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Orientation wraps up today and classes begin next week. Faculty members have been spotted in the building, heading off to a meeting or joining new students for lunch. But for us, a key marker of the start of the fall semester comes next week, when the Admissions staff will start three months when, on most days, someone will be on the road.
Broadly speaking, we travel for three reasons. The first is to participate in graduate school fairs, generally all of those organized by APSIA and a few organized by Idealist or by business school-related groups.
Second, we travel to universities and other sites — throughout the U.S. and a revolving list of international destinations — with a few friendly peers. These “Group of Five” trips, including Fletcher, Princeton/Woodrow Wilson, Georgetown, Johns Hopkins/SAIS, and Columbia/SIPA, might find representatives of each school in a plane or a van together en route to a week of visits.
And finally, we’ll travel to a few universities or workplaces throughout the year, but not with any particular guiding structure. Sometimes a university invites us. Sometimes we want to learn more about a school whose graduates have applied in significant numbers.
Maybe we’ll be traveling to a site near you! You can find our travel schedule on our website. Check back often — the list is still skeletal, but we’ll be filling it in over the coming weeks.
Returning to the tips that the Admissions staff offered this summer at my request, Liz, Theresa, Laurie, Lucas, and Kristen build on Dan’s tip from last week. As a reminder, I asked my Admissions family to complete the sentence, Something I would want Fletcher applicants to know is…
Liz: Use Your Resources
As an applicant to Fletcher, you likely have a lot of resources for gathering information about the School. You may have personal connections (professors, friends, mentors) who suggest Fletcher as a good fit for your goals and interests. You may also have access to our social media channels, this blog, for example! — not to mention Facebook, Twitter and even YouTube. You also have our print publications (which you can download here) and the Fletcher website. We even have a “frequently asked questions” section, which ideally will answer many of the questions you have. Something, I’d like Fletcher applicants to know is that we hope that you’ll use these resources! Of course we welcome questions by phone or email, but with all these good sources of information, a little “research” may help you find the answer to simple questions such as “when is the deadline?” That way, when you do email us (which we hope you will) you can ask us questions that aren’t easily answered with a quick check of our website. So please, if you can’t find what you’re looking for when gathering info about Fletcher, contact us!! But don’t forget to use your resources first!
Theresa: Prepare for your Admissions interview
Once you’ve made the decision to visit the Admissions Office for an interview, there are things that should be top of mind prior to your arrival. First, remember that you are coming to the Admissions Office for an evaluative interview — which means that, through your conversation, you are being evaluated. While we are not expecting you to arrive dressed for a Hollywood red carpet event, we also think you can do better than showing up in athletic gear or sleepwear type clothing and sneakers. The sweet spot is normally categorized as business casual — a step down from business formal but not completely casual. My second suggestion, perhaps obvious, is that you should be prepared for the interview. This means being ready to discuss the finer points of your background and experience. Remember, too, that your résumé is a concise summary of your skills and experience and should not go much beyond two pages. (If it’s currently significantly longer than that, you should seriously consider a revision. Overly long résumés stand out for the wrong reasons.) Last, try to relax. There is no trickery involved in the interview. We are genuinely interested in hearing about what makes you a good match for Fletcher! And all of these tips apply to interviews via Skype, too!
Laurie: The spring is a window of opportunity
There is no question that the admissions process is time consuming and at times a bit overwhelming for both applicants and the Admissions Committee. We know (and very much appreciate!) that applicants spend an enormous amount of time writing personal statements, chasing recommenders, taking standardized tests, collecting transcripts, and filling out forms. As a result, there is a natural tendency to breathe a sigh of relief and take a break after submitting applications. But don’t relax for too long. What some candidates underestimate is the amount of time it may take to make a final enrollment decision. The time in between submitting your applications and waiting to hear from schools is a tremendous window of opportunity to research and plan. Admissions decisions are typically released in mid-to-late March and candidates have roughly a month to select the graduate program at which they’ll enroll. That month often involves campus visits, many conversations and emails, tons of research, and ironing out financial aid details. While this should be a time of happiness and celebration, I have often witnessed stressed-out admitted students who find themselves scrambling during this period. Therefore, my advice to all candidates is to really take advantage of the down-time between submitting your applications in January and receiving your admissions decision in March, to continue your research, plan your finances, and be prepared to make an important decision.
Lucas: Call on the experts to find the right fit
Something I would want Fletcher applicants to know is… one of the best ways to determine if our program is a good fit for your personal and professional goals is to hear from a variety of people with differing perspectives on Fletcher. Current students, alumni, faculty, and staff members will all have unique insight into the Fletcher experience. Just as our team evaluates each applicant to Fletcher, you should also use these and other resources to assess how Fletcher aligns with your personal goals, curricular interests, and professional aspirations. Take advantage of a campus visit to grab coffee with a student and sit in on a class, or seek out alumni to shed light on their experience here!
Kristen: There’s no such thing as a perfect applicant!
I’ve been working here at Fletcher for over a decade now (yikes!), and through the process of reading lots of people’s stories, I can tell you that there’s no such thing as a perfect applicant. Because of that, we don’t judge people against a single yardstick of perfection, but rather try to understand what makes YOU tick, and what qualities YOU bring to the table. What this means is that while very, very good applicants may still have weaknesses, they don’t try to hide them or make excuses, but rather thoroughly and efficiently give us a straightforward explanation. In many cases, the best applications aren’t fancy, aren’t overly sales-y, and don’t strive to make the applicants look perfect. Rather, they answer the questions, provide the information, and show a thoughtfulness in explaining the many sides — professional, academic, and personal — of the applicant. What am I trying to say here? Don’t try to trick us or become someone you are not! Be you. That’s what we’re looking for in the application.
Every summer, I cook up some blog assignment for my admissions pals, generally designed to shed light on the people applicants will be interacting with throughout the year. This year, I thought: what better way to have the staff introduce themselves than by offering a bit of advice. So I gave them the prompt: Something I would want applicants to know is… And then I got out of the way and let them send me anything they wanted.
I’m going to start with Dan’s advice, because it gets at the foundation of an application to Fletcher. That makes sense, since Dan is our resident staff member/alumnus. I’ll follow up next week with thoughts from the rest of the team. Here’s what Dan wants you to know:
“International Affairs” is not a field.
As you can imagine, there are certain application tropes we in admissions see frequently. Goals of working in the Foreign Service or the UN are common, as are formative brushes with seminal political and social moments (“I remember watching 9/11 on TV,” “I was studying in Cairo during the Arab Spring,” etc.). These can be effective, or not; regular readers will know that the curious alchemy behind a strong application involves many ingredients, and that the same thing can strike different readers in distinct ways. A familiar one I hereby discourage goes something like this: “I aspire to a career in the field of international affairs.” What’s the big deal, you ask? Isn’t Fletcher an international affairs school, after all? Don’t you admissions types always harp on the importance of professional goals? And aren’t you the guy who lets his dog read applications?
It is, we do, and he mostly writes blog posts (dogs are famously poor readers, and demonstrate questionable judgment). The issue is that “International Affairs” is not itself a field, but rather an inter-related group of fields. Microfinance, monitoring & evaluation, social entrepreneurship, development aid policy, national security law, international climate change negotiations, EU monetary policy, mobile banking, maritime policy, and nuclear non-proliferation are all fields (along with dozens of others) that have an equal claim for inclusion under the “international affairs” umbrella. Essays that include phrases like “the field of international affairs” often signal that an applicant hasn’t quite identified a sufficiently specific set of interests or professional objectives that often translate to success both at Fletcher and with career development afterwards. The fact that you’ve submitted an application tells us you’re interested in “international affairs,” but we want to hear more! Tell us what field or fields interest you most, and try to identify some of the linkages between them. This shows us that you’re ready to construct a coherent course of study from Fletcher’s famously flexible curriculum. The more you can do so the stronger your case for admission, and the less you need to worry that your application is maybe being read by a dog.
Tagged with: Murray
The final post in the series of advice from the Admissions Graduate Assistants asks for their most important overall suggestion.
Q: What one tip/suggestion would you provide to incoming students?
Ashley: I’ve seen many fellow students dive head first into every opportunity to get engaged that they could get their hands on. If you can balance it all, that’s great! There’s no shortage of ways to jump into student clubs and campus events or part-time jobs. But I’ve often found it better on my sleep and sanity to really dig in deep with a more strategic selection of activities. (It doesn’t hurt the narrative on your resume either).
Auyon: Explore the area around Fletcher, check out Cambridge and downtown Boston, and get familiar with the transport system. Don’t forget to relax before school starts!
David: Talk to second-year students and alumni about what their favorite classes were. They would love to share their experiences and they can also serve as a great resource at Fletcher.
Dristy: Don’t hesitate to ask questions, whether they are about courses, direction to classrooms, the Campus Center at Tufts, or the nearest water fountain. We have all been in the same boat and everyone at Fletcher is friendly and happy to help.
Moni: Come with an open mind and don’t take things too seriously. Some students arrive knowing their academic focus, having selected both Fields of Study. However, it is o.k. to take a class, attend an event, or have a moving discussion with someone, and realize that you may want to shift your focus to something more specific within your initial field or something entirely different. This can happen and it is great when you have such a huge support system, such as everyone in the Fletcher community, who can guide you along the way! As John Lennon used to say “Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.”
We know that many incoming students are still actively making their housing arrangements, so today’s post of advice from the Graduate Assistants considers housing options.
Ashley: Once I’d found my roommates — one through a mutual friend, and another through a combination of the unofficial admitted student get-togethers in DC and the “I’m looking for a roommate” group spreadsheet — we decided on what we were looking for and set a time to visit Boston in person. From there, it was a lot of time spent scouring Craigslist, Padmapper, and the like… making a shared list, reaching out to realtors and landlords, sending locally based family to visit prospective units, and setting a schedule for our own visit here. In the end, one realtor actually led us to a place that wasn’t on our radar, but was perfect for us. All told, it took some extra elbow grease, but it did result in finding a great apartment!
Auyon: I did an extensive search, initially primarily on Craigslist and the Fletcher housing spreadsheet, but ultimately I had to go through a realtor using sites such as Zillow. Because I was looking for a one-bedroom apartment (I came here with my wife), my options were limited. In terms of the budget, the fewer the rooms, the higher the rent per person.
David: When I applied to Fletcher, I was living in the Czech Republic. To make life easier on myself, I decided to apply to Blakeley Hall and lived on campus for my first year. Blakeley is a community within the Fletcher community and it was a great way to get to know an awesome contingent of Fletcher students.
After my first year, I moved into a house with four close Fletcher friends. Our house is one of the four “color houses” that host some of the social events for Fletcher students. I would advise those looking for housing to try to reach out to second-year Fletcher students, as many of them are graduating and their off-campus housing will be available.
Dristy: I found my housing on Craigslist — a great place to find rooms and apartments in the area, but it’s definitely important to be very careful and strategic in vetting out spam postings.
Moni: I, unfortunately, did not have much time to look for housing since I left my job shortly prior to starting Fletcher, but applied for Blakeley housing my first year and got a spot! Friends of mine who looked for housing mentioned that the Admitted Students Facebook page served as a great source for finding housing options, since current students post listings. Admitted students also organized a Google Doc with what they were interested in renting and paired it with available options. There are many options around campus and many wiling students in the community to help out! Another added incentive to connecting with current or graduated students is that houses usually come furnished, since they are passed down from one student to the next, and it makes the process easier when picking what to go for.
As important as it is to have some tips on what to do as a Fletcher student, it can be equally helpful to know what not to do. Today, the Graduate Assistants provide their tips along those lines.
Q: Whether you did it or not, what would you suggest incoming students NOT do before starting their Fletcher studies?
David: Do not feel that you need to have all the details about graduate school and the future figured out before you arrive for Orientation. You will find that Fletcher is not only a great place to further develop your current interests, but also to discover new ones.
Dristy: It is exciting to think about classes and all the interesting things you are going to learn at Fletcher, but I would suggest incoming students not worry about having to figure out classes for the fall semester or how you would fulfill the breadth and depth requirements. Shopping Day, when many professors give brief introductions to the courses they will offer that semester, is incredibly helpful for learning more about the course and the professor, and also helps a lot in making decisions about what classes to take.
Moni: It is tempting to get a head start on readings for classes you plan to take. However, use this time wisely and refine other skills that will serve you well during your time at Fletcher. Spend time with family and friends — don’t go crazy trying to beat the curve.
Ashley: Don’t forget to take a little time off, if you can. Though that month-long backpacking trip around Asia won’t be a possibility for everyone, taking even a week (or at least a long weekend) before settling in at Fletcher is a pretty vital opportunity to recharge the batteries and clear your mind for the rewarding and exciting – but often exhausting and stressful – adventure that is grad school.
Auyon: Don’t narrow down your options in terms of courses and fields of studies before starting at Fletcher and before talking to professors, your advisors, and other students (especially second years).
Q: What is something that you worried about that you found you didn’t need to worry about?
Moni: Completing all the readings, for all my classes, all the time. It is very hard to do so and you exclude other options of analyzing the readings more in depth and grasping ideas by other means. Life at Fletcher is great, but very busy. So if you cannot cover all the readings, organize study groups with students in class and split up the readings. This is a way to provide summary reports of all the readings and then discuss in the group setting, before class, some of the main points and theories covered. You may also find it incredibly helpful as it helps shape the discussion once you are in class. Adapt and overcome!
Ashley: Don’t worry too much about making ALL of your BEST friends in the first week, or even in the first few months. Just like any new relationship, it will happen, but it will happen organically. You’ll have plenty of people to hang out with until it really clicks — this is the Fletcher Community after all — and some of those folks will end up being your best buds here at Fletcher and beyond. But don’t be intimidated or overwhelmed with expectations.
Auyon: I worried about the challenge of grad school studies more than I needed to. If you are on top of things — you do the readings and assignments, prepare for and contribute to group meetings/projects, talk to the professors and TAs, actively seek help when you need if from classmates and others, and are organized about your schedule and time (highly recommend using google calendar) — you will be fine!
David: I thought that I needed to have my life figured out by the time I arrived at Fletcher. I realized that I was one of many who had an idea of what I wanted to do, but definitely did not have every step of the way planned out. During my time here at Fletcher, I found that my interests also grew and transformed, and so did my plan for post-Fletcher.
Dristy: I was worried about going back to student life after working as a professional for almost four years, but I realized that it is a fairly common concern that most of us have. Although the first few weeks required some discipline, soon enough, I easily adapted to the student mode and started enjoying doing the long list of required readings and writing papers for class. It may take time to adjust at the beginning, but the pace of coursework picks up very fast, and we adapt pretty quickly. So, definitely no need to worry about that!
Continuing with the advice for incoming students provided by the Admissions Graduate Assistants, today we focus on preparing for the academic program.
Q: Whether you did it or not, what would you suggest incoming students do to prepare for their Fletcher studies?
Auyon: For students entering the MIB program, I suggest that you brush up on economics (a selection of suggested topics are usually sent to incoming students by the Registrar’s Office), complete the MBA math course to brush up on finance, accounting and stats, and try to be up-to-date on current affairs.
David: The summer before Fletcher is a great opportunity to “recharge the batteries” and get ready for graduate school. Once Orientation starts, your schedule will start getting jam-packed so it’s important to use the summer to take time to both reflect on your goals for graduate school, familiarize yourself with some of the courses that might interest you, and brush up on some of those quant and language skills. If you have taken any economics courses, I would be sure to review the most important economic concepts that you would cover in an introductory economics course. Same is to be said with statistics. I personally went through some of my notes from college and watched a few economic tutorials online from Khan Academy. Above all, relax and get excited about Fletcher!
Dristy: Rest, relax, and spend time with friends and family!
I would also encourage incoming students to brush up on their foreign language skills so that they don’t have to carve out time during the semester to prepare for the foreign language exam. Also, for those who intend on taking the economics and quantitative equivalency tests, I would encourage them to review that material as well. Since the equivalency exams take place during Orientation week, they may not have time to brush up on these before the exam.
And, I would encourage international students, especially those who have not lived in the U.S. before, to reach out to current international students to get useful insights and tips on how to navigate through some of the basics in the U.S., for example, where to buy bedding, personal care supplies, their costs, phone plans, etc.
Moni: The most valuable element you have before starting at The Fletcher School is time. Make the best of it by practicing your language, quantitative, and networking skills. Being part of the admitted students Facebook page makes it easier to reach out to incoming students who may reside close by and/or share similar interests! Most importantly, it is also a good resource to find housing. This period is also an opportunity to read what you like. While at Fletcher, you have a heavy reading load on fascinating topics that relate to your classes, but that leaves little time for unrelated readings. In this case, I recommend picking up a book by your favorite author, going out to a café or park, and getting swept away by a story of your choosing. You never know! Perhaps an incoming Fletcher student can recommend some good reads!
Ashley: I found it very helpful to familiarize myself with the various courses available and the requirements of my degree. There is a certain amount of self-advisement here when it comes to planning your academic path, and it helps to know the basics so that you can ask the more detailed questions when you need to. It was also a great way to think even further about where I wanted to go with my degree, so that when new opportunities and ideas presented themselves – as they will! – I had a good sense of not only whether it was worth considering, but also what other changes to my roadmap I might need or want to consider as well.
Before they left for their post-Fletcher lives (Moni and David) or their summer internships (Asley, Auyon, Dristy), I asked our Graduate Assistants (GAs), the student members of the Admissions Office staff, to share their wisdom with incoming students. I’ll be sharing their answers all through this week, in Q & A format.
Q: What should new students be sure to do while they’re here?
Ashley: Take one or ten of your new friends and go explore the area! Try to get into Boston from time to time and take advantage of both the city and the greater New England area for some quality bonding time off-campus and outside of Medford/Somerville. For instance, I went with a few friends on a bike ride down the Minute Man trail in the fall, and it was so nice to get away for the day and get to know a few folks better outside of the classes, group projects, and speaker series.
David: Hit the ground running! There are so many ways to get involved once you arrive at Fletcher. Take advantage of those opportunities to get involved in the Fletcher community and to take on a leadership role. Become a club president or take charge of organizing a panel for a conference. The two years at Fletcher will go by super fast, so make the most of your time here! Also, academics are important, but the relationships you develop with your peers are equally important, as you’ll find that it is your classmates who you will turn to for guidance and support during the next two years and after Fletcher.
Dristy: Try to meet as many incoming students as possible. Once classes start, you will notice that we will each have our own “dance routines” and there are always so many interesting talks, discussions and events to attend at Fletcher. So I encourage new students to use the orientation week to meet each other and the second years who are around. Definitely take advantage of Shopping Day to choose your courses.
Moni: Get involved as much as possible. There are so many great opportunities on campus to organize events, conferences and gatherings on topics of interest to you or causes you believe in. Join a student club, or lead the club, and partake in gatherings inside and outside of the Fletcher community, such as social mixers, cross-school conferences and treks (educational trips). As a Fletcher student, you are also able to cross-register at other schools in the area — take advantage of this unique option and experience all the schools’ varied cultures! You are only as limited as you allow yourself to be, so get out there!
You may already have corresponded with Lucas, or maybe you will in January. He’s our new(ish) Admissions Counselor, a position that starts, but hardly ends, with managing our online application platform. Today, he introduces himself. If you do end up speaking or corresponding with him, be sure to ask about his golf game.
“Who is this guy?” you might be thinking to yourself. Well, it has been almost three months since I first joined the Fletcher admissions team, and I figured that it’s about time I said “Hello” to all our dedicated blog readers and introduced myself. I’m Lucas Harty – born and bred in Buffalo, NY and, while I will always call Western New York home, Boston truly has a special place in my heart. I did my bachelor’s degree in economics at Boston College where I was lucky enough to spend time studying in Paris, Berlin, and Mexico City. My time spent abroad and my courses in economics helped to stoke a real curiosity in the systems that different countries use to educate their citizens, the role that education plays in providing social mobility, and the challenges to increasing access to education across the globe. I followed this interest to the University of Pennsylvania where I recently graduated with my master’s in education, and I’m excited to be part of the Office of Admissions at an institution with such a global and distinct community.
So what else do you need to know about me? Some of my favorite pastimes include hiking and kayaking, or skiing in the winter. I’m an aspiring golfer (though my short game is atrocious) and I’ll take any opportunity I can to stop in a bookstore and add another book to my endlessly growing “To Read” list. Here at Fletcher you can find me in my corner of the Office of Admissions – I’ve only been here a few months but I’m quickly learning why Fletcher is such a special place. Don’t hesitate to stop by to chat or just say “Hi!”
The pre-session students are here, but they’re too busy and/or new to be making news, which leaves me grasping for a topic for today’s post. I’ve reached into my magic bag of possible blog topics and pulled out a few notes on staff and faculty.
First, from one of the monthly updates we receive, news of a staff member who is also a Fletcher graduate:
Mieke van der Wansem, F90, associate director of educational programs at the Fletcher School’s Center for International Environment and Resource Policy, was senior faculty at an intensive week-long executive education program, the International Programme on the Management of Sustainability. The course, held every June in the Netherlands in partnership with the Sustainability Challenge Foundation, is designed for mid-career professionals mostly from developing countries. The training focuses on the mutual gains approach to negotiation and consensus building for sustainable development conflicts. The goal of the trainings is for professionals from many different sectors to be better able to achieve sustainable development goals through effective stakeholder engagement and negotiation.
Mieke conducts several training sessions each year, and was in South Africa earlier in the spring for a similar program. The Center for International Environment and Resource Policy has a particularly active research and practice agenda.
Next, a Tufts Now story about the (relatively) new director of the The Fares Center for Eastern Mediterranean Studies, Dr. Nadim Shehadi. In the article, he notes that The Fares Center is important “because profound misunderstanding of the complexities of the Middle East is prolonging suffering and violence. The center could help frame discussion about the region, taking advantage of the Fletcher School’s international reputation and its alumni, who are influential in every corner of the globe.”
In faculty news, last spring, a student pointed out that Professor Elizabeth Prodromou, F83, testified before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs (Helsinki Commission), “speaking on genocide denial, ‘memoricide’ and the industry of denialism. The Congressman who spoke after her mentioned that he’s never heard the subject explained so well.”
And, finally, Professor Jeswald Salacuse sent us a link to a long video interview with a Hawaii television program that he did on his most recent book, Negotiating Life. The interview is interesting, and Fletcher is one of the stars. It originally ran some time back, but I’m making up for having never included it on the blog.
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