Life as a Grad Student Pursuing a Communications Masters

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Chris Burch, Student & Alumni

What is a typical week, anyway?  Every student will have to figure that out for themselves.  My typical week revolves around my work week.  Like most of my student colleagues I work full time and the work week is more than 40 hours.  

My commute is also an hour each way, so I spend about 10 hours of my week at work.  My week starts at 6:00 am on Monday morning.  I usually get home at around 6:00 pm in the evening.  My work week ends on Friday at 6:00 pm when I pull into the driveway.  

My school week is all the time that’s left over.  

Monday and Tuesday: My Reading Days
When I get home on Monday the evening starts by checking my class and seeing what the topic and readings are for the week.  Once I have the readings and what I need for the week I then spend most of Monday and Tuesday evening reading for the week’s discussion.  The discussion for each week is due on Wednesday at 11:59 pm.  As I read these two evenings I focus on the topic, how I will answer the discussion post and what evidence from the reading I’ll use to support my arguments.  

Wednesday: My Discussion Post Day
Wednesday is usually a very busy evening for me.  To be successful in the program I’ve found that one cannot let anything get away from you.  The key is to take all the assignments seriously and this includes the weekly posts.  I use Wednesday to compose my response to the instructor’s discussion prompt.  This can take some time and I usually set aside a couple hours to do this.  I use my notes from the readings to complete the discussion posts and many times I’m spending some additional time online researching additional information.  I try not to do any other course work on Wednesday so that I can put together a good initial post to the discussion board.

Thursday and Friday: Follow-up Post Days
Thursday and Friday are reserved for the follow-up posts to the week’s discussion.  Follow-up posts due by Sunday, 11:59 pm, but I prefer to have them done by Friday night.  Instructors typically require at least two follow-ups to other student postings.  I try to do at least three and I always answer, no matter how many they are, everyone who comments on my initial posting.  By doing this on Thursday and Friday, I allow myself plenty of time to support arguments with any needed additional research.  I check the posts one last time on Saturday morning or evening and that’s really dependent on whether I can drag myself out of bed early in the morning on the weekend.

Saturday: Working on My Course Paper Day    
Saturdays are reserved for working on the course paper.  So far each course in the graduate communication program, like any other college class I’ve ever been in, requires a project that ties all the concepts learned together.  As a course term is 8 weeks long there’s not any time to let this one go and it always counts as a large portion of one’s grade.  I usually spend Saturdays working on research or writing.  As mentioned everyone has to find their own balance.  

Sunday: Take a Break Day!
My balance includes no communication degree program coursework on Sundays.  Others may take advantage of an additional day, but I reserve Sundays as a family and recharge day, however because of this I’ve spent more than 12 hours in front of the computer writing at times.

This flexibility is where the beauty of the Purdue online Master in Communication program resides.  I can set up my week as I choose.  Others undoubtedly have their own methods and schedules.  It would be safe to assume that their process for completing communication graduate program coursework is dictated by their work and family responsibilities as is mine.  I’m also sure that many of my fellow communication graduate program students also have some of their personal preferences and habits built into their way of pursuing the communication degree.  This is where the program shines brightest, by allowing each student to excel on their own schedule and terms.

Learn More About Life as a Grad Student

Chris Burch 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.