Friday, November 17, 2017

Getting Ready for Your MSI Application

Right now, you may be thinking to yourself: “Where do I even begin?” Don’t worry! After reading this blog post, you will be an expert on the MSI application. Let’s start with a checklist of the application requirements, then we will talk about some tips for a successful application.

To find more information about MSI application requirement, please visit:

  • Mark the deadlines on your calendar
Priority deadline: Jan 15, 2018; International students: Jan 15, 2018; Domestic: May 1, 2018
  • Unofficial Transcript
You may send in an official transcript with your application if you would like. Official transcripts are required if you are offered admission. Keep in mind that official transcripts have to be mailed in a sealed envelopes or digitally delivered in an encrypted format.
  • Three (3) Letters of Recommendation
  • Statement of Purpose
Your 4 to 6 pages double-spaced statement of purpose should address the following questions: (1) What are the critical issues in the field of information? (2) What are your aspirations in the field of information? (3) What is your understanding of the School of Information? (4) How will a UMSI education help you reach your aspirations? (5) What would you contribute to the UMSI community and to the field as a whole?
  • Personal Statement
Your 1 to 2 pages double-spaced personal statement should answer the question: how have your background and life experiences motivated your decision to pursue a graduate degree at the University of Michigan?
  • Resume
  • TOEFL (If you are a non-native English speaker)
We prefer a minimum of 100 total score for iBT TOEFL, but lower scores may be considered given that we review applications holistically. When taking the TOEFL, be sure to use the U-M institution code: 1839.
*There are exemptions to this requirement. Please see our website for details*
  • Online Application
On the actual application itself, there are many other questions that ask for information such as address, other activities, and additional information. Be sure to fill these fields out too!

To start, here are some really good tips created by a MSI student last year:

Start Early!
Given that the priority deadline is January 15, 2018, you want to start your application early. If you haven’t already started your application, do that now! Your letter of recommenders will need time to write your letters as well, so be sure to confirm the three people writing your letters of recommendation ahead of time! Most letter of recommenders prefer to have at least one month to two months notice. For international students and non-native English speakers, be sure to take the TOEFL and get your scores in - it takes time for the scores to be submitted.

Statement of Purpose vs. Personal Statement
When you write your statement of purpose, think of it as a place where you can talk about your dreams, goals, passion, and your understanding of the field of information. You should also do some research on the MSI program itself before writing about it - this is where you want to mention specific faculty members’ names if you have read about any who share similar interests as you. On the other hand, the personal statement is more like your story. It is where you can tell the admission team who you are as a person, student, and any other role you identify with. Provide specific examples whenever you can (e.g., numbers are always good to be included) and have someone else review your essays. Many professors actually don’t mind reviewing personal statements for you, so if you have the opportunity, I would take advantage of that and ask to see if they could review your essay for you.

Share your materials with your letter of recommenders
You may not have heard of this one before, but I recommend sharing your application materials (i.e., resume, personal statement, and statement of purpose) with your letter of recommenders. To write good letter of recommendation, your letter of recommender not only has to know you well as a person, but also needs to know what you want to emphasize in your application. If you are unsure, I encourage to talk to your letter of recommenders and make sure they can truly speak about your qualities and characteristics.  

Draft outside of the application itself!
Type all your essays and answers in separate documents outside of the application. Often , the application site may crash suddenly, or you may lose your data for no apparent reason - maybe you forgot to click save. It is also easier to track edits and changes when you edit outside of the application. When you have separate documents, it also makes the reviewing process easier for your friends or family members who review the materials for you.

Once you get started on the application itself, be sure to click “SAVE” every few minutes to make sure you don’t lose any data!

Good luck! If you have any questions, feel free to send us an email at

Monday, November 13, 2017

First Webinar for Prospective Students

First Prospective Student Webinar
Save the date: November 29, 2017 from 8:00AM - 9:00AM EST (Eastern Standard Time)

Do you have questions about the Master of Science in Information (MSI) program that we offer at the University of Michigan School of Information (UMSI)? Are you unsure about what the experiences may be like at UMSI?
In this hour long webinar, we will talk about the application requirement and process for the MSI program. UMSI's Assistant Director of Recruiting and Admissions, Rachael Wiener, will be giving a short introductory presentation about the MSI program. Also, two current students, one in UX Research and Design/HCI and one in Data Analytics, will be participating in the webinar during the Question and Answer section. You will have the chance to learn about the experiences as an international student and ask about the courses offered at UMSI.

More information about the webinar will be sent out through email, so be sure to register with us to receive regular updates:

What to Expect from this Blog?
Over the next several months, we will be posting every Friday with information on upcoming events for prospective students, application updates, as well as interviews with current students and alumni of the MSI program. If there is something you want to see in this blog, please send us an email at: If you have any questions, feel free to email us as well. We are always happy to help and answer any questions you have - be it a question about what MSI program is like or where to get pizza in Ann Arbor.

With that said, be sure to keep up-to-date with this blog over the next several months in the application process! We look forward to hearing from you.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Housing in Ann Arbor

If you plan on joining the UMSI community in the Fall, which I hope you are, yesterday would have been the best time to start looking for housing… but today’s a good a time as any.

I recommend that you start looking early! Why? I remember last year, some really smart people started looking for housing as early as Visiting Days in March. I, however, wasn’t quite as proactive. I waited until about June to actually begin searching and didn’t have a confirmed place to stay until a week before orientation!! It was very nerve wracking and I recommend you DON’T do that.

Some important factors about housing in Ann Arbor:
  • Price: The further from campus, the cheaper rent will be in general. I know some people who live in the neighboring town of Ypsilanti (about 20min away) and drive in.
  • Location: Consider how long your commute to North Quad (where the majority of SI classes are held) will be. I personally wanted a place within 10min walking distance of North Quad, so that I wouldn’t have to rely on waiting for a bus if I was running late. Also consider, how accessible grocery stores are. Seriously. I live a good trek from a grocery store (with a car).
  • Transportation: If you will not have a car, I recommend visiting The Ride to get information on the Ann Arbor public buses (free for students!).
  • Safety: I think in general, based on UM Crime Reports, the northern part of town is safer than the areas near S. University or south of central campus. The northern part includes areas such as Kerrytown and North Campus.
  • Amenities: Think about if you need a furnished place, heat/water included, want to pay for parking, etc. Personally I found an unfurnished place and bought things from Ypsilanti SUPER cheap with Craigslist. But I also refused to pay additional for parking… I wanted a place that had it included.
  • Housemates: Most likely you will have 1-2 housemates. It’s quite pricey to live alone in Ann Arbor and many students wishing to do so look into Ypsilanti.
  • Neighborhoods: Some student-recommended areas to live are the North Side of Ann Arbor (i.e. Kerrytown), North Campus, South Campus, Plymouth Rd. On-campus options for graduate students are Munger (on central, new, multi-disciplinary, hosts events) and Northwood (on north, quiet, family-friendly).

Recommended Resources for Your Housing Search:

UM Housing Site
UM Off-Campus Housing Site
Facebook: UMich Housing Group, Prospective Students Group
Referrals from Friends
Homeshare program

UMSI listserv*
Driving/Walking around A2
Calling/Visiting apartments
ICC (co-op) website
*once you get access to the listserv.

Happy Hunting :)

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Internship Component

Continuing with last week’s discussion on internships, here at UMSI completing 6 academic credits worth of an internship is a required component of the professional Master’s degree program. Not only does the internship develop students’ professional skills, it also gives students the opportunity to apply their knowledge base to real-world problems outside of the School of Information.

Students become eligible to receive internship credit after two terms at SI. Most students satisfy the 6 credit requirement during a summer internship, with others going on to receive up to 3 more internship credits during the subsequent academic year.

So long as your internship is in an area related to what is taught and researched at UMSI, there are no limits to where you can intern!

For example, first-year LIS student Alyssa Pierce will be completing one of her internships with the Bucherhallen Hamburg (Hamburg Public Library) in Germany.

There she will work with their Intercultural Librarian, specifically on programming and services for refugees and asylum seekers in Germany. She met the Hamburg-based librarian she will be interning with at a conference she gave a poster presentation at. This internship was very relevant to her interests. In fact she stated that she did her final project for SI647 Information Resources and Services, “...on refugee services in public libraries around the world and that project not only ignited my interest in the subject, but gave me a lot to talk about with the people at the conference where I met the librarian from Hamburg.”

The great news is that if you have an interest in doing an international internship, SI will work to make it possible for by providing funding through the Career Development Office.
For more information on the type of work SI students have completed as part of internships, check out the Project Gallery on Seelio.

And check out the 2015 Internship Report for more information on salaries, companies, and regions worked in.

Monday, April 10, 2017

First-Years Dish: Internship Hunting

Seeing as how completing a summer internship is a required component of the MSI degree, I have understandably received questions about what the process is like from incoming students. Six 1st year MSI students share their experiences below:


Interest Area: Human Computer Interaction

Search Start: “I officially applied on January 1st. But before then, in October, I attended the Grace Hopper conference, which is a Women in Computing conference that happens every year. At that time, I gave out my resume and a couple opportunities reached out in late December.”

Search Method: Networking; even if just asking for an informational interview.

Interview Prep: Reached out to 2nd years for advice on preparing her portfolio and sample questions. “Stalked the interviewer on LinkedIn” and Twitter to discover their interests to be able to feed this into the conversation.

Interview Process:
--Applied at the Grace Hopper conference and online on January 1st.
--Heard back a month later in February.
--Had a 45-min phone interview with HR about design. Questions were: Why do you want to do design? Walk me through your portfolio. Why do you want to work at this company?
--Flew to California for an on-site interview. Gave portfolio presentation to the team and then had four individual 45-min interviews.
--Got an offer the next day.

Helpful Courses: SI582 Interaction Design is good because it is an individual project and really shows your skillset.

  • --At events and conferences, be sure to leave your name on sign-up sheets because companies will tag resumes on the backend with how they met you.
  • --Think of your internship as a stepping stone, especially if you don’t have related work experience. You don’t need to intern with a big company.

Interest Area: Human Computer Interaction

Search Start: “I started preparing my portfolio during winter break. I decided which companies I wanted to apply to. People were talking about it so I sort of knew the deadlines for major companies. [I was interested in Google, which had the earliest deadline.]”

Search Method: Applying on LinkedIn. Targeting specific companies with the type of work culture she wanted.

Interview Prep: She received an offer to interview during a really hectic time in the semester. She felt pressured to give an immediate availability, but after speaking with a 2nd year that had interned at Google the year before, she decided it would be best to postpone the interview to better prepare.

Interview Process:
--Applied on January 5th at midnight.
--Received a form to complete within a week.
--Got a response after another 2-3 weeks stating she’d been matched with a team to interview with.
--Had a 45-min phone interview during which she showcased her SI582 project.
--Received an offer within a week.

Helpful Courses: SI582 Interaction Design was great because you develop a high fidelity prototype and flesh out the design process.

  • --Consider the company culture. Do you want to work for a company that is strict about how many hours you need to put in and when?
  • --Interact with other students in SI. They are very approachable and helpful.


Interest Area: Tailored- social justice & tech, inclusion of marginalized peoples in the tech design process & in hiring

Search Start: Began planning in November. Since she would be in Portland in December to visit her sister- who works at Portland State University’s Queer Resource Center (QRC)- she leveraged this connection to set up a meeting before with the boss.

Search Method: Networking.

Interview Prep: Did a skills inventory of herself to determine her best pitch.

Interview Process:
--Spoke with the QRC in December about what informational work is and if they had any opportunities.
--They pitched two project ideas: (1) Designing online educational modules about trans-ness and queerness for audience members to complete before QRC panels; (2) Making the Portland State’s tech department more queer friendly.
--However they were unable to pay for this work.
--She spoke with the Career Development Office (CDO) in January about this and learned they could provide grant funding.

Helpful Courses: SI501 Contextual Inquiry which teaches research skills for user-centered design. SI539 Design of Complex Websites.

  • --Informational needs exist in every single industry so it’s possible to pitch yourself to a place doesn’t have active postings.
  • --The internship search process needn’t stress you out.

Interest Area: Human Computer Interaction

Search Start: Began looking for interesting job descriptions in December, but didn’t apply until January because his portfolio wasn’t completed.

Search Method: Had certain companies he was interested in such as Google and Facebook so he checked on their websites. He also used job boards such as Indeed and Handshake (UMich resource).

Interview Prep: Went over articles on Medium for sample UX questions. Spoke with a few 2nd year students to see if any had interned at IBM.

Interview Process:
--Spoke with IBM Design at the SI Career Fair in January.
--Two weeks later he was rejected.
--A month later, he heard from a researcher at IBM research who needed a UX Designer for her group. Apparently his resume had been passed over to that division.
--Interviewed a week later. The interview focused on his New York Innovation Trek project, which focused on food insecurity and was very similar to the IBM researcher’s project.
--Got an offer a few days later.

Helpful Courses: SI588 Fundamentals of Human Development was helpful in applying the elements of empathy to his NY Trek project.

  • --Have an idea of which companies you will be applying to before winter break because positions fill up really fast.


Interest Area: Preservation of Information

Search Start: Started in December.

Search Method: I searched for my internship online, looking at places where I'd like to intern and checking to see if they had any opportunities. I kept a spreadsheet of internships I wanted to apply to, what their deadlines were, and if they were paid or not. I concentrated only on paid internships.”

Interview Prep: I kept my resume and the internship description up on my laptop, tried to calm my nerves with breathing. I also had a list of questions to ask.

Interview Process:
--She was contacted for a phone interview a month after applying.
--Questions asked were routine:  Why this internship? Discuss your skills and coursework. “I was actually surprised by how few questions they asked.”
--Received an offer less than a week later.

Helpful Courses: Princeton was intrigued by her SI506 programming course. Other helpful classes include: 539 Web Design, 629 Access Systems, and 675 Digitization of Cultural Heritage Materials.

  • --Start early! Some internships at competitive places, like the Met (if you're into museum work), have early deadlines.
  • --But keep looking! Many places don’t post opportunities until March.
  • --Be diligent about writing cover letters and filling out applications.
  • --Find a UMSI professor to write amazing recommendation letters for you.
  • --Try your best to obtain a paid internship. Unpaid ones devalue our work.

Interest Area: Information Analysis & Retrieval

Search Start: Began looking in mid-January, when she realized that others had already started applying.

Search Method: To manage her feelings of panic at starting late, she first focused on going to the Engineering career fairs and the UMSI career fair and targeting employers there. Then she used LinkedIn, and responded to emails with opportunities.

Interview Prep: “Since I wasn’t sure if I would get technical questions, I went through notes from my programming and data science courses this year and jotted brief talking points. I also printed slides from two projects I’d done last semester. And I asked some 2nd years the typical pay so I’d know if I was being lowballed.”

Interview Process:
--Applied after seeing a posting in the MIDAS newsletter.
--Was contacted in less than a week for a phone interview.
--The phone interview was about 1-hour long with two interviewers. Questions revolved around technical skills, prior project experience, and internship expectations.
--A week later, she travelled for an in-person interview in Grand Rapids. This lasted about 2 hours. She interviewed with four people and took a tour of the facility.
--A few days later she received an offer.

Helpful Courses: SI618 Data Manipulation & Analysis! They loved that I had experience working with Spark and Hadoop.

  • --Imagine you are simply talking to a friend about what you’ve learned at SI to help keep calm in the interview.
  • --Don’t expect anything from the career fairs, but don’t NOT go. You never know. :)

Additional Tips for Incoming Students:
  • Start applying early. In October if you can! January/February is a little bit late.
  • Apply the first day the job is posted!
  • Be patient. It’s normal to feel anxious about finding an internship, but don’t let it stress you out.
  • For HCI students, aim to take SI582 in your first semester.
  • Don't be afraid to take an unconventional path.
  • Sometimes all you need to do is ask. If an organization you like doesn't seem to have internships, email them to ask if they'd like an intern. If you are at a conference or other networking event, mention that you need an internship.