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Are you on the East Coast of the U.S.?  Then your view today might be similar to mine.

Snow

Today is a snow day at Tufts and, in fact, throughout Massachusetts, as a blizzard Nor’easter blows through.  I can’t even say how much snow has fallen as it’s swirling all over.  In any case, enough snow has fallen to ensure I will need to dig my way out of the door.  But that’s an activity for later today.

Because the University is closed, please be patient if we can’t respond to your questions until tomorrow.

Meanwhile, I wanted to take a minute to point out a few Admissions Blog features that I’ll be working on throughout the rest of the academic year.  First, there are the First-Year Alumni updates.  These posts, including one yesterday from Hanneke, come from the folks who were still students just a year ago.

Alumni who are further into their post-Fletcher professional lives have been providing Five-Year Updates.  This is the third year for these posts.  I started with the Class of 2007, continued through the Class of 2008, and I’m now working with our friends in the Class of 2009.  The next post in this series is coming soon!

In a few weeks, I’ll ask students to write about all the Cool Stuff they have done throughout the year.  Look for new posts in this series in April, but you can still read about last year’s activities, as well an interesting mid-MALD year.

Finally, professors have kindly taken time to write about their interests, their work with students, and their pathways into the international affairs field, and these posts are captured in the Faculty Spotlight series.

Because I’m well aware that writing for the blog falls outside of the daily routine for alumni, students, and professors, I want their posts to have a life that lasts more than a day, and I hope that you’ll scroll through the different series and read what everyone has to say.

 

I’m starting to see a steady trickle of emails from nervous applicants, so I thought I’d provide a quick update on where we are in the process.

Let’s start with those who applied by December 20 — PhD and Map Your Future applicants.

Map Your Future application review, a manageable task, has moved along and most decisions have been released.  (Congratulations to those who have received good news!)

The PhD review process is also ticking right along, but at its own special glacial pace.  PhD applications are reviewed by a whole team of people and everything just takes a long time.  Decisions will be released by the end of March.

And for those who applied by January 10 for the MALD, MIB, LLM, or MA, we’re making real progress.  Many many of you already know that your application is complete and on its way to be read by Admissions Committee members.  Our student readers have been doing a great job, feeding applications to us staff members, and we’re all reading away.  The full Admissions Committee will meet tomorrow for the first time since the January deadline.  In other words, it’s all happening.

If you know that your application is still incomplete, I’d encourage you to do whatever you can to make it complete as soon as possible.  If you’re missing exam scores (GRE, GMAT, etc.), you can’t make the testing organizations work faster, but you can send us unofficial score reports. And if you’re missing a transcript, remember that all we need is a scanned copy of an official transcript (which you may well have already).  If you don’t have an official transcript, send us an unofficial one while you wait for the official one.

If you’re missing a recommendation, you should consider your options.  If you’re confident the recommender will send it along any day, then stick with Plan A.  If you’re not really all that sure, you may want to line up a replacement recommender.  Give it some thought, and contact us if you want to make a change.  Of course, if you’ve never followed up with your recommender, you can hardly blame him/her.  It’s your job to prompt your writer to submit the letter on time.

Finally, no matter when your application was complete, you’ll still need to be patient until late March, when we will release just about everything at the same time.  Today’s post is just to let you know that everything is moving along, and we’re feeling good about the progress we have made.

 

On Sunday I made a last-minute decision to jump-start my application reading on Monday.  We’ve often written about our “reading days” at home.  Past posts have always involved piles of green files (and, occasionally, cute dogs).  These days, no paper files!  Here’s how my day went.

7:30:  Move a laptop to a kitchen counter, grab a cup of mint tea in favorite frog mug, and kick off the day, starting with a quick review of email but soon moving on to the applications that were waiting for me in my queue.

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9:30:  The pain in my shoulder from being perched over a keyboard tells me it’s time for a break.  Switch to coffee (half caf/half decaf — I want to be alert but you wouldn’t want me too jumpy) in a theme-appropriate mug.  Do shoulder rolls while switching to another location — a desktop with a more comfortable chair.

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12:00:  I’ve now cleared out my queue, which means I can start plucking applications at random.  But first, lunch — a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  So far as I’m concerned, peanut butter is always #1, and being at home means I can toast the bread for the sandwich.

1:00:  After lunch, I read another couple of files, but at 1:00 it’s time to park myself somewhere warm and comfortable for a conference call.  After the call, I switch back to the laptop, but on a different counter — changing chairs throughout the day is part of my reading strategy.  More tea in yet another world-map mug.

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3:30:  Emails distract me for a while.  Once I regain focus, I return to my application queue and try to finish whatever I’ve loaded in there.

4:45:  That’s it for the day.  Time to put together a quick dinner and then head out to a meeting of a community board I’m on.  A little human interaction (and a chance to be outside) won’t be a bad thing.

There are so many great things about our new online application reader system, but I’m still working on strategies for pain-free reading.  More changes of chair?  More cups of tea?  By the end of this year’s application cycle, I’ll have it all worked out.  Meanwhile, I’ve already read some inspiring essays and I know there’s more to come!

 

Well, here we are, on the other side of the general application deadline.  Processing of the applications we received over the weekend has already begun, and will keep us busy for the next two weeks or so.  In some cases, almost no work is needed — everything was submitted online and we simply need to confirm it’s all there.  In other cases, we need to scan a transcript or recommendation and make sure the scan is added to an applicant’s credentials.  And then there are applications that are missing a couple of pieces, and we need to notify the applicant.  Whether your application needs effort or not, everyone is in one big line and your patience will be appreciated.

To that end, let me share Christine’s FAQs to guide you on tracking your application.  Note, especially, the instructions on how to access your Application Status page.

Frequently Asked Questions: Application Edition

I Submitted My Application!  Now What?

Your Application Status page will display information about your status.

To access your Application Status Page you can either click the “Start an Application” link on the Admissions website or save the application link.  You will login with the email and password you used when you created your application.

How Do I Know If My Application is Incomplete or Complete?

Even after you have submitted all the required materials, your application is not complete until a staff member has reviewed each document to check that it is correct and legible.  Your Application Status page displays the most up-to-date information on your application.  Please allow us up to 10 days after we receive your materials to update your status.

Your application will be marked as incomplete if we find that items are missing, your transcripts are difficult to read or not translated into English, or your application fee has not been received (with the exception of fee waivers).  If we are missing materials or cannot read application documents, we will contact you.

Fletcher Admissions will send you a confirmation email when all of your application materials have been compiled and your application is ready to be reviewed by the Admissions Committee.  Once your application is complete, no further action is required.

Please Note: the order in which your application is processed has no bearing on your admissions decision.

When Will I Receive My Decision?

Admissions decisions will be released before April 1.  We will send a message to the email address you used on your application with information regarding your decision.

If you have further questions, please email us or call us at 1-617-627-3040.

Use the same email address from your application on all email messages.  Due to the high volume of communications we receive, it can take several days for us to reply to you.  We appreciate your patience!

 

Well, only about 36 hours remain before the application deadline.  A nice little batch of applications came in early, meaning (perhaps) that someone responded to my plea to submit early.  On the other hand (sigh), hundreds remain unsubmitted, so on balance, I’ve been ignored.  That’s o.k., I can take it.

Student readers on the Admissions Committee have been keeping our process ticking along, taking time during their winter break to read applications — a huge benefit of our new online application reader.  (Going paperless also earned the Admissions Office “Silver Level” recognition from the University Office of Sustainability’s Green Office Certification Program.  Hooray for us!)

When we return to work on Monday, the team — including our returning student interns — will focus on processing applications and will kick off the heart of the application review period.  There will be a bit of a frenzy for a couple of weeks, but this is the time of year that many of us like best.  We look forward to “meeting” you through your applications, and to working with you throughout the spring.

 

Thanks to a little advance planning, I was able to keep the blog running from December 22 to January 2, while I was sitting in my mother-in-law’s North London living room.  We spent two weeks away, mostly visiting with my husband Paul’s family.  We also made a side trip to Copenhagen, where I had never visited before.  That was fun!  Also fun — seeing my daughter, Kayla, who is spending the year studying in London.  She even proved that she’s been learning something, as she was the only one with the correct answers to the British politics questions on the traditional family holiday quiz.  Go Kayla!

(As a side note, I’ll mention that Kayla saw someone in a Fletcher Fútbol sweatshirt running down a street near her London flat.  She didn’t think quickly enough that day, but next time she’ll chase the runner to ask who it is.  Fletcher is everywhere!)

Until today, my week has mostly been tied up with catching up after time away, and preparing for the months to come.  To that end, the Admissions staff will be gathering this morning for a half-day retreat to talk about all those things that will keep us busy between now and May, when the work flow will finally slow.  It’s always a useful exercise to take a few hours to talk about the big picture.  We tend to get wrapped up in the fine details of our work while reviewing applications and doing the rest of what needs to be done from January to March.

We’ll be back in the office this afternoon, ready to take whatever questions may come in, now that we’re down to the wire before the application deadline.

 

No matter how much time the Admissions staff spends on the road, there are always a zillion locations that we don’t reach each year.  To plug some of those gaps, our best ambassadors — our students — have volunteered to meet you over coffee.  You can find the list of sites on our website.  (Sites and details still being added.)  Sign up, and take advantage of the chance to chat with a student in a casual setting over your preferred hot beverage.

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With our general deadline coming up on January 10, the staff finds itself fielding more questions by the day.  So that you’ll know which days will and which days won’t be good for getting answers to your questions, allow me to lay out the holiday schedule.

Today, Monday, December 22 — We’re Open!

Tuesday, December 23 — Open

Wednesday, December 24 — Closed

Thursday, December 25 — Closed

Friday, December 26 — Closed

Monday, December 29 — Open

Tuesday, December 30 — Open

Wednesday, December 31 — Open

Thursday, January 1 — Closed

Friday, January 2 — Closed

Monday, January 5 — Normal schedule resumes

Whenever the office is open, staff members will be answering phones and responding to messages in the admissions email inbox.  If you write to one of us directly and we’re out of the office, we’ll respond to you after January 5.

 

All Early Notification applicants should know by now that decisions were released earlier this week.  To those who were admitted, congratulations!  I hope you’ll enjoy the extra time to plan for your graduate studies.  You will be hearing from members of the Admissions staff to whom you can send your questions.  We’re really happy to start growing the September 2015 entering class!  All that said, this post is not so much for you.

Next, let me say that I’m sorry to bid farewell to a group of applicants who were denied admission.  We always regret making these difficult decisions, but we hope it will help the applicants make their choices on where else they should apply.

This post is really for those applicants whose applications were deferred for review in the spring, a good news/bad news situation.  The bad news is the lack of happy admissions news, but the good news is that you still have the opportunity to try to bring about happy news in March.  Our Admissions Committee will gladly review an update to your application!  But what makes a useful addition?  Here’s a list of updates that we particularly value:

  • An updated transcript that reflects grades received since you submitted your application;
  • New standardized exam (GRE, GMAT, TOEFL, IELTS) score reports;
  • A revised résumé that includes information on a new job position;
  • An additional recommendation that sheds light on an aspect of your background you weren’t able to illuminate in other parts of the application.

Before I go on, I’ll emphasize that no one is required to submit an update.  Not at all!  But you are invited to submit one, and why would you turn down this opportunity?

What type of optional update is best for you?  Well, the first thing to do is consider whether you have your own suspicions regarding weaker aspects of your application.  Are those aspects something you can improve on?  For example, did you decide it would be better not to mention the causes of your weak undergraduate semester?  I’d encourage you to explain it, particularly if it pulls down your overall GPA.  Did you indicate that your language skills are not strong enough to pass our proficiency exam?  Send us information on your plan for achieving proficiency before the end of the summer.  Did you mistype your years of employment at a certain job, making it look like you were there for two months, rather than four years and two months?  You can make that correction now.  And, if your GRE/GMAT scores were significantly lower than you expected, you may want to take the test again.

Another suggestion:  If, upon reflection, your essay didn’t state your goals as clearly as you would have liked, send us a clarifying email!  We won’t substitute it for your personal statement, but it will certainly be reviewed.  This could be particularly helpful if you’ve taken steps to learn more about your ultimate career goal.

Possible additions to your application need not be limited to what I’ve listed above.  The key question to ask yourself is:  Does this actually add anything?  If the information is already included in your application, then there’s there’s not much value in sending it again.  That is, an additional academic recommendation will add little to an application that already includes three.  On the other hand, a professional recommendation will add a lot to an application that only includes academic recommendations.  Think it through before you flood us with info, but don’t hesitate to send us something that will give your application a happy bump.

Whether you were offered admission this week, or you were told we’ll reconsider your application in the spring, we look forward to hearing from you and to working with you during the coming months.  Please be sure to be in touch if you have questions.

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PhD applicants:  You’re part of a small subset of our total group of applicants, but you certainly have the most complex application!  Last week, our student interns were taking questions daily about the finer point of the process, but many questions revolved around the dissertation proposal requirement.  Yes, we know that a formal dissertation proposal is often a post-coursework requirement in other PhD programs.  In fact, that’s the case here, too.  So what are we looking for in the proposal that should accompany your application?  Well, let’s start with the instructions.

PhD Proposal (1,500 words maximum, single-spaced, Arial 12 point font)
Your PhD Proposal should include:

  • A title
  • A researchable topic: what question do you propose to study and what evidence are you bringing to bear?
  • A brief overview of the literature of the field
  • A short description of the proposed methodology for research: how does your research question fit into the existing body of scholarship?  How do you propose to answer your research question? What methodologies do you propose to use?

The purpose of this preliminary proposal is to ensure there is a good match between the applicant’s interests and the expertise among the faculty at Fletcher.  It’s expected that your interests will be refined as you complete classes for the program, but it’s also expected that the subject of your research focus will remain essentially the same.

The other most-often-asked question regards the master’s thesis.  Again, let’s turn to the instructions:

MA Thesis or a writing sample of approximately 40 pages (in English)
Please upload a copy of your thesis to the online application.  If your master’s program did not require the writing of a thesis, you can provide a substantial writing sample as a substitute, so long as you are the sole author.

There are two reasons behind this requirement.  First, all Fletcher PhD students must complete a master’s thesis.  If they haven’t done so in their master’s degree program, they need to write one while at Fletcher.  Second, and more important for admissions purposes, the faculty on the PhD Admissions Committee want to see that you can make an argument and follow it through — the kind of research and writing work that you will need to do as a student here.  As the instructions note, you can submit another research paper, but you’ll want to be sure that it’s a good representative sample of your best work.  Often we’re asked whether a shorter paper will do the trick.  Well, um, I guess…but do you want to be judged on the basis of a ten-page paper when everyone else is presenting 50 pages?  Give it some thought and then try to find the best possible example of your writing.

Our online application system tells me that dozens of PhD applicants are in the process of completing their applications.  With five days leading to the December 20 deadline, I hope these notes will be helpful for those who are wrapping up their materials.

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