How to Plan Your Graduate School Education

The “first” of anything has the capacity to be stress-inducing, from first days of school to first days on the job and beyond. This is especially true when it comes to your first day of graduate school and preparing your schedule and budget going forward. As I mentioned in my post last month, every MLIS program differs in their tuition and fees. So, it is important for you to not only locate the financial information on your program early on to maximize your ability to anticipate your costs for each term, but to know how to keep graduate school affordable for you throughout your program’s duration. Since no one person will approach their program from the same perspective based on their goals, previous professional experience, and finances, everyone needs to do what is the best for them and not what they think others want them to do. Thus, here are some tips I have found useful in planning my first semester in graduate school onward.

First, in determining which classes to take during your first term, you should identify your program’s core classes; which are often prerequisites that need to be met before progressing on to classes that are more goal and career-specific. Every program has some number of core classes and prerequisites and therefore should be planned for accordingly so you can progress with your studies in a realistic time frame. Since graduate school is much more time consuming and comprehensive than undergraduate programs are, it is necessary for you to not over-schedule yourself and stretch yourself too thin across all of your personal and professional obligations.

Thus, depending on your personal and professional obligations, as well as your ability to pay your way through school, you need to consider how to complete your core and prerequisite classes in a way that does not overwhelm you. If you can afford to take most of your core classes in your first term (which is what I did with my 10 unit schedule this spring), then that is great. If you have to take it slower by splitting up those courses between multiple consecutive terms, then that is great, too. Planning realistically for your graduate education will factor into your success in your program. So, it is necessary for you to do what is best for you and allows you to have a fairly balanced life, regardless of what you have to deal with on a daily basis.

This is true as you get further along in your program, too, so you can continue your studies while minimizing stress. Also, as you examine your ultimate goals and aspirations while planning your degree program, you need to continuously consider where you see yourself at the end of your program after you graduate. As you progress in your program, you may want to monitor in-demand skills and expertise in your field(s) of choice so you can better select your classes and be more employable after graduation. Examining job descriptions on websites like LinkedIn, Indeed, the American Library Association, and other professional job search engines have proven helpful for me thus far, so I would highly suggest that others do the same. Your university’s career center is a great resource to consider utilizing here, too. This, in turn, will help you select your classes each term so you can progress to graduation without accruing any unnecessary debt and/or unnecessarily extending your time in your degree program.

Finally, as I mentioned in my previous post, reaching out to fellow classmates and alumni from your program is also an invaluable resource as you plan out your graduate school education since they have first-hand knowledge of what you are going through right now. Thus, as you make connections before, during, and after your first term in your program either in class, in program-related social media groups, or through personal communications, you should consider taking their experiences to heart and use them as learning experiences as others should do the same. Since we are all working towards the same goal of graduating with a MLIS degree, we need to help each other get the information we need to make informed decisions about our graduate school educations and investments in ourselves to maximize their efficacy going forward. Best of luck in your program! 🙂


Photo by Anete Lūsiņa on Unsplash

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