I received an email over the weekend from a mom who is stressing about whether her accomplished daughter would be better off attending a liberal arts college or a journalism school.
I happen to be a graduate of the the nation’s oldest journalism school at the University of Missouri (see photo) and I’ll share some thoughts after the mom’s note. If you’d like to weigh in, please use the box at the bottom of this post.
I enjoy your college blog and I have learned volumes about how to evaluate colleges/universities.
My daughter is a junior, very bright and driven. She has a 3.94 GPA and she attends a very academically competitive Christian school. She’s a varsity level athlete in volleyball and track and field. She hasn’t take the SAT or ACT yet but from the PSAT and PLAN test she scored pretty well. Swarthmore, Reed, and Rensselaer, Dartmouth, Brown and a swarm of other universities have been writing and sending her mailers since her PLAN test in sophomore year.
She is highly involved in athletics and her father and all (4) of her uncles played college football so she has high level of appreciation for the sacrifice and discipline that comes with maintaining top academics and being a high performing athlete. She thrives in highly charged academic environments. She wouldn’t mind the opportunity to play college level volleyball, but she would only play at a school that benefits her overall plan.
Some Possible Journalism Schools
Based on the research I have conducted from the sources you provide, I believe she would best be served at a liberal arts college since she is a very cerebral and engaging student. I think the opportunity for her to be taught by professors would serve her best overall for her future.
She has a passion, however, to have a career in sports communications/broadcasting/public relations in the industry of professional athletics. So she had identified Syracuse University and the SI Newhouse School of Communications or UPenn and the Annenberg School for Communication. We have discussed between the totally different approaches between these two schools. Additionally, they are world’s apart regarding providing for financial need. We are definitely in the category of a family who needs financial assistance. I am a recent widowed mother of two.
What is your advice in this situation? How can an education at a liberal arts college meet the needs of someone determined to make a career in the field of communications/public relations? Does it even matter as an undergraduate? She does plan to get a master’s in mass communication and I know that more students from liberal arts college have success with admission and graduation with higher degrees.
Oh yes, she also does not want to stay in the West. She is determined to go East Coast or Midwest or New England area but nothing on the West Coast.
Any advice you can give is greatly appreciated. I have been studying the Carnegie Classifications and the College Results online but I’m sure any word from you will help to make the information from these sights more meaningful.
Regina covers a lot of ground here, so I’m just going to number my thoughts.
1. Obviously as a high-achieving student, your daughter enjoys a tremendous amount of options. Only your daughter can answer what type of school she should attend. She sounds like the kind of teenager who would excel wherever she lands. I think the most obvious solution would be to continue to explore both liberal arts colleges and journalism schools. Preferably you can visit and whether or not that is possible, email/talk with professors and students at those schools.
I wrote a post two years ago about this issue when my nephew, Tommy O’Shaughnessy, was debating whether to go to Missouri’s School of Journalism or Truman State University, a public liberal arts college. He is now a sophomore attending Mizzou and he’s hoping to get admitted into the J School. Here is that post:
2. I appreciate your daughter’s interest in a liberal arts college which comes with smaller classes and often far more interaction with professors. A student can make the experience at many universities more like a smaller school by qualifying for its honors college. For instance, the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism encourages top students to apply for the MU Honors College.
3. If she attends a journalism school, ideally your daughter would be in smaller classes once she actually starts taking classes in her major. This is something she should inquire about when talking with students and professors.
4. You don’t need to attend a journalism school to obtain a job in communications. I can’t think of anyone that I work with over at my CBS MoneyWatch gig that attended a journalism school. That said, a plugged-in journalism school can help students find that first job. If you go that route, I would recommend narrowing your search to schools that enjoy tons of ties to the industry and can help with internships and jobs.
5. I question whether your daughter would need a master’s degree in communications. I’m wondering how she would benefit if she already knows how to write and communicate well? (My husband’s got a master’s in journalism degree from Columbia University as a way to get the heck out of Alaska and his dad picked up the tap.) You might want to think hard about this, particularly with money tight.
6. Just because schools are sending your daughter literature doesn’t mean she would get accepted no matter how accomplished she is. To find out why, read this post that I wrote in September:
7. This is obviously a side issue, but your daughter’s chances of playing sports will improve at a smaller school. At Division I universities, student athletes can essentially become employees of the institution. They have little time for anything else and they can be limited to the major they choose because of the sports time commitment. Division III can be a superior choice for a scholarly teenager.
Here is a post that I wrote for US News & World Report on athletic scholarships:
9. Use a net price calculator. With money a concern, be sure to use a net price calculator to get a personalized estimate of what each school on your daughter’s list will cost! Here is one of my posts on these calculators:
8. I flew back to my alma mater in December 2010 after I was asked to be the commencement speaker at Mizzou’s J School. It was a tremendous honor and I’ll never forget it. For all you would-be journalism majors out there, you might be interested in what I had to say:
Good luck! Anybody else have any suggestions?