Things They Don’t Tell You About Graduate School (part 1)

I remember signing up for my classes at James Madison University, back in the summer of 1991. With 120 credits needed for graduation, all I really had to worry about was, “Will this class be full, yet?” With a paper booklet listing all the courses in very small type, I made a dozen sample schedules for a 15-credit fall semester. Happily my second choice actually coincided with what was still available, and I went on my way. Aside from having to once beg for an override for a class from a professor so I could add in an extra class (to make up for one I’d dropped earlier, so that I would still graduate on time), and having two classes that had to wait until senior year because they always filled up so fast, that was the most of my worries.

Graduate school, at least for me, seems to be a very different sort of game. Wayne State University’s MLIS program requires me to take 36 credits (or 12 classes), six of which are core classes for the degree and must be taken. Of those six core classes, two of them are locked into the positions of first and second classes taken, while a third class is strongly recommended to get slot #3. (Two of the remaining three core classes “should be taken as part of the first 18 credit hours” while the third “should be taken as part of the last 9 credit hours.”)

This still seems pretty simple, until you start to look at the other courses you want to take for the second half of your degree. (And lest you think I am jumping the gun a bit, by the time I’ve finished 9 credits I have to submit a plan of all my remaining courses with my advisor and get them to sign off on it. So that’s not too far away.) And that’s when you realize that unlike the majority of undergraduate classes, many of the offerings are only offered once a year. And of those offerings, most are either in the (main) fall or winter semesters, with only a handful in the spring/summer session.

The end result has been a surprisingly fun logic puzzle, almost a game. “Database Concepts and Applications for Librarians is offered both fall and winter, so it can be almost a wild card, while Metadata in Theory and Practice is only a fall semester class… and what spring/summer class do I want for one of my electives? Maybe Advanced Classification and Cataloging?”

MLS-Spreadsheet

So now I have a spreadsheet built, which has two different timelines (one for if I take a single class in the fall, one for if I end up with two classes) and everything locked in save for a single “to be determined” option. It’s incredibly geeky and ridiculous. It is also, quite possibly, another indicator that this is the sort of graduate degree that’s meant for me.

At any rate, though, it’s definitely been an eye-opening experience. Certainly one of the first major differences between undergraduate and graduate classes! (More to come, I’m sure.)