Prepare for your application

Today we’ll kick off the tips for how to prepare for your application.  In past summers, we’ve focused on the nuts and bolts of the application itself, but this time I hope we’ll be helping you with the build-up to applying more generally.  Let’s just jump into it, and I think it will become clear.  My question to my Admissions pals was simply, “What do you wish everyone would do to prepare to apply to Fletcher?”  The responses follow, starting with Laurie’s foundational advice.

Please take some time to really think about why you want to go to graduate school and what you hope to accomplish.  Here are some of the questions you should ask yourself:

♦  Is this the right time?  Why?
♦  Am I really ready to leverage a graduate program, or do I just hate my job?
♦  Am I academically and professionally focused enough?
♦  Do I really know what I want to study?
♦  What would I like to do professionally?
♦  Will graduate school help me achieve my goals?
♦  What is the right type of program to help me reach my goals?

Once you have answered these questions, you’ll have a framework for exploring specific graduate programs and then you can decide where to apply.

Put some thought into your résumé.  Many résumés we see seem like an afterthought.  At best, they are a polished by-product of an earlier job search, helpful but clearly geared towards a different audience.  At worst, they are a dumping ground for every activity you have ever done.  In the best case scenario, crafting a strong résumé should be a precursor to writing your personal statement.  On the other hand, we don’t want your personal statement to re-hash everything on your résumé, so be thoughtful about how the two link together.  And just as important as what you include in the résumé is what you don’t; a long résumé doesn’t necessarily help us understand what you consider your most meaningful and substantive roles, activities, and accomplishments, so be thoughtful about highlighting the most important elements.

My biggest advice as you prepare your application is to plan ahead!  Did you know that we offer both on-campus and virtual interviews from late September until early December?  Though completely optional, interviewing is a great opportunity to add another layer to your application.

You should plan to interview before submitting your application, so again, planning ahead is critical!  My advice is to take advantage of the open calendar now, and book your interview for the fall.  And while you’re thinking about your potential campus visits, we hope you’ll consider joining us at Fletcher for one of our three Visit Days: October 15, November 5, or December 3.  Visit Days are a great way to get to know Fletcher, and you can even schedule your interview for the same day!

Aprender un idoma nuevo es un proceso largo.  To those Spanish language students silently nodding your heads, congratulations!  You’re already following my strong recommendation to begin building your foreign language comprehension even before applying to an international affairs grad program.  Doing so is particularly useful for Fletcher applicants, as the curriculum doesn’t include language classes (though they’re available through cross-registration at Tufts), and it’s not common for our students to spend a lot of in-semester time on formal language study.

Why focus on language skills when you might not even know yet which programs you’ll apply to, or what their various language requirements are?  Consider:

♦  Learning a new language is a long process.  Especially if you’re starting from scratch, you need to get your reps in, ideally including some immersion time.  Fletcher doesn’t test for native-level fluency, but the language exams will demand a relatively confident conversational ability, and a comfort with newspaper-level reading comprehension.

♦  Nearly any international affairs program will emphasize foreign language ability through curricular requirements, the academic culture of the school, or both.  Some, like Fletcher, require equivalency exams and prefer some degree of prior ability in new students.  Those that offer formal in-semester language instruction may allow new students with demonstrable language comprehension to test out of course requirements, freeing up curricular spots for other classes.  You’ll also be surrounded by lots of multilingual students, in an academic context in which some degree of multilingualism is likely assumed.

♦  Notwithstanding curricular requirements, nearly any program will value language ability in the application review process.  Candidates with very low prior foreign language exposure often need to convince application readers that they can cover a lot of ground in language acquisition after the start of school.  And, if you haven’t already heard, you will be very busy during the academic year.

♦  Language learning is a valuable life skill!  Multilingual people live longer, earn more, have healthier relationships, are better at sports, suffer fewer cavities, and are better freestyle rappers than monolingual people, on average.*

It can be hard to know where to begin in preparing for the application.  Building or improving your foreign language mastery is a great starting point.

*Not supported by any available data, but it feels true, which is just as important.

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