Today I chat to undergraduate student Marcella Homma about how to succeed applying and studying journalism in the UK.

1. Hi Marcella.  So, you’re studying journalism in the UK – what motivated you?

The thought of studying abroad always appealed to me, it’s like an adventure and a journey. I just grabbed the opportunity I was given.

Also, there are more job opportunities in the UK for journalists – think of the BBC and media companies that have reporters all over the world.  I am told more than 90% of the journalism graduates start a career related to journalism. The chances are higher but also, the people here in Brighton are lovely and very welcoming. I went for the open days at the University of Sussex and felt at home right away.

Another reason I picked the UK is I had gone to the open days at the University of Sussex and felt at home right away. That is what you would look for in a university –  the ability to feel at home even when far away from family and friends.  I’ve also found the people here in Brighton lovely and very welcoming.

2.   Such a high proportion of journalism graduates working in journalism-related jobs – wow!  Do you know what other career options there may be?

As students of journalism, we learn many skills, not just writing and factual reporting. We learn how to photograph, how to create a website, how to use online media.

There are many opportunities for journalism graduates to work in online media, for example becoming bloggers, vloggers, or web editors and publishers.  Or you could become a photographer or film maker (we learn how to use Adobe Premiere Pro).  Of course the skill you learn as a journalist can be useful in many different fields.

3.  For someone choosing a journalism course, what features should tney look out for?

There are different courses offered by different universities but I can’t stress how important it is to choose your journalism course carefully.

At the basic level, decide if you want to study just journalism or if you want to combine it with another subject, like media culture, economics or politics.  I chose a single honours degree which is a general journalism course.  I wanted to be able to try many different topics before deciding on which topic to focus later in my studies.

4. How do you apply to a journalism course in the UK?  Is it the usual UCAS application and January 15 deadline?

Yes exactly though I would recommend getting your applications done before the deadline.  The sooner you apply, the more likely you will get a fast – and positive –  reply. You’d also show you’re interested and want to go to that university. Universities like students who have a goal and a will to pursue it.

Spend a lot of time on your UCAS personal statement.  In mine, I started off by presenting myself (describe my personalities, interests, etc.). Then you can include your favourite journalist if you have one, how you perceive the news and ways in which you receive information (by reading, watching the news or applications for example). This will show your creativity, perseverance and journo-mode skills (able to be updated by the news).

You can ask your school for additional support and help, ask them to correct any grammar mistakes. Always make sure you submit a mistake-free personal statement – it illustrates your attitude and personality.

5. What can you do before you apply / while still in school to boost your profile and improve your chances for getting an offer.

You could personally contact the University to ask them about any questions you have about applying. You can always make clear this is what you have always wanted to do. You could mention them in social media. Many Universities use social network nowadays and can through that see you’re perseverant and willing to do anything to get that one spot.

Your grades are crucial, so be sure you give your last year a little extra. You want to impress those Universities with an outstanding profile, make sure you listen in class and that teachers notice it. They will leave a comment in your final file, the University will see this file. Be aware, each or any mistake you make at College or High School can have an impact on your future.

6. Is there an Admissions Test or Interview

For some Universities there is an Interview, for this you should prepare some personal research. Make sure you know what you want them to know about you. Who are you? Why should they choose you as a student? Be aware that universities have a reputation and need good students in their academy to keep up with other departments.

7. How Hard is it to get an offer?

To be honest, if you are a good and sincere hard working student, getting an offer will be very easy. You just need to be patient and wait for that one UCAS notification to pop up. But don’t worry.

8. Who’s on your course?  How mixed is it in terms of nationalities?  Would you say there are students who have a lot of prior experience?

On my course, I have many English students, about three to four students are international, including me. The difference from England to other countries, is  the fact that they have college before coming to University. Therefore, they have the opportunity to prepare themselves for the journalism course. Not in a direct way, but there are modules such as photography or media which can be chosen in College. This does however not mean that they have more experience, University is a new adventure for everyone and the course only starts when first term begins.

Different Universities will have more or less mixed classes in terms of nationalities. But every person is different in their own way so you will always meet new people with different cultures and ideas.

9. Tell me about a typical study week:  what does your learning look like?  Do you go to lecturers and seminars, how many hours?   Or do you have have workshops, group projects, and other practical activities?

On a typical study week, I would have around nine hours of classes, this includes lectures, seminars and workshops. I would have two lectures and two seminars of each an hour and the rest would be practical and theory.

In University, the important thing is to remember that your own personal work is the most important. The classes will only give you a basis for your studies, the rest depends on your own effort in self-studies.

In some parts of the term there are group projects, these are important in order to understand what team work is like, this gives your lecturers and teachers a feeling of how you perform in both individual work and team work. In fact, in Journalism it’s really important to be able to communicate with other people, communication is the source to new contacts. Your future career will be based on the amount of contacts you have, it will make it easier for you to organise interviews, etc.

10. What is the balance between theory and practice?

There will be around as much theory as practicals. The theory will give you the base for your practicals. Theory might seem easier than the actual practicals cause that will be the time to apply everything you have learned during the course of the module. Both are equally heavy in studying, there are a lot of readings to do in order to prepare for each practical workshop, you would want to be sure to apply the right techniques you have learned in lectures and the beginning of your workshops.

11. Do you need writing or reporting experience as a journalism student?  How can you get it?

When I first came into University, I didn’t have any proper experience as a journalist. All had done was writing in a blog and readings a lot of books. You don’t need it per se, but it can be very helpful. Reading and writing bring you up to the level of studying and will give you a journo-mode. This is what we call it in the course, it’s when you know what to do in order to become a journalist. It’s when you have found your own organisation and plan in order to complete your tasks.

You could get more experience before coming to Uni by writing for your school newspaper or starting your own blog.

It’s so easy, go on wordpress or weebly and create a blog on one of your interests and start writing regularly on your thoughts around the topic. Don’t forget it’s not a diary so try to include some sort of research. You can include this into your motivation letter and it will give the University a very good impression of a student who knows what they want to accomplish.

12. What happens after you graduate, can you start working in the field?  Or will you need to do internships, a Masters or other qualification?

After you graduate, there are so many opportunities for you out there. In whichever field you want to work, you need to get out there and grab each and every opportunity to bring you to the top of your goal. During your years at Uni, you can choose to do some work experiences or Internships during summers, this will be a chance to gain contacts and add into your C.V. You have the choice as a Journalism Bachelor to either work right away or do masters. You have so many paths you can take.

Masters will help you specialise in one area of Journalism and you could later on focus on that subject.

13. If you could give one piece of advice to future applicants what would that be?

There is so much advice I could give you about my experience so far in University but one thing that stands out for me is personality.

While at University, don’t forget you are there to study, library might seem boring at first but  trust me it will become your biggest friend. Take advantage of all the facilities that the Academy can bring you.

  • Use the equipment, it’s for free and it help you gain skills in your practicals.
  • Work, Work and work! This is the most important of them all. If you don’t work, you will fall behind and you can trust me on this, it’s soooo hard to catch everything up. When you get readings, read them and take notes. Teachers can ask you questions on them, having an answer will make you stand out from those who did not complete their homework.

Your personal research in the course is so important. It will give you a sense of what studying is like and will give you the motivation to do more work. The harder you work, the more it pays back. Don’t stick with the readings for the lectures or seminars but ask for recommended readings, they can become of use in later paperworks like essays. The more references the better the work is what our teachers would say. Expand your knowledge.

One last piece of advice, before I came to Uni I bought a book by Andrew Boyd titled Broadcast Journalism. This book has been my lifetime saviour here, I’ve read each and every page by the end of my first year. It has become a massive help through all my practicals, so if you are interested in Broadcasting then I would recommend buying this amazing academic piece.

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