This first semester of graduate school was a lot less stressful than I thought but that last week? It kicked my butt. There were a few assignments that I could’ve started earlier and I FELT it. Keep reading to hear about my first semester of grad school after being out of school for five years and lessons learned for next semester.

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I previously shared about my application process and my journey to graduate school. I was an anxious girlie applying but it was a simple process overall. I’m also very grateful for my graduate assistantship since it decreased that tuition bill.

Picture of the University of Maryland College Park - McKeldin Library, where I spent most of my first semester of grad school | The Yasmin Diaries

First Semester of Grad School: Registration & Classes

Picking classes is such a fun process for me! I always want to pick more classes than I can. Because of my graduate assistantship, I’ll be able to take classes over the winter and summer for FREE (besides those fees, ugh). When I was discussing my schedule with my advisor, they supported my plan to push back some of my degree core classes until the summer and take other classes instead.

I still had to take one core class (ugh) during my first semester of grad school because it allowed me to meet other students from my cohort. It was such a basic class and I honestly regretted (almost) every single hour I showed up in person. Thankfully, the class only had a handful of required assignments and the rest were discussion board posts. I was able to finish most assignments pretty quickly but it still annoyed me to spend that much time on assignments that had little value to me. For the few assignments I did have, I tried to make them as useful as possible by exploring options in the career I wanted.

Grad School Reflections

Now that I’m closing out this first semester of grad school, I’m so glad I decided to push back my core classes because I was able to participate in a class that only occurs every other year and it was just THREE STUDENTS and the professor. It was especially insightful because the two other students were PhD students and I was the only Masters student. The professor was also super interesting to learn from and their research topic was something I’ve always had an interest in without realizing it: privacy.

The other non-core class I took was a Python programming class. It felt a little repetitive to a previous Python class I’d taken before my first semester of grad school but the context and use for this graduate-level class was different so it still felt relevant and useful. It also introduced me to a fun professor who is helping me move further along the course ladder with fewer classes because they are waiving a prerequisite for the class I’m taking in the spring semester!

I’ll check in with you after next semester and let you know if I end up regretting skipping that requisite or if I’m happy with the decision!

Potential Degree Change?

Look, I don’t want to be a tease but I might be making a major change after my first semester of grad school. I am considering changing from the Masters of Library & Information Science (MLIS) program to the Masters of Information Management (MIM) program…

What’s the difference? Not a lot but just enough!

Both programs focus on information, data, and the interactions between people and information. They also talk about the information cycle and the current “infodemic” (see WHO’s definition of infodemic: An infodemic is too much information including false or misleading information in digital and physical environments during a disease outbreak).

However, the MLIS program has a heavy focus on how these processes work within the space of a library (of which there are many types: public libraries, academic libraries, special libraries, and more), while the MIM program focuses on information as it applies to business, corporations, and organizations.

The MLIS program has a heavy focus on libraries and their environments while the MIM program has very little restriction in terms of places and environments.

For that reason, I decided to consider switching my degree program after my first semester of grad school. Though I’ve spent many years in libraries during the early stages of my career, I don’t want to limit myself to just library environments for future job searches.

What’s the final decision on the degree change?

Well, I still have to meet with my potential advisor to see if my future career desires align with the program or if I should stick with the MLIS program. While I’ve already discussed this change with my current MLIS advisor, I still need to talk to my potential advisor for the final decision. It will also allow me to double-check if my classes align with the new degree program or if I might need a summer class (or an extra semester).

However, this does not mean I’m completely done with libraries or MLIS classes! The great thing about the MIM program is that it has lots of overlapping classes with the MLIS program, meaning I’ll continue taking a few library-focused classes but they won’t be the bulk of my transcript.

What I appreciated the most about the MIM program is its capstone project and collaborations with real businesses. It’s an opportunity for me to beef up my resume before graduation and job applications, an opportunity that is not present within the MLIS program.

How are we feeling about the Spring Semester?

I currently have three classes on my schedule, all of which I’ve been anticipating heavily. One is a class on open-source intelligence and open-source search, another is about information policies (a topic I’ve been interested in for a few years), and my last class focuses on data analytics (it’s the next class from last semester’s data analytics class).

Last semester’s data analytics kinda kicked my butt. Mostly because I didn’t start the project early enough ???? but it’s okay! I learned my lesson (I think).

I like data analytics and the process but my goodness, I HATED working on Kaggle ????. It’s pretty much the only reason why I kept putting off my final project, instead of working on it little by little like I normally do.

Besides that, I am feeling good about the spring semester!

It feels crazy that 2024 is going to be the majority of my graduate studies because I have two semesters in this one calendar year, compared to 2023 where I only had one fall semester, and 2025 where I will only have one spring semester (and then graduate, hopefully).

If you’re a fellow graduate student who is excited (but also freaking out about the upcoming semester, comment below or tag me on social media so we can have cry sessions together ????.

Looking forward to updating you guys after the spring semester! If you want some more frequent updates, sign up for my newsletter!

This is a grad school post about
First Semester of Grad School: Reflections & Lessons Learned.

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