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9 Batten Application Tips from Students and the Admissions Team

Applications for Batten’s graduate and undergraduate programs are open, so we asked the Batten admissions team and current Batten students for tips to help you present your most compelling case for admission.

  1. Tell a story

Student Perspective: When writing your personal statements and essays for Batten, try to remember to ‘tell a story’ if you’re stuck in the writing process. Batten Admissions wants to get to know you, not just your resume. Tie your public policy interests with Batten and think about what led you to apply to Batten in the first place, then try to create a narrative around that. If you’re stuck or want someone to review your essays, you can always go to the Writing Center or check out other resources around Grounds!

Admissions Perspective: What we’re looking for is a 360-degree view of you as a person! We truly do practice holistic review, so think about what we can’t learn about you from the other pieces of the application, and use your essays to fill in the gaps about what you’re passionate about, how you lead and practice that passion, and what draws you toward policy.

  1. Put in an addendum (if you think you need it)

SP: Some students may choose to expand on their quantitative skills since that is required for the program or other parts of their academic record they might not feel is indicative of their skills. Others might choose to highlight positive parts of their background that they don’t think they expanded on properly in the rest of the application. Many don’t end up writing an addendum at all, however, so don’t feel as though you have to! It’s simply there to make sure the admissions committee can view the applicant as a person.

AP: The addendum is another place where you can fill in the gaps — if there’s something you feel compelled to tell us about that we haven’t asked you, highlight it here! In particular, you should use this space to detail extenuating circumstances relating to the coronavirus pandemic, including things like your decision regarding Spring 2020 grades (CR/NC vs. letter grades), reduced internship or extracurricular opportunities, or personal hardship.

  1. Start thinking about your application now

SP: At the very least, have an idea of what you want to write about for the personal statements. Start brainstorming early to fully flesh out your ideas for your personal statement. You might find that you think of an idea you like better after you’ve finished writing your essays but might not have enough time to write a new essay if you start too late.

Additionally, if you wait to start over winter break, you might lose access to many helpful application resources on Grounds. Some resources (other than the previous ones mentioned like the Writing Center), are the Batten Ambassador-led Application Workshop in November and even the Career Center.

AP: In addition to the Application Workshop, we’ll provide opportunities for you to get one-on-one feedback from Batten Ambassadors during the last few weeks of the fall semester and first few weeks in the spring. Bring your frameworks, your drafts, your resume — they can offer constructive feedback on any of it!

  1. Ask for recommendation letters early

SP: I had planned to ask a certain professor to write my recommendation letter for the Accelerated MPP program, but wanted to wait to ask him after finals. I reasoned that by waiting, I could be more focused on my application and he would also not be so busy. Unfortunately, I ended up accidentally scheduling my flight home during that professor’s final exam time and did not realize it until the morning of since I thought the final was earlier in the day. While it all worked out in the end, I felt significantly more awkward about asking that professor for a recommendation letter after that mishap. Luckily, he didn’t hold my absentmindedness against me and wrote me a great recommendation. However, had I asked him before the exam, I would have felt a lot more comfortable than having to ask him after making a huge mistake.

Additionally, a lot of applications will be due around that time and the professors you want to ask might already be writing a lot of other recommendation letters for other students. It’s best to make sure the professor has enough time to write you the best recommendation they can.

AP: The earlier you reach out to your recommenders, the more input you can provide to help them write the most compelling letter possible. With plenty of advance notice, you can share your goals, why you want to study at Batten, your resume, and any other pieces of information you feel will help them be an effective advocate for you.

  1. Choose the right people to write your recommendation letters

SP: Ask for recommendation letters from people who can speak about your academic side and personal contacts who can provide perspective on who you are as a person.

Admissions perspective: Think about who can speak most concretely about your skills and strengths, and don’t get hung up on titles — a letter from a more “junior” person (i.e. a TA, a high school coach) who knows you well is a much better resource than someone who you’ve had more casual interactions with, whose letter might end up being more generic.

  1. Talk to an admissions officer before you apply

SP: An admissions officer can answer any questions you have about the application process better than anyone else and can take away some of the mystery surrounding it. It could also be helpful to make sure you can fit the curriculum of whichever program you’re interested in with your schedule since they are all concentrated in your last two years of your undergraduate studies.

AP: We are here to be resources for you! Make an appointment with us, shoot us an email, or come to an application workshop or one-on-one application advising appointment.

  1. Take risks and don’t just write what you think they want

SP: If you write what you think is a ‘safe’ essay, you run the risk of sounding exactly like everyone else who is applying. Set yourself apart by writing about something you’re truly passionate about. This is your one chance to show the admissions committee who you are so use it to the best of your ability!

AP: Our goal in any given admissions cycle is not simply to admit a class — we want to build a network of change agents who in 5 or 10 years are making a serious impact in their fields. This requires bringing in a diverse set of voices, backgrounds, perspectives, and passions. Tell us why you deserve a seat at the table!

  1. Talk to people in the program

SP: Current students in the Batten program you’re interested in — whether it be the minor, the major, or the Accelerated or two-year MPP — know more about the programs than anyone else. Ask your friends in the program or a Batten Ambassador about their experience with the curriculum and see which track is best for you. They can give you insights on what they think helped them on their application as well.

AP: Current students are the experts on the Batten experience, and are the most authentic voices on juggling the demands of a rigorous curriculum, what the classroom experience is like, research and internship opportunities, and what they hope to do with their Batten degree. Talk to them to get a better sense of whether Batten can help you achieve your goals!

  1. Don’t worry so much about your GPA

SP: Don’t be deterred from applying if you don’t think your GPA or resume are ‘impressive’ enough. The admissions team wants to see people who are excited about public policy and come from various backgrounds, not just people who will boost their admissions stats. If you have a policy issue you are passionate about, then apply — regardless of what other students tell you about the Batten admissions process. While you should still of course try to do well in your classes, that shouldn’t be your only focus to the point of detracting from other interests you may have and can showcase in your application.

AP: Your GPA is only one element that we’ll look at when evaluating your candidacy — just as important are the ways you demonstrate leadership (formally and informally), your professional vision, your experience and engagement in your community, and your overall academic growth.  No one thing is going to help you sink or swim — we’re looking at you as a total package!