Consider this scenario:  You’ve always enjoyed bicycling (though you haven’t done much riding recently) and you’ve decided to join your friend for a cross-country bike trip in September.  Would you wait until September 1 to re-introduce yourself to your bicycle?  I’m guessing that you would put in some practice between now and the start of your ride.

Similarly, why would you wait until September to “get in shape” for your graduate studies?

Admitted students will receive detailed information to this effect later in the spring, but I want to give blog readers the advance word, whether you’ll be attending Fletcher or one of our peer schools.

Every school has some minimum admission requirements, even while other expectations might be “flexible.”  For example, regardless of degree program, Fletcher’s Admissions Committees want to see a score of at least 100 on the TOEFL exam, or for native English speakers, intermediate-level proficiency in a foreign language.  We also want to see that applicants will be able to cope with quantitative work at Fletcher, and with a heavy reading load.  While the different programs emphasize different facets of the applicant’s profile, there’s a bottom line for all of us.

Even while you’re waiting to learn which schools have offered you admission, I encourage you to carefully consider your potential weaknesses and attack them.  Unless you’re easily fluent in English, start working on your skills.  Last year, an applicant gave us a list of the radio stations and television shows she would “study” to improve her comprehension.  At first, the list struck us as funny, but now, I’m going to pass along her list as advice.  Go to the web site of our local NPR news station, WBUR.  Can you understand everything they’re saying?  Because I can assure you that Fletcher professors will be speaking just as quickly.  As will the clerk in the supermarket, and the person giving you driving directions in Davis Square.  Or have some fun watching current or classic American television shows on Hulu.  Arrive at Fletcher ready to chat about Lost with Laurie and Roxana.

Native English speakers, you’ll need to prove second language proficiency.  Pursue your foreign language in the same way.  Honestly now, is the Spanish you called “intermediate” on the application really intermediate?  Whatever your language, test yourself by reading a newspaper daily!  Find radio stations or television shows in your target language online.  These days, there’s no reason not to practice your language, even if you’re not living in that language environment.

And then, folks, please please please take your language proficiency exam at the first opportunity.  Get it out of the way, check it off your graduation requirement to-do list.  You’ll be so much happier for it.

Finally, a word about quantitative work.  Who among us can avoid economics these days?  Open any newspaper and every page has a story that is rooted in economics or finance, or has an economic backdrop.  No matter how quant-phobic you are, you can’t avoid the stuff.  Acknowledge your quant-phobia, people!  And do something about it!  Brush up on micro or macro.  Review your old statistics text book.  Please, don’t ignore the problem you know you have.  Trust me here, I’m doing you a favor.

That’s as much as I need to write about this topic now.  As I said, we’ll be reaching out to our admitted students later in the spring.  But some of you will be going elsewhere, where the lesson still pertains.  There’s no time like the present to take care of something that needs taking care of!


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