Mid-to-late March is an exciting time for newly admitted students. Many candidates have several good options in front of them, but after the initial excitement passes it can quickly start to feel overwhelming. There’s a lot to research about different graduate programs, and a lot of financial planning to do. Last week I covered some basics on financial planning, mainly advocating a “portfolio” approach to meet the costs of attendance. For almost everyone, Fletcher scholarships are a major piece of that portfolio, so it’s worth going into a bit more detail about our scholarship process.
For starters, it’s important to be aware that all available scholarship aid has been allocated to admitted candidates (as is always the case at the point of March decision release). “Available,” though, is something of a relative term in this context. One of the kind of loopy things about Admissions is that we offer quite a lot more funding to admitted candidates than is actually in our budget. I realize that may sound pretty crazy, but inherent to Admissions work is some art, some science and, frankly, some gambling. Admissions and scholarship offers are always made based upon a great deal of data from previous cycles, which helps us make sure we don’t get overextended. Enough admitted candidates will decide not to accept their admissions offer (sadly for us), such that we know quite precisely what we’re able to offer beyond what we really have – in terms of spots in the class as well as scholarship awards – and still remain within budgetary and class capacity bounds.
Not surprisingly, we get many requests to redistribute funds vacated by candidates who decline their admissions offers. Given the above, though a declined admissions offer doesn’t necessarily mean available funding returned to the coffer, or at least not in a dollar-for-dollar sense. As admitted candidates start to make their enrollment decisions, there indeed are sometimes “real” dollars available for redistribution (usually in pretty small amounts), and I assure you that we will redistribute all such funds. We’re usually not able to do this until much later in the enrollment process, however, when we have a pretty good idea of the overall incoming class. For admitted candidates, this means it’s best to proceed with your financial planning based on the scholarship information you currently have available to you.