Journalism Programs for Farsighted Frosh

Question: Are there any good journalism programs in my home state (Ohio)? I am currently in 9th grade, but I already know that I want to be a newspaper reporter/editor, but I don’t know how to begin. I want to start early so I have everything planned out.

You are smart to be planning ahead because you can make some wise choices now that will affect your college admission decisions in a positive way down the road.

If you are certain you want to stay in Ohio, you’re in luck. Ohio University in Athens has a strong College of Communication that includes a journalism program with an excellent reputation. If you haven’t done so already, check out Ohio U.. Keep in mind, however, that one important quality for a newspaper writer or editor is to have a broad view of the world, and, if you have lived in Ohio all your life, it may best serve your goals to leave your home state and experience another part of the country for your college years. On the other hand, you can also consider enrolling in an Ohio school but then spending a year or semester abroad before you graduate.

As a freshman, you are in the perfect position to create a “profile” that will make you a desirable candidate when it comes time for your target colleges to evaluate your candidacy. Presumably, your interest in journalism stems from current involvement in a high school or community newspaper. If not, you should certainly try to gain as much experience as possible in the years ahead. Join your school paper staff, and, if possible, volunteer or intern at a “real” newspaper in your hometown or nearby. Many publications have sections that are written by high school students for high school students. If this is true where you live, find out how you can join the staff. If it’s not the case, see if you can help get something like that started or ask in what other ways you can make a place for yourself in the newsroom. College admission officials are far more impressed by students who can point to achievements in the fields they want to pursue than they are with those who claim a passion but have done little about it.

There are many good resources for investigating other journalism programs besides the one at Ohio U.—so many resources, in fact, that it can at times seem overwhelming. One place you can start is right at the College Confidential Web site.

Some other sites you might want to try include: College Board Online. Click on “Finding the Right College” or “College Search” when you reach the home page, and you’ll get a list of questions to answer that will help you identify good college matches. Similarly, at www.petersons.com, you’ll find links to a “Detailed Search” that will point you to possible target colleges with journalism programs.

There are also many mega-guidebooks on the market that list details about programs, classes, admission requirements, etc., at thousands of colleges and universities across the United States. Look for one that provides an “Index of College Majors” (e.g., Barron’s Profiles of American Colleges or Peterson’s Four-Year Colleges). Find “Journalism” on the list and then check out the names of the colleges under that heading. Are any in Ohio? How about in other states that seem appealing? (Hawaii could be rather pleasant in the winter months!) If any of the colleges sound attractive, you can read more about them in the guidebook and visit their Web sites. (Web addresses will also be listed in the guide.)

Good luck as you continue with high school and go after your goals.