Monthly Archives: January 2013

Be Well Read

As an applicant to the masters in journalism program at the BU College of Communication, one of the essays that you have to write, along with life narrative and professional experience, is called “Periodicals”.  This is the part of your application where you get to show the admissions committee how engaged you are in the current media landscape as a consumer. The thought is that folks who are interested in becoming journalists are likely inspired by professionals who they have encountered along the way. One of the defining characteristics of a great journalist is a constant thirst for news and information, and in the periodicals essay you have the chance to share with the school how you quench that thirst.

There is a major focus here at BU on electronic media and social media, so in writing your periodicals essay be sure to make it very clear that you not only frequent a variety of online news sources, but that you have at least a working knowledge of the social media scene.  If you don’t have much experience with social media, I would suggest getting a little acquainted with the ways of Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. While you may not use these tools every day while studying here at BU, you will undoubtedly need to use them from time to time.

Listed in the required reading for every jounalism course you take here at BU will be a number of daily newspapers. Being up to date with The Boston Globe, the New York Times and USA Today is expected in the courses you will be taking. Therefore in this essay the ability to demonstrate that you are already in the habit of staying up to date will bode well for your application. And much like I suggested in the social media section, if you are not in the habit of reading daily newpapers, you would help prepare yourself for life at BU by starting.

The fact is that journalism is just as much about reading and staying informed as it is about writing and reporting. In my Journalism Principals and Techniques course in the fall our professor had what he called “The 3 R’s”:  Reading, Reporting, and Writing. In order to be a better writer, it’s vital to be an avid reader. So while you are writing your periodicals essay, be sure to express just how much reading means to you.

I’ve Communicated… Stuff

It’s sitting there, gloating at you.

That blank piece of paper on which you are meant to compose your second application essay. Oh, how you hate blank paper. Somewhere in the recesses of your undoubtedly incredible mind lurks an idea waiting to spill its way out onto that clean landscape of unfulfilled creativity, but no matter how hard you try, you don’t know how to extricate it.

I’m here to help.

How do you write about your communication experience? Does that internship at the GAP count? What did you do, there, anyway? What did you learn?

It’s all so much to keep track of. The best thing to do is start with something simple: re-read the prompt. Make sure you aren’t missing anything. Here it is:

Write an appraisal in clear declarative English of your experience in any area of communication (if any). Include what you expect from a career in the field and why you chose to enter it.

Pretty easy, right? The easiest thing to do is to look over your resume to remind yourself of all the amazing things you have done. Find the activity or job or internship that most connects to the field you are looking to go into. If you
worked for a summer at the local newspaper or interned for a public relations firm or helped create advertisements for your college organization or won a local film festival, these are the things you should talk about. Don’t overthink it.

Here’s what we need to know:

-What did you do during your time in these jobs?

-How did this experience help you learn about the field and how did it shape your future aspirations?

“But,” you say, “what if I don’t have communication experience?”

I knew you’d ask, and I’m so glad you did. Many of our graduate programs welcome those both with and without significant experience in that field. However, this doesn’t mean that you haven’t done something related to communication. Find an activity that most closely relates to what you’d like to do and tell us about that.

Don’t forget to address the second part of the prompt. Why do you want to study public relations? What drove you to journalism? When did you decide to work in film, and why? There’s a reason you are applying to BU COM, and we want to know what that is. Tell us about your career goals and how your previous work and experience tie into those goals.

As always, write in simple, straightforward English with clean prose (think Hemingway – not a bad role model, at that). Make sure to spell check and scan for grammar errors. Again, this is a writing sample, so you want to write well. Finally, don’t be afraid to be creative. The prompt is straightforward, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make it interesting!

And finally, good luck!

My Life: A Narrative

The long awaited and dreaded deadline is approaching. You’re excited, you’re nervous, you’re scared. You’re just a general hodgepodge of emotions. You might even say you’re in a glass cage of emotion.

You’re nearly done. You’ve taken the GREs; you had your transcripts mailed (all official like); you begged, cajoled, threatened your teachers/boss for a recommendation; you’ve even filled out the application and paid the admission fee. Now what? What am I forgetting? Oh right the writing requirements.

Most are fairly straight forward. What experience have you had in the communication field? What are some newspapers you like to read? Why is this program important? Check, check, and check. However, what the hell is this Life Narrative business? I remember asking myself that same question almost two years ago. After weeks spent cultivating my Statement of Purpose BU doesn’t even want it?!

“What is a Life Narrative? Are we talking a detailed account of the direction of my life?” I desperately typed to graduate services a week before the deadline. “It’s for the purpose of getting to know you. Use it as a chance to convey who you are and what your passions are,” they dutifully responded.

Sigh. I had really been looking for specifics; a road map of sorts, straight to the committee’s hearts. Alas, they were not going to lead me by the hand. So what did I do? I got real. I relaxed. I, wait for it, had fun with it. After the nail biting and constant rephrasing of my Statement of Purpose this was almost a relief.

For those of you looking for the road map I had so desperately wanted, I must dash your burgeoning hopes right now. Giving you a set of guidelines would actually be doing you a disservice. Why? Well as graduate services told me so long ago, this really is a way for the committee to get to know you and the experiences, passions, interests you can bring to the program. Think of it as being in lieu of an interview. This is your chance to truly stand out because, let’s face it, grades and writing samples never truly convey all a person has to offer. However, I will not leave you completely empty handed (after all there needs to be a point to this blog post). Here are a couple things to help you craft your winning narrative:

  • Be genuine. Don’t force anything. Just be you, not who the committee is expecting because, really, they aren’t expecting anyone. This program is composed of students from all walks of life- it keeps things interesting and you’d be amazed how much you learn from your peers alone. So Be yoU, because there is only one.
  • Don’t be afraid to brag. This was the hardest part for me, having been raised to be modest and accept that no matter how awesome I am, there is usually someone who is “awesomer.” However, you’re applying to a well-respected and highly competitive program that attracts highly intelligent and talented people. You need to show the committee that you are driven, confident and self-aware. Don’t be an ass, but don’t be afraid to say “hey, I helped build a self-sustaining village in Ghana and that’s pretty freaking awesome.” NOTE: I did not do this, but that would be freaking awesome if I did. I did get peed on by a koala once, but did I put it in my essay?
  • Be brave. If you have a unique approach to how you want to write this then do it or at least try it out. Get your creative on. The committee reads hundreds of Life Narratives so, if it works, it will only help you grab their attention. However, you also need to restrain yourself from going overboard. Remember, someone has to read this who probably has just spent the entire day reading other, over the top essays. You can be straight forward while still being creative.
  • Pick and choose the moments and characteristics you want to write about. We’ve all lived 20 years or more and have, therefore, amassed a decent amount of experiences. Just look at Bieber who managed to “write” an entire book on just 16 years. So, obviously, you have a lot to say, but you don’t have a lot of space to say it. So, pick and choose the moments and characteristics that stand out the most to you. Ask yourself what do you want the committee to know about you? What can you offer?

I hope this helps you as you begin writing your essays. Remember: have fun, be confident, and be creative. I mean, what do you have to lose?… oh right ;-) .