Tag Archives: advice

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 ;-) .

 

Admissions Deadlines and the Art of the Snowdrift Luau

Here it is: 2013.

To be frank, I was like sixty-five percent sure that we wouldn’t live to see this night. I mean, I’m not saying that I buy into every single Mesoamerican prophecy that hits center stage, but I really had a good feeling about this one. Oh well. We can’t all be right all the time.

Every New Years’ Eve, I always spend a lot more time thinking about what’s coming up in the next year rather than everything that’s happened over the twelve previous months. For some of us in the graduate school, we’re looking at potential jobs. For others, we’re planning the biggest projects we’ve done since we started school almost two (or more) decades ago. Still, there are those prospective students right now (maybe not right now) eagerly pecking away at their applications, confident (and correct) that this is the right step for their future.

This time two years ago, I was sitting in front of a roaring fireplace, writing the last lines of a short story for my Boston University application portfolio. Tonight, I’m sitting next to a celebratory oatmeal stout, wrapping up the next draft of a short script I’m submitting to Boston University’s annual screenwriting competition. This time next year, I’ll be trying to turn internships into employment in Los Angeles and hopefully on the way to getting some of my own scripts sold and directing projects off the ground.

Anyway, there’s officially a month left in the application process for the next class of COM graduate students. For the screenwriters, that means you’ll need to write at least a page a day to pull this off, if you haven’t started. You’ll spend the next month wondering why you didn’t study more for the GRE, and praying that those professors writing your recommendations don’t actually hate you.

But don’t worry. I’ve got a really good feeling about this year. Sure, it helps that I’m only taking three classes and have plans to be working closer with the COM staff, who are always a blast. There’ll also be more prospective student events, and I’m not just sucking up here, I freaking love meeting you guys. On top of all of that, I’ll have a great new batch of Storytelling students to start teaching all over again from the first FADE IN:.

I’m never wrong about these feelings I get. It’s going to be a good year.

P.S., I read a tweet earlier from @bucomgrad that says that the COM Lawn is a great place for barbecuing, so unless anybody tells me any different, I’m going to start stockpiling charcoal and holding snowdrift luaus on the front lawn.

I’ll see you there.

Your Finals Week Playlist

Every six months, writing students bang their heads against the walls for hours on end, repeatedly asking themselves why they waited until the end of the semester to do all of their rewrites and revisions. You can trust me on this. I’ve been doing it for years. So, as the only person who will ever give you sage advice ever, I’m here, once more, to help in the form of your finals week playlist.

Six songs to get you through finals week. Ready? Go.

1. Tyga – Rack City Now, you’re listening to this song because your undergraduate roommates are listening to it and they’re already partying. How do I know this? Because you’re already in the wrong place for studying and writing. Don’t study in your room. Find a nice park or coffee shop and get to work (see my blog on the best places to work in the area.) You’re not going to get any work done if you’re sitting in your room, because that’s where you sleep, and eventually, you’re going to crawl into bed.

2. Rufus Wainright – Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk This one’s important. Every time the song comes on your playlist, I want you to stand up and take a cigarette break. Not an actual cigarette break, but five or ten minutes every hour of work. Get your legs moving, you jerk. If you’re sitting in front of Avid or Final Draft for three hours at a time, you’re really just going to fry your brain. Don’t do that. This is directly adverse to the completion of finals. Also, don’t smoke. That’s unhealthy.

3. Five Iron Frenzy – The End is Here Yes. The entire two-disc album. Keep thinking positively. Just three more tests and four more full-length feature films and you’ll be done. Remember: you’re going to do great. You’re an excellent student, and everybody loves you. Finals are one thousand times worse if you think about how bad they are. You’ve done this before, and until you’ve got your degree, you’re going to do it again. Also, you kind of did this to yourself. So there’s that. But really. It’s almost over. You can do it.

4. Freddy Figglehorn – The Babysitter’s a Vampire Chances are, you started taking a break during Rufus Wainright and StumbleUpon’d all the way through Five Iron Frenzy. Don’t be ashamed. I know. Ska can do that to you. Look. Stay vigilant. Be your own Batman. The only way you’re going to get through this alive is by staying off Reddit and not spending twelve hours picking your perfect playlist on Songza. You’re not going to get any work done if you’re not getting any work done.

5. Aerosmith – I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing This one’s for the writers at the party. I know that the first thing you’re going to do when you get done is go submit your document and go sleep. Don’t do that, you fool. Take fifteen, thirty minutes, maybe an hour and go back over what you’ve written. It pays off in the end. Think of how many times you’ve lost points on an exam because you didn’t check your answers. This is like that, but worse, and it comes back to bite you in the rear when you absentmindedly submit whatever you’ve written as part of a portfolio.

6. Sea Wolf – Middle Distance Runner This is the most important advice I’ll ever give you. For the love of Sufjan, pace yourself. Don’t leave all of your work for the last minute. Break it up into doable chunks. To use a real life example, don’t try to write thirty pages a day to finish your feature film in a weekend.

That’s all you’re getting for now. Maybe I’ll do more pseudo-playlists in the future. For now, here’s the link. I’m off to write thirty pages a day to finish my feature film in a weekend.

Meet Alina Rubezhova

I’m a die-hard New York sports fan, so you could probably imagine my dilemma in moving to Boston – land of the Red Sox, Patriots, Bruins and Celtics. But in my time here, I’ve realized it’s so much more.

Boston University sits at the center of all the action – Fenway Park is walking distance and near-by Kenmore Station can take you anywhere you heart desires (well…in Boston). And aside from sports, there’s so much more to do. When you’re not in class, you have the opportunity to explore a city that has a lot to offer: book festivals, shopping, eating…and of course, the occasional drink to take your mind away from school work (hey, no one said graduate school was easy). Since you are looking into Boston University, I thought I’d help sway your decision a little by listing a few of my favorite things to do in the city thus far.

  1. Newbury Street. Just a train ride away from all the shopping your heart desires. American Apparel, Forever 21 and Madewell are some of the few stores you’ll find along with some higher end fashion stores like Burberry. You can find anything you’re looking for from local, fun boutiques to well-known brands…and if you get hungry just stop by some of the many little restaurants. One of my favorites thus far has been Snappy Sushi. All their rolls are made with brown rice and it is very affordable.
  2. Boston Commons. If you’re looking for a place to hang out on a gorgeous fall day this is the go-to. I’ve explored a few parts, but most recently I was near the Park Street Green Line stop. When you’re surrounded by colorful trees and leaves on the ground, you forget about everything else you have to do. You could just get lost in the beauty.
  3. North End. How could anyone forget about this? It’s the perfect “Little Italy.” Yes, it’s a little expensive to eat there…but it is very well worth it. And everyone raves about Mike’s Pastry. When I had gone the line was far out the door, but after talking to a local, he said Modern Pastry was the “local’s secret.” Venturing there, I did not regret it one little bit.
  4. Faneuil Hall. I love this place for the ambiance. There’s always something going on. There’s the man on stilts performing crazy stunts and there’s vendors, shopping, food and even nightlife.
  5. Fenway Area. Okay, so I mentioned I hate the Red Sox right? Well, I did get the chance to go to a Yankees vs. Red Sox game and I do admit the area is a lot of fun. The bars get packed (and there are many of them). Plus, those Boston fans do a great job filling up the streets. It’s definitely something to explore.
  6. BU Pub. This one, I had to include. It is absolutely gorgeous and the perfect place to meet with friends after class and have some food and/or drinks (and even get some studying done if you want to feel productive). The building is right by The Castle, which is an incredible looking building to begin with. It’s a fun atmosphere and they also do trivia on some nights of the week.

So, come explore! I promise, you’ll never get bored.

And as for the education you’ll get when you’re not exploring? You’ll meet some of the smartest professors with real-world experience, as well as scholars who really enjoy teaching. As a Public Relations first-semester student, I have already taken in a lot of knowledge – from my Communication Research course to my Contemporary Public Relations course. Everything you do gives you not only textbook experience, but applied knowledge as well. It maybe sounds a little lame…but I actually enjoy going to class.

Great friends, a solid education and a fun city…what more can you ask of from your university?