Let’s admit that everyone has preconceived notions about what it’s like to be a communications student. Mass media sounds fun, after all – you get to work with celebrities, write articles or be involved in film and broadcasting, you could be a news anchor…but trust me, it sounds cool until you actually get into the course. Then you might start to wonder if you really made the right choice.
Here are eight common ideas about Communications Studies that may or may not be wrong. Of course, I’m just one person so I have limited perspective on this. If you’re really weighing the pros and cons of coming to Mass Media, I’d recommend you do some further research as well.
So here we go: The Confessions of a Mass Communication Student
1. Mass Communications has no work to do and you just get to party and have fun all day.
Really common misconception. Sadly, it’s not true. I’m from the NTU Communication Studies course – Wee Kim Wee School of Communications and Information, it’s the top-ranked in Singapore by the way, check it out if you’re interested at www.topuniversities.com, remember to use the QR stars ranking – and while there are plenty of events and activities going on in school, it’s simply not proportionate to the overwhelming amount of work we have.
Mass Media does not equate to just fun and games. Mass Media comprises a whole range of fields – journalism, advertising, Public Relations (PR), research, broadcasting…and you need to specialise in a field by the time you’re a Year Two student. You need to learn the basics of almost everything, and then you need to go further in-depth as well. Oh, plus both NTU and NUS have this requirement for “holistic education”, meaning you need to clear a number of modules that are not related to your course at all. So every semester you learn things from your own course and stuff from other courses, like science or business. Overall, it can mean a pretty packed schedule unless you’re a poly student who is exempted from taking a certain number of modules. Not so much for a JC kid.
Of course, it doesn’t mean that you just mug and mug and mug all day – there are plenty of opportunities to have fun. Point 7 does address this in a more general sense, so check it out later. Plus one good thing about Mass Communications is that overall, we take less modules per semester compared to other courses like engineering, business or medicine. Ultimately you’ll have more free time than your friends in these courses to participate in school activities or whatnot.
E.g. in NTU I take a total of 18 Academic Units, or AU, meaning about 6 modules, which is the maximum I can take per semester – I can take fewer if I want to, like I have friends with 4 or 5 modules. My engineering friends have an average of 21 AU minimum, so at least 7 modules per semester.
2. Mass Communications is really easy, anyone with brains could do it.
Whoever decided to perpetuate this misconception deserves to be shot. Communications Studies is in absolutely no way easy. Yeah, people think you go around interviewing others for your news articles or that you can just be a radio deejay or something. It’s not easy to do all this, all right?
There’s a lot to study when you’re in mass communications. You need to understand how people think, why they think a certain way – you need to know how to appeal to the mass public, and because of that you need to learn about certain theories of communication. You need to explore and find your own particular distinct style of writing or speaking. And you need to be able to balance all your different modules because you’re hardly ever taking just one communications mod at a time.
Furthermore Mass Communication is such a subjective thing. It’s classified under “Arts and Humanities” (art faculty people understand the pain of this), so everything you write in your essays can be interpreted differently by anyone reading. The problem of humanities subjects is that they aren’t fixed like science subjects – there’s no concrete “yes” or “no” answer, it’s always just a “maybe, could you argue that?” thing they have going on and it’s so depressing because as a student, this just means you have no idea whether you’re actually right or not. So yeah, Mass Comm. isn’t as easy as it sounds.
However, being a humanities student (back in JC I was from art faculty and I loved Literature), Mass Communications is quite fun – it’s not that different from any other humanities subject if you have experience with those. Plus you get to take other modules, as mentioned in the first point, so people who are more science oriented can minor in Science or Engineering, etc. as well due to the holistic education promoted by NTU and NUS.
3. Mass Communications got a lot of chiobu and hot guys.
I wish. We barely have any guys, my cohort has around 200 people and there are maybe 12 guys? There are plenty of pretty girls though, and popular ones as well. So I guess guys can try their luck here…?
4. Mass Communication students all take OOTDs all the time and are super outgoing, but also really superficial.
Not true. This writer here is already an exception (I don’t even have an Instagram. Well, I do, but it’s for class only, not for personal use). There are many of them who are like this actually, but not all.
It leads up to another point – that we are all superficial people who only care about partying and drinking et cetera. You might be surprised but actually a great majority of the students here (at least, in NTU) are really hardworking and they all want to do well. So if you wanted to come to Mass Communications under the assumption that “Oh, everyone else will be off getting drunk so I can get easy As”, that’s not true.
Brace yourself for people who do go to clubs and drink, but can wake up the next morning and suffer through their hangover just to get an A for their assignments. Don’t decide that now you’re in university you can slack off and do whatever you want – you still got to work as hard as you did to get here, sometimes perhaps even harder, since it’s really the final stretch.
Of course, being a media course, plenty of people here are either popular, trendy or just famous for one reason or another. They can probably sing and dance and do all those artsy performance things, or they have mad skillz at filming or taking photos. Rumours spread fast here, and there will always be this clique of “popular people” who just basically dwell in a world of their own and kind of seem really fake and self-absorbed. But hey, this isn’t a Mass Communications-specific problem, most schools have this going on. It’s just slightly more obvious in a Mass Communications school. You can tell who is popular with just one look, they’re generally the noisier and more outgoing people.
Alternatively you can simply disregard the social politics that come with school (because let’s admit that this isn’t a course-specific problem most of the time) and stick with a bunch of good friends, because I do that. It’s great to have a group of people to hang out with because in Mass Communications, there’s lots of project work so you can always just rely on that same group of friends to finish all your projects.
5. You can’t do anything with a degree in Mass Communications, it’s too general.
Then people with Business degrees can’t do anything either, because that’s even more general. Point here is, Mass Communications is a professional degree. With it, you can become an advertiser, a graphic designer, a journalist, a film-maker etc., or you can become a businessperson. You can do any general job you want and have the option of doing something media related, so why not?
People think that a Communications degree will only let you become a journalist. But as mentioned earlier in this article, there are different fields in Communications. Besides journalism, “Advertising and PR” or “Broadcasting” are quite popular options as well. Advertising and PR is basically coming up with campaigns and advertisements for clients, while PR is just managing the relations between a company and the general public.
Meanwhile, Broadcast includes film, image and sound production, how to speak and present yourself to the public, music…basically, it’s the production and distribution of media. If you want to be a news anchor, radio deejay or any of those cool jobs that might get you famous, Broadcasting is definitely a route for you to consider.
A major plus point to Mass Communications is that you can get a job in practically every company in the world. I mean, Mass Communications (the PR and Advertising field) is related very closely to marketing and definitely PR itself, and which company doesn’t have a PR or Marketing department? You can get internships or jobs in fashion, F&B, retail, management, real estate…virtually anything you’re interested in.
6. I’ll have to change myself to become cool and maintain a certain image if I go to Mass Communications.
In a way, yes. Since all the people here are really trendy and fashionable (they all dress really well, trust me) if you’re too shoddily dressed they will just look at you and make faces of disgust. That means no flip-flops by the way, unless you’re a non-conformist who just doesn’t care what other people think.
(For me, I continue wearing my expensive havaianas to school and when people go, “Why are you wearing flip-flops?????” I just tell them that my slippers are more expensive than their covered shoes. It usually shuts them up.)
Of course, image is important to maintain. At the university level, your cohort-mates are no longer just your friends, like they were in JC or poly. They’re potential future work contacts. This is especially so in a fast-paced industry like Mass Communication, where you need to be in the right place at the right time and have access to the right locations and the right people. Building up a large social network isn’t just good for us, it’s practically necessary. And obviously, if you’re walking around dressed like a slob, you’re not going to make a favourable impression on anybody.
On the other hand, you just have to make sure you dress slightly better than you do usually (no shorts, no singlets, no FBTs etc.) and then you can just laugh and talk the way you usually do. People won’t notice anything other than your appearance (sad fact) but it’s also a blessing since, once they see that you fit their image of “well-dressed”, people will leave you alone and you can just get back to doing whatever you want. It’s a small problem, easily addressed – don’t let this small thing turn you away from wanting to study this course.
*Note that dressing well here doesn’t mean you have to show up in a maxi dress/blazer every day. Just don’t dress like you’re going to eat at your neighbourhood hawker centre, and you’re good. Think “going out to some high-class area of Singapore, like MBS or Orchard or something”.
7. First year students should just have fun and party for their first year since it’s the only time you can enjoy yourself.
This is a more general idea I want to address. It’s both true and false, depending on your perspective.
For the JC kids, university basically runs on the GPA system, meaning your work is cumulative. Gone are the days where you could fail the whole semester and mug like crazy for the final exam to push your grades up. In university, consistency is key. If you fail just one graded assignment, it can really pull your grade down – and when that happens, down goes your GPA. Hearing this, of course it makes sense to study from Year One so that you can score and maintain a good GPA.
On the other hand, it’s true that Year One has less to worry about compared to the later years. It’s really the one year you have to get involved in school events and chill with your friends and generally do fun stuff, because from Year Two onwards after specialisation you start constantly dissolving into a pool of tears and frustration. But again, that doesn’t give you any excuse to get wasted every night and skip classes because of your hangover or because of your friend’s 21st birthday party or whatever. You need to be able to sort out your priorities in university.
It’s best to find a balance, I suppose – and given that I personally don’t drink or club, I’d say keep that to a minimum. If you want to socialise, you can do other things like supper or late nights out chatting with your friends. You don’t have to constantly go to a club and get high or whatever, because that takes away rest or work time, reduces productivity if you have a hangover the next day, and quite possibly increases the rate at which your brain cells die. So don’t do that to yourself.
8. Will I ruin my life if I take Mass Communications and decide halfway this doesn’t suit me? Will I still be able to find a job even if I screw up my GPA real bad?
Yeah, you will. No worries. Having an honours degree is much better than being stuck with an “A” Level certificate. And given that Mass Communications is both a general and professional degree, anything goes, really. You can always take up another job in the future if you decide you don’t want to continue with mass media.
Besides, honestly despite being possibly superficial at first glance, majority of the people are normal people like you and I. They’re not vicious, they just dress very well (it’s Mass Media, there’s a definite link to the fashion industry so no surprise here) so don’t worry that you’re not “popular” enough to fit in or whatever. You’ll definitely find a group of people here just like yourself.
This is basically the end of my eight points. I hope that really clarifies some questions that people have about this course. It’s getting more and more popular in recent years, so it might be better for you to understand what goes on behind the glitz and glamour of communications students and see what it’s like to actually study this course before you decide to pursue it in university.
Don’t forget, in university if you really feel like you can’t do this course anymore, you can always apply to switch to a different major. Of course, it’s tedious and troublesome, so definitely not something I’d recommend. Choose your course wisely!
If you have a passion for talking to people, understanding how they think and how the world thinks – if you have words to say you want to get out into the blogosphere, or if you just like to chill with like-minded people who would gush over your Instagram OOTDs – just come to Mass Communications. We have everything.