January 22 and, unless you’re aiming for one of the later (February 10 or March 1) deadlines, your application is in.  Perhaps you’re thinking that all you need to do now is to twiddle your thumbs while waiting for your grad schools to make a decision on your application.

If only Ernie were setting a good example for you.  In fact you can, and should, make this waiting time productive for yourself.

First, and most important:  you can develop your own financial plan.  The smart approach is to assume that your graduate professional school will not cover all of your expenses.  What resources can you draw upon?  What level of scholarship enables you to pursue your graduate school plans, and what level might cause you to push your plans back a year?  Are there external scholarships that could be right for you?  Sure, thinking this through will take some time.  But the risk of investing the thinking time is simply that Fletcher or another school provides you with more funding than your worst-case scenario, and you have greater resources than you expected.  Meanwhile, the upside is that you have the information in place to make your own decision on graduate school, after the schools have made their decision on you.

What else can you do?  The obvious:  Save your pennies!  If you have an income this year, you should be putting aside as much as possible for your upcoming student low/zero-income years.  No matter how large a scholarship you receive, you’ll be happy to have cash available to visit home/buy your friend a birthday gift/nurture your caffeine habits.  Trust me, every little bit helps.

How about academic preparation?  I’d suggest a little honest reflection on any weaknesses in your preparation for an international affairs program in the U.S.  If you’re a non-native English speaker, could your English skills use a boost?  If you’re a native English speaker, could your foreign language skills stand improvement?  In either case, learning a language is a slow process.  Start early.  How about those quantitative skills?  Whether you’re an economics whiz or in need of a brush-up, a little advance work can pave the way for your success.

I try to be nice in the blog, but occasionally I feel compelled to provide a dose of reality.  This is one of those times.  It’s never a happy moment when it becomes clear an admitted student hasn’t given any thought to how this whole grad student thing is going to come together.  With the application phase behind you, you have some time to get your ducks in a row.  Please don’t twiddle the next two months away.  Invest a little time now, and relax a little more in April.

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