Four Tips for Those Preparing to Earn a Graduate Degree

Each person prepares for their journey through Purdue’s Masters in Communication graduate program at a different point in their professional lives. Some students start the program shortly after completing an undergraduate degree, while others may start their careers before taking this step. Professionals from other fields may earn their master’s to transition their career to a communication-based role. Personally, I worked for a few years before going back to school. Though it was a challenge, I know it led me to where I am today.

If you are thinking about taking the first step on your journey to earn an advanced degree in communication, I would enthusiastically encourage you to do it! Here are four of my best tips to help you navigate your journey through graduate school:

1. Research Graduate Programs
Where are you in the decision making process?

  • Are you ready to talk to someone to see if the online MS in Communications is right for you? Request more information to find out.
  • Do you have some questions about how you’ll fit in the program? Check out the FAQs to address any concerns you might have.
  • Would you like to learn more about the outstanding faculty? Read their bios and be impressed.

Motivational speaker and author Zig Ziglar said, “You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.” No matter what the next step is for you, take it.

2. Set a Goal and Stick to It
For me, having the opportunity to earn my master’s degree was the achievement of a personal and professional goal that took several years to reach. When the assignments were many and the hours of sleep were few, it was that goal which kept me motivated. Staying focused on what I wanted – my Master’s – kept me moving forward, one class at a time, until I finished the program.

When I graduated in December 2015, walking across the stage of Purdue’s Elliott Hall of Music and receiving my diploma with my classmates was one of the proudest moments of my life. What is your motivation for earning an MS in Communication from Purdue? Write it down and keep it in sight.

3. Hone Your Problem Solving Skills
As you move through the MS in Communication program, there are sure to be obstacles you didn’t prepare for along the way. When you encounter challenges, it’s important to keep a positive attitude and be flexible.

I started the program with plans to complete my assignments at a specific time each day. I quickly learned that my productivity increased greatly when I grabbed moments of time to read a journal article or write a discussion board post. More than one assignment was written at the beauty salon with foil wraps in my hair or sitting at my boys’ Cub Scout meetings.

Find what works for you, and then be willing to change it up as needed.

4. Be Confident and Know Your Support System
Be your own best cheerleader, but on the days your pom poms go missing, remember, you are not completing this journey alone. There are alumni like me, rooting for you from the other side, confident that you, too, will reach the end of your journey successfully.

Boiler Up!

Learn More About Earning a Graduate Degree
Jennifer Merzdorf is an alumni of Purdue’s online Master of Science in Communication degree program. The program can be completed in just 20 months and covers numerous topics critical for advancement in the communication industry, including crisis communication, social media engagement, focus group planning and implementation, survey design and survey analysis, public relations theory, professional writing, and communication ethics.

About the Author
Jennifer Merzdorf began as Marketing and Communication Specialist in Environmental & Ecological Engineering and Nuclear Engineering at Purdue University in July 2016. In this role, Jennifer is responsible for developing, implementing, and managing a communication plan for both programs, as well as acting as the central point of organized communication for internal and external audiences. Her background is in communication in a variety of settings, from higher education to commercial print production.

Previously, in Enrollment Management Communications in the Office of Admissions at Purdue, Jennifer was a Production Manager, where she managed and developed production and distribution schedules for undergraduate recruitment communication, including electronic and print formats.

Jennifer completed her MS in Communication from the Brian Lamb School of Communication at Purdue in December 2015. She is currently enrolled in the Project Management Essentials course offered through Engineering Professional Education at Purdue. In her free time, she enjoys hanging out with her family, walking the trails around West Lafayette, taking photos, and reading.

*The views and opinions expressed are of the author and do not represent the Brian Lamb School of Communication.