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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!

 

Sure, it’s still early, but that’s no reason not to pin down your appointment time for a Fletcher evaluative interview.  Participating in an interview is optional, but still recommended.  We offer interviews both on campus and via Skype, so there’s rarely a reason why someone can’t participate.  We’ll kick off the interviews on September 25.  Poke around the calendar and find a date that works for you.

Here’s more information, but if that’s too much to read, allow me to tell you the most important point: you should interview before you submit your application.  We’re well aware that many other programs take a different approach, but for Fletcher, you’ll want to nail down that interview before the program ends on December 8.  Some of you already took this advise, before I even had a chance to give it.  Good for you!  (Especially the November 27 interviewee who is clearly on top of her schedule!)

With a modest amount of preparation, you’ll have a successful interview.  Sign up now to ensure you’ve grabbed your spot before the schedule fills up.

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Thinking of applying for graduate school admission for 2018 (either January or September)?  It’s not too early to move beyond merely “thinking” to a more active phase.  And it’s time for me to give you a little guidance.

First, please note that the 2018 Fletcher application is not yet on the website and there is no value to starting to fill in the blanks and essays on what you’ll find there.  On August 1, we’ll take down the current application and replace it about two weeks later with the updated one.  But even as you hold off on starting to work on the application, you’re certainly free (encouraged!) to peruse the 2017 version and prepare the different elements you’ll need.  Just to get you started, here’s your list of what a 2018 application will include.

  • The form
  • Your transcripts (any transcript, including for a study-abroad semester, that is needed to give a complete picture of your undergraduate record)
  • Test scores (GRE or GMAT, and TOEFL or IELTS for non-native English speakers)
  • Your résumé
  • Two recommendations, with one from a professor who can reflect on your academic work.  Submitting a third recommendation is optional.
  • Two essays, one of which could be called a statement of purpose
  • A scholarship application, if you would like to apply for an award

We’re not changing our essay questions this year, so here’s what you’ll need to write:

□ Essay 1 (600-800 words)
Fletcher’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 chosen career path. Why is The Fletcher School 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 dual degree, please be sure to address this interest in your personal statement.

Essay 2 (500 words maximum)
To help the Committee on Admissions get to know you better, please share an anecdote, or details about an experience or personal interest, that you have not elaborated upon elsewhere in your application.

For further details on all of that, including the variations (there are a few) for the different degree programs, check out the application instructions.

Those are the basics, but let me drill down a little bit on where you might direct your July/August energy.  It is not at all early for requesting recommendations.  Your recommenders will thank you if you give them extra time.  Remember that one recommendation should reflect your academic ability, while we’d generally suggest that the other should come from a professional context.  Most important for your application strategy: think about content the recommenders can add to your application, beyond the basics.  If you have worked at three organizations, but one organization was the most important to your future career, I’d suggest looking to that organization for your professional recommendation.  This is really common sense, but you’ll want to dedicate a few minutes to being common sensible.

Also not too early: lining up your standardized tests.  If you haven’t already taken the GRE/GMAT/TOEFL/IELTS, or if you know you want to retest, get your test date and start practicing.  Why should you practice?  Because familiarity with the test format will enable you to achieve your maximum score.  Being unfamiliar with the test will cause you to waste time and your score will suffer.

It doesn’t matter what country or profession you come from — there’s no reason why you can’t organize your academic and professional experience into a tidy résumé.  There are a zillion sample résumés online, and the format you’ll want is informative and easy to read.  Generally, you’ll list your experience in reverse chronological order (that is, starting with your current activity).  A résumé for a graduate school application should be between one and three pages long.  (I really like when they’re no more than two pages, but I’m feeling generous.  People have different experiences and some of those are hard to describe.)  Pulling together a résumé can take some time.  That’s why I’m suggesting you start now.  Once it’s done, you can tweak it or not, but at least you won’t be scrambling to write it on the day before the application deadline.

I’m going to offer more tips throughout the fall, but I’ll close with one last picky technical point.  You and we will all be happiest if you use only one email address when corresponding with us.  All your stuff goes into your “file” on the basis of your name and email address.  If you want us to be able to find things, don’t lead the system to misfile them.  Also, if you’re applying to graduate school (or a job, for that matter), it’s time to get yourself a professional sounding email address.  No more soccercraycray@hotmail.com.  Please.  Just some variation on your name.  Remember to check your email frequently after you start your applications.

That should do it for this time in the summer.  Note that I’ve given you three assignments: line up your test dates; request your recommendations; and pull together your résumé.  If you complete those three things by the end of July, you’ll be in a good position for the next stages of your application process.

 

We’re at that point in the year where our focus is squarely on current applicants for September 2017 enrollment — though we’re also looking forward to meeting our newest Januarians next week — and it can be easy to forget that lots of applicants are just starting their research into graduate school options.  Some time back, Laurie gave a presentation to undergraduates and suggested that future applicants should plan on a one-year application preparation timeline — 18 months if possible.  We know well that many people follow a much more compressed timeline, but that doesn’t mean that the early preparation wouldn’t be preferable for most.  To help out the (admittedly few) blog readers who may be planning September 2018 enrollment, I’d like to share Laurie’s suggested application timeline.  Here’s how she suggested organizing the different tasks ahead of someone new to the process.

One year in advance:

  • Start researching schools.
  • Begin to track application deadlines and requirements.  (Build a spreadsheet.)
  • Investigate external scholarship opportunities.
  • Prepare and register for standardized testing.

Nine months in advance:

  • Continue school research.
  • Have your academic records translated if necessary.
  • Take standardized tests — be sure to list schools where you want the results sent.
  • Start thinking about potential recommenders, especially if you haven’t stayed in contact with professors from your undergraduate program.
  • Compile notes to be used as the basis of your essays and personal statements.
  • Apply to outside scholarships.

Six months in advance:

  • Update and clean up your résumé.
  • Retake standardized tests if necessary.
  • Prepare a general statement of purpose to be shared with your recommenders.
  • Finalize the list of schools you will be applying to.
  • Create a financial plan.

Three months in advance:

  • Start filling out applications.
  • Finalize your essays and personal statements.  (Proofread!)
  • Contact your potential recommenders.  (Provide them with your resume and statement of purpose.)

One month before the application deadline:

  • Finalize applications for admission and scholarships.
  • Check in with your recommenders.
  • Submit your applications before the deadlines.  (Waiting to the last minute will be stressful!)

After application submission:  Continue to learn about the schools you applied to.

That last point, of course, pertains to those of you who are applying this year!  Don’t wait until April to do your research.

 

We’re closing in on the last minutes before the January 10 deadline, but I might as well offer one last thought on application essays.

During our review of Early Notification applications, a few discussions returned to a similar theme — first put in words by Dan — that U.S. students have their undergraduate application process in mind when they write their essays, and they try too hard to “be unique.”  Working with high school students, as I occasionally do, I’ve always lamented that they sit down to write their essays with that impossible standard as their instruction.  Generally speaking, what does a 17-year-old know about being unique?

Fletcher applicants usually have a better sense of the world out there, but the “be unique” advice still doesn’t serve them well.  It occasionally leads to an essay with strange choice of content or an odd tone.  And it’s completely unnecessary.  The first essay should lay out in pretty plain terms what you hope to do at Fletcher and beyond.  The second essay offers a little more latitude for “uniqueness,” but you don’t need to bear that heavy burden when you think about what to write.  Instead, focus on a much more achievable objective: follow the directions.

The fact is that what impresses Admissions readers is a clear study/career plan, backed as necessary by prior experience.  Sure, we enjoy a heart-warming second essay, but there are many aspects of your background that you might want to share, and they aren’t all heart-warming.  And that’s fine!  Pick the topic that’s best for you, without trying to guess whether we’ve ever read an essay like that before.

In sum, be direct.  Don’t worry about being unique.  And use a thesaurus judiciously — don’t try to impress us with big words.  Follow those simple instructions, and your essays will make the case for you.

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Hey there friends.  I’m here for my annual sisyphean task of imploring you to avoid being among the zillion applicants who submit their applications on the January 10 deadline.

Sure, you don’t want to send us an application before it reaches its optimal state.  I get that.  But twelve days remain between you and the deadline, which is plenty of time to organize yourself to submit the pieces of the application under your control (i.e. not your recommendations) before the last minute.  If you were to click submit before we arrive for work on Friday, January 6, you would know by the end of the day what pieces of your application (if any) are missing.  Awesome, right?  On the other hand, if you submit your application in the seconds before the deadline of 11:59 p.m. EST (UTC -5) on January 10, you will wait in line until we have a chance to review your application.

There it is, my best advice for you.  Go ahead and listen to me.  Submit early and relax, deservedly smug in the knowledge that plenty of others will be stressing.

 

Gosh, I’m sorry to have missed posting on two days during such a busy time for applicants.  I’m going to try to make up for it today with a big fat application tip.

You’ve probably heard Fletcher or other admissions representatives talk about how we take a “holistic” approach to reviewing applications.  And probably you’ve thought, “Blah blah blah.  That’s what they all say,” or other such dismissive thoughts.  I hear you, dear blog reader.  Especially if you still bear the scars of the often crazy U.S. undergraduate process, you may believe that “holistic” is a word that admissions folks toss around to deflect eyes from our arbitrary cut-offs or nefarious deeds.

But I’m going to ask you to believe me when I say that we review all elements in an application, and that a trip through the Hall of Flags, if you were to survey the students hanging out there, would reveal very different profiles — a collection of profiles that a single set of criteria could never produce.

To demonstrate that we do, indeed, have some standards, here are two bottom line requirements.  The first is that everyone, EVERYONE, who is admitted must be able to succeed academically.  Not everyone is going to be at the top of the class, but the Admissions Committee cannot knowingly admit students who, it is clear, will not be able to complete their Fletcher classes successfully.  The second requirement is that non-native English speakers must have sufficient skills to function in an English-language academic environment.  In the case of this second requirement, we do have a cut-off of 100 on the TOEFL or 7.0 on the IELTS.  (Admitted applicants at or near that cut-off will probably be asked to pursue additional English study before enrolling.)

Let’s say that you believe us and our talk of holistic review.  How should you approach your application?  Holistically, of course.  You should take the time to think about the different aspects of your background that you want us to know about, and then you should select the application component that will be best for telling us about it.  The basic elements of the application are the form, essays, transcript, résumé, test scores, and recommendations.

Let’s start with that academic profile.  Naturally, the best way to demonstrate that you have strong academic potential is a successful undergraduate record, strong GRE/GMAT scores, and a nice recommendation from a former professor.  But not everyone has such a neat package.  A transcript with some blemishes will still be fine, combined with strong scores.  Middling scores will be o.k. when combined with a strong record.  Your recommendation can go a long way toward helping us understand anything that went wrong for you as an undergrad.  All of this is to say that the easiest applications for us to decide on are those in which all the academic pieces are perfect.  But most Fletcher students didn’t present perfect academic profiles, so don’t worry if you’re not perfect, but do give us something positive to work with.

Next, the essays.  Most of you will write two essays for us.  I won’t say much now, because we have provided all sorts of advice in the past.  But I’ll rehash the basics.

  • Make sure you answer the questions.
  • Don’t view the second essay as a throw-away.  It should be telling us something about you that connects, in some way, to your interest in international affairs.  (That’s still plenty flexible.)
  • Use the “additional information” section to explain anything unusual in your application.  Don’t waste essay space to tell us you did poorly in one semester.

Beyond those three points, read through past blog posts for more tips.

While the essays are the heart of the material you’ll prepare for us, you’ll want to use your résumé to help us understand your professional experience and trajectory to date.  If there’s a long time gap in your work chronology, you should explain it in the “additional information” section.  We ask about your work history in the application form, and we want you to complete that section carefully, but the résumé is a free-form location for you to highlight all of the skills you’ve gained and the locations where you have gained them.  Don’t simply attach any old résumé you have hanging around.  Instead, create one that will help you advance your application narrative.  More than one page is A-OK, but that’s not permission to stretch it out beyond what’s warranted.

As I’ve described in the past, we’re looking for international and professional experience that links to your goals.  If possible, your professional recommendation should be your supervisor at a relevant organization.  Sometimes people can’t ask for a letter from their current employer, and we understand that.  Make a note in the “additional information” section.

Finally, a word on the form.  Apparently I say too little about it because I can’t put my finger on an archived post that addresses it directly.  (Note to self — must fix that.)  Yes, it’s time-consuming.  Yes, it might be annoying and repetitive.  But you should still complete it with care.  Application readers start with the form, and by the time I have paged through all the information, I already have a pretty strong impression of an applicant.  Do you want that to be a positive impression?  Of course you do.  Answer each question carefully and make sure you’re not leaving a river of typos.

To wrap up, each element of your application deserves thought and care.  And each element can/should be used to cover an aspect of your objectives and background that you want to share with the Admissions Committee.  For more details on our views, check out the Application Boot Camp posts from a few summers back.

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