I’m going to be starting a series for advice for new grad students. When I was applying to Western I searched for advice and contacted a few of the students whose blogs I had found. Here is what I would tell someone about my experiences so far:
I’ve enjoyed all the classes so far. All my teachers have been great. I’m in 5 courses and the workload hasn’t been overwhelming. I’m attributing that mostly to the fact that I’m not working or volunteering, so all my time can be spent either on homework or free time. Also, I don’t have any social commitments as my significant other is 4 provinces away so I don’t have much to do other than study. Only about 30% (totally made-up number based on my observation) of the students are taking 5 courses, but many of them have more commitments than I do. So if you’re wondering about the workload I think it’s dependent on what other time draws you have in your life.
Is the work really hard? Yes and no. Of course it’s a lot of work, but if you managed to get an undergraduate degree you have some academic skills. I started grad school terrified that I didn’t have the writing skills to do graduate level work. Don’t underestimate your own skills. Even though you may be out of practice, if you’ve written academic papers before, you can do it again.
The Graduate Resource Center is the best thing in the world to me right now. It’s a place to congregate, a place to study, and a place to get help. It feels like home to me, which is kind of sad, but ultimately true. I’ve spent several weekends there and it’s essential to my sanity. So that’s something to put in a report to justify its existence and prove how it benefits the academic community: It keeps me sane! I only wish it had more books and was open more hours so that I don’t have to ever leave it.
Go to workshops and other events! I’ve been to several workshops, presentations, and a social event and they were all fun and I learned many things. Haven’t regretted going to any of them yet and seriously doubt that I will in the future.
I looked for housing on two sites:
Western MLIS Housing
Here is a website that is supposed to be for sharing house listings for MLIS students. I couldn’t really see any posted yet but it’s somewhere to check and maybe make a connection with someone who can help.
UWO OffCampus Housing
I contacted a lot of people on this off campus housing posting site. However, I ended up going with someone I found through networking, so it’s worth trying that route before this one. London has a high vacancy rate right now, so I think that makes it easier to find a better quality place. I stayed away from the people I talked to who said things like “I do all the cooking and all the laundry for the students” and “there’s a girl who sleeps in the living room who’ll pay you $150 a month to stay there.” Seriously. I couldn’t make that up.
I have a friend who went through this program last year and her biggest advice to me was to explore the campus and I agree. Exploring in general is a good idea. A lot of people aren’t from London, and part of this means there is a serious lack of knowledge about the city. For example, nearly everyone I talk to has given me bad advice for geographical info/ bus info etc. So make sure you find someone who is actually from London to go to for that sort of stuff.
My last point is not to stress about taking the plunge and going back to grad school. I know you are, I know you will, but it worked out for all the students in my cohort (the incoming new students each term). I haven’t heard any horror stories yet.
Are you thinking about going to grad school in an MLIS program? Let me know if you have any other questions as I’ll be happy to respond and/or blog about it as this series continues.