Tag Archives: writing

Relax and Lose Yourself

It’s over. The deadline has come and gone. You’re done. You have handed in everything they have asked for. Now you can finally sit back and relax. Or can you?

I remember how I felt the day I finally handed in all my application materials. There was a sigh of relief and a fleeting feeling of accomplishment immediately followed by nail biting anxiety… now I have to wait?! It was complete torture thinking about the 1-2 months I had to endure before hearing a decision that would affect the course of my life.

I had a terrible image of myself months later – twitchy, disheveled, one stenciled on eyebrow because I had nervously pulled it out, maybe carrying a plastic duck and making quacking noises under my breath as I stare fixedly at my mailbox. After considering if I could turn the one eyebrow thing into a new fashion trend, I realized dwelling on the committee’s future decision was unhealthy. I had done everything I could, given them everything they had asked for and put my best effort into the essays. I no longer had any influence over the process. So, rather than sit around waiting for the ax or congratulation balloons to fall, I decided to make myself busy.

I was fortunate enough to be in Spain at the time, so I bid tearful farewell to my ESL students, grabbed my backpack, and took off across the country.

Posing - see how much fun I'm having?! Wooo!

It was an amazing experience and, better yet, I hardly thought about graduate school at all. OK, that’s a lie, but at least I wasn’t obsessing over it (for which my eyebrows thank me). However, this might be a bit impractical for the rest of you so I have put together a brief list of suggestions.

  1. Grab an Internship – If you don’t already have one, now is the perfect time to get one. It will only help you by preparing you for your future academic adventure and introducing you to the field you are striving to enter.
  2. Start a Hobby – Get into rock collecting (a lot more exciting than it sounds) or finally start that band you have been talking about since high school. Studies are showing that interviewers are looking for more from candidates than work experience, they want to be able to connect with you. Therefore, if you have an interesting hobby/interest you will have a lot more to discuss, laugh, bond over.
  3. Write a Novel – “”How you uh, how you comin’ on that novel you’re working on? Huh? … Your big novel you’ve been working on for 3 years?” We’ve all wanted to at some point before talking ourselves out of it because no one will want to read about a lone gun slinging space captain who is unwillingly drawn into an intergalactic war and must fight her way to the truth all the while fighting with her need to stay independent…. Erm. Anyways, start one and, even if it doesn’t go anywhere, you’ll have a story to tell about the experience.
  4. Travel – Pack up your bags and hit the road, friend, you’re not meant for this small town crap *spits* (I need to stop watching TV). Plan some trips. They don’t have to be extravagant, just go somewhere you have never been. Who knows, it might turn into one hell of an adventure, or it might not.
  5. Volunteer – Go, improve your moral fiber. Give of yourself unto your community. This is good for several reasons: it distracts you, looks good on your resume, and you’ll be helping someone in need.

These were just a couple suggestions to get you thinking about how to fill up your time. If you have any suggestions or experiences you’d like to share feel free to leave them in the comments. I am all about vicarious living.

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!

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.