Schools aren’t perfect: Find what you love and make it work

By Sydney Nolan on December 12, 2013
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As a senior in high school, I thought I wanted to become a journalist. Because of this, college was pretty much the only option for me. A bachelor’s degree is required for any long-term career I’m interested in pursuing. No degree listed on a resume equates to your resume getting tossed in the trash, regardless of how many clips you might have in a portfolio.

That being said, the question of how and in what way those interested in journalism and communications should get their start is an interesting debate. On the one hand, there are definite skills and a definite knowledge base that a good journalist ought to have –- things like how to structure a story, proper sourcing practices, and the basics of media and copyright law, for example.

On the other hand, there are definitely courses that are less helpful. (Am I ever going to need to know much more beyond the basics of how plants reproduce? Chances are fairly slim.) Initially, I selected a school known for its top-notch journalism program, realizing that this could be one way to start building connections, creating clips through writing for a variety of publications and news outlets, and through a well-structured and well-balanced curriculum, obtain a very practical skill set while still in school.

Lack of personal happiness prompts transfer
I spent a very enjoyable year in this program, learning a lot about the basics of journalism and the ethical underpinnings of the field. After that year though, I realized that despite my love of what I was learning and how it was being taught, I wasn’t personally happy, and I made the decision to transfer to a smaller liberal arts college.

Part of what made this decision slightly easier was my decision to switch from journalism to public relations when it came to post-graduation plans. With this change in career interests, it became less important to remain at a top-tier journalism school, and more important to go a school I felt was more “me” in terms of the social and academic scene.

I’m now in my second year at this liberal arts college, and am still not 100 percent sure it’s the right fit. The nature of institutions like this is to push students toward and prepare them for graduate programs. With that in mind, many of my peers enjoy the theory-heavy curriculum we all study under, and find it more helpful than I do when it comes to prepping for what comes after their four years as an undergrad student.

Missing some things, enjoying others
There are many days where I miss the way courses were structured at my previous institution that emphasized the learning of practical talents and made me feel like I was directly preparing for a career as soon as I graduate. However, I’ve enjoyed opportunities and benefits from being at a smaller college that I would not have enjoyed if I’d stayed at the larger university. I loved my internship at the state capitol last semester, and am looking forward to going abroad through the school next semester, an opportunity that also gives me the chance to take more practical, skill-based classes once again.

The hard lesson I’ve learned through the two schools I’ve had the opportunity to attend is that many of the things we come to dislike about where we’re at are things that you can’t figure out by merely visiting a school as a high school student. A lot of the flaws I’ve come to identify in both institutions are things I only realize and find annoying after spending a significant amount of time on campus. They’re things I think you have to be a student to truly understand. A school will never be perfect. The best thing you can do is find the things you love, and make them work for you!

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Sydney Nolan

Sydney Nolan

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