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Today’s my last day of work before I string together a few University holidays, a few vacation days, and a few Wednesdays off, that together carry me to January 4. I’m looking forward to time at home with my family (my son will be back this afternoon), some movies and reading, and a few days in New Orleans.
If you’re an applicant to the PhD program, you’re probably finishing up your application so that it will arrive before the January 1 deadline. If you’re applying to one of the other programs, you have extra time before the January 15 deadline, but remember that you don’t need to wait until the last minute!
Whenever your application is due, you won’t hear much from us during the weeks that follow. The process of compiling, reading, discussing, and deciding on applications keeps us pretty busy. I’ll post to the blog, but there won’t be as many email updates, etc., as you may have become accustomed to (for better or worse). I’d like to describe it as a break from the stresses of applying to grad school, but I know it can be an even-more-stressful period of waiting to hear. Try to relax anyway!
I haven’t provided many application tips this year — I must be out of new ideas. I encourage you to scroll through the posts archived in the Admissions Tips category. There may be something useful there for you.
Please remember that the Office of Admissions will be closed on Thursday and Friday both this week and next. Happy holidays to everyone!
Yesterday, I posted an entry on standardized tests, but I actually wrote it — and intended to post it — on Tuesday afternoon. It was about 1:15 and I needed to leave the office in time to reach Boston College for a 4:30 information session, with a stop mid-route at Kayla’s school for parent-teacher conferences. I proofread the post and hit “publish.” The little “I”m working on it” swirly icon kept swirling. And swirling. And swirling. Finally, a message about something-or-other “timing out.” Aaargh. Hit “publish” again. This time, I’m packing up the things I need while the swirling carries on, but the result was no different. Now I really need to leave, so (for insurance) I cut the blog text and pasted it into an email to myself, turned off the computer and left. The draft was still there on Wednesday and the publish button was much more agreeable.
Last Friday was the deadline for students to apply for positions on the Committee on Admissions. There aren’t many classes on Friday afternoon, so it’s completely understandable that students would leave the task to the last minute. How could they know there would be a huge explosion and fire in Medford Square that knocked out electricity on campus until the next day? Not a lot of printers will work without electricity. While the applications reached us in time (and we were grappling with the black-out as well, so it was easy to sympathize), the students were sweating over it much more than they needed to.
Dear blog reader, you’re probably wondering why I’m telling these little stories. The reason: to remind you that there are forces beyond our control that occasionally pop up to thwart our wishes to meet a deadline. So many of our applications come in date/time-stamped 11:59 p.m. on the day they’re due. Please don’t do this to yourself. The Early Notification deadline is November 15, but you really can send us the application on November 14. Really. Leave yourself a little time to solve any problems that come up. Line up your recommendations and take your standardized tests well in advance of the deadline. If nothing goes wrong, you still get to breathe easy. If you hit a snag, you’ll be glad for the breathing room.
My son Josh, to whose college application process I occasionally referred last year, is home from school. It’s great to have him around, and it’s also great to see his friends, who tend to show up whenever he’s in the house. There were fourteen 18-year-old boys hanging around my living room on Saturday, playing poker and video games, eating pizza, and generally enjoying their reunion.
I had a chance to ask a number of the boys how they enjoyed their first semester of college, and the early reviews are pretty positive. But nearly all of them described a challenge they faced — first-year chemistry; a busy class schedule; keeping up with reading throughout the semester, rather than just before exams; dormitory living; uninspiring teachers for entry-level courses; etc. Clearly, they’re all hoping that the fall was their stepping stone to greater success in the later years of their education.
And how about you, blog reader? Do you cringe just a bit when you look at the grades from your first semester or two? Depending on how much you cringe, you may want to provide a little explanation in your application. A sentence or two (no whining, please!) in the “additional information” section of the application (not in one of the required essays) could be just what you need. Acknowledge your challenge, and, if possible, point us toward information that redirects our focus away from the lower grades. For example: “Although I did not do well in calculus in my first semester at XYZ University, I would like to point to the A’s I received in micro and macro economics, as well as the strong score I received on the quantitative portion of the GRE.” Or: “I found the transition to university life to be difficult and my first-year grades were disappointing to me. I hope the Committee on Admissions will note the strong grades I received in my last three years of study.”
With two simple sentences, you help the Committee to understand a shortcoming in your application, and move on. Sometimes I have the feeling that the applicant is thinking, “If I just bury my head in the sand, no one will notice that I have a low GPA.” Sorry…we notice. That’s our job. So help us out, and don’t make us guess what was going on.
Schedule notes: PhD applications are due January 1. The regular deadline for all other programs is January 15. Please note that the University (including our office) will be closed on December 24, December 25, December 26, January 1, and January 2.
I know I said this last year, but I’m going to say it again for this year’s applicants: you don’t need to wait until the application deadline to submit your materials. The deadline, after all, refers to the final date on which you can submit your application. Waiting until the last minute means that any problems you encounter may not be solvable in time.
I certainly encourage you to take the time you need to write your essays, but I suggest that you aim to press the submit button a reasonable period in front of the deadline. And, you should already have nagged your recommenders, taken your standardized tests, etc.
The first of the upcoming deadlines is January 1 for PhD applicants. If you’re one of these prospective students, you should also take into consideration the time it will take for your thesis to reach us by mail. Please don’t hold those supporting materials until the last minute — you’ll want to give us the time we need to review your application carefully.
Everyone else has at least until January 15 but, as I’ll say each year, don’t wait until the last minute!
Yes, it’s only July. Yes, it’s true that we should be able to rest our brains in the summer. Yes, I agree that heat and humidity are not conducive to productivity. But if you’re planning to apply to graduate school for January or September 2009 entry, it’s time to start thinking. Fletcher’s application deadline for January enrollment in the MALD program is October 15, less than three months away. And the Early Notification deadline for MALD, MIB, MA, and LLM September enrollment is only one month later. So what are you waiting for?
Now’s the time to: craft an interesting and informative personal statement; line up your recommendations; take standardized exams (GRE or GMAT, and/or TOEFL or IELTS) and ensure that scores will be sent to all the schools to which you’ll apply; explore external fellowships and other sources of funds that will enable you to afford graduate study; request transcripts (or at least find out the request procedure) from all the colleges or universities you attended; polish up your résumé, with the aim of transmitting the maximum information in the least possible space. And, of course, you want to be making good progress in refining the list of graduate schools to which you’ll apply.
“Long-time” readers of the Fletcher admissions blog know that my son went through the college admissions process this past year. Smartest thing he did was to write his essays last summer. It’s a good strategy at the grad school level, as well. No matter whether you’re a college senior, a Peace Corps volunteer in a remote location, or a young professional in a demanding job, you’ll improve your results if you get a start on writing your essays while you have time to think — ahead of the pressures of application deadlines.
Which leads to the application itself. We make revisions to our application each summer. The new application will be up and accessible from the website by mid-August. But I can tell you now that the personal statement topic has not been changed. So why not get started on it?
Finally, yet another reminder to schedule your interview appointment (if you plan to participate in one) as soon as possible. Beat the rush and send us a request now.
I want to put in a quick plug for getting work done ahead of a deadline. On January 15, Roxana will turn on the computer and dump hundreds of applications into the printer queue. Hours (or even days) later, with the help of many admissions elves, we will have complete files for those applicants whose test scores and transcripts have already arrived.
But when we write that the deadline for applications to enroll at Fletcher in September 2008 is January 15, we don’t mean that you need to wait until that day to send the application. In fact, you can send it today! Or tomorrow. Or whenever it’s ready before January 15.
You may ask, “If the deadline isn’t until January 15, why would I send my application early?” That’s a valid question. And the answer is that submitting your part of the application enables you to identify problems, should there be any. Once you submit the application, you can track your on-line recommendations through Embark. Once all the on-line recommendations are in place, we’ll upload and print your application, and compile the file, along with test scores and paper recommendations. Then you’ll be able to follow the progress through a Tufts account. (Keep track of all your passwords.)
Should there be a problem, you’ll be able to solve it before the actual deadline. Won’t that peace of mind make it worth a little extra pressure to complete the application a few weeks early?
I’m going to be out of the office for most of next week, so I thought I’d better post some more Admissions Tips for those of you currently planning applications to meet our October 15 (January enrollment) or November 15 (Early Notification for September enrollment) deadlines.
The first tip for today is: Be aware of the application deadlines! It’s your responsibility to meet the deadlines, and you should not expect deadline extensions. Of course, if there’s a problem with the reporting of your test scores, you should let us know. We will work with you under those circumstances. Similarly, it’s your job to pester your recommenders so that they will meet the deadline, but we know that sometimes they don’t. We’ll accommodate you as best we’re able, but eventually we need to make a decision!
And speaking of recommendations, the second tip for today is: Remember that all recommendations need to be in English! You’re really gambling if you take a chance that a member of the Admissions Committee will understand the particular language in which the recommendation is written.
I hope blog readers find these tips useful. Remember that each time Committee members read applications, we’re taking on a tall stack! You do yourself a favor when you make sure that all information is in the format we expect.
A special note to New Yorkers – I’ll be at the APSIA fair next Wednesday. Hope to see you there!
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