Some reassurance from an old friend

I had the great pleasure of catching up with my former colleague, blog mentor, and friend Jessica the other day. To long time readers who miss her voice here, I’m happy to report she’s doing very well, and misses you all, too. Among the many things we chatted about was the ongoing scandal in the undergrad admissions process at several major US institutions, and Jessica was kind enough to blogify her thoughts on the subject:

Hi folks! Remember me? No? Fair enough. I’m Jessica – the one to whom Dan refers occasionally – and I wrote/managed the blog until my final post last August 31. Dan and I grabbed lunch together last week and I offered to write about a topic much on the minds of admissions folks everywhere – the big undergraduate admissions scandal.

Why write about this in the Fletcher Admissions Blog? Well, you might be a future applicant and you’re wondering whether such heinous shenanigans are typical at Fletcher as well. Or maybe your application for 2019 enrollment wasn’t successful, and you’re wondering whether other applicants played fairly. Or maybe you were admitted, and you’re wondering if your future classmates gamed the system.

I am here to tell you that the kind of craziness we heard about last week was never part of my Fletcher Admissions experience. At information sessions, I was always happy and proud to be able to affirm that strong applicants are admitted to Fletcher — simple as that! And although we have a large applicant pool, it’s not so large that we can’t take the time to read the many elements of the application and ensure that everything lines up.

Can I claim that no one has ever falsified a piece of the application? Of course not. In fact, in any application cycle, we’ll wonder about a few personal statements – did the applicant really write that? And we know, because ETS tells us, that there are occasional security breaches at standardized test centers. But these and other examples are minor issues compared to what we learned has happened at the undergraduate level.

I can’t speak for other graduate schools, but I feel comfortable with a broad statement that the graduate admission process differs significantly from the undergraduate. One of the most noteworthy differences is that parents are rarely involved, and it was wealthy parents who were responsible for the recently uncovered scam. Other significant differences include the absence of a platform like the Common Application used for undergraduate applications. (The simplicity of the Common App enables high school students to apply to 20 universities in a cycle, exacerbating competition for selective colleges. For master’s programs, it’s a rare applicant who would apply to 20 international affairs programs.) And last, the undergraduate program ratings featured in certain well-known publications distort the process by evaluating schools based on the number of applications they receive and their rate of admission. These are all forces that Fletcher doesn’t need to reckon with.

Fletcher is further shielded from deception by the design of our admissions process. While the transcript is arguably a key credential in each application, there is no single item that leads directly to admission. You can photoshop your face onto the body of an Olympic curler, but unless you have the academic strength to succeed, the team will simply think of your application as being an interesting one that didn’t lead to admission. And I can say for sure that none of us has ever been offered a bribe.

So, while the scandal is the talk of the admissions world, the reason it was a prime topic for my Fletcher pals is that the crazy stuff we heard about is far from our experience. By comparison, and happily, the Fletcher admissions process is kind of, well, dull. When we give you tips on how to put together a strong application, you can trust that there isn’t another process happening on a parallel track.

With that, I’ll sign off again and leave the blogging to Dan!

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