June 29, 2009
Funding After FAFSA
Between the bummer state of the economy and the rising cost of education, I'm sure many of you are concerned about paying for grad school, so I thought I'd post some resources that might help out. Sure, for many of us enough loans are available to take care of everything, but for those of us already in debt from undergrad, or coming in from out of state (or BOTH) a little help would be nice.
It seems like a lot of students hope to be considered for a scholarship when they apply (which you all should) but are then disheartened when they are not offered one upon admission. DO NOT GIVE UP-SI is not the only source of scholarship for MSI students. In addition to the endowment scholarships that SI offers to a portion of incoming students throughout the year, there are also scholarships available through the Rackham Graduate School and the University of Michigan, some of which are automatic considerations, and some for which you will need to apply.
But really, do we end here? Not if you're serious about finding a scholarship. This is when your research skills will really come into play. Look into outside groups that may be interested in funding your education, such as professional groups (the American Library Association, for example, has quite a few on their website at http://www.ala.org/ala/educationcareers/education/scholarships/index.cfm and doesn't necessarily limit to prospective librarians-ALL SI STUDENTS receive ALA accreditation), minority groups, even businesses. Of course, the web is full of aggregators and scholarship search sites-just stick to the free ones and don't give anyone your social security or credit card number. :) SI has a list, too!
Another great resource-A blog written by a fellow SI student. This is a DO NOT MISS! She includes a few sample scholarships and resources for finding more.
Do not forget that SI has limited funds for matching outside scholarships. Students who have not received an SI scholarship and are awarded a scholarship from an outside scholarship may receive up to $10,000 in matching funds (while supplies last and all that).
Now, in the event that a scholarship just doesn't happen, there are ways to decrease the amount of loans you may need through work. SI students have a great reputation and generally have no problem finding part-time work on campus-which is good for international students who may not be allowed to work anywhere off of campus. Having a workstudy allotment helps, but isn't absolutely required. Most importantly, the right job can offer a lot more than $12 an hour-and by "the right job" I mean "a Graduate Student Assistantship." At UofM, Graduate Student Instructor (GSI), Graduate Student Research Assistant (GSRA) or Graduate Student Staff Assistant (GSSA) positions offer compensation past an hourly wage, often in the form of tuition waivers and stipends-even health insurance!
So, depending on what you'd like to do (teaching, research or administrative work) there are three options:
GSIs-Although a lot of PhD programs may be fully-funded, us Masters students aren't so lucky. At SI, the way the school is set up (with small enough classes to require very few GSIs, enough PhD students to cover this need, and a budding undergraduate program) leaves very few opportunities for MSI students to teach within SI. Nonetheless, each program has its own balance, and so some schools and departments DO hire outside students to assist with large undergraduate classes (while some do not). I recommend starting with your undergraduate major and branching out from there. A resourceful student will take careful stock of what skills they have and do the research to find out what positions are being offered and what they must do to apply, since this is not handled by one office, but individually by each school or department. A pain in the butt, I know, but totally worth it and there IS a listserv you can get onto which will help with this process.
GSRAs-For students more interested in performing research, the GSRA program is a research appointment that provides support for graduate-level research. This should not be confused with other hourly postings for research assistants. More details on this program can be found on the Academic Human Resources website at http://www.hr.umich.edu/acadhr/grads/gsra/what.html.
GSSAs-Graduate Student Staff Assistants support University programs and staff without teaching-normally through administrative work such as coordinating a student program. Information about postings for GSSA and GSI positions can both be found on teh Academic Human Resources website at http://www.hr.umich.edu/acadhr/grads/postings.html.
June 19, 2009
Choosing Your First-Semester Courses
As promised, here's a little ditty about choosing classes for your first semester. I'm dedicating it to all our incoming students out there. You know who you are...
Registration for new students won't happen until late July, I believe, so this is something to chew on until that time comes.
Full time students normally take 4 full courses for a total of 12 credits. Some SI courses are 1.5 credits and last 7 weeks instead of the full semester. Most of those classes have at least one other 1.5 credit class that matches it (often in time and location). Since all students are required to complete 48 credits of coursework and a full-time summer PEP internship can account for 6 of those credits, some students take fewer courses either their first semester (to ease in to grad school) or their last year/semester (to focus on finding a job. I personally recommend waiting for your second year in case a full-time, for-credit internship isn't an option.
Your first fall semester is when you will get your "foundation" courses out of the way. This includes SI-500 (Information in Social Systems: Collections, Flows, and Processing) and SI-501 (Contextual Inquiry and Project Management). These courses are required for every SI student, and lay the groundwork for a lot of the work you will do in other courses. Of course, they're also prerequisites for a lot of other classes, so taking them in year 2 isn't really an option.
SI-500 is a basic information theory course. Each section of the course reviews key readings in information science the explore the discipline from different perspectives, from cognitive science to economics. SI-501 is a project-based course, in which teams of students work with an outside client to review information flow and help them improve their communication and information storage processes. Neato.
For part-time students, these are the two classes you should take your first fall. Full-time students will have two more slots to fill.
The third foundation course is SI-502: Networked Computing: Storage, Communication, and Processing. This class introduces the basic technological concepts that will allow you to chitter-chat with other information professionals about key issues in the industry, like digital rights management or net neutrality; understand why your computer is running slow or why the Netflix challenge had a $1 million prize; or just enjoy an issue of Wired magazine. For those of you out there with a significant tech background, you can test out of this course later in the summer and in the early part of the semester. The test will be posted on CTools.
Anyhow, for people taking four classes, you have two spots taken up by the core foundations, and 1-2 slots left. SI-502 is offered in both Fall AND Winter, so you can wait until Winter if you have two courses you need to take care of your first semester. This is recommended for students strongly considering a dual specialization. Conversely, those interested in a lot of tech courses might want to squeeze it in, as it's a prerequisite for classes like SI-539 (Design of Complex Websites).
In general, most classes are offered in EITHER Fall or Winter (course schedules from past semesters are available on the http://www.si.umich.edu/courses/ page), so while I don't recommend getting TOO panicked about getting all your courses in, do be aware of when the classes you're eyeballing will be offered next.
So, depending on whether or not you test out of SI-502 (or decide to put it off until Winter semester), you'll have 1-2 more courses to select. Based on your interests and goals, this is a good time to take 1 or 2 courses in your specialization and a specialization that interests you.
Based on the advice of faculty and former students, I've put together this list of recommended first-semester courses (full course descriptions can be found on the SI website):
LIS: SI-647 (Information Resources and Services).
SLM: SI-624 (Media for Children and Young Adults). I took this-great course if you're at all interested in any sort of youth services work. However, SLM requirements are a big strict, so specialists should chat with another SLM student or their advisor when choosing courses.
PI: SI-581 (Preserving Information). This is a 1.5-credit course, so you can match it up with another 1.5 credit preservation course.
ARM: SI-580 (Understanding Records and Archives: Principles and Practices).
CI: SI-575 (Community Information Corps Seminar). This is a 1.5 credit course with no matching course. I also highly recommend SI-645 (Information Use in Communities) as it is currently not scheduled for 2010, and is really useful for anyone interested in community non-profits or outreach work.
IAR: SI-508 (Networks: Theory and Application) or SI-531 (Human Interaction in Information Retrieval).
HCI: In addition to SI-508 and SI-531, SI-539 (Design of Complex Web Sites), SI-658 (Information Architecture) and (for the brave who fear no wealth of group projects) SI-682 (Interface and Interaction Design).
SC: SI-508 and SI-539.
ICD: SI-562 (Microeconomics for Information Professionals) and SI-563 (Game Theory). Both are 1.5-credit classes, so you can take them together.
IPol: SI-508, again, and SI-539, too.
Tailored students: As a tailored student, you are combining classes from different areas of SI, so research the different areas and see which intro classes may help you most.
If you have any other questions, chat sessions with current students and staff will be held throughout the summer, with sessions covering course recommendations and registration. You can also email me or any other contact you have at SI, or log in for one of the open chats and see if anyone has any suggestions. Happy hunting!
June 15, 2009
Things You May Need...
Hello all, sorry I didn't get this posted sooner! Big fail on my part! Anyhow, this one's going to be (somewhat) short and sweet-a little bit of a teaser before a bomb you with my big fat entry on choosing classes for your first semester! Exciting-but wait for it!
Anyhow, in recent years SI has put out an official statement on whether or not students should purchase laptops before coming to SI. The official word is: "Yup." You can find the official policy online at http://www.si.umich.edu/computing/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=146*Itemid=41 but it boils down to this-
You're going to want one. PC or Mac, it doesn't matter. Between group project meetings and in-class assignments, being able to drag your computer around with you is a pretty useful thing. They've posted some minimum requirements, generally in line with standard specs in the last year or two. Also, I'd add that if possible, opting for a battery with a 3+ hour lifespan isn't a bad idea.
Of course, all SI students have access to computers on campus in the DIAD computer lab-which is open to SI students only and require the swipe of your student ID to enter. Within you'll find a LOT of computer stations (my guess is around 40) each with one monitor and both a Mac and a PC. Yay choice! There are also a few printers, a scanner or two and even some video editing equipment.
Still, having portable access to all of your stuff is useful. I also found having a USB memory stick was also really valuable, for times when someone's wireless card isn't working but you have to share files. You don't need a big one, I had a 128MB one that worked just fine-cost a few bucks in the old days, but they probably come in cereal boxes now.
If you're a coffee/tea drinker, investing in a decent portable mug/thermos is wise because some local coffee shops give you a break for bringing in your own cup. You can wash it in the student lounge if you ever forget to at home.
I learned the importance of packing a lunch after my first year-it's cheaper and much healthier. Space-savvy, inexpensive tupperware is a good buy (ziplock, glad, etc.) for SI students with morning classes, mid-day work schedules and/or evening meetings.
Last but not least, you will need a student ID, better known around these parts as the "MCard." Once you've accepted admission and your status changes to "matriculated and term activated" in the UofM system you can take a photo ID into the MCard office (there are a few on campus, but the main one is in the Student Activities Building (http://www.mcard.umich.edu/center.htm) on Maynard Street, near the Michigan Union). They'll take your picture and I'm pretty sure you can pick it up a few minutes later. There are a lot of things the MCard can do (it can be an ATM card, and I've heard rumors it can cure Restless Leg Syndrome-ok, I kid on that one-but the full list is on the website-http://www.mcard.umich.edu/overview.htm) but the most important is that you an swipe it to gain access to certain rooms/buildings on campus-and the DIAD is one of them, so you'll need it to go to your computing orientation. So if you're on campus before orientation, walk (don't run) to the SAB. Otherwise, go when you get the chance, but try to do it before your computing orientation.
So, that's all for today, kids. Tune in later this week for info on figuring out what classes to take...
June 09, 2009
I wanted to take a short break from the summer blog series to mention a scholarship opportunity that came down the inter-tubes in my email machine-the Spectrum/Kellogg Scholarship (not to be confused with the similarly awesome ALA Spectrum Scholarship).
The Spectrum/Kellogg Scholarship provides funding for students who "demonstrate strong engagement in and who have made significant contributions to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students and ally activism." Current and future LILA members-this means you! (I'd link to the LILA site, but at the time of this writing it seems to be broken. *sadface) This scholarship would also fall into the "eligible for funds-matching" category.
Anyhow, this year we're looking at five $2,000 scholarships for full-time undergraduate or graduate students at the UofM-Ann Arbor campus. All you have to do is demonstrate financial need, write a 1,000-word essay about how you have "engaged in and contributed to the climate for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and ally-identified students at the University of Michigan." (Oh yeah, and if they want you to write a thank-you letter, you have to-standard procedure in the money-begging business). This means, of course, that new SI students who attended UofM for their undergrad or for another degree, or current SI students are eligible. New SI students may also want to keep this in mind for next year.
I posted the app to my web space, so you can download it here at least until the deadline (August 1st, 2009).
I'll be posting more about scholarships and funding throughout the summer, but in the meantime you can go to the University Financial Aid page or the Rackham Scholarships page to check out some other UofM-provided funding.