Countdown to Your Library School Application Deadline

Image of fireworks at night in the San Francisco Bay 2013

“San Francisco New Year’s Eve Fireworks 2013” by Chanc CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Tis the season to be applying to library school! For those of you applying to library programs, you might be feeling like you won’t be able to fully embrace 2015 until after you’ve conquered the GREs, wrangled in all your letters of recommendation, written your heart out in your personal statements, and hit Submit.  As a first-year LIS student, I understand what you must be going through. A year ago, I was preparing school, fellowship, and scholarship applications, scared and hopeful for what the new year would hold.

My friends and family would probably say, that by the end of 2013, I was a semi-functioning bundle of anxiety who was kind of a drag to be around. I kept having that dream where your teeth are falling out. I spent long stretches in December and January, alone, “working on my grad school application,” but really just delaying and avoiding the process, out of fear and doubt.  I hope you’re pre-library school experience is falling perfectly into place and that you are feeling totally inspired, confident, and empowered.

If you’re applying to library school now, you’re probably somewhere in between those two states (total wreck and floating on a cloud). I hope this post will provide a space for you to share your thoughts, experiences, and concerns regarding your Fall 2015 applications. Current LIS students and alumni, please chime in with application memories and/or words of advice, encouragement, and solidarity. I’m sure current applicants will appreciate it.

As someone who struggled with the application process, I’d like to offer some personal strategies that helped me get unstuck, and allowed me to turn an intimidating experience into a growth opportunity. Think of the following as Your Library School New Year’s Countdown.

10. If you find yourself stuck with personal writing, take a step back, and then look closer. If you’re struggling to capture your essence and worth in a personal statement, statement of purpose, or scholarship essay, you might want to take some time for soul-searching. Take ten minutes to free write. Ask yourself, What do I fear most about the application process? Think of your mentor or someone who knows you and whom you admire. How do they see me? What wonderful things would they say about me? I did a lot of free writing during the application process. I also found these “7 Questions” deeply provocative and illuminating.

Hand written quote "Be easy, take your time, you are coming home to yourself."

Art by Helen Boggess – Quote by Nayyirah Waheed – with permission from the artist

9. Don’t forget self care. Make time for the things that will restore your spirits when you’re feeling depleted. For me, it was cooking and eating with my family, meditating, and blocking off designated non-work hours.

8. You might feel like your application has to be perfect, but imperfection is a gift. We are all imperfect, and we’re made more human by showing those imperfections and vulnerabilities.  Let friends, family, and mentors read drafts of your application statements, cover letters, and essays. It was incredibly hard for me to share what I often thought were awkward, confusing and unfinished drafts. I was scared to reveal my aspirations, assuming readers would see me as an impostor, anticipating their ridicule. But by asking for help and sharing my vulnerabilities, I was able to cultivate a supportive community that became instrumental in my application process.

7. Do your research! A friend on the admissions team at a non-LIS graduate program in Boston, offered this advice for conveying my “fit” with potential programs: Examine the language used by your program in their mission statement, vision, web content, and even in program syllabi. Highlight and save relevant phrases and ideas. Ask yourself, what are my prospective program’s core values? What are my core values? How do they align?  Articulate this alignment in your admissions essays.

6. Figure out what you’re passionate about and show it. I’ve heard this advice from LIS professionals again and again. What would you fight for? What are you dying to learn more about? Tap into your enthusiasm, think big, and articulate that in your essays. I referenced some of my most loved works by three of my favorite librarians in my Statement of Purpose, and I personally think its okay to show a little genuine fangirling.

5. Squeeze in an informational interview or two before your deadline. I talked to a dozen alumni of my program while preparing my application (I over prepare), from recent graduates to librarians with 25 years of experience. I got to see the core values of the program embodied in a wide range of professional environments.

4.  If you have a favorite library, go there. Geek out. Sit in a chair and listen. Graze the spines in the stacks. Smile at staff and imagine you work there. I prepared most of my application materials, in front of the fireplace, at this library. If you can’t get to your favorite library, keep a picture near your workspace. Write about that place and what you love about it. That love will shine through in your application.

Image of library reading room with big windows

My Inspiration – Photo by the author

3.  Bookmark this spreadsheet of scholarships for LIS students. It is extensive and is regularly maintained by my program at the University of Michigan School of Information. It may extend your list of deadlines, but it will be worth it.

2. Please use Hack Library School as a resource! Read up on how to hack your scholarship essay, how to hack your library school application, and how to build your eResume. And if you haven’t yet, you have to download the free HLS Guide to Library School eBook. It may provide just the answer you were looking for as you consider online programs, dual degree programs, scholarships, and prepare your application. Also, comment and tweet with us!

1. Trust yourself and your experiences, and 2015 will unfold in beautiful ways.

5 replies

  1. I don’t know if it’s because I’m “older” (out of grad school for 9 years when I went back to library school), because I didn’t think of library school as competitive, or because I’m cocky, but I spent a total of 30 minutes on my personal statement. 15 minutes writing, 10 minutes (spread out over 2 weeks) wondering if I should have put more effort into it, and 5 minutes proofreading and deciding it was fine. A word to the wise: if you take my approach, don’t tell your advisor that is what you did the first time you meet her.

    Good luck to everyone in the process of applying!


    • Becky, I need you to teach me the ways of the 30 minute personal statement 🙂 It sounds so…healthy and efficient. At the time, I was not really worried about getting into my program, but more worried with the financial aid opportunities that were tied to my application. I came from a family where some of us didn’t graduate high school, and I was the first to go to college. So grad school is basically like going to Mars.

      I bet already having a Master’s or PhD when you apply to library school really changes one’s outlook on the process. Thanks for sharing your experience!


    • Haha, I was the same, although in my case it was because I had also applied to and successfully gotten into some pretty good (Tier 1) law school programs (so my feeling was if I can get into those I could get into an LIS program). It worked out but yeah, I wouldn’t go around recommending it to everyone.

      Definitely visit the schools if you can, and don’t forget that a lot of Canadian schools have earlier deadlines than the US (which I didn’t know until I went to submit and they were closed ;_;). Good luck!


  2. Ohhh I love this post. Great job, Christina! (And thanks for sharing our ebook as a resource!!)

    Personal statements are awful. Give yourself ample to time to write it, get it read by a few people, and make changes accordingly. But don’t fret too much – if your case is anything like mine you won’t even recognize what you wrote a year into your program because you’ll have changed so much. And that’s right – you WILL get into a program 🙂 I think I paralyzed myself with worry when I wrote my statement because I thought it forever defined me. Nope, not at all.

    The age-old advice is to not say you’re going to lib school because you love books, and that’s still pretty solid. Ultimately librarianship is about people and service, so no matter your particular interests it’s good to drag that in there.


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