Application tips: The Essays
Our final “application tips” post in this year’s series comes from Laura, sharing some thoughts on the components of an effective essay:
One way to look at your application is to see it as building your narrative: what do you want Fletcher to know about who you are, what you’ve done, what you are passionate about, where you want to go, and how grad school/Fletcher fits in all of that? All aspects of your application help to build your narrative – today I’m going to share a bit more about how to do so in your essays.
As I’m sure you’ve read on our website or application instructions, Fletcher requires two essays of master’s degree applicants (only 1 for exchange program applicants), and three essays of PhD applicants and MYF applicants. This post is going to focus on Essay 1 – the one required of all Fletcher applicants.
The prompt: The Fletcher School’s Committee on Admissions seeks to ensure that there is a good match between each admitted student and the school. Please tell us your goals for graduate study at Fletcher and for your career. Describe the elements of your personal, professional, and/or academic background that have prepared you for your career path. Why is Fletcher the right place to pursue your academic objectives and to prepare you to meet your professional goals? Why have you selected the degree program to which you are applying? If you are planning to pursue a joint degree, please be sure to address this interest in your essay. (500 to 750 words, Arial 12-point font)
First and foremost, read the essay questions carefully. It may sound silly to have to say that, but let me tell you, we’ve ready thousands upon thousands of essays, and there are many applicants who completely skim over and/or ignore the prompt all together. Not only is this a pet peeve for Committee members, but it is also a ruined opportunity for the applicant to help us get to know them better. The prompt questions are written to help guide you in sharing your story in your own words. Other ways to think about this prompt: What do you want to study and why? What is your experience in that field? What do you plan to do with your degree once you have it? Why are you applying to Fletcher now? And how does Fletcher and the specific program you are applying to fit your goals?
Secondly, plan out your essay writing and editing timeline accordingly. Do not leave your essay writing to the last minute to complete. I recommend you give yourself at least three weeks if not more. The more time and effort you put into this process, the more you will get out of it. Start with putting together an outline – maybe bullet points under each question. After a day or so, write your first draft and then edit it. Wait a week and then come back to it, add more and edit more. Then send it to your mentors, friends, and/or colleagues for their opinions and advice (give them at least a week to review it and send back their thoughts). Then review their notes and think more on what you’ve written and what may be missing. Add more, edit more. Come back a week later and look at it again with fresh eyes. One last review (and maybe ask one last other person to look it over) and make sure to spell check everything.
Thirdly, be your authentic self. There is no “correct answer” for this essay. We are not looking for specific phrases, words, themes, subjects, etc. There is no “typical” Fletcher student nor alumnus, therefore there is no “typical” Fletcher applicant.
So, in summation: follow the instructions of the prompt questions; don’t rush the writing and editing process; and be yourself. I’d also recommend reading our previous posts with advice on writing the essays. I can’t wait to read your essays!