We gave Emerson students the following prompt on Facebook and Twitter:
“As college decision season approaches, we’re looking for students to tell us their advice for others interested in your major. What do you wish you had known coming to Emerson? What advice would you give to freshmen and incoming students? What would you like people to know about your major and career path?”
These responses have been edited for clarity and style, but not for content.
Being a successful writing, literature and publishing student is all about balance. Chances are you’re going to spend a lot of your weekends staying in writing essays or reading. You’re going to feel pushed and you’re going to feel drained—but that’s okay, it means you’re building stamina.
It’s easy to let the pedantic essays, reading assignments, and writing workshops overload your stress capacity. My advice is to find something that’s either incredibly exuberant and fun or very soothing. For instance, after a weekend of reading Nathaniel Hawthorne I like to celebrate by binging “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” After I finish a ten-page essay I like practicing mindful meditation to clear my mind from all of the overthinking. Depending on how you’re feeling after a stressful day either reward yourself with something fun, or find different ways to relax and ease your mind.
Just remember that you’re immersing yourself in a major that’s going to make you a great critical thinker. The curriculum may seem daunting, but embrace it; a little bit of grit never hurt anyone.
I spent a gap year hearing from high school friends how college upgrades your entire life, how you make a million-and-two friends, and how the world would be filled with rainbows and sunshine the minute orientation week began!
I hated orientation week.
Although it’s not anyone’s fault, I experienced an enormous pressure to think college would be amazing. And it wasn’t. I felt okay my entire first semester, and felt awful for only feeling okay.
Now I know there’s nothing wrong with okay. If anything, okay’s pretty great and with that revelation I leveled-up to good. There were days I felt gross, shining forced smiles at people I barely knew, and pretending I was into music I knew nothing about. I spent money on food I didn’t want, and I felt the need to prove myself as a writer, when I barely knew how to write a sentence.
But, those days vanished as time dripped by. I didn’t make the dance team, but I went to tap classes every Saturday. I didn’t get into a musical, but I got into a play and a mini-musical. And suddenly I was left with barely any of my original friends, but four people I earnestly love.
Ignore the notion that college is supposed to be the best four years of your life. It’s just a time.
As rising journalists, we all dream of the same thing—landing in a newsroom with some kind of a backbone to it; be that The New York Times, ESPN, Vice, NPR, Good Morning America, CNN, or the AP.
These outlets—unique in their own distinct way—primarily cover what goes on at the center of the national stage. In your time here at Emerson, you will be offered the opportunity to “cover” these events from the comforts of your dorm room. My advice is don’t do it. Writing a 200-300 word regurgitation of a national news story from other outlets is not journalism. That’s not to say there is nothing journalistic about aggregating content—many outlets, even those mentioned above, do it on a regular basis—but there is no personal value to it. No one ever has or ever will win a Pulitzer Prize for aggregating a news story.
Woodward and Bernstein didn’t blow open the Watergate scandal by sitting at their desks and having it all fall into their laps; they went out and did original reporting. If you really want to be a journalist, like the kind that work their way up to be nationally acclaimed, then you’ve got to do the grunt work: shoe leather journalism.
Our craft is enhanced, but not learned, in the classroom. Interviewing strangers on Boston Common about the weather may seem elementary; but, it teaches you how to talk to people and handle rejection.
Likewise, leaving here with just a journalism degree is useless. Degrees get experience and connections, and experience and connections get jobs. Join campus media outlets that stress actual, original reporting.