When I received my acceptance letter from Purdue’s Brian Lamb School of Communication for the online MS in Communication program, I knew I was about to embark on a challenging, life-changing journey. In order to make room for twenty to –thirty hours of school work each week on top of my roles as wife, mom, and full-time employee, my daily schedule was going to stretch and transform in ways I never imagined possible. I am at the halfway point of this 20-month grad school journey and people still ask me, “How do you do it?”
Weekday Online Graduate Student Schedule:
- 5:15 a.m.: The alarm goes off and I get ready for the day, pack my lunch, and kiss my husband and children goodbye.
- 6:30 a.m.: I’m out the door to commute thirty minutes to my office.
- 7:00 a.m.: I get a solid hour of school work in.
- 8:00 a.m.: My work day begins.
- Lunch Hour: Another hour of homework while I eat leftovers from home or heat up a frozen entrée.
- 4:30 p.m.: Leave work and commute another thirty minutes home.
- 5:00–8:00 p.m.: Family time and tuck the kids into bed. • 9:00 – 10:00 p.m.: (When necessary) I work on coursework for another hour or two before retiring for the evening.
Weekend Online Graduate Student Schedule
A weekend day is a little bit more relaxed. I often sleep in until 6:00 or 7:00 a.m. Amidst our household’s usual weekend tasks of laundry, cleaning and going to church, I tend to do 5-6 hours of schoolwork on both Saturday and Sunday.
I do a lot of research and reading during these weekend hours because they prepare me well for the upcoming week’s discussion forum, as well as the additional writing assignments that need to be completed for each course.
What it Takes
Juggling work, grad school, family and life takes two important things: prioritization and sacrifice.
This starts with writing everything down in my calendar to stay organized so I am able to easily see the requirements of the current course I am taking, along with the needs of my employer, so I can prioritize them accordingly. Prioritizing also makes certain that I spend quality time with my family each day —including praying with them.
Having the discipline to stick to this schedule requires sacrificing a few lower-priority items that I would like to do for higher priority events and the things I need to do. For example, I have decreased my level of volunteerism at church, and it is not often that I have lunch with co-workers or go on a coffee date with a friend on the weekend. I do not have time for crafts or hobbies either, but I spend quality time daily with my family.
I am able to endure this busy (and often exhausting) graduate-school lifestyle because I know the sacrifices I am making are short-term.
Janelle Gergen is a student in 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
Janelle Gergen obtained a B.F.A. in Graphic Design from Minnesota State University, Mankato, in 2005. She currently works in communications, serving the Roman Catholic Diocese of Crookston as Website Administrator and Associate Editor of Our Northland Diocese newspaper. She has been married for 12 years and is the mom of three children.
*The views and opinions expressed are of the author and do not represent the Brian Lamb School of Communication.