What Would I Tell Someone Thinking About an Online Communications Graduate Program?

Trying to combine my already hectic everyday routine with online communications degree program coursework could have been a recipe for disaster.  For me, I was already busy with family and work obligations and then mixing in graduate-level communication classes seemed like a pretty intimidating feat.  Then add the stress of not being in school for more than 15 years and trying to do it all online, which was completely new to me, made me think maybe I was in a little over my head.  But fortunately I had a support system that was encouraging and helpful as I tried to settle into a new routine.  I had family who were supportive and friends who had gone through online college classes before who offered helpful advice.  After being in the M.S. in Communications degree program for more than 8 months, here is my advice to anyone looking to join an online communications graduate program at Purdue:
 

Plan Ahead   

When I first start a class, I always go to the “About this Course” section in the learning management system.  It contains the class syllabus, course schedule and assignment overviews.  

  • First, I go over the course schedule and see what’s going to be due and when it is due.  
  • Then, I cross check them with my personal schedule and work schedule and see if there is going to be any conflicts.   If I know if there’s going to be a major project due during a busy week at work or while my family has plans, I know that I’ll need to plan ahead and make sure I work on assignments in advance so I’m not overwhelmed as I get closer to its due date.  
  • Finally, I schedule everything on my phone.   If I have some free time on the weekend, I’ll schedule myself for two hours to work on schoolwork.  If I have a day off, I’ll dedicate a few hours to working on my project.  

By planning ahead, not only do I keep myself organized but it allows me make time for the other important things in my life.
 

Engage with Your Fellow Students

One of the best aspects of undergraduate college life is your interaction with your peers.  Even though the course is completely online, it doesn’t mean you can’t develop the same types of relationships with your classmates.  I have gotten to know many of my fellow classmates through our online discussion boards and interacting with them on group projects.  Whether it’s on social media, the phone or through Purdue’s online learning management system, Engage, I have learned so much, made new networking contacts and new friends.
 

Take Time for Yourself and/or Family

The most important thing in my life is my family.  They’re one of the main reasons I decided to go back to school.  If you manage your time well, you should have plenty of time to do things you enjoy.  Whether it’s playing with your kids, going on a date with your spouse or just going out for a 3-mile run, make sure you take some time away from schoolwork and make time for yourself and your family.  The program will certainly take up a lot of your time but don’t let it take away your life.
 

Learn More About an Online Communications Graduate Program

Jeffrey Lacap 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
Jeffrey Lacap has worked in Communications for more than 17-plus years.  He graduated from the University of Scranton with a bachelor’s degree in English Literature in 1999.  After college, he worked as an Assistant Editor for Nonwovens Magazine and its website in Ramsey, New Jersey.  In 2000, he worked in New York City as an Associate Editor for Sporting Goods Business Magazine and its website.  In April, 2001, he joined the U.S. Army as a Broadcast Journalist.  

His assignments included Fort Huachuca, Arizona; American Forces Network, Korea; and the Defense Information School on Fort Meade, Maryland.  Mr. Lacap left the military as an Army Staff Sergeant in September 2008.

After his military career, he became a Media Relations Specialist at Northrop Grumman and worked as a radio producer for WBAL 1090AM in Baltimore, Maryland. Currently, he works for the Department of Defense as a Broadcast Video Team Lead at the Defense Information School.  He is currently enrolled in the MS in Communication program at Purdue University.

He’s been married to his wife Connie for more than six years and they have two children, Emily and Andrew.  They live in Columbia, Maryland.

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