Tips for a Smooth Transition to Grad School

iStudent Blog

Deciding to go back to school isn’t easy, especially if it’s been a while since you earned your last degree. You may have thought long and hard about your options, weighing the challenges versus the rewards of earning your MLIS or MARA degree. It can seem daunting to return to school but there are ways to ease the transition and make the most of the adventure in front of you.

Create a time management plan

For me, the great thing about being an undergraduate student was that I didn’t have much else going on in my life besides school and homework. Returning to school to earn a graduate degree, however, usually coincides with a job, family, and other time commitments. That’s why it is important to establish a study routine. Perhaps pick a time of day that you will choose to log in to class, complete readings and assignments. You might also need to find a location that is quiet or where you can’t be bothered for a set amount of time. This plan will especially help if you start feeling overwhelmed at any point during the semester.

Start slowly

If you’re returning to school after a long hiatus you might want to consider taking only one class your first semester. I chose to take one class per semester after realizing that I valued a lower stress level over completing my degree quickly. Taking one class your first semester will help you ease into the school routine. You will see what is expected of you, what kind of workload you will typically receive, and how well you are able to keep up. You will also get a feel for what it’s like to be an online student and how you can fit your coursework around your other responsibilities. One of the benefits of the school’s delivery model is that you can choose each semester how many courses you want to take, so you could start slowly with just one class (plus LIBR 203 for MLIS students), and then see if you feel ready to take two classes in future semesters.

Boost your technology skills

It is important that you have basic computer skills before entering an online program like SLIS, and your LIBR 203 course will give you additional technical skills and knowledge for online learning. But if you feel like you want to learn more about Web 2.0 or social media there are also plenty of resources from the SLIS community, including YouTube tutorials and the 23 Things for SLIS Students and Alumni website, both of which I highly recommend checking out.

Get involved

Becoming an online student can feel daunting especially if you have been accustomed to a face-to-face classroom setting. Distance learning can sometimes feel disconnected. There are plenty of ways to meet people, however, and make connections. Join a school chapter of a professional association, like SLA or ALA, or join your state’s professional library association. There are many Facebook groups for SLIS students in certain geographic areas whose members organize outings. In my classes I am always looking for students who live close to me and I try to make it a point to reach out to them.

Reward yourself

It’s easy to get consumed with school, trying to balance homework with the rest of your life. So when you reach a goal or complete a big assignment or semester, celebrate! When I finish a big paper I always make it a point to reward myself, even if it only means a break to watch an episode of my favorite television show. The smaller steps towards completing your degree are what count.

Here are some additional resources that I have found especially helpful while completing my MLIS. Perhaps they can help you too.

Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab

Hack Library School – A Blog By, For and About Library School Students

GCF – Free tutorials to help you navigate the 21st century


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