Over the last few weeks, I've received several emails from foreign students who are would-be applicants to Rice graduate programs, asking me whether I'll be looking for students next year. In these same emails, the students point out that their TOEFL scores fall below Rice's official cutoff of 90, and ask if they can get in anyway. For some I know that cutoffs like this seem unfair - that only physics ability should matter in terms of getting into a grad program. However, we don't set these things just to be arbitrary. Historically, students who cannot meet that language test criterion have a very hard time - they can't generally be put in front of undergrads to teach, they have difficulty in communicating with their instructors, and often the language barrier is sufficiently severe that there is a tendency to hang out with other students who speak their native language rather than to speak English (a situation that can prolong rather than address the issue). I have enormous respect for someone motivated and bright enough to go abroad to a foreign country for grad school in a non-native language - I couldn't have done it - but the language rules are there for rational reasons.