There are no trick questions here, nothing intentionally designed to misdirect you, nor potential responses for which we’re more interested in subtext than text. By providing the requested information as straightforwardly as possible, you’ll lessen the chances of readers being confused by your story, or of us needing to follow up with you for clarification or additional information.

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