With exams in their rear-view mirrors, our student bloggers (even those about to graduate) are finding a little time to write.  Today, Roxanne thinks back two years to the summer before she enrolled at Fletcher.

I am typing this blog post in the midst of celebrations and errands.  In yards and fields around campus, faculty, staff, and classmates alike are celebrating our impending graduation and the memories we have made in our time at Fletcher.  In the meantime, books find their way back to the library, a cap and gown are awaiting my pick-up at the campus bookstore, and stacks of paperwork require review.  As I am almost across the finish line of my time as a Fletcher graduate student, I wanted to look back and share some advice with incoming students.

Rest and reflect: Spend the summer before Fletcher relaxing and asking yourself questions about how you wish to spend your graduate school years.  You do not need to reach precise answers — in fact, these answers will change when you arrive on campus, and multiple times after that, too.  Rather, I encourage asking yourself what you seek to accomplish at Fletcher.  Are you trying to build particular technical skills?  If so, what are these skills and to what end are you hoping to hone them?  Are you hoping to develop a close relationship with particular professors who could be your mentors?  Are you interested in conducting original research?  Do you hope to write publishable work?  Again — you do not need the answers immediately, but asking these questions early (and often) will ensure that you approach your time at Fletcher with a consciousness that helps shape your path here.  And rest.  Rest rest rest rest rest.  You will need it.

Read for pleasure: I have loved most everything I have read at Fletcher, but I have also missed selecting my own leisure reading and having the time to do it.  Make a pleasure reading list for the summer before starting at Fletcher and carve out the time to dive into it.  Keep adding to the list while at Fletcher, as your professors and classmates will have great recommendations.  You will soon graduate and “read for fun” will be at the top of your wish list again!

Browse with an open mind:
I have received a few emails from prospective students asking questions like, “Should I take this class or that in my third semester?”  While planning ahead is always a good idea, it may be more useful to browse without trying to make concrete plans for all four semesters here.  By that, I mean that you should go through the Fletcher website and learn about the different offerings on campus.  What classes are available?  How do students spend their time?  What are the research centers and what do they do?  Which faculty bios resonate most with your interests and why?  What are the various publications?  Knowing about your options will broaden your view of Fletcher, and may be more useful than trying to create a plan before even arriving.  Soliciting second-year students’ advice once you arrive is a great way to vet prospective classes, and everyone is accessible and eager to answer your questions!

Spend time with friends and family:
Fletcher can be all-consuming in the best of ways, particularly in the first few weeks here.  As such, it may be good to use the time before Fletcher to reconnect with your friends and family, discuss your graduate school plans, and also reflect on the experience you are wrapping up.  How do you feel about leaving your current job or endeavor?  What have been the highlights of the past couple of years?  Transitions can be a whirlwind, and making time to process this one, especially with your loved ones, will allow you to invest in your new community with a clearer head and more energy.

Take care of outstanding responsibilities:
Similarly, if at all possible, leave some time between your arrival in the Boston area and the start of Orientation.  This will allow you to settle into your new place, get your bearings in the neighborhood, and develop a bit of a routine.  That is also a good time to buy anything you may need for the semester (check out the Tufts-specific discounts that are part of the summer mailings you will receive), and to take care of errands before the studying kicks in.  Doctors’ appointments, finishing up your previous job, external scholarship applications — all of these are easier to take care of before school begins!

Brush up on skills — but do not stress:
Some of you will need to brush up on quantitative skills or your knowledge of economics or a language.  If you have the energy and interest, it is not a bad idea to do that over the summer, particularly if you wish to sit for one of the qualifying exams in the fall.  Think of which gaps you may wish or need to fill and be creative about how to do so before you arrive.  However, do not let this ruin your summer or be a cause of stress — there are quite a few opportunities to take these tests.  It’s just easiest to take them early — particularly with languages, if you have been keeping up with language practice — which is why Fletcher advises you to take the tests as soon as possible after you arrive.

Cast the “shoulds” aside:
There are infinite ways to prepare for a new experience and lots of lists you could browse that would tell you a myriad of things you should do before graduate school.  Ultimately, though, you know what you need more than anyone — and there are aspects of the Fletcher experience that will catch you by surprise or for which you couldn’t prepare even if you wanted to.  This is part of the learning and the fulfillment here, so spend the summer in all the ways that resonate with you, take the advice that is useful for you, cast aside the rest, and arrive at Fletcher with an open mind for learning and an open heart for the new community of which you will soon be a part!

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