Updated: Dec 31, 2020
Hi there! Looks like you’re all ready to leave home and head off to college. You must be incredibly excited (and anxious), joining every ‘2024 group chat at your school and scouring your University’s tricky homepage for clubs to be a part of right away. Trust me, I was there, and I know how confusing it can be to get involved on campus when you’re not even on campus yet. You want to get a head start on college, so it’ll be easier to meet people and even plan out your schedule beforehand. Perhaps you’re looking to join your University’s magazine, but you just don’t know how. If you’ve read my last article, I talked about my writing experiences during my freshman year of college and dealing with rejections, so here’s an easy list of practical ways to get involved with the writing scene on campus. Read on for a few tips I learned my first year that I want to pass on to you!
1. Scout your University’s and school’s Facebook pages the summer before Fall Semester
A ton of club organisers will be looking to recruit and mentor incoming freshmen for their on/off campus newspapers and magazines, especially since the bulk of the current senior class will be graduating during this time. Sometimes, most of the applications for Fall/Spring semester will have already been reviewed and accepted before the semester even begins. This is because these newspapers and magazines have to plan their issues out beforehand and will therefore move a lot quicker than other non-writing clubs on campus. Be on the lookout for leadership and staff writer opportunities for the upcoming semester!
2. Check out your University’s club page and respond to upcoming events/meetings
Your university probably uses OrgSync or another similar system for every club on campus. Using this is a lot easier than navigating the university’s main homepage, and will be a lot more extensive, so you can find detailed information on the club, contact details, upcoming events, and applications for new positions. You might find a really unique writing club that’s right up your alley!
3. GO TO CLUB FEST!!
Club Fest is a great way to get out there and actually meet club members in person. Introducing yourself and expressing your keen interest in writing goes a long way when they’re reviewing your application for staff writer later, and you have a higher chance of getting called for pitch meetings for enthusiasm alone. You can also find other writing related clubs to get involved in or try something completely new! Either way, it’s a fun experience whether you go alone or with a friend, and even if you aren’t looking for a particular club at least you get free candy :)
4. Give the clubs you do sign up for a chance
Even if you’re still wavering on the club, these icebreaker club meetings are specifically focused on introducing the club to incoming freshmen and helping you make friends and connections. It’s important to give the club a fair chance before completely writing it off because it could be a great writing experience later on. Before writing for Under The Arch, I went to a couple of the on campus Asian magazine’s introduction and pitch meetings. And, while I didn’t end up writing for them, I made a couple of really good friends there. Also, I can guarantee there will be either free boba or pizza!
5. You probably won’t get that staff writer position right away but DO NOT DESPAIR
College has a HUGE student population, and this means more competition than you’re used to. Not getting that staff writer/reporter position says nothing about your abilities or potential. At the end of the day, the editors and management receive dozens of applications for a very limited number of spots, which they are more likely to fill up with senior writers who they can trust. As an incoming freshman you still have a lot to learn and that’s what college is for! Even if you don’t get the position right away be sure to show up to pitch meetings and keep contributing to the newspaper/magazine. If you demonstrate a willingness to learn from more experienced writers, as well as a zeal for writing, you will get noticed. Even though I was rejected from my college magazine my first semester at college, most of the editors remembered me and my application and called me back the next semester. Focus on developing your voice and making connections within the writing scene on campus in the meantime.
6. Look into your University’s Radio Program
The process of airing a Journalism radio show or hosting a podcast is actually very similar to writing. You won’t be focused on grammar and eloquent writing skills but you still have to be creative and engaging. Oftentimes, the student-run radio is largely ignored in favour of the main college newspaper (I didn’t even know NYU had a radio station until my second semester!) but that doesn’t mean it’s any less important in helping you gain writing experience. If anything, you learn to multitask better, as well as develop different types of voices and skills, which are all essential to becoming a better writer. Also, the people you meet there will be some of the most approachable people on campus and will always be up for letting you sit in on their music shows or will hit you up with new music suggestions.
7. Don’t be afraid to start your own club if you can’t find the one for you!
I recently relaunched a low-pressure theatre club on campus to provide students with more opportunities to develop their script writing abilities and focus on character and script analysis. This was the result of me working on stage as a set designer at another theatre club and realising that there weren’t that many opportunities for students with little experience to break into the performing arts unless they were willing to work on a rigidly planned production. Starting a club is definitely a lot more work and can be daunting at times but you will always find students more than willing to join it. Sometimes, if there aren’t opportunities you have to create them yourself, so don’t be afraid to start that science-fiction writing club on campus if that’s what you're passionate about! Likewise, your campus magazine isn’t the only way to explore your passion for writing. Joining a theatre club that focuses on scriptwriting can be a good way to branch out.
8. Look into writing for online literary magazines even if they’re not directly affiliated with your University
I ended up here at The Incandescent Review because I was looking for a particular style and theme of writing that they encouraged. Maybe your university’s newspaper or magazine just isn’t working for you or you want more writing opportunities. Applying to blogs and magazines outside of your university shows initiative and can allow you to work on different kinds of writing styles simultaneously. It also adds more variety to your resume and shows you can take on different responsibilities.
9. Be nice to your professors and ask them for writing opportunities outside of class
At the end of the day, your professors want the best for you. If you take an active interest in their class and show you’re responsible, they’re more likely to recognize you as a hard-working student and offer to write you recommendations for proposals or internships. Most of your college professors will prefer to treat you like a mentee/friend rather than the typical student-teacher relationship you’re used to, just like that favourite English teacher back in high school. Use this to your advantage and ask them if they know about any upcoming conferences where you can display your work or about upcoming internship opportunities. Four years from now you’ll officially be their colleague so work on making those connections!
10. Be enthusiastic and take every experience as a learning opportunity
Writing is a grueling process and there are going to be times when you seriously doubt yourself. Every rejection will hit you hard, especially since you’re probably going from being one of the ‘best writers’ in your high school to competing with students much older than you and with much more experience. However, you have the upper hand. As an incoming freshman, you bring in a new perspective to the magazine and can provide a fresh look on your campus that hasn’t been explored before. Even if you’re passed up in favor of a senior writer this will only make your writing stronger and your experiences more valuable. It’s our failures that eventually lead to success. Plus, each one is just another story to write about.
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