Communications is a booming major in the information age. If you are a student considering a major in this multifaceted field, you have a lot to think about as you make the big decision. Here is some advice on how to choose the right communications program for you.
- Figure out your field of interest and look for a program that best suits it. Communications is a big field encompassing different subjects depending on where you go. Before you start applying or even looking, consider what branch of the field interests you: film, journalism, speech, radio, advertising? Then break it down even further if you can. Are you interested in print or broadcast journalism, film theory or film production? This doesn't mean you need to specialize right away. It's just important to make sure if you have a special interest, you put yourself at a college or university where it's at least available for future reference.
You may find some communications schools put your area of interest outside their realm and in, say, their School of Arts and Sciences or a fine arts program. That may not be a reason not to apply as the program might still be great.
Consider what classes are required and offered. Every prospective student should check out the course catalog for their college of interest and also, take a look at what courses your major of interest requires and offers as electives. All undergrads have their slate of unrelated requirements (ick, math...) but you want to see what comes after that. Are the required classes for your major and the electives from which you can choose interesting and exciting to you or do they not seem like something you want to spend a semester studying? See if you can sit in on a class and see what it's like.
Consider who teaches there. One thing that makes a great communications school great is definitely the faculty. Will you be taught by well-studied professors or experienced industry pros? A combination of both would be nice! Some professors are so famous, you may already know them by reputation. Others may be hidden gems. Don't be afraid to ask students in a program who they have had good experiences with. Ask how much interaction you get with your professors. Check online evaluations. And, if you can, sit down with a professor and ask him if he thinks this might be a good school for you to pursue your interests.
Look into what else is offered. Like any major, a communications major is going to want more than just classes to enrich his or her college experience. Does the college you're considering offer hands-on opportunities that support your goals --say a tv studio, radio station, newspaper, or production lab? How state-of-the-art is the equipment? How many students get to participate? Also, consider student organizations: Is there a student film society or forensics team, some place you can go to hang out or interact with peers with similar interests? Is there a part of the department which helps students get internships in their fields? Is there a shadowing program where students can follow around industry professionals for a day? These are all things to consider when evaluating where you may want to study.
Consider reputation. Of course there's a reality that where you go to school matters in the job market, either because the school's students are known for being well-trained or because the school's faculty and alumni or internship sponsors are well-connected and hire their own. Sometimes, it's some of both. In any case, while your work ethic and ability are ultimately going to secure you a good job, often who you know and where you went to school also plays a role in getting your foot in the door at that entry level position. Likewise, if you go to a school with a lesser reputation, it may take extra effort to prove to people after graduation that you're well-trained. Just something to keep in mind.
Look at where it puts you. While schools all over the country offer great communications programs, not all of them offer top notch communications-related communities. Certainly, going to film school in Los Angeles, hub of the American movie industry, is going to offer perks that going to film school in Indiana wouldn't. Consider the difference in possible internship opportunities and chances to network alone. Likewise, if you're a journalism major interested in covering international affairs, studying in Washington, DC may have significant advantages to studying in Kansas. That doesn't mean you should write off a college just because it's in a small town, but do consider the program's environs and what they may or may not be able to offer.