Y’all, I love doing annual reader surveys because you guys give the best feedback!
Several of you asked about my grad school program—Georgetown Public Relations and Corporate Communications—and I actually get emails about from prospective students quite a bit, so I thought I would address some commonly asked questions in today’s post.
I realize if you aren’t considering the program or grad school, this post probably isn’t as interesting to you. But a lot of your questions about grad school in my reader survey also had to do with work/life balance, so if you wonder about how I stay organized and maintain some harmony in my life you might enjoy: a day in the life, 3 ways I find work/life balance, and how I stay organized. Some of these posts are older, so I will think of ways to revamp and update this type of content since it seems to be a popular topic, and I enjoy reading posts like those on other blogs myself!
WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO APPLY TO GEORGETOWN’S PRCC PROGRAM?
I think I always knew I wasn’t done with school when I finished undergrad, I just didn’t know what I wanted to study next. Since grad school is such an investment of both time and money, I knew I needed to be sure about what I wanted to pursue.
My roommate actually enrolled in the program first and would come home from class so excited about everything she was learning. It also seemed like everything she was studying in her classes were topics I could benefit from in my career. So I did some research on the program, talked to some recent alum, and decided the next step was to talk to my boss about whether or not she thought it was the right fit.
Luckily for me, that conversation went extremely well and I was even allowed to take advantage of my company’s generous educational reimbursement program. I knew it would be really hard to do the program without the support and flexibility from work, so once I had that, it seemed like a no-brainer to apply and, ultimately, enroll.
DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR THE APPLICATION?
Full details on the application process can be found here. When I was applying to the program, my roommate’s boss, who is an alum of the program, gave me the following tips on the application. I thought they were so helpful, and I couldn’t write them better myself if I tried, so I want to share them with you verbatim:
“In your application, I would focus on the relevant experience that you have and why the Georgetown program is attractive in particular when it comes to achieving your goals. The Georgetown program has a few hallmarks and I would pick from any of the following (that interest you) and drive the point home in your essay:
- Jesuit philosophy of educating the “whole person” and commitment to the community
- Strategic planning and the capstone course (where you will work with a client to deliver a goal-oriented communications plan)
- The Center for Social Impact Communication
- A program that is applied rather than theoretical (learn actual PR work rather than the theory behind communications)
Other than that, pick some strong writing samples and definitely get at least one professional reference.”
ARE THERE ANY REQUIRED CLASSES?
In order to graduate the program, you have to complete 30 credits—10 classes—and you have five years to do it. There are two required classes: Elements of Communication Planning, which teaches you the Georgetown framework of writing a communication plans, and Conversations about Ethics, which goes over the PR code of ethics and issues that may arise in the communications field.
During your last semester, you take Capstone, which is where you write a communications plan for a real client. This is essentially the equivalent of a thesis in other graduate programs.
WHAT DO YOU LIKE MOST ABOUT THE PROGRAM? WHAT DO YOU LIKE LEAST?
My favorite part about the program is that you get to interact with so many different people—of all ages, professions, backgrounds, and interests. It attracts a diverse group of students, even among the international community, and I feel like this really helps the discussions. I always learn something new in class, whether from the lecture or not.
My least favorite part is that there is no waitlist for classes. So, you essentially have to be logged into your student account right at 9 am when classes go live and enroll in them instantly in order to be guaranteed your top choices. Because of this, people often register for more classes than they are going to take so they can decide between classes later, thus holding classes from other students. I’ve been lucky enough to be able to get into all classes I want, but others aren’t as lucky. I feel like a waitlist system would be such an easy fix—you know there is a problem when people arrange class swaps on a Facebook group!
HOW OFTEN DO YOU GO TO CLASS?
A full-time course load in the program is three classes a semester, and a part-time course load is one or two classes per semester. Because I am working while completing the program, I opted to take two classes per semester. Most semesters, I did them on different nights of the week, so for instance, I would have class on Monday and Wednesday. This semester that just ended yesterday (!), I opted to stack my classes so I had one in the first block on Wednesday (5:20-7:50 pm) and one in the second block (8-10:30 pm). While it was nice to only have to trek up to Chinatown once a week—it’s about a 40 minute haul from my office—that is a really long block of time to pay attention and it was hard to figure out when to eat dinner, especially because there are limited food options at the Georgetown Chinatown campus, where classes are held.
I will say, when selecting classes, I looked at the syllabus to see if it would be a good fit for me and what I wanted to get out of the program—not what night of the week it was on.
WHAT IS THE WORKLOAD LIKE?
The program is designed for people will full-time jobs, which means unlike high school and undergrad, there is very little busy work. Most classes have short weekly readings, and then a communications plan due at the midterm point and the final point—whether these were group or individual assignments depended on the course. Each class does have a public speaking requirement, so in general, you’re responsible for a 10-15 minute presentation at some point during the semester.
Some classes, like my digital analytics or digital crisis communications classes, had weekly homework due to reinforce the lecture. These assignments generally could be completed in about an hour or two, and I didn’t mind doing them because they were actually relevant to what we were learning.
HOW DO YOU GO TO GRAD SCHOOL AND STILL HAVE A SOCIAL LIFE?
Because Georgetown’s attendance policy is pretty strict—if you miss more than two classes, your grade drops a whole letter—I really only skip class when I am physically not in town. I’ve had class every night of the week, but I always disliked Thursday classes the most because that’s when the most conflicts seemed to arise—work happy hours, blogger events, or even just a simple girls night at the local watering hole. I knew missing class was not really an option from the get-go, so on the nights that I have class, my social life has to take a back seat. If I can swing by the event after class, I definitely do, otherwise I just get the recap from my friends and know that grad school is a limited-time thing.
On the nights of the week I don’t have class, I prioritize my social life over other things, like working out or a full night of sleep. I am a pretty extroverted and outgoing person, and keeping up with my friends and exploring Arlington + DC are really important to me, so I make time for it. On weekends, I generally plan my social outings on Fridays and Saturdays, so I have Sunday to catch up on any homework or readings. There are certain times in the semester—usually around midterms and finals—when I have to really scale back my social calendar, but I think knowing that grad school is only for two years of my life has really helped make that sacrifice easier. The bars will always be there!
Lastly, you know the saying, “if you want something done, you give it to a busy person”? I definitely think it holds some truth. Whenever my calendar is too open, I don’t have as much motivation to get things done. When I have a limited amount of time for a task, I am much more focused because I don’t want to steal time from something else—especially if it’s a fun thing!
IS IT HARD TO GO TO SCHOOL AND WORK FULL TIME?
I definitely think that going to school and working full time is harder than just working full time or just attending school. You have to balance your workloads at both simultaneously, and both demand a lot of your time and energy. However, I don’t think it is impossible to do both and as with all things in life, once you’re adjusted and transitioned over to doing both as your new norm, it’s a lot easier. Having been in grad school for nearly 16 months now, I would say the hardest times to balance both school and work is during midterms and finals, when I have the most deliverables due at school. Because those times are announced to me months in advance, I try to make sure I am very on top of my workload at work so I can leave on time to maximize after work hours for homework or group project meetings.
I also think there are a lot of benefits to going to school and working full time. For one, you can take what you learn in the classroom and apply it to your job the very next day. In addition, you don’t have to take time off work, and therefore time off from earning an income, in order to advance your career. My professors and classmates have been invaluable in providing new ideas I can take to the office and serve as excellent industry contacts for anytime I have a question and need some expert advice.
If you have any other question about Georgetown PRCC or working full-time and going to school part time, leave them in the comments below and I’d be happy to answer them!