Bobcaygeon: Or How I Learned the Song Was Named After It

It’s amazing how death causes one to reflect upon the things that matter most. The things we take for granted, once stolen, become the things that you suddenly can’t live without.  I’m sad to say that The Tragically Hip are one of those things for me. It took me a long time to realize how big an impact The Hip had on without me realizing. First, a couple of apologies:

  1. This blog post is gonna get personal and dig into some feelings and personal experiences. But then again, this post wouldn’t be worth writing without personal insight, so, sorry, not sorry.
  2. Lest I be accused of being a “poser,” or bandwagon jumping, I’m not a Tragically Hip fan. I’m not going to pretend to be one. This is a reflective piece on moments when they meant something to me and how I took them for granted. Something I regret, since I only now recognize the genius in their music.

I wanted to share a few isolated experiences that made me appreciate The Hip and rock music in general:

Finding National Pride Through Song

When I was a student living in the United States, I had this fun but pig-headed roommate. I can’t remember exactly how the conversation started, but we got on the subject of Canadian bands. I started telling him about The Hip and put a song on for him, I think it was “Bobcaygeon.” My roomie hated it from the moment Gord Downie sang, blurting that he had an awful voice. I think my Canadian pride kicked in and I started defending the greatness of the song. He just wouldn’t have any of it. My thought was, “I guess he doesn’t get it since he’s not Canadian!” This was one of my key moments when I saw that Canadians and Americans were different and found national pride that I didn’t know I had.

Late Night Listening

When I was growing up I used to go to sleep with the radio on quietly. Following the example of my older brothers, I listened to 102.1 The Edge in Toronto. The Edge tended to play more throwback songs in the late night, so it was in these moments when I became acquainted with songs like “Grace, Too,” and “Fifty Mission Cap.” I don’t have recollection of my parents singing me to sleep (though they probably did) but Gord Downie sang to me every night and I never even realized or appreciated it.

Singing Me Geography

For me, whar separates good bands from great ones are the ability to rock out with distorted guitars, loud drums, and shredding solos while being equally good at capturing tenderness and reflecting on sweet moments through ballads. My favourite song by The Hip is “Bobcaygeon”, one of those tender ballads. When I started to enjoy the song as a teenager, I didn’t care to know what a “Bobcaygeon.” When I was 18 I was on a trip to Peterborough with some friends and we got lost on some back roads and found ourselves passing through Bobcaygeon, Ontario. It finally clicked that the song I listened to was named after a place. There’s Gordie teaching me Geography and me, the stubborn student, not listening until years later.

The Lesson

I’m not prepared to say that The Hip are the greatest Canadian band of all time. It’s a worthless discussion as musical enjoyment is extremely subjective and personal music tastes change dramatically over time. I dislike most of the music I enjoyed as a teenager. Besides, how can we legitimately rate one’s artistic expression and compare it to someone else’s? The beauty of any musical piece lies in the listening ear. 

What I am prepared to say is that The Hip always seemed to “be there” whether I appreciated them or not. They didn’t stop making music when I wasn’t listening. Like a good parent, they stood by, kept doing their thing, and waited for me to come around. The sad thing is that it took Gord Downie’s impending death for me to sit down and reflect on the greatness of this band. It’s funny that while I didn’t appreciate The Hip when they were big, I’m certainly going to miss them when they’re gone. I’ve learned that I ought to cherish good bands while they’re at their best rather than realize how great they were in hindsight.

I’m going to miss you Gord. Thanks for the memories.

Understanding the Meaning and Impact of Expo ’67: A Lesson in Context

Introduction

Back in June I made a post regarding Expo 67 and its importance to Canadians. Since I published that post, I learned significantly more about the Expo, and believe a follow-up post is in order. Back in August, I made a presentation to Library and Archives Canada staff regarding the Expo at LAC’s Summer Student Symposium. Being quite pleased with my presentation, I decided the text of the presentation would make a good blog post, so here we go.

Back in May 2014 I was assigned to undertake a block review project for the Expo 67 Fonds.  Though I was excited to start the project, I was nervous since I knew little about Expo 67. As I started the project, and in doing some preliminary reading, I had prematurely come to the conclusion that the Expo was just one big, long fair that was held from April to October 1967.

However, there were a few things I found in the records that challenged my initial conclusion. First, why did stars of film and television like Ed Sullivan and Bing Crosby, royalty like Queen Elizabeth II and Princess Grace Kelly of Monaco, and high powered politicians like Hailie Selassie, Charles de Gaulle, and the Kennedy Family converge in Montreal for what was seemingly just a big carnival?

Second, why did Pierre Dupuy, Commissioner General of the Expo, receive so many letters simply thanking him for putting on such a successful event? Some of those letters were from people of high standing such as international ambassadors and business people who out of good manners, sent him a thank you and congratulations; however, a good number of these letters were from low-level employees of the Expo, and ordinary visitors from all over the world.

Even letters of complaint were accompanied by grand compliments and tokens of appreciation for the Expo. In an odd case, one young woman employed as a nurse by the Expo even thought that Dupuy could help resolve her relationship problems with a young Expo doctor. I obviously needed to do more reading to gain a better sense of the context around the Expo.

See Phillippe de Gaspé Beaubien’s interview with Bob Evans promoting the Expo. Beaubien was Expo’s Director of Operations and unofficial “Mayor of Expo.”

A Rising Country

I discovered that Canadians prior to 1967 had a somewhat subdued national self-esteem and patriotism. Canada was still among one of the youngest countries in the world, struggling to find its identity and global niche to separate itself from being only a member of the British Commonwealth. Not to mention the United States’ constant shadow cast over Canada with the Vietnam War- and Cold War-related news stories. Expo created an opportunity for Canada to take a step and stand out, and it seized the opportunity.

The success of Expo marked the beginning of a new era of national pride and image for Canadians, and much of the British press agreed. The Lancashire Evening Post called Expo “the greatest man-made show on earth.” The London Observer commented, “Expo 67 isn’t just a world fair, it has a glitter, sex appeal, and it’s given impact and meaning to a word that had neither: Canadian.”

The American press also celebrated Expo and acknowledged Canada’s achievement. Time magazine called the Expo, “The most successful world’s fair in history.”  Life Magazine gushed, “In all ways, Expo, which cost $1 billion, turns out to be the biggest show ever.” However, Canada was not the only sociopolitical entity coming of age during the Expo.

See a video of Expo’s Opening Ceremonies

Lester B. Pearson’s Welcome Speech

Québec’s Coming-out Party

The success of Expo 67 also seemed to be a climax in Québec’s Quiet Revolution. (Slide 6) 1967 did not only mark the 100th birthday of Canada, but the 325th anniversary of the City of Montreal. This was not just Canada’s coming out party, but also aroused a sense of Francophone pride and values in Québec, as it caused the Québecois to reevaluate their situation in Canada and the World. Louise Arbour, who became a Canadian Supreme Court Justice and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights stated, “[Expo 67] gave French Canadians the sense that they existed in the eyes of the world.” French-Canadian film producer Monique Simard observed, “[Expo 67] was a very strong catalyzer, especially for Francophones who had a ‘shy’ relationship to the world. Suddenly they felt they were a part of the world.”

Generational Gaps and Conflicting Narratives

Researchers from the University of British Columbia noticed a dichotomy between Anglophones and Francophones in their interpretation and remembrance of the significance of Expo 67. Forty years after the Expo, these researchers conducted a survey with people who attended the Expo from both Québec and British Columbia. The Anglophones surveyed regarded the Expo as Canada’s centennial birthday with a few mentioning French-English tensions in Canada, whereas Francophones saw it as a triumph for Quebec, with no mention of the national centennial whatsoever. In sum, there are two competing narratives elucidating the importance of the Expo to two different segments of the national population.

In comparing casual conversations with the older generation that remember Expo, and with students my age, I have come to notice a generational gap in understanding the importance of Expo. My generation has grown up in a Canada with intense national pride with global importance, and one that has achieved much acclaim in international diplomacy, global athletic competitions, and by way of the achievements of actors, actresses, musicians, and other artists; and thus, has not constructed a narrative around the importance of Expo. Thus far, Expo has not received the recognition it is due from my generation, and with more and more aging baby boomers, Expo risks being forgotten altogether.

My generation fails to see that Expo was a major step in realizing this international recognition, and a launching point for this national pride that we now enjoy. I never knew of the Canada that was described prior to 1967; and this historical narrative seems to be disappearing from the curricula of history courses at all levels of education. My hope is that the opening of the Expo 67 fonds—in conjunction with Expo’s 50th anniversary, Canada’s 150th anniversary, and Montreal’s 375th anniversary—will re-open the discussion of the long-term impact of the Expo, both on the French and English sides of the country, and breathe new life into this fading branch of our national story.

Further Reading

Anderson, David and Viviane Gosselin. “Private and public memories of Expo 67: A Case Study of Recollections of Montreal’s World’s Fair, 40 Years After the Event. museum and society 6 (March 2008): 1-21. http://blogs.ubc.ca/ewayne/files/2010/02/AndersonGosselin2008.pdf

Fulford, Robert. This Was Expo. Toronto, ON: McClelland and Stewart, 1968.

Kenneally, Rhona Richman and Johanne Sloan. Expo 67: Not Just a Souvenir. Toronto, ON: University of Toronto Press, 2010

Lownsborough, John. The Best Place to Be: Expo 67 and its Time. Toronto, ON: Allen Lane, 2012.

 

 

Cheerleading and Figure Skating Aren’t Sports

Introduction

A few months ago, a friend of mine was trying to tell my class that figure skating was a sport due to the physical strength, precision, and agility required to be successful. I really wanted to chime in but I bit my tongue since I didn’t want to start a war in my classroom especially since class was almost over.  While I respect figure skaters’ training regimen and the ability it takes to be a world-class figure skater, the athletic aspect is only one criterion in determining whether an activity is a sport.  Cheerleaders have been doing a great job advocating for their activity for the longest time, trying to argue that it is a sport using the same logic that my friend did, but again, athleticism doesn’t make or break whether an activity is a sport, or not.   In this post I want to establish a working definition that defines the term “sport.”  Before I move on though, I want to make a few things clear:

a. I am not of the opinion that if an activity isn’t a sport, it is somehow lesser than activities that are considered sports, or diminishes what they are.

b. Just because one participates in a activity that is not a sport, does not mean they are not “athletes.”

c. Though I am ranting on this for the heck of it, I think it’s time sport junkies got together and tried to develop a definition for a sport because I believe the definition in the Oxford English Dictionary is inadequate:

An activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment: team sports such as soccer and rugby.

I don’t feel intellectuals are qualified to speak on this subject since sport talk is not a true academic discipline.  Journalists, sport archivists, sport museum/hall of fame curators, and well-read fans tend to be the authorities on this topic. I feel only those invested in sports can define what a sport is. I consider myself a well-read fan and have aspirations of becoming a sport archivist.

d. I am not trying to make fun of other people or what they do by rejecting the notion that their activity is a sport. This is meant to be an intellectual discussion with an end to developing a proper definition for this word.

e. I would love feedback on this post.  Please put your two cents in the comments, or better yet, write your own blog post and refute it.

Criterion #1: Physical Ability

This is a foundational requirement for any sport.  Physical ability can refer to foot speed, accuracy and precision, and strength. A sport must require some kind of physical ability to be successful in it.

Criterion #2: Defence

A participating team or individual must have a means of legally preventing their opponent(s) from scoring.

Criterion #3: Objective Scoring

By “objective” I mean there is a surefire way of knowing whether a point was scored, or not.  For example, in soccer the ball must completely cross the goal line between the goal posts and under the crossbar in order for a goal to be tallied.  An example of a subjective scoring system would have an individual’s performance scored by a panel of judges or referees.

Criterion #4: Governing League or Organization

Finally, there needs to be a recognized and legitimate governance structure that accredits and regulates an activity for it to be considered a sport.  Though schoolyard games like red rover and four square meet the previous three requirements, there’s no legitimate governing body that regulates those activities and hosts tournaments and leagues, etc.

So which sports meet these four criteria?

More than you might think:

Basketball, Ice Hockey, Field Hockey, American Football, European Football, Rugby, Netball, Baseball, Volleyball, Lacrosse, Ringuette, Tennis, Racquetball, Squash, Badminton, Table Tennis, Curling, European Handball, Cricket, Polo, Water Polo.

How do we categorize other activities that are covered on channels like ESPN and TSN?

Art forms:

Figure Skating, Ice Dance, Cheer Leading, Ballroom Dancing, Synchronized Swimming, Floor Routine (Gymnastics).

Races:

Running races, Cycling, Speed Skating, Swimming, Auto Racing, Bobsleigh, Luge, Skeleton, Skiing, Horse Racing, Kayak, Rowing, Sailing.

Measurement contests (participants compete on their own and their performance gets measured against that of their competition):

Golf, Bowling, Darts, Shotput, Javelin, Hammer, High Jump, Long Jump, Triple Jump, Weight Lifting.

Combat:

Fencing, Martial Arts, Ultimate Fighting, Boxing, Wrestling

Prepared routines scored by a panel of judges that are not art forms:

Diving, Gymnastics, Skateboarding, Half pipe, Body building.

Games:

Poker, Chess.

In Summary

I don’t mean to ruffle any feathers with this post, but I wanted to begin a dialogue in defining what a sport is and develop some criteria for it.  Please respond with any feedback you might have because it’s time we got this figured out.

Patents, Sports, and First Nations

Introduction

Back in 2007, The University Illinois Board of Trustees made the controversial decision to retire their school’s mascot Chief Illiniwek,  This marked the end of a thirty-some year debate, arguing the merits of university-athletic tradition and perpetuating racial intolerance.  At the time, I was quite upset at the verdict by the University.  I love sports, especially the rituals, traditions, and symbols of University athletics in the United States.  As a student at Brigham Young University, I loved our University Mascot Cosmo the Cougar, singing the University fight song, and hearing the blasts of the George Q Cannon at football games.  I thought it was unfair that the University of Illinois had their tradition ripped from them by a bunch of bureaucrats that “probably don’t watch sports” and didn’t understand what the mascot meant to the students.

A few days ago, the Washington Redskins National Football League team had their trademark cancelled by the US Patent and Trademark Office because it was “disparaging to Native Americans”.  Since the outbreak of this story and debate, it has caused me to take account of and reflect upon my views and opinions on this matter.  Since I am a little older, a diehard sports fan, and a public historian, I feel the need to weigh in on this debate.

1. To continue doing something just because “that’s the way we’ve always done it” is not a valid reason to continue

On occasion we have to take stock of how we are doing certain things, whether it is running a business, raising and educating children, making decisions, etc.  Just because the Redskins have been the Redskins  since 1932, doesn’t mean they should continue that tradition.  The term “redskin” is offensive and derogatory to First Nations as it refers to how First Nations’ bloody scalps were sold for profit. It needs to leave our vocabulary since it perpetuates the racial oppression of the past.  A friend of mine brought to my attention how newspapers and  have used the term “scalped” as an idiom for defeating an opponent, it’s a shame that even up to the year 2000, newspapers were still using the term “scalped” in a sports context.

2.  Using a racial demographic as a sports nickname is dehumanizing

Think of what pro and college sports teams use as mascots: bears, lions, tigers, sharks, etc.  These are viscious animals meant to instill fear, and intimidate opponents.  The  Washington Redskins, Chicago Blackhawks, Cleveland Indians, and Atlanta Braves dehumanize and de-civilize First Nations by using their names in this context.  And if that’s not bad enough, these sporting organizations profit off these monikers through licensing and merchandise sales.  Now, I do realize that not all sports teams have intimidating nicknames like the Toronto Maple LeafsUtah Jazz, and Miami Dolphins, even still, it’s an objectification of the people that they misrepresent.

3.  What about the Notre Dame Fighting Irish?

This was one point that I struggled with for quite some time and delayed the publishing of this post.  I have come to the conclusion that the major difference between the Fighting Irish and these First Nations nicknames is that historically a good proportion of the athletes competing on Notre Dame were actually of Irish heritage.  Thus, it was actually an accurate representation of the team for a long time.  Of course, I hesitate to say it’s an accurate representation now with college recruiters going beyond the bounds of their states to seek out the best athletes for their teams, but no one’s complaining about the misrepresentation of the nickname of the University of Notre Dame at this time.  The following from the Notre Dame athletics website explains the name’s  origin:

The most generally accepted explanation is that the press coined the nickname as a characterization of Notre Dame athletic teams, their never-say-die fighting spirit and the Irish qualities of grit, determination and tenacity. The term likely began as an abusive expression tauntingly directed toward the athletes from the small, private, Catholic institution. Notre Dame alumnus Francis Wallace popularized it in his New York Daily News columns in the 1920s.

4. The bottom line

In reality, how many First Nations were actually playing under these offensive monikers when they were first established?  Few, if any.  How many First Nations are now complaining about these nicknames? A lot.  There are people that are being hurt and marginalized for the sake of tradition and profits, and it is not right.

What is baffling is that in sports, the nickname does not make the tradition and legacy of a team.  There are a lot of professional sports teams that have horrible nicknames with incredible legacies (see Los Angeles Lakers, Kentucky Wildcats, Oakland Athletics, New York Knickerbockers, Pittsburgh Steelers, Green Bay Packers, I could go on).  MVP awards, wins, and championships make teams and create storied legacies, not nicknames.  Therefore, if the Redskins were to change their nickname and start to win games and championships, no one would be saying that their legacy is tarnished because they’re “not the Redskins anymore”, instead they will be celebrating the “new and improved Washington (insert new name here).”

Furthermore, the Redskins have only made the playoffs three times in the last fifteen years.  Maybe they need a name and uniform to help revitalize this franchise, anyway.  They haven’t been competitive since I controlled them in Madden ’93 on Sega Genesis.  So Dan Snyder, do yourself, your fans, and the community a favour: change the name.

Determining Meaning and Impact: Montreal’s Expo 67

April 2017 will mark the 50th anniversary of Expo 67, a gigantic World Exhibition that Montreal hosted from April to October 1967.  The Exhibition was one of the largest of its kind in history and was one of the highlights of Canada’s centennial year.  It brought dignitaries from all around the world to Canada including Queen Elizabeth II, actress-turned-royal Grace Kelly, Haile Selassi, Jackie Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Charles de Gaulle and other world leaders.  It also brought a host of celebrities including Neil Diamond, Christopher Plummer, Harry Belafonte, and Sidney Poitier.  Not to mention 60 countries participating along with a host of private corporations setting up pavilions.  It was a grand spectacle, probably the largest and longest international event Canada has ever hosted.  I have met a few people that attended the Expo, and they still talk about what and incredible, historic event it was.  They speak about specific memories they had, and even have souvenirs and mementos from their visit.

 

Expo 67 logo

Expo 67 logo

 

Official Map of Expo 67

Official Map of Expo 67.  From Compagnie canadienne de l’Exposition internationale de 1967 (Société de la couronne – Gouvernement du Canada)

To be honest, I don’t fully understand why the Expo had such an impact on people.  For the last three weeks, I have had the task of poring through Expo 67 records here at Library and Archives Canada to determine whether they are appropriate for public viewing.  In the back of my mind, however, I have tried to answer some basic questions that aren’t related to my project:

  • “What was the Expo for?”
  • “What did it achieve?”
  • “Why was it significant?”
  • “If it’s so historical, why aren’t we talking about it in university classes?”

As I have looked through the records, I can only conclude that the Expo was just a big, oversized fair that lasted for 6 months. As a child of British immigrants who arrived in Canada after 1967, I have a difficult time relating to the Expo or comprehending the magnitude of it.  Moreover, having taken university History courses, we barely talked about the Expo.  The only mention of the Expo that I recall from these classes was former-French president Charles de Gaulle’s “Vive le Québec libre!” speech.

Aerial View of Canada to Quebec Pavilions

Aerial View of Canada to Quebec Pavilions (From Library and Archives Canada, MIKAN #3198390)

I think my main problem is that I didn’t grow up in the time period.  This meant that I needed to do some more secondary research on the topic so I could get a greater sense of context around these records.  What I realized was that the Cold War was raging at the time and, with the Cuban Missile Crisis still fresh in most peoples’ minds, everyone in the western hemisphere was prepared for a nuclear attack from the Soviet Union.  Not to mention the Vietnam War, former colonies in Asia and Africa fighting for independence from their European overseers, social change occurring in the United States with African Americans fighting for civil rights, and the Quiet Revolution occurring in Quebec.   It was truly a violent and uneasy time for a lot of people, a time that I have a difficult time relating to since I was only born in the mid-1980s.

From the reading I have done, I am beginning to think that the Expo was an escape from the global turmoil.  It represented the idealized utopia that people wanted the world to be.  It is interesting that the ticket into the Expo was a passport, and participants could take their passport and go to all of the different pavilions and get them stamped.  International borders didn’t exist within this micro-globe and the “citizens” of the Expo could freely “travel” to each country as they pleased.  A participant could easily jump from the United States Pavilion to the USSR, then go to Thailand, and then Cuba.  Though many of these nations were closed in real life, they were open for six months in 1967 in Montreal.

USSR Pavilion

USSR Pavilion (photo owned by Laurent Bélanger)

 

Now, was it really a utopia?  Had nations really come together to resolve each other’s differences?  Probably not.  I am sure there was gamesmanship between rival countries to put together a more impressive pavilion, garner more attention from the crowds, and spend more money on their displays in an effort to win this small battle of the Cold War.  I am also certain that countries inserted their own national propaganda in their pavilions to promote their way of life and governance.  Nevertheless, it seems that either Expo participants didn’t realize these competitions or just simply ignored them.  Nevertheless, at the end of the closing ceremony of the Expo, General Manager of the Expo Andrew Kniewasser remarked that he saw lots of people hugging, crying, and holding hands.  I believe that this happened for two reasons, first, that the utopian, idealized dream that had persisted throughout the Expo had to come to an end and the people had to face the harsh reality that they lived in.  The second reason, a little more positive, was that Canadians felt that they had accomplished something that only the great nations of the Old World and the economic super powers had achieved.  Finally, the young nation of Canada could claim some a bit of territory on that high pedestal for themselves.

I am also hesitant to suggest that this was an event of major global importance on its own, in isolation.  About 51% of the participants in the Expo were Canadian (half of which came from Montreal.  46% of participants came from the United States, leaving non-North American participation a paltry 4% participation.  However, I do believe this was an important milestone for Canada’s collective morale.  I think after having hosted the Expo, Canada felt like it had made a splash on the world stage.  The Expo was also likely a big step in demonstrating that Montreal could host the Olympic Games, which eventually occurred in 1976.  The two events combined gave Montreal some significant notoriety as a world-class city.

Montreal Biosphere

Montreal Biosphere (Photo by Philipp Hienstorfer)

On a local level, the Expo sped up improvements in infrastructure, development, and tourism as it left behind La Ronde amusement park, extensions in mass transit with the development of light rail to the Expo, the innovative and modern apartment structure Habitat 67, and the development of the islands in the St. Lawrence off the coast of Montreal.

All in all, the Expo was a monumental success for Canadians at the time.  It was the first step to greater international recognition and credibility as a cultural, economic, and artistic centre.  I think more research ought to conducted to determine why it was so important to individuals on a personal level.  Its importance seems to be well-documented at the national and global levels, but I want to know why people were hugging, holding hands, and crying with complete strangers at its end, and why so many people look back at it so fondly, even 50 years later.

Sources Consulted

Kenneally, Rhona Richman and Johanne Sloan (Eds.). Expo 67: Not Just a Souvenir. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2010.

Lownsborough, John. The Best Place to Be: Expo 67 and Its Time. Toronto: Penguin, 2012.

The Corporation of the 1967 World Exhbition fonds. The Board of Directors and the Executive Committee series, 1963-1967. Library and Archives Canada. Ottawa, ON.

The Corporation of the 1967 World Exhbition fonds. Department of Finance and Administration series, 1963-1967.  Library and Archives Canada. Ottawa, ON.

What I Wish I Knew Before Applying Graduate School

At the end of this summer I will have completed my last semester of graduate school.  The Master of Arts in Public History at the University of Western Ontario has been a phenomenal experience.  Last year, I completed my first masters degree in Library and Information Science at Western.  As I reflect upon my three years in grad school, I have realized that there are a few things I wish I knew before  I applied.

1. Make your application interesting

A lot of people are as qualified as you are for a spot in your program.  Because of this, graduate schools are looking to admit people that are interesting to them, and frankly, don’t worry as much about your GPA as you might think.  They are looking for smarts as well as life experiences.  Did you do some community service work in Honduras?  Find a way to mention it in your application.  Did you do a semester abroad in Asia? Highlight that experience.

Don’t underestimate the power of work experience. This can demonstrate maturity and excellent time management skills.  In addition, life experience can be the great equalizer if your grades are on the low end.  Nearly every applicant can complete the degree you’re applying to, set yourself apart by making yourself unique and memorable.

2. Talk to the program director before applying: be the “devil” s/he knows

This is a no-brainer that a lot of applicants don’t do.  If you are able to, make a visit to campus and speak with the program director and ask some questions about the program, even if they are just to clarify the requirements application.  Also, discuss your employment aspirations and ask how their program could prepare you for your vocational goals.  This gives the school an extra chance to get to know you, and put a face to your application.  If they need to break a tie between equal candidates, they’ll take the devil they know over the devil they don’t.

*Also remember, you are spending thousands of dollars in tuition, fees, rent etc. to attend this school, so you want to make sure the program is a good fit for you too.

3. Marks don’t matter…unless you’re planning on a Ph.D.

Newsflash: Employers don’t give a crap about your marks.

If you have a master’s degree on your resume, employers will already know you’re smart.  Again, they’re looking for people that are interesting, that can do the job, and people they can get along with on a daily basis.  Don’t have a hissy fit if you get an ‘A-‘ when you clearly deserve an ‘A’, employers could care less.

4. Treat grad school like a nine-to-five job

To be honest, graduate work isn’t that difficult, but the volume of work required borders on the ridiculous.  Plan everyday to do be doing schoolwork.  You may even have to sacrifice weekends in the name of a huge paper or project.  The days of starting a paper the night before its due are over.  And yes, you have to do your readings or else you’ll be lost in seminars.

5. Be nice to your classmates

Guess who your colleagues in the field will be after you graduate?  Guess who could be on the hiring committee for a job you’re applying for?  Your classmates could be your best friends or your worst enemies, it’s up to you.  If you’re in a professional program, chances are you will be engaged in a lot of group work.  This is your chance to show your future colleagues in the field how good a team player you are, and what kind of quality work you do.  You never know who will be giving you your next job, so make your time in grad school count and make some friends and allies among your classmates.  Likewise, you might be on a hiring committee some day and hire a classmate you know who is great to work with.