Eight Tips For Success in the MS in Communication Program

Allicia Washington-White headshot

Allicia Washington-White, Student & Alumni

Whether you reside in West Lafayette or Thailand, all students are able to make the most of their Purdue University experience. As a Wisconsin native myself, here are 8 tips that helped me feel better connected to the Purdue Community. Boiler up!

 1. Get to know the MS in Communication faculty
Communications graduate programs are the mecca of expert professionals. Colleges and universities really focus on having incredibly intelligent, influential, and experienced faculty and adjunct professors to train and teach the next generation of professionals in the field. Take some time to introduce yourself in classes to the faculty members in your program–even read some of their scholarly publications and research. Their work may inspire you to study specific topics, and you may even find a mentor or advisor to guide you through your career.

2. Catch up on current events
Specialized advanced degrees are meant to prepare you and provide practical experience for a career. It wouldn’t be surprising, then, to find that your coursework will tie back to real issues, problems, and topics that are currently happening in your field. Start getting into the routine of checking the news every day–whether it’s online, on television, or even on Twitter–to brush up on current events that could have real implications in your career field.

3. Join a professional organization or association
Sometimes being so far away makes you feel like you miss out on opportunities to get involved. Visit LinkedIn or Meetup and join together with other professionals in your field. You can still network off campus using the skills you learned in class. Graduate school should be considered the beginning of your professional career, where you’ll be regarded as a specialist or scholar in your particular field. You’ll be exposed to a large network of other professionals and have access to tons of resources to help you excel in your career. Every profession has a related association or membership club that provides professionals and students with relevant tools. Keep in mind that some are free to join, but most have a membership fee.

4. Work on your resume/CV and set up a LinkedIn page
Make sure you continuously update your resume and LinkedIn page with any professional associations you join, or skills you have learned.

5. Polish your professional side
Now that you want to be taken seriously as a professional, you’ll want to ditch your collegiate persona. Whether you were the campus jock, the popular sorority girl, or the fun-loving socialite in undergrad, you’ll want to update your Facebook page and even consider creating a more polished Twitter account. People in your new professional network will certainly Google you and inevitably find your social network profiles. Make sure those profiles speak well for you!

6. Network with your cohort
“Cohort.” Fancy, right? You’re in graduate school. You get to use words like this now.
For the next year or two that you’ll spend in your communications graduate program, you’ll be surrounded by the same eager, ambitious, and tortured faces. This is not the time to be shy. These folks will not only be your friends in school, but they’ll be long-term professional contacts whom you’ll keep in touch with long after graduation.

7. Scout out your favorite study spot
Full disclosure: you may have already found out that graduate school is not like undergrad. In undergrad, it may have been easy for you to get by on last-minute studying, or you may have been able to talk your way out of a penalty on a late assignment. Take graduate school seriously; it’s not worth your money or time to slack here. You’ll want to get into a routine of studying regularly. Find a place where you’ll be able to concentrate on your work and not fall asleep. For some folks it’s at home, for others it’s a library. Or maybe it’s a nearby coffee shop with free Wi-Fi. Wherever it is, find it, and start calling it “home.”

8. Find some me time
There is short turn-around time between classes so make sure to take some breaks to keep your mind from overworking!

Learn More
Allicia Washington 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.

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