The application process begun around October, when the other graduate trainees and I attended a training session entitled ‘Career Craft’. Past trainees shared their experiences of library school, and we had a very informative discussion with a member of the teaching staff at UWE in Bristol. I think the biggest thing people took away was the looming UCL deadline.
This prompted me to start my applications. I wasn’t too fussed about living in London, but I knew UCL was a prestigious university both for this course but others too. I also had a look at the CILIP website, which lists all accredited courses in library and information studies. This helped narrow my choices down, as they are also listed geographically, so I could count out locations I didn’t fancy, i.e. Aberdeen. I decided on three possible choices; UCL, Sheffield University, and Manchester Metropolitan.
The UCL application took priority, as it was the only one with an official deadline, and I was offered an interview. A lot of universities interview for this course, which seemed unusual to me until I discovered it was to find out a bit more about the people who intended to apply for AHRC funding. I was really nervous for the interview, since I had no idea what to expect. I had no clue what an academic interview might involve. I did some research on the internet about commonly asked interview questions and the key, for me, was to know the course really well and to be clear on not just why they would want me, but why I had chosen them.
I started my application to Sheffield University, and during that time I received an offer from UCL. I kept the letter safe, and concentrated on my application. I had an interview for Sheffield, which was exciting as it was the first time I’d been to the city. I had a lot of time to prepare for the interview, so naturally I left it until the last minute! Luckily, the UCL interview had set me up with plenty of practice questions to work on.
The interview was very informal and friendly. It was a half day of a presentation, lunch, then individual interview sessions. I was expecting plenty of people to compete with, but there were only two of us! We were informed that we were the second-to-last batch of interviews before the funding deadline of 31st March. The informal presentation over sandwiches put me at ease (especially so when my interviewer urged me to take some chocolate mini-rolls for the journey home!), and the interview was a great chance to chat about libraries, the city, accommodation, and funding (The AHRC website is notoriously difficult to navigate, so it was great to talk everything through).
I was offered a place at Sheffield during the interview, which was unexpected! This was to allow me a bit more time to decide, accept and apply for funding. Because of this, I decided against applying to Manchester Met, since I was viewing it as a back-up from the beginning anyway. Then came a long decision; I wrote up a pros and cons list for each, though unfortunately the pros of one are cons of another, so that didn’t help much! I also visited UCL again with my boyfriend, which validated a lot of the thoughts going through my mind. We talked it over, and I decided that Sheffield was a better match for me, and I would enjoy the student lifestyle more than commuting from Oxford to London four days a week. It will be tough moving away from him, but we’ll survive (I’m sure he’ll enjoy the peace and quiet!).
After accepting their offer, I completed my funding application. It wasn’t as bad as I was expecting, and has changed recently; it was 30 pages, now just a short online form. I was accepted for AHRC funding, which is a huge weight off my mind and for which I am extremely grateful, and I am now looking into halls of residence in Sheffield. This might be a bit difficult because I don’t know Sheffield well, but I am excited to get to know a new city and meet new people.