“So, what do you want to do with your life?”
Ugh. It’s the dreaded question that us college students get asked at the dinner table at the holidays. For me personally, the answer to this question is usually longer than the question itself. My response is usually something like, “well, I’m in grad school for journalism, so I guess maybe an investigative reporter, or a reporter that covers a government or science beat. I also like public relations and did that in undergrad, so maybe doing PR for a government or justice agency, or maybe in a school setting. I also have a bachelor’s in criminal justice, so I guess I could also see myself as a legal assistant, a crime analyst or a profiler.” I’m out of breath by this point, not going to lie.
The time in my life that this question really bothered me and got me flustered was during my senior year of undergrad. In September of that year, I found myself applying to three different graduate schools; Newhouse (of course), Emerson College and Boston University. I had visited all of these schools prior to applying just so I could get a sense of what the facilities are like, what the environment is like and most importantly, how the programs were. I was set on Emerson for a long time actually, but when I saw Newhouse during my junior year, that changed.
No matter where I went, the plan was to get a master’s in either journalism or public relations. I also always had a plan to go on to get my master’s. If I was not able to get in anywhere, the plan would’ve been to try to get into a master’s program for criminal justice, or just try and enter the job market with the two degrees that I obtained from undergrad. For Newhouse and Boston University, I applied for both the public relations and journalism program. For Emerson, I found myself just applying for the public relations program. After getting acceptances from all three schools, I ended up making more appointments with the career services office at my undergrad. Secretly, I really wanted someone else to tell me what I should do with my life and where I should go. I had liked both programs so much, and was just so unsure about what one would suit me better. Also, Boston University was offering a full ride to an applicant that was a first-generation college student. I ended up applying for that after talking with the career services office, even though my first choice at that point was Newhouse. It wasn’t until March that I decided on the magazine, news and online journalism program at Newhouse, after finding out that day that someone else had gotten the full ride to Boston University. Newhouse was my first choice anyway, and in a way, I’m glad things didn’t work out with Boston University.
Even though I am in the journalism program, I am still heavily interested in public relations. One of the other things I realized was that I could still pursue a career in public relations even after getting a master’s degree in journalism. I’ve even found myself applying to public relations positions with graduation only being weeks away. I’m also still getting my daily dose of public relations through electives that I’ve chosen to take, as well as through a research assistant opportunity that involves helping a public relations professor write a textbook.
I’m grateful that Newhouse gave me this opportunity to learn more about two fields that I really like. Even though one is not being done in the “traditional way,” I’m happy to have knowledge of both areas. I think it will make me more well-rounded when I send in applications to jobs.
The advice I would offer for anyone that is stuck between two programs, is to pursue the program that you think you know less about. I chose journalism because I mainly took public relations classes in undergrad and only really had knowledge of journalism from writing and editing for the student newspaper. With the other program, use your electives to brush up your knowledge on that area as well. It’s also a way to meet new professors and students that are not from your program, which is not a bad idea. All of the electives I’ve taken with the exception of one, have been public relations or social media based. Plus you get new experiences as well. If I had never taken public relations electives, my knowledge in that field probably wouldn’t have grown and wouldn’t be where it is today.
Sometimes you just have to get out of your comfort zone, and even though it might be scary, it will be so rewarding in the end. I promise.