All posts by ksalter

Making The Final Decision

A difficult choice

Choosing a graduate school is, unsurprisingly, very different from selecting your undergraduate institution. For one thing, your priorities are different. You’re much older, and with advanced age comes new, specific goals that you have honed over the course of your previous four (five…six?) years. Therefore, it is important to make sure that when deciding what graduate program to attend you don’t think of it as the same type of rah-rah rose-colored selection process as before. Think of graduate school as one final step into your transition to the working world, whether you are entering for the first time or looking for a career change. Five things to think about:

Cost: Like undergraduate work, graduate school often comes with significant cost. Let’s not fail to acknowledge the obvious. Tuition and student fees (and living expenses) are the elephants in the room when determining the right place to continue your education, and they shouldn’t be ignored. Loans are great — there’s a stigma to taking advantage of them, but they do help people who otherwise may not be able to afford a great education — but you only want to take out so much. Remember, you’ll need to pay back what you take out eventually. Don’t be afraid of loans. Most students here at B.U. take advantage of these, and we have a great staff to help you figure out all of the scary vocabulary, confusing percentages and indecipherable fine print. On the other hand, you want to take advantages of scholarships and grants, just like you did at your previous school. If a school is offering you a hefty scholarship, this will most likely be (and should be) a significant factor for consideration. Make sure to make the best decision for you, but be equally sure that you can afford it, either now or down the road when you start making repayments.

Location: The real estate matters. Remember, graduate school is about honing (there’s that word again) a refined skill that you are hoping to turn into a lucrative career. Part of that process is making sure you receive a first-class education, which B.U. and other schools provide. The other part of that is networking, which is one of the major keys to success. You aren’t just choosing a school for the information you are going to get in the classroom. The professors and career contacts and fellow students you will meet along the way are a big part of the graduate experience. To best take advantage of this, make sure that you are comfortable with where you are geographically. Boston is obviously a leading city for creative, innovative, entrepreneurial minds. Aside from the city’s undeniable intellectual clout, Boston offers a wide array of academic, social and cultural resources, including museums, PR firms, corporate headquarters, leading journalistic enterprises, history, entertainment, sports and much more. It’s hard to not like Boston once you’ve been here, but whatever your decision, make sure that you can make yourself feel enough at home to take advantage of your environment.

Who’s in charge here: Look up your future professors. Find out what their interests are. Here at B.U., we have some of the most welcoming staff members, from administrators on down, that you will find anywhere. Trust me. These people are ready to help you. They want to help you. If you find a professor with similar interests as you, ask what you can gain from their program. Make sure to do your research: find out who teaches the classes, what they’ve done, who they know. Ask them questions about their work, about their classes and the school. You can find out so much information this way, and all it takes is a quick email or a short phone call. Not only will you get a better sense of what a graduate program is like, but you will give that graduate program a sense of who you are. These connections are invaluable once you arrive on campus.

Think logistics: Once you decide that you like a certain program, you’ll have to start thinking of the practical necessities that are often forgotten in the decision-making process. Where are you going to live? How much does it cost for a typical apartment? Stake out each location and think ahead. Many schools, including B.U., have resources to help you with this sort of thing. Most of that will take place after accepting an offer, but it doesn’t hurt to start considering these factors beforehand.

Have fun deciding: It’s very easy to get stressed out while you are trying to decide between two or three (or more) terrific schools. When you find yourself on the verge of pulling out all of you hair, just remind yourself that two or three great schools want me to join their program! Getting admitted to graduate school is a great accomplishment and a pretty big deal for most people. Don’t be afraid to pat yourself on the back. Don’t feel like you need to rush your decision. Think of how great your future looks. Daydream about the possiblilites, try to imagine yourself at each school, and find out what will truly make you happy as a graduate student. Once you do all of that, the choice will be a much easier one to make.

Good luck and enjoy the ride. It’s an exciting experience.

 

BU East Campus and Charles River

 

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!

The Nomad

I’ve moved six times in seven years. That’s not a fun way to live.

But by far the most challenging move what the one I made from Los Angeles to Boston just about a year and a half ago. There are several obvious reasons for that.

1) Distance — Pull out your nearest map. Now draw your finger from LA to Boston. That’s 3,000 miles. Well, I should be accurate. I went over to Google Maps and looked up the driving distance. 2,997 miles. Not counting rest stops and fast food runs. Great. Here are some directions for those of you interested in driving. (I flew.)

2) Convenience — Look around you. See that lovely desk you’ve had since grade school? That nice office chair? Not coming with you. What about your wonderful mattress, or the towels you love, or that easy chair, that giant beanbag, the posters and pictures of Jonathan Taylor Thomas, the snow globes, that Nerf hoop or that great shoe holder? Also staying. If you decide to fly here, which I strongly encourage, you may be able to take two suitcases worth of stuff with you. Be thrifty. Remember, you need clothes. You can always buy stuff here in Boston.

3) Sun — There is more of it in California. Don’t be fooled: the weather here in Boston isn’t always as bad as people think it is. Look, I love the sun and the beach, but there is something to be said for cold weather. First of all, it makes hot chocolate way more effective. It’s also fun to see your own breath. Snow is pretty for at least three hours. Rain is good for the Earth and stuff. Cold weather makes football more awesome. Who doesn’t enjoy a good pair of mittens? But there are times when I really miss wearing sandals and shorts every day — in December.

4) New City, New Culture — People here are different from the ones back home. They’re more up-front, and it can come off as brash. But they’re honest, mostly polite and won’t bite you if you ask for directions. The streets here are laid out like they were planned by a mouse with its tail on fire. Intersections can be very dangerous, so make sure you are always being cautious. Find the nearest grocery store (that was a challenge). Everyone jaywalks, and no one seems to mind, but that doesn’t mean it is a smart thing to do.

5) Friends and family — You may not be able to go home for Thanksgiving, and Christmas might also be a problem. Remember, you will be a long way from home and your usual crowd. But this can be a big positive as well. Meet friends and make new connections. It’s a great chance to experience something completely different and see what the other side of the country has to offer. Boston is a wonderful city and you should take advantage of that.

Trust me. The move may be difficult, but once you get here and settle down, you’re going to love it here. Most people do. There’s so much to see and do here and most of it is a short train ride away. Take the leap.

Just remember those bag fees.

Meet Kendall Salter

I had never seen Boston University. Never set foot in the classroom. Never seen the city. Never met a professor or sat in on a class. I had no idea what to expect.

This is part of the reason I decided to come to the College of Communication in the first place. The adventure was too exciting to pass up. There comes a point in everyone’s life when the chance to pick up and move everything becomes extinct, and I didn’t want that to happen to me. When presented with the opportunity to pull up long-established, southern California roots, I took advantage of it, knowing full well potential complications that could ensue.

Here’s the best part: I’ve never regretted my decision. Part of the reason I took the proverbial leap is that the administration here at COM was incredible. The amount of resources at our disposal is significant, and everyone here — from faculty on down — is willing and able to help students on a daily basis. The atmosphere you will find here at COM is welcoming, exciting, creative and most importantly, challenging. There are people here to help you. Very wonderful, smart, talented people. So please do yourself a favor and take advantage of it.

Classes are taught by a faculty steeped in professionalism and hell-bent on making you a success. Nobody phones it in at COM. Every day is as tough as the next, and every day is as great of an experience. The things I learn in the classroom go far beyond any traditional tests or essays. Seriously, folks: don’t think about the grade. Learn all you can, work hard, and the rest will take care of itself. You may not always succeed, but when you don’t, it will be a learning experience you won’t forget.

I can’t speak highly enough of our professors. I’ve had long visits in office hours, spoken to some on their home phones, received emails from as far away as Iceland, and have never been turned down when asking for more advice. They are here to help you. They are the best their respective fields has to offer — prize winners and innovators held in the highest esteem. If you aren’t getting all you can from them, you’re missing out.

COM is hard. It’s supposed to be. It should be. That’s how I learn, and if you appreciate being pushed to the extreme reaches of your potential, you will flourish here at B.U. The city of Boston has so much to offer people in this field. It’s a major media market with countless job opportunities, and B.U.’s alumni base is enormous. There’s art and entertainment, culture, music, sports, plays, productions, great food, walking paths, parks, lakes, beaches, boats, trolleys, and more. You will never discover everything, but you’ll dig up plenty of hidden gems.

B.U. has lived up to almost all of my expectations. I’ll be sad to leave it, but much better for the experience. Everyone here is working to help find what it is you are best and and push you past what you thought was your creative limit. I can pay COM no higher a compliment than that.