It’s not easy being a journalism student.
As an undergraduate admission counselor and ambassador for my own journalism school, I constantly reassure prospective students and families that yes, journalism is in fact worthy of studying while in college. Of course I could be a journalist without the traditional education. At its most basic level, journalism is telling stories — something most people can do. But I love the techniques and skills I’m learning by perfecting my craft — and I’m getting an edge in this increasingly competitive industry.
Any study time is a time to make mistakes and, fortunately, I got to make most of them while still in school. Never again will I uncomfortably corner people for man-on-the-street interviews like a socially awkward canvasser. I learned how to get (lovingly) berated for mediocre work before feeling the wrath of editors at off-campus publications. And those experiences have been among the most fundamental in my growth.
Better to get those little embarrassments out of the way early on and move toward even bigger and better things. I’d rather be a little foolish now than at risk of losing my job later.
The best connections are found in journalism school. I’m among a network of students, professors and alumni who share my love of reporting. Since freshman year I’ve been building a supportive base of people who are learning and growing as reporters alongside me. We take our class work just as seriously as we do our work for outside media, which has given us the confidence of being “real” journalists before our true careers post-graduation have even begun.
I’ve rarely felt like I’ve had to compete with my classmates. We are all in this together — and those who don’t cooperate or are only concerned with rising to the top miss out on all that professional and social support their peers have to offer.
Journalism students are forced to practice their craft every day, not just in the classroom, from writing for campus publications to Tweeting to posting opinions and observations on Facebook. But we also complement our social media with writing that puts our training to use. We must employ that ardor necessary to pit ourselves against those who are blurring that journalistic line through citizen journalism and personal blogs. We’re constantly writing articles and producing news broadcasts because we’ve made our major into another part of our regular lives. Writing is essential part of my identity now.
That’s not to say that one can’t be a “real journalist” without professional training. Anyone who puts accurate, thorough and well-researched content into the world can’t be dismissed. But if I’m working toward becoming a “real” journalist, I’d better do my best to prove myself in an age where the meaning of my title is ever evolving.
Take heart, fellow aspiring journalists. There will always be a need for journalism school and my student colleagues and I are getting prepared for taking it on, knowing the challenges at hand. There’s no one path to becoming a journalist, but I’ve definitely found the right one for me. I’m beyond grateful for the opportunities I’ve received, and I implore anyone with a passion for reporting to consider journalism school. I say this not as a counselor or ambassador, but as someone who wants to help others get an edge in this crazy profession.
If there’s a major that fits your personality and life goals to a tee, why wouldn’t you want to pursue it? If it’s something that means the world to you, it’s worth the time exploring while as a student. I have pride in my school and in my profession.
I know I made the right choice.
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