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Regardless of where you do your research on Fletcher, you should be aware that all students must pass a language proficiency exam to graduate.  The information is included among the degree requirements on the Fletcher website, and for those who like to dig through the blog archives, I’ve also written about it many times

So it is a little surprising how many applicants this year have failed to tell us about their language proficiency by filling out the application completely.  Sometimes there’s a cultural element.  Folks from India who have studied in English throughout their academic career just assume we’ll know that they speak Hindi or another Indian language.  The same is often true for applicants from Anglophone African countries.

But I’m not sure why other native English speakers (particularly U.S. students) aren’t giving us the details we need.  We’ll need to look at this over the summer when we do our annual review of the application form.  Meanwhile, we’re studying transcripts and résumés, searching for crumbs of information on language study.  Does this post make you realize you made a strategic mistake in leaving out your language proficiency details?  Send us a note to update us.  For students to whom we offer admission, it could be the difference between a regular admission offer and being required to pursue further language study before enrolling.


We’re not yet midway through the application review process, but I want to offer some insights that may be reassuring while applicants for September enrollment await the decisions they’ll receive in March.

When the MALD/MA Admissions Committee met last Friday, we considered the case of an applicant who did poorly as an undergraduate but subsequently went on to a successful multi-year career.  The applicant had strong GRE scores and glowing recommendations.  (No surprise — there were no academic recommendations.)  Chances are good that we’ll review an application that fits that general description at every meeting this year.

When we review applications, we are always looking for background and credentials that are well laid out on our website.  The goal is “to enroll a diverse class of students who have demonstrated academic excellence, have a wide range of personal, professional and academic experience, and have a strong commitment to an international career. We seek students who, by virtue of their background, achievement and experience, can contribute to the education of their peers and to the scholarship and practice of international relations.”  That’s both super-specific and, it could be argued, equally vague.  I generally tell applicants that the bottom line is that students must be able to succeed at Fletcher, and that’s true!  But then what do we make of the applicant described above?

Or how about another application from Friday.  The applicant had a nearly perfect undergraduate record and test scores, but won’t graduate until May and, predictably, has limited professional experience.  We’ll see applications like this one every week, too.  As a professional school, we strongly value pre-Fletcher work experience — it supports the development of a student’s objectives and is a key factor as they seek a post-Fletcher job.  But brilliant students generally find their way through the career definition and search process, even if they do need a little extra support from the Office of Career Services.

In both of these cases, the Admissions Committee decided to offer the applicant admission.  Admissions people always say they employ a holistic system of review.  The opportunity for Fletcher to admit both of the applicants described here depends on it.  If we were to impose cut-offs — whether logical or arbitrary — one or both of these applicants wouldn’t be admitted.  Instead, the Hall of Flags is sprinkled with people of both types.

Students who went to U.S. colleges and universities often worry that the graduate school admissions process will be the same as it was for undergrad.  I’m happy to say that it isn’t.  Applicants who can objectively be described as qualified for Fletcher, demonstrating all those qualities outlined above, will be admitted.  Fortunately, there’s also room in the class for some students who are missing a few of the qualities.  So long as we can see a pathway for their success, we can go ahead and offer them admission.

I hope that this mid-process pause will help reassure some applicants that they can stop trying to figure out our average GPA or GRE scores.  Reviewing Fletcher applications is too complex for us to rely on numbers alone.


Fletcher is still a quiet place with most students still on their winter break, but the Admissions Office isn’t quiet at all.  We’ve had a few visitors today for the last of the on-campus interviews, and two of our Graduate Assistants — Cece and Cindy — are back at work.  Naturally, the inbox is keeping them busy, as folks send last minute questions.

Tomorrow (Tuesday), the Admissions staff will be meeting off-site for the day, but Cece and Cindy will take care of your last-minute application questions.  And then the following day (Wednesday) is the January 10 deadline, when we’ll receive most of the year’s applications.  Naturally, I hope you’re not waiting for the ultimate last minute (11:59 p.m. EST (UTC-4)) to submit your application, but I reluctantly concede that it’s too late to pester you to submit early.

Meanwhile, review of the applications submitted by December 20 for the PhD program and the Map Your Future pathway is well underway.  PhD applicants will still need to wait until late March to receive their application results, but MYF applicants will hear this month.

Back to all the January 10 applicants.  What can/should you be doing now to ensure smooth submission of your application?  I’m going to assume you’ve completed most parts of it, so the big task now is a careful proofreading.  Make sure your essays are correct, no longer have editing marks in them, and don’t include mention of any of the other schools to which you’re applying.  (Yes, that happens.  Too often!)  Double check your email and mailing address.  For the mailing address, please use standard punctuation and upper/lower case.  It’s amazing how many people provide us with an address that isn’t actually useful for mailing things.  Take a few minutes and write out abbreviations that might not be clear to us, even if they’re completely clear to you and your peers with the organization.  And do return to your essays and make sure they answer the question we’ve asked.

Above all, remember that the application you send us is the one we’ll review.  Unless there’s a technical problem that results in an illegible attachment, we expect you to get it right the first time.  So proofread proofread proofread!  And we look forward to reading your application.


Hey friends!  Many of you have a little extra time away from your day-to-day this week, so I would like to remind you that the official January 10 deadline is coming up, but it’s not too late to assign yourself an arbitrary double-advance-deadline that will be your ticket to submitting all your materials on-time and without errors.  I’m telling you, based on many years of experience, that it’s a rare soul who enjoys the experience of running straight up to the last minute (11:59 p.m. EST).  At the very least, please (PLEASE!) complete your application one day early, review it to be sure it contains everything you do want and nothing you don’t, and submit it on the morning of January 10.  While it makes no real difference to the Admissions Office if you submit early or late, it is better for you to submit early.  Trust me.  I’ve seen it all.  You don’t want to know.  Just do it.  You’ll thank me.


At our Admissions team meeting last week, I asked what I thought would be an easy question.  I figured it would be nice to offer some application tips, and I asked my Admissions pals to suggest things that make them happy when they’re reading applications.  Such a simple request!  Or not!  It turns out I had, instead, opened a big ol’ can of worms.

What I discovered is that, in some areas, our preferences are not in line.  Interesting!  I always assume that everyone will agree with me!  (In a perfect world…)  So today’s post will capture the points on which we achieved clear consensus, in hopes that blog readers who are starting or editing an application can benefit.  And it isn’t that our points of disagreement result in differing application evaluations.  Simply that what has another staffer smiling ear-to-ear may not affect me at all.

The part of the application on which we agree the most is the résumé.  We all like to see a nice clean résumé, listing (in reverse chronological order) your professional and academic experience.  Different settings call for different résumés, but the Admissions Staff all noted that we don’t need to see special colors, quotes from inspiring leaders, or your list of favorite movies.  Stick to the basics and make it readable.  (And then chat with me about movies after you’re admitted.)  While we encourage you to keep the résumé to two pages, we won’t penalize you if you go over, so please, no teeny-tiny fonts.  Check out these posts for more tips on the résumé.

Kristen went further to say that she’s happy when the employment information in the application and in the résumé match up.  It’s so much easier to understand your story if you don’t leave us struggling to figure out whether your job lasted one year or one month.

Dan likes when applicants synthesize their interests and note the links between their experiences.  It might be clear to you why you went from this to that, but if you don’t lay it out, maybe we won’t see the connection.  When we do, we’re happy.

Next, Laurie mentioned, and we all agreed, that you should use the “additional information” section of the application wisely.  DO use it to explain why your first undergraduate year resulted in such poor grades, or why your Peace Corps experience ended abruptly, or that you are planning to plug a gap and take economics in the spring.  DO NOT use it to explain a single B on an otherwise perfect transcript, or anything else that really doesn’t need explaining and/or could be interpreted as whining.

Liz and I disagreed about what essay structure makes us happy.  I personally like to see the applicant’s objectives right at the top.  Liz likes when the applicant builds the narrative and states the goals later on.  One thing we agree on — if you actually answer the question we’ve asked, your goals will be clear to us after we read the essay.

And speaking of essays, one of my pet peeves is when applicants are obviously using a thesaurus to make random word changes.  Instead of, “I walked to the store,” the essay will say, “I perambulated to the emporium.”  Sure, the essay is a type of formal document, but it calls for clear, personal writing — not someone else’s idea of fancy words.  I try to keep this from being an annual theme, but perhaps I’ve written about it before…. For that matter, the Blog archive includes quite a few essay tips.  Make sure your essays work together to tell us your story and to describe your goals, and we’ll all be happy!

Lucas mentioned that he likes when he sees all the information he needs in the transcripts.  You should be including documentation of all courses that counted toward your undergraduate degree (and graduate degree, if applicable).  We don’t need to see anything else.  No certificates.  No high school diploma.  But we absolutely want to see grades from your semester/year studying abroad or from the first university you attended before you transferred.  When all the details are included and clear, we’re happy.

Now that I’ve given you this list of what makes the Admissions team happy, I can also tell you not to worry that some strange unmentioned preference will doom your candidacy.  That is absolutely not the case!  My experience is that there’s a strong convergence of views on the quality of an application.  The matter of our preferences relates more to the pleasure we take in reviewing it.  There’s a certain satisfaction in seeing a nice clean application, but it’s the underlying qualities that result in a decision to admit an applicant.

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Are you planning to submit your application for review by our January 10 deadline?  The large majority of our applications will arrive within 72 hours of the January deadline, even though, depending on your degree program and interest in applying for scholarship assistance, you might have other deadline options.

But let’s assume that January 10 is your deadline target.  We are now within one month from that date.  How are you going to plan your time?  I’ll tell you what I would suggest.  I would suggest that you NOT wait until the last minute to submit your application.  I would further suggest that you assign yourself two deadlines — the day by which you’ll complete your application, and the day on which you’ll submit it.  Some suggestions?  How about you aim to complete your application by January 5.  Get everything all cued up, and then go to the movies, or meet your friends for trivia night, or whatever it is you like to do to relax and distract yourself.  Then, on January 7, reopen your application.  Review everything.  And if it’s all as you want it to be, submit the application.  You’ll feel good and, even better, you won’t suddenly realize that, in your January 10 haste, you submitted the wrong essays or résumé.

Though it’s not my job to worry about your applications to other graduate schools, note that this double-advance-deadline method will work for them, too.

I’m well aware that applications take time and they don’t write themselves.  Maybe the idea of submitting the application early won’t appeal to you.  But let’s be honest with ourselves; aiming for your choice of deadline before the actual deadline won’t negatively affect the application, even if you are giving up a few days to work on it.  Get those fingers typing the answers to the questions on the form, and get your mind thinking big thoughts for your essays, and make it happen.

An additional benefit of submitting early — there’s a good chance we’ll have a chance to process your application before the real deadline even arrives.  That means that, while others are still deciding whether to use a comma or semi-colon, you might learn that your application is complete.  Won’t that be nice?  While they’re stressing, you’re relaxing.

In conclusion, please do not follow Murray’s example and hide from the deadline.  Embrace the challenge I’ve just set in front of you, and submit your application just a few days early.  You’ll be glad you did.


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I was at my favorite Davis Square Farmers Market yesterday (convenient to Tufts, open every Wednesday until the day before Thanksgiving) and the weather was the subject of most of my conversations.  We’ve been gliding along on a stream of endless summery days, but on Tuesday, the winds started to blow and suddenly the weather is what we expect for November in the Boston area.  And once the temperatures dropped, November seemed very real.  I’ve barely been thinking about the big events of the month — Thanksgiving at home, and Early Notification at work — but now that November feels like November, the month is impossible to ignore.

You don’t need to worry about my Thanksgiving planning (still in only the formative stages, but there will be pies), but you might be thinking about applying by our November 15 Early Notification deadline.  If you’re looking for application tips, you could start with the week of Application Boot Camp posts we wrote a few years ago.  (Note two changes since then: First, only two recommendations are required, not three; and second, here are this year’s application instructions.)  Advice on the essays and résumé would still apply.

At the risk of repeating things I’ve written already, I’ll remind you that applying early is great for everyone — we take care of some of our applications in the fall instead of in January, and an early offer of admission means our admitted students have more time to plan.  But that’s only true if you’re really ready to submit your application.  If you are going to rush it through or send it along with pieces missing, that’s not going to serve you well.  Apply early if you’re ready to apply early, and otherwise wait until January.  There’s no admissions advantage for Early Notification applications, and we’ll look forward to reading your story on some snowy day.

That’s about all I have to say about Early Notification until after we’ve released decisions, but I hope you’ll contact us if you have any questions.

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Many of you are probably in the process of arranging your recommendations, whether “arranging” means making that original ask, or pestering your professors to submit a promised letter before November 15.  In either case, you might want some tips, and there are plenty of them on the blog.  I encourage you to read through our past posts for suggestions.  You’ll find advice for you, the applicant, on what you can do to ensure you’ll receive an effective recommendation (like this post, for example) and there are also suggestions for your recommenders, which you could link to if you email them.

Beyond that, instead of rewriting what I’ve written before, I’ll share an anecdote.  On Monday, we were discussing applications for January 2018 enrollment.  There was one case of an applicant who hadn’t done very well as an undergrad.  The applicant’s professor did the student a huge favor by explaining the student’s trajectory through the undergraduate program.  Suddenly, everything was clear to us and we no longer felt hesitant to offer admission.  I encourage you to follow this applicant’s example and ensure that your letters of recommendation advance your story and help you make your case for admission.  It takes some work on your part, but it’s effort that can have a big impact.

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Time to take a minute to focus on those folks who will apply by October 15 for January 2018 enrollment.  I fear that this group ends up receiving a little less care from us than they deserve, as October 15 is squooshed in between the rush of the semester’s start and the busy build-up to the following September’s enrollment process.

So, my prospective Januarian friends. What does it mean to start your Fletcher degree in January, rather than September?  First, let’s note that only the MALD, MA, and MIB programs allow January enrollment.  And then I’ll say that there’s effectively no curricular difference whether you start in January or September.  Sure, the MIB pre-session would end up being “pre” your second semester, rather than your first, and there are a few other sequencing differences.  But on the whole, the programs play out the same way whether you start in the spring semester or the fall.  Plus, by joining an already-in-progress student community, you’ll soon be swept in with the crowd and you’ll look like a pro.

One significant difference between January and September enrollment is that Januarians have two summers to work with.  Some students will pursue internships in both summers, while others might use one for research or language study.  For career changers, this can be very useful indeed.

As for the application itself, what should you be thinking about now?  With a little less than a month to go before the deadline, ideally you already have a master plan — testing is done (or at least scheduled), recommendations have been requested, and essays have been outlined.  If you’re not quite at that point, then get going on the test dates and recommendations.  You can always push yourself, but you can’t hurry former supervisors or professors.  And you certainly can’t make a test date appear where none exists.

If you’re planning to participate in an evaluative interview, remember that you should schedule your appointment for before the application deadline.  Check the schedule and find a time that works for you.  The interview program kicks off next Monday (September 25) and next week is nearly booked up already.  There are still plenty of appointments available in the following week, but don’t dawdle — grab your preferred time!

There.  That should get our prospective Januarians going.  But for anyone on the fence about when to apply, I’ll mention that while the spring semester starts with a little less hoopla than the fall, there’s something special about jumping into Fletcher alongside a smaller group of fellow students.  Most Januarian classes stay close throughout their Fletcher experience, even as they melt into the student community.

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As a service to our applicants, as well as to my Admissions pals, I want to encourage you to select an email address that you will use in corresponding with us, and then stick with that address.  Our application management system files all materials on the basis of your address; if you use multiple addresses, messages and materials that you send to us can be lost.

If you’re thinking that it isn’t your responsibility to worry about our filing system, you’re absolutely right!  But if you don’t worry about it, then you may find us pestering you for some item that you have emailed to us.  We can search for it when it disappears into the void, but it’s easiest to keep it from going in that direction in the first place.  I should mention that this is true for many other graduate schools that are using the same application system.  Sticking to one email address will be a good policy for your correspondence with all your graduate schools.

This is one of the first Admissions Tips blog posts of the new application cycle, but there are plenty more to come.  Stay tuned!


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