You've decided to study journalism. You've researched the top journalism colleges and thought about what area of journalism interests you most, but there's one last decision to make…where to study journalism.
For international students, the search for a journalism school can be overwhelming. The United States is a large country and there are hundreds of schools in 50 states offering a variety of journalism degree programs.
If you've done your research, you'll know which schools are among the nation's top journalism colleges. But when considering where to study journalism, think first and foremost about yourself. The best school for an aspiring journalist from Chile, may not be the best school for you. Consider your research, but also think about what you want from a career in journalism and what you'll need to get there.
Decide what the most important factors in a school are for you: Real-world experience vs. classroom learning? Award-winning professors vs. proximity to professional organizations and major newspapers? The possibilities are limitless, making it crucial to narrow down the list of schools with some of the following factors:
Your Interest Area
Journalism includes print, magazine, radio, television, electronic media, and photojournalism—in addition to different writing and/or reporting styles within each medium. Not all areas of journalism are the same, and training for aspiring journalists will vary.
International students should think about getting the most of their education and choose a school with the interest area of their choice. Specific interests include sports journalism, editing, copywriting, international journalism, design, and so on. Every j-school will provide programs in the above mediums, but some schools may have limited offerings when it comes to a specific journalism interest area. Additionally, some may have stronger programs in one area or another. If you're unsure, choose a school with a wide selection.
Also, if you are not sure what area of journalism you are interested in, choose a school that offers a wide curriculum. The University of Missouri, for example, offers over thirty interest areas. This keeps your options open as you progress in your journalism schooling. The alternative is transferring to another university offering the program you want midway through your college years. As international students, finding a school is hard enough, having a broad selection of programs at your first school is a measure you can take to prevent the need to find, apply, and acclimate to a new school later on.
Does your top journalism school provide opportunities for internships? Many schools, especially journalism schools, have a heavy emphasis on real world experience. Campus media is always an option, but working with experienced journalists in a professional setting is a vital learning tool. Schools, like Northwestern University near Chicago, Illinois, require students to complete an internship in order to graduate. Others, like Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts, which is well known for its co-op program, have students alternate semesters of classes with full-time employment starting their sophomore year.
If your school does not have a robust internship program take the initiative and find one yourself. Is there a particular newspaper, magazine, or broadcast station that you admire? Find a school in that city. That news outlet may offer internships that you can complete during the school year, if not during the summer. Eventually this may open up employment opportunities with that organization.
Research the professors at your future school. They should all be experienced journalists with plenty of on-the-job anecdotes to share. Take the time to browse through schools' websites and read descriptions of your potential professors. How long have they been in the industry? Have they received any recognition? Have they done any work that you admire?
American universities are expensive, but the plus side is that they spend a great deal of money on state-of-the-art facilities to entice prospective students. For journalism students, this can include radio and television studios, computer labs, and multimedia newsrooms—basically any technology journalists may use on a day-to-day basis. Information regarding facilities can be found on each school's website and is definitely worth a look.
Student Groups & Professional Organizations
Are there journalism-related student groups at your school, professional organizations, or chapters of national organizations in your city? These are important resources and can be incredibly helpful for meeting experienced journalists. Both student and professional organizations may offer membership for a fee but in return they provide camaraderie with others in your major, workshops, lectures, and networking opportunities.
Choose a Double Major
Top journalism colleges know that the best journalists have a well-rounded education. One benefit to American universities, that may not be the case abroad, is the ability to major in more than one area, called a double major. NYU's Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute so strongly believes this that they require all journalism students to have a double major.
Outside of NYU, if you have the time and interest in another subject, take this into consideration when choosing where to study journalism. This is a huge benefit for future journalists giving you expertise in another subject or a head start for those interested in reporting in a specific field. Students interested in politics, for example, may consider a double major in journalism and political science, or a major in journalism with a minor in political science. When narrowing down the list of schools, these students might choose a university with an excellent political science program, in addition to an excellent journalism program.
Note: Some classes may count towards both degrees, but it depends on the requirements of each college. Additionally, a minor requires less credits and classes to complete than a major but is demanding nonetheless.
Put aside the above journalism-related factors for a moment. In the search for a great college or university don't forget that, beyond education, it will also become your home away from home for the next 4+ years. Especially as international students, far from your home country, this decision can't be taken lightly. Take into account the area of the United States you would be most interested in living. Choose a city with an atmosphere and climate that you feel comfortable with, and a place you would be proud to call your new home.