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Six Things You Should Expect as a Journalism Major

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When you’re a journalism student, writing and studying your craft can be intimidating. Professors are often critical of your work, editors never want to take what you’ve written at face value, and you almost always feel like you’re falling behind in the latest software updates.

You should be prepared for these things when you go into school. Journalism is a unique and difficult major, one that can send a lot of kids packing if they don’t follow general rules and fix their work where necessary. You have to be able to take criticism while still holding your ground and being a respected figure.

It’s an interesting balance. But, before you make the decision to jump into the journalism major, there are six things you need to know.

1. Your professors will be harder on you than anyone else.

If you’re a journalism student enrolled in an English course, expect your writing to be looked at more critically than the rest of your class. Because you already know how to research and you have a knack for writing interesting content, your professor will have more to say about how it’s been completed. You’re giving them more material to work with. They know your potential, and they know you’re capable of writing a great piece. That means you’re doing to have to do exactly that. Every single time.

2. You'll be expected to consistently interview strangers.

Even if you don’t want to go into the reporting portion of the field, you need to be prepared to get uncomfortably close to strangers. Your journalism professors will expect you to cover stories (and they can’t be people you know, or organizations in which you’re a member), and those stories will usually involve meeting with a group of people that you’ve never met before. If you have social anxiety, this isn’t the career for you. If you don’t have the means of conducting interviews, you need to obtain those means, or choose a more reasonable major.

3. Your writing will be torn apart, multiple times.

Your editor is going to hate what you’ve written. Your professor is going to hate what you’ve written. Your friend is going to hate what you’ve written. It’s going to be everywhere. You’re going to face more criticism that you ever thought possible, and it’s not all going to be constructive. In fact, quite a bit of it is going to be harsh. You need to be able to take that, and then use it to make your work even better.

4. You'll need to learn new software and program skills.

InDesign and Photoshop are just two of the many programs you’ll need to learn to utilize as you work your way through college. Your classes will require you to stretch the boundaries of what you already know, and they’ll push you to adapt yourself with modern technology. That’s the beauty of journalism. As the world around it changes, the major itself changes. You’ll get the latest information in technology, software, and programming. Just be prepared to utilize it.

5. You'll need more equipment than you ever thought possible.

This might mean a Mac Book. It might mean purchasing a DSLR camera. It might mean investing in the Creative Cloud to gain access to Adobe products. It might mean purchasing a few textbooks. No matter what the item, journalists need a set of tools that help them get the job done efficiently and impressively. If you don’t have these items, you’ll need to find them through family and friends, or you’ll need to purchase them. There’s no clear-cut way around this unspoken requirement, unless you’re willing to work with your Smartphone and PC computer (which is definitely possible, but not easy).

6. Your writing will be the most important part of your academic career.

If you can’t write well, you can’t be a journalism major. There are so many golden rules that you’ll need to remember as you move along in your courses. There’s no easy way out here. If you can’t improve your writing and create interesting content, you can’t work on a newspaper staff. If you can’t learn to take constructive criticism and fix your pieces, you can’t be an intern. There are so many writing aspects that need to be considered when you choose this major. Are you ready?

•••

These are the six things that you need to know before you jump into the journalism major. If these scare you, you should rethink your options. If they make you even more excited and ready to roll, you’ve come to the right place.

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