Applying to Library School Step 1: Choosing a School

If there is one thing that I am particularly good at doing, it is procrastinating from large, daunting tasks. Whether it was coursework, my dissertation or job applications, I have always been excellent at putting them off until the latest point possible, because they were Big and Important and Scary (but in my defence, I do produce really good work under last-minute pressure). Now, a year and a half after writing 12,000 words on a niche topic, and over a month after having moved into my nice new job, I am faced with another Big Task. That task is applying to library school, which I really need to get a move on with, so naturally I am procrastinating by blogging about it instead of actually doing it. Today I am going to talk about how I have decided which universities to apply to and why.

Its been a long time since I last seriously looked at which universities to apply to (6 years… ouch!), and this time around I don’t have UCAS on my side to put everything together for me, so I started with the basics: what is it I want to study? Masters, Library and Information Studies or something equivalent, CILIP-accredited. No questions asked, that is what I want to do (well, I also want to do Gender Studies or Queer Theory, but they are far, far less likely to result in a career – time to be sensible, Kates!).

Another consideration to make is whether I want to study full-time, part-time or as a distance learner. Distance learning is becoming increasingly popular as you don’t have to relocate and you can continue with the day-job alongside it, and the ability to work is also a positive for part-time study. Unfortunately for me, I am well aware that I am the type of person who just won’t get things done if I’m left to my own devices (in study at least). I need the pressure of having classes to attend and people to talk to and the ability to immerse myself in an educational environment. That’s not to say that I wouldn’t want to do the masters if it wasn’t full-time, but I think it’s really important to have an understanding of the ways in which you’ll work best and play to these.

Such a specific course limits me to around 15 institutions or so, so my next job was to narrow down location. By this I mean that I am certain I do not want to go to London, and really don’t mind where else. Having studied languages for my undergraduate degree and doing placements etc. abroad, I can quite safely say that moving around bothers me less than it would most – I have lived in 10 different cities/towns/fields in the last 5 years, the most recent being my move from Essex to Bradford for my current job, so this really isn’t a problem. Why am I so set against London? It’s yucky. In all honesty, it would probably make more sense, as I’d be able to move back into my parents’ house in Chelmsford and commute, but I’m not prepared to give up my autonomy and I really, really dislike large cities. So that leaves me with Manchester Met, Brighton, Strathclyde, Aberystwyth, Glasgow, Loughborough, Robert Gordon, UWE Bristol and Sheffield (and Ulster, but I think I can rule out crossing waters to get there).

Now I actually reached this point a couple of weeks ago, when I then proceeded to write each university on a notecard, along with fees and course title, and then I stuck them up on my wall in order of price. They are still stuck there, staring at me, and some of them are not even correct anymore. I should probably take them down.

Probably the biggest thing that I need to consider is cost. Basically, I’m screwed. Courses cost money. I do not have money. I sat down and attempted to work out some kind of budget for the coming year and in an attempt to save some dosh for fees, but life is tight. After tax, rent, bills, more tax and more bills, if I were to live on £50 a week I would be able to save £400 a month. Minus 2 months because I’m still trying to get the hell out of my student overdraft left from degree number one. Minus another 2 months because if I’m going to go back to uni full-time I’m going to have to quit my job two months early (nice one, Bradford…). That leaves me with 8 months x400 = £3600. Not only is this fairly unrealistic in that I’m absolutely awful at sticking to budgets and £50 a week for food and expenses and a social life (?!) is pretty unrealistic anyway, but also even if I did by some freak chance manage to stick to that, this would still be about a grand short of the cheapest course available. And on top of that will be rent (lets say another £5k if I’m lucky) and living expenses (I’d say I could probably live off £4k at a push). I’m sorry, but that freaks me out every time I think about it.

Now obviously I will be applying for every and any sort of funding available. I’d be stupid not to. But the reality is that there is not a lot of funding out there, whilst there are a lot of people applying for it. Funding is nowhere near a guarantee, and I cannot possibly form a plan for next year based on getting funding, because the chances are I won’t get it (hi there, my name’s Katie and my glass is half-empty). This leaves me with the option of a Career Development Loan, or a Career Development Loan. Scary, and a horrible option that is a last resort and I am really not looking forward to. Also, this loan will not cover the costs of fees and maintenance, so once again I will have to ask my parents to help me, which is frankly demoralising and incredibly unfair to them. I would love to go into a giant rant here about how the education system is designed for the rich and completely screws over the poor (and particularly in the undergraduate system, those stuck in the middle), but I’m aware that I’ve rambled quite enough already and that’s off-topic.

So anyway, back to the topic in hand: choosing which library school to apply for. I think what I was trying to say in the above paragraph is that I am a poor person, so initially I felt that I should apply to the cheapest courses (although in the grand scheme of things a couple of grand shouldn’t really make much difference, but in the immediate future it will). Isn’t it sad that I had to consider all of these things before I even looked at the actual content of the courses? I *finally* got around to looking at course content last night, and I almost wish I hadn’t. Most of the courses offer pretty much the same kinds of modules, with maybe a couple of different optional modules but generally on the same lines (I’ve taken this at surface value, I’m sure the courses may well be very different). But there was one that stuck out: Loughborough. Loughborough offer a module on Gender & Information, and Culture & Change Management – two modules that look incredibly interesting and are really a part of what I’ve done in the past and hope to continue with in the future. Modules similar to this (particularly gender) are not offered in any of the other courses available around the country, so for me it’s a no-brainer. I saw the content and I just clicked, I just knew: I want to do this course.

This has messed things up for me, though – I had almost certainly ruled out Loughborough for it being, typical example of how my luck swings, the most expensive course (there may be one or two unis that will be more expensive, but their fees for 2013 have not yet been announced, so I’ve had to give them guestimates based on previous years’ increase). So I’m now faced with sensible Katie vs heart-on-her-sleeve Katie, and I’ve decided that I’m not going to choose between the two for the moment, I’m going to pursue both for as long as I can, until I make a decision. I figure that I have nothing to lose by keeping my options open, so I intend to apply to one or two courses with the cheapest fees, and one or more of the more expensive ones based on content that particularly appeals to me. I shall make my final decision nearer the time on what I think I can practically do (or not) – assuming I get offers, that is! So I will be applying to Loughborough (content) and Manchester Met (price), and possibly Sheffield (content) and Strathclyde (price). We’ll see how that goes, shall we?!

Edit: I’m aware that there are quite a few other things that I’ve left out of this post, such as university ranking and getting a job alongside study, and I also wanted to talk about a spreadsheet I made that I got really excited over but then made a rookie error and didn’t save it (doh!), but I’m aware that this post dragged on so I’ve decided it’s for the best if I shut up now.

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3 thoughts on “Applying to Library School Step 1: Choosing a School

  1. libraryem

    Good luck with applying to Library School! I’m at Sheffield, and I have a friend at Loughborough so if you want to ask any questions about the course I can put you in touch. I also did an MA in queer theory and then worked for a few years before realising I would have to do another MA if I wanted to get a job :-). Not that queer theory isn’t awesome. Fingers crossed for your funding.

  2. Siobhan

    There is one other depressing option to deal with fees, put it off for a year so you have twice as long to save. This would have worked better if I had actually saved last year, instead I’m pretty much stuck with distance learning, but luckily the distance learning courses have good reputations and content.

    • Yeah, putting it off for a year has also crossed my mind, but I’m not really sure it would help. My current job ends at the end of October, and I fear the chances of me finding another decent full-time job for a year are probably quite slim – I’d need to find another one that pays enough for me to be self-sufficient (I’m not just being stubborn about refusing to move back in with my parents, my home town makes my mental health considerably worse than when I’m elsewhere) as well as paying enough to save. I just don’t think that would happen – if I were to find a job that pays the same as my current one, and I were still to live on virtually nothing in an attempt to save, it would still take me over 2 more years to reach the amount for fees, accommodation and living. Urgh!

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