Learning the Hard Way: How My Graduate Student Experiences Can Hopefully Help You!

Melissa Hehmann

Melissa Hehmann, Student & Alumni

This will likely not come as a surprise, but completing Purdue’s online Master of Science in Communication is hard work, and takes a great deal of time.  However, don’t let this discourage you from getting your degree.  It can be done with some smart time management.  I wasn’t always smart with my time, and spoiler alert, I still struggle today in other areas of my life.  You’ll certainly find what works for you, but I am sharing in hopes you may benefit from my experience: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

The Good: Weekly Discussion Boards

I really conquered the weekly discussions as far as time management goes.  The thing is, this assignment is structured the same for each class, which is probably the reason I was able to be successful at this.  I eventually figured out what worked best for me.  

  1. Review the discussion questions before you read.  There’s a ton of reading some weeks and you can’t possibly remember it all.  During the reading, you may even have to remind yourself of the questions so you can stay focused on the relevant material.  This is not to say some of it is irrelevant, I found it all valuable, it just may not be as pertinent in the discussion posts, especially in the perspective you present.   
  2. I started a word document with the questions in bold at the top.  While reading, I was able to add quotes from the text I found pertinent to the questions.  This was so helpful in formulating my response.
  3. Read on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday.  Sunday may not be available if you have another assignment.  Bottom line: don’t wait until Wednesday to do your reading.  You should be putting together your first response on Tuesday or Wednesday.

The Bad: Procrastination in Grad School

We have quite a few assignments during each class with one being a big paper or project.  It’s not something you want to wait to do the day before.  Trust me, I know from experience.  It got done, but I need to catch up on some serious sleep after that.  My problem isn’t so much I procrastinate because I don’t want to do an assignment, but more because I’m mulling it over in my head.  I read the assignment requirements and like to think about it.  If I could go back in time, here’s how I’d form my plan of attack:

  1. Read your assignments at the beginning of each class, especially your big paper or project. Often the smaller assignments feed into this big project.  
  2. Write an outline. Add notes or quotes from readings or other sources that relate to each section. Get early ideas on paper. You’re going to change it but at least you have a semblance of a structure.
  3. Allot an hour each week to the final assignment. You may still have to spend more time toward the end, but this early work will allow a smoother ride.  

The Ugly: My First Grad School Presentation

Creating a presentation on power point is pretty simple for most of us at this point.  And, our presentations are only 4-10 minutes in length.  It shouldn’t take me long, right?  However, if, like me, you are unfamiliar with Media Space or adding your voice to power point presentations, you’ll want to tackle this sooner rather than later.  I managed to get this finished on time but it took WAY longer than planned.  My husband and son were not pleased.  My only advice is to review how to record a slide show with narration and how to save your presentation as a video (Microsoft, 2016).

Learn More

Melissa Hehmann 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.