Tackling Library School Debt with Scholarships

For many of us, library school = big student loans.  Some programs are less expensive than others, particularly if you’re able to get in-state tuition, but we all know that none of them can really be described as cheap. Have you looked at your student accounts lately?  Take a moment, figure out how much you’ve borrowed so far, how much more you’ll need to borrow, throw in summer tuition if you’re taking summer classes, factor in books and technology purchases.  Tell me, how much debt will you be in when you graduate?

If you’re in a situation anything like mine, the answer is “far more than I really wanted to be reminded of during the holidays, thank-you-very-much.” That’s if you could bring yourself to answer me at all. But while it’s no fun to ponder the massive debt you’re running up, the fact of the matter is that you’re probably between semesters for the next 6-8 weeks and suddenly have some extra time on your hands. So rather than whimpering under your desk, why not put your time and your budget fears to good use and write some really fantastic scholarship applications?  Even if they’re not due until April, when else will you have the time?

I realize that it’s your holiday break and you might not want to do this, so here are some national-level scholarship programs with relatively painless application procedures to get you started. Some of these will even let you apply to more than one at a time!

ALA Scholarships

Due date: March 1 (Although your official sealed transcript is due by February 1)

Award amounts: $1,500-$7000

What you’ll need: Online application form, three professional references, official sealed transcripts from your undergraduate and current masters programs, and personal statements for each scholarship that you’re applying for.

Why you should apply: I know this one is obvious, but it’s worth it.  Very similar to the Common Application you might have used many years ago in your undergraduate applications, the ALA scholarship program allows you to apply to as many scholarships as you qualify for with one application, one set of references, and one set of transcripts.  This is very useful as the ALA scholarships range from general awards to several specialty-specific programs sponsored by the various divisions of ALA. You might be eligible for several different awards, so take the time to comb through this admittedly impressive list. You will need to write a separate statement of intent for each scholarship you apply for, and you’ll need to be an ALA member.

Beta Phi Mu Scholarships

Due date: March 15

Award amounts: $2,250-$3,000 for current MA candidates, doctoral awards of $3,000 also available

What you’ll need: Different scholarships have differing requirements on number of credits and career intent, but all require a one page autobiography, transcripts from all institutions of higher learning, three letters of recommendation, and current resume.

Why you should apply:  Two of these scholarships are restricted to new students, significantly leveling the playing field for the first-semester MLS student. Oddly, you don’t have to be a Beta Phi Mu member to receive an award.

American Association of Law Libraries

Due date: April 1

Award amounts: Unspecified, listed as “significant amounts”

What you’ll need: Transcripts from your current MLS program and your most recent degree-granting institution, three letters of recommendation, personal statement of interest, personal statement of financial need, and a current resume.

Why you should apply:  Law librarianship is not a huge field and thus your competition will be smaller (though fierce).

Medical Library Association

Due date: December 1 for most (I’m sorry), April 1 for the Spectrum Scholarship

Award amount: Up to $5,000 for most, up to $6,500 for the Spectrum Scholarship

What you’ll need: Varies for each scholarship, but all require a completed application, two letters of recommendation, official transcripts sent directly from each college or university attended, and a copy of your school’s catalog or web page that states the number of credits needed for your degree.

Why you should apply: Like law librarianship, smaller fields can equal fewer competitors.  This is no reason to slack off though; the MLA doesn’t give awards if they feel there are no worthy candidates.

Society of American Archivists

Due date: February 28

Award amounts: $5,000-$10,000

What you’ll need: Cover letter, statement of interest, your transcripts, two letters of recommendation, and the application form for the particular scholarship you’re applying for.

Why you should apply: You could take $10,000 off of your student loans.  Do you really need any more reasons?  Admittedly, these won’t apply to all readers, but they might be helpful to some.

I’m well aware that this only scratches the surface, but it should be plenty to keep you busy until classes start back up.  Please chime in below the line with more!

Categories: Finances

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5 replies

  1. Something worth noting: some of these scholarships require candidates to have completed less than 12 hours towards their degree. I found this out the hard way when I put off applying for scholarships until my second year. So start right away!


  2. Good point! The Beta Phi Mu scholarships in particular have a credit-cap, so don’t wait too long.

    If you’re past the 12 credit mark, or past graduation but still doing some research, you might be eligible for some of the other awards listed in this pages. There are also travel scholarships for a lot of the big conferences that aren’t necessarily limited to students.


  3. I recommend checking with your state library association (or a professional organization relevant to your education/career goals) to see if they have scholarship, grant, or loan money available.


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