My Academic Experience as a Communications Major — Real Students’ Stories
This article is based on first-person accounts from Kiya Norman, a sophomore at Wake Forest University; Drew Bartelstein, a sophomore at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications; Justin Levine, a junior at the University of Michigan; Katie Garder, a student at the University of Arkansas; and Moriah Kofsky, a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania. You can watch the full livestream for more info.
In this post, we explore the academic experience of majoring in communications.
Communications Course Load
If you’re considering majoring in communications in college, you may be wondering what kind of course load to expect.
Drew: Your freshman year can be overwhelming because you’re adjusting to a new academic atmosphere. Many people don’t talk about how hard that adjustment is during your first year of college.
You’ll also be taking multiple general education courses, so you may be studying material that you’re not that interested in. Freshman year was my hardest year academically. I personally take about 16 to 19 credits per semester, which is five or six classes. At Syracuse, specifically in the Newhouse School, they require arts and science courses, so you do need to get certain requirements out of the way. As I take more classes that I’m interested in, I don’t classify my course load as homework.
For example, this past semester, I took a graphic design class and had to do a project. As I sat at my computer working in Adobe Creative Cloud, it didn’t even feel like I was doing homework because I was working on something that I was interested in. So, the communications course load can be heavy, but if you enjoy the work, it becomes much easier and more interesting.
Justin: Like Drew said, I think that what makes communications better than a STEM major is that I never feel like I’m just doing homework because I’ve been forced to do it. I always feel like I’m getting something out of it. Sometimes, I’ll be doing my communications homework and honestly forget that it’s an assignment. It could be doing graphic design, watching the news, or reading different literature. There are so many different aspects of communications, and it’s all incredibly interesting stuff.
I think that there’s something that everybody can get out of communications in terms of how it compares to other majors. You make what you get out of it, and the same goes for your course load. If you want to, you can research and develop a curriculum for yourself. That might sound scary, but communications can be a path that you design for yourself, and that can push you through and motivate you so your homework doesn’t feel like homework at all.
Kiya: I agree. I think that foundational classes can feel overwhelming because you’re learning so much general information. But the way that Wake Forest combines foundational information with hands-on learning is amazing. It feels like you’re not doing work. In the past couple of classes that I’ve taken, we had bigger projects throughout the semester that didn’t feel like busy work, and I got so much out of them because I had a strong foundation. The school does a great job of making the work interesting and ensuring that you’re understanding concepts.
There are projects that require you to put in a great deal of time, but it’s over a long period, and it’s something that you’re passionate about. I’ve had assignments that weren’t turning out the way that I wanted them to, and I’ve gone to professors for guidance. Those kinds of projects don’t feel like homework, but more like something that you’re developing for yourself. I’ve already had a few of my pieces go into a portfolio for when I graduate.
Katie: Absolutely. I agree that the hands-on activities make you appreciate and enjoy your major. I’ve had many writing experiences and courses where I got to work on projects with real clients, like creating a magazine. These experiences are so rewarding and valuable because the things that you’re learning in your classes pay off, and you have something at the end of the day that you can say that you made.