graduate school, MLIS, Organization, Writing Papers

Preparing for my LAST SEMESTER of Graduate School

**This post was updated on January 16th, 2018 to include the discussion about Amazon Prime.**

I graduated from high school in 2010. Graduated with my BA in Communication Arts in 2015. And now, I am entering my final semester of my Master’s program and will graduate in May of 2018.

My experience with academia has been a whirlwind that deserves more than a passing glance in this post, but to give context to the meaningfulness of this soon to be accomplishment here is the cliff notes version.

  • Homeless in 2013
  • Rehab for addiction in 2013
  • Relapse in 2014
  • Housing for the homeless from 2014-2016
  • Diagnosed with PTSD and BPD in 2014 and in intense treatment for two years

Now, that looks a lot more dreadful written out in the cliff notes version, but this isn’t a mental health or recovery blog, it is a book blog. With that said if there is enough interest (like this post or leave a comment) I can absolutely make some blogs about my experience. While that list looks depressing, I grew more than I ever could have imagined through those experiences. Every thing that has happened has shaped who I am today and the path I went on to get my Master’s of Library and Information Science.

So heading in to my last semester what am I doing? And what can you do to make your final semester the best you can?

Take advantage of your student status before it is gone.

For me this means applying to conferences that have student discounts for admission. It also includes applying for publishing opportunities geared towards graduate student research. You can also look into (if you haven’t already) joining national organizations that relate to your degree with a student discount. For me that meant joining ALA while I could get the yearly discount of a student. All of these discounts help you become part of the field you are entering before you “officially” enter it. It helps you build relationships with other professionals in your field, make connections, utilize your brain power, and make friendships.

Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial
(**Clicking on the link above will take you to sign up for a free 30 day trial of Prime. I suggest doing this right before you plan on ordering a lot of textbooks, dorm decor, etc.**)

Now I don’t know how long this is going to last me, and it certainly isn’t in my best interest to blast this on the internet but hey, you’re girl is here to help you out. If you have a .edu email domain, you can get a free trial of Prime for 6 months. At the en d of those six months, you have the option to sign up for Amazon Prime Student for 50% the regular price.

With Amazon Prime Student you get all of the same benefits of the regular prime, with the exception of shared Prime Free Shipping in the Shared Household benefits package.

Now here’s where it gets fun! (and also where I might be getting myself in trouble). My .edu domain will never expire….so that means I can continue to pay 50% the original price of Prime forever if I want to. Now not all schools let you keep the .edu domain forever, but it is certainly worth asking around to see if they do.

If you are someone who doesn’t have a .edu domain, or aren’t in need of Amazon Prime, Give the Gift of Amazon Prime to a poor college student this year to help cover the costs of shipping textbooks, binge watching Prime TV shows while crying and eating those Prime Pantry chips…you know, the important things in college.

Use your professors to the fullest extent.

I am blessed to be at an institution with some of the most forward thinking librarians in the country. When I first started my program I saw other students with more experience, better backgrounds, higher GPA’s…and I let that stop me from engaging with my professors in the way I do now. So take a lesson from my mistake and utilize the power of your professors to learn as much as you can while you have them because this opportunity only comes once. Here are some examples of the ways you can utilize your professors:

  • Go to their office hours and talk about your course work or things going on in your profession that move you, confuse you or excite you.
  • If you have the credits available do an independent study. This has been by far the best decision I have made in my graduate career. I’ve partnered with a professor who does incredible work on diversity and libraries to conduct research through an independent study. My research won’t be finished by the time I graduate, and I will be able to discuss my research with my professor after I graduate, however, she will have a whole new batch of future librarians to educate (and who are paying her) so it won’t be the same as when I am in school. I’m taking this opportunity to ask as many questions as I can about research, libraries, diversity, and the publishing process.
  • Read their work! Professor’s publish incredible research and honestly they are just magical unicorn human beings who manage to do more with their time than I could ever hope to. Read their brilliance. Discuss it with them. Discuss it with your peers. You’re career and brain will thank you.

Use your breaks to take a break, but also use it to your advantage.

I always give myself at least a week or two during breaks of school to unwind, work on some craft projects, or read my ever growing TBR list. But here’s what I don’t do and why I find it helps me be a better student.

  • I don’t come home from work and just sit on the couch until bed. As an online/distance learner, when school starts back up again I come home and go straight to homework until bed time. It took me two semesters of struggling to figure out why I had such a hard time adjusting to school after a break, and it was because I switched my routine so drastically. Now I’m not saying you have to come home from work every day and tax yourself emotionally and mentally by reading academic articles or working on something educational, but it helps immensely to do something as similar to your school routine as possible to aid in a seamless transition back to school.
  • I don’t wait until school starts to get a grasp on my workload. I ask for the syllabi for my courses anywhere from 1-3 weeks ahead of time. I usually ask because I want to get a jump start on ordering my textbooks. **Life hack: order your textbooks from somewhere other than your school and I guarantee it will save you heaps of money** I’ve never had a professor refuse my request, however sometimes the syllabus isn’t complete yet, or they may give you a copy with the disclaimer that it may change at any point. Having a copy gives you a guide to what your schedule is going to be like, what weeks will be heavier work loads than others, and gives you plenty of time to make a weekly assignment and work sheet.
  • I don’t wait to start my work. If you are so inclined, as I often am, I start my work ahead of time. I used to look at this as me taking away from my well deserved break, but I am someone who needs to be busy. Sitting around for winter and summer breaks does nothing to help me mentally or emotionally. By having a copy of the syllabus, or if you are doing an independent study, a copy of your planned readings, you can map out what your first two weeks of reading are and get a jump start on them. Rather than taking away from my break, I look at it as giving myself a smoother ease into the semester. I will already understand the content, have read the text at my own pace so I can truly grasp it, and formulated my own thoughts on it before I even see what our discussions and lessons are going to look like.

This is the #1 way I have built up my critical thinking skills.

If you have a job in your profession, start doing more work.

This may mean asking for more advanced tasks to work on, partnering with others to shadow them, or finding a mentor to follow and see other parts of your profession you haven’t yet. I’ve taken this opportunity to ask for a larger workload that includes publishable research so that when I transition out of my school work I am still working on something educational in my field.
Leave a comment below to tell me how you are hacking your last semester, what you’ve learned to do and not to do in graduate school, or just brag about being almost done!!