Hack Your Program: University of North Texas

Disclaimer: This post represents the perspectives and experiences of a current student at the University of North Texas. This information is accurate only at the time of publication, and the opinions are not intended to be the opinions of any other student, faculty, or staff of UNT. 

The University of North Texas iSchool currently offers both undergraduate and graduate degrees. Administered by UNT’s College of Information, these degrees are ALA accredited and can be completed both in person and online. 

Bachelor of Science in Information Science

Master of Science in Library Science 

Master of Science in Information Science

Doctor of Philosophy in Information Science

MS-LS Program Overview

UNT’s library science program is extremely popular in the state of Texas, as I quickly learned when seeking out information about grad school from friends already in the field. Continuously rated in the top 20 for library science programs in the US, the program, while fairly rigorous, allows for those already working full-time to complete the program 100% online. The traditional on-campus learning experience is also available for students in the Denton, Texas area. There is also a unique opportunity for those living in Virginia, West Virginia, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, New Mexico, and California to become a part of the MS Program Cohort program.

The MS-LS program has seven concentrations of study:

General Program

Archival Studies

Information Organization

Knowledge Management 

Law Librarianship

Music Librarianship

Youth Librarianship

In addition to the degree, students can earn a Graduate Academic Certificate by taking select courses during their time in the program. These certificates include:

Advanced management in libraries and information agencies

Archival Management 

Data Science

Digital Content Management

Digital Curation and Data Management

Rural Library Management 

Storytelling

Youth Services in Libraries and Information Settings

The program requires a total of 36 credit hours, 9 of which are core classes: Information and Knowledge Professions, Information Organization, and Information Access and Knowledge Inquiry. The capstone experience includes the submission of an ePortfolio, which is a reflection of the work done throughout the program as it pertains to ALA’s core competencies. The practicum differs for the concentration chosen in the program, but for most include at least 120 hours at a registered practicum site. The practicum waiver is also available for those who have worked part-time or more for at least 6 months in a paid position prior to the last semester before graduation. 

Admissions

Admissions to the MS-LS program is done both through the Toulouse Graduate School and the College of Information. The graduate school requires a $75 registration fee with the statewide ApplyTexas application as well as undergraduate transcripts. Admissions to the College of Information include a 3.0 GPA, two letters of recommendation, a statement of purpose, and a resume. For those concerned about their undergrad GPA, the College of Information does make some allowances for admittance. Only the last 60 hours of your undergrad coursework will be counted, giving the opportunity to have a higher overall GPA.  They also allow for undergraduate leveling. Essentially, if your GPA ranges from 2.6-2.89, four courses from the undergrad program can be taken to boost your GPA for the graduate program.

As I was going through this process, I had a hard time understanding exactly how these numbers would be calculated. It had been quite some time since I completed my undergrad, and I poured over my transcripts, calculator in hand, trying to determine exactly what number the department would have on their end. I attempted to get some clarity via emails to the admissions office, but answers were vague, to say the least. In the end, I found myself crossing my fingers and hoping for the best. While I still don’t know what that final number is, I feel my strong recommendation letters and statement of purpose played a significant role in my admittance. 

Financial Aid and Scholarships

UNT provides a tuition calculator to determine semester costs, as in-state and out-of-state, and on campus versus online courses pricing varies significantly. The 2022-23 program cost for an in-state, online, MS-LS student, is currently $16,260, or $2,710 per semester.

UNT has a robust scholarship program for graduate students, many only requiring a cover letter and letters of recommendation. While the award amounts vary, the online application process is straightforward and easily navigable. 

Student Involvement

One of the best aspects of the online MS-LS program at UNT is the opportunity to engage with fellow students in the College of Information student organizations. UNT’s LISSA, or Library and Information Science Student Organization, hosts several monthly meetings online for both casual student interaction and info sessions. They also offer a mentorship program and several in-person opportunities for meaningful interactions. The UNT chapter of ASIST, or the Association for Information Science and Technology is also very active, and hosts an annual consortium for students to present papers, posters, and lightning talks. 

As a student living far from the Denton campus, I am thankful for the Houston Program Hub, which offers students living in the Houston area to engage with one another online and also in person for special events. The Spring semester had us visiting the Special Collections department at Rice University, where we were given a tour of the department and the archives. 

Hack the UNT MS-LS (Online) Program

-The UNT website, from admissions to the MS-LS program content pages, is a vast labyrinth of information. Dig around! There are some pages I discovered after the first few weeks of my first semester that I wish I had seen sooner. Pay close attention to the course calendar throughout your program, and if you balance it correctly, your schedule should allow you to earn at least one Graduate Academic Certification, should you choose to pursue one. 

-Take your 3 core classes FIRST, and in ascending order, if possible. While this may seem obvious, I took 5600 my first semester (as the other two had waiting lists), and in hindsight, wish I would have taken 5000 first. There are some really great, base-level resources that you will use for the rest of the program. 

-INFO5200 is a doozy, yes, but only if you allow yourself to fall behind. Because I had so many coworkers and friends either in or having graduated from this program, I heard many tales of the infamous 5200. One person took only this class (in Spring!) because she had heard quite a few horror stories. I took this and another course (two classes maximum are recommended if you also work full-time) and here’s the biggest hack: read all of the information about the assignments in full when you come to them, and then read them again. Watch the Gut Checks on Zoom. Before you submit your content, again read over each requirement and make sure you check off every item. I personally think this class seems overwhelming because you are essentially working on the same assignment the entire semester, and it can be hard to recover if you fall behind. But the truth is, the instructors have laid all of the tools to success at your feet, you just have to make sure you read it all thoroughly. To date it has been the most rewarding class I have taken, and I encourage anyone who is feeling some trepidation about it to take a deep breath and take your time going through the content. 

-Get involved. Some of the best opportunities I have been able to take advantage of have come simply from getting more active in UNT’s LISSA and ASIST organizations. On top of that, being in a completely online program obviously creates natural isolation. While it can be hard to make all of the events offered, attending an occasional Zoom meeting to interact with other students to get perspectives, and even vent, has been crucial to my success in the program.

-Avoid paying full cost for your books, if possible. As a future librarian, I will admit that my first inclination was to add all of my course books to my bookshelf, in the chance that I would want to use them as resources later. The truth is, having completed six courses thus far, I have at least 3 books that I cracked open maybe three times. After my first semester, I rented or bought used copies (always the correct version, though!). I have yet to purchase anything from the campus bookstore, which is sadly overpriced compared to other online retailers.

-Beware: Summer courses and Fall/Spring courses are vastly different. This is the only caveat I will submit for this program. Understandably, the course content is condensed, allowing for two classes to be completed from June-August. I regret taking what could have been great classes in a shortened term, as they felt rushed and not fully explored. Additionally, many of the instructors are not the typical faculty that run the same courses in Fall and Spring, and so you may have someone teaching the material that did not create the curriculum. Keep the classes that you are most looking forward to in a typical full semester. 

-Finally, keep your ePortfolio in mind as much as you can. Do you have something you’ve found exciting in your course material, or in articles you’ve come across? Write about them and add them to the blog section. Your ePortfolio requires at least seven blog entries by your last semester, and this will prevent you from having to pull entries out of thin air when you approach the finish line. 

Good luck! Go Mean Green!

Ashley Young (@ashleylizoo) is a current UNT student in the online MS-LS program. She resides in Houston, Texas.

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