For this installment of Applied Knowledge, I’m going to step briefly away from getting into college and write about something even more important (and there are more important things out there!). What should you and I do once we get there?
Planning Your Future
While I do not know your area of interest, I know that mine is unequivocally written journalism, and in the following words I’ll speak about how I arrived at that choice, a choice which will inevitably have a huge effect on the rest of my life.
I began showing interest in the field early, toward the end of elementary school when I began writing the Massachusetts Monthly, a small “newspaper” for a few of my relatives. It wasn’t very good, but it was something, and it got me writing, which is immensely important. I also started making a weekly P.A. announcement entitled “This Week In History,” foreshadowing my future dabbles into broadcast journalism.
In sixth grade, I learned that my Middle School had no form of publication, so I started my own. The Reporter, which I hand-wrote in homeroom and distributed to about five people with copies I’d made in the library, was that publication. I even interviewed the principal once.
High School was a godsend. I was incredibly eager to join the school newspaper, The Forum, from the get-go. By the very end of my freshman year (in which I wrote a few articles), I was an assistant editor. By the end of sophomore year I was one of the News Editors. By the end of Junior year I was the News Editor, and now I am the Managing Editor, one of three top positions, answering to the Editors-in-Chief themselves. It’s been a wonderful ride.
In the broadcast field, I hosted a News Radio show on my high school station freshman year, and, as mentioned in Part One, I presented an interview segment on an internet show. During one of those interviews I met Marie Schwartz, President of TeenLife Media, LLC. I soon began writing this blog, which has become one of my favorite activities. Through another event, I met the Boston Globe’s environmental reporter and began writing for the Boston.com GreenBlog. Needless to say, I got very involved in journalism very quickly.
But all of this does not a career choice make.
After all, many people are very active in various clubs, including the school paper, for fun, to be social, or to try something new. What about journalism draws me in more deeply than that?
As someone who is a decent - but certainly not very skilled - artist and someone who has an ear for music but not the patience to play it, I have found that writing allows me to create worlds and sounds and artistry in a way that has always come easily to me. While my main focus is journalism, creative writing also allows me this privilege. It makes me feel more valuable, as it is something of value that I can repeatedly do at a high level. I find the patterned checkerboard of words that writing represents to be puzzling, intriguing, and superlative in every way. But what else?
There’s definitely something wonderful to be said for seeing one’s name in print, but that’s not the whole of it. Journalism is fast, it is energetic, it is active. Through journalism I have and will be able to talk to so many new people about so many new things. Journalism allows me to showcase my writing skills, something I am always happy to do. Most of all, though, journalism represents the truth. I look to college as an opportunity to get even better, to learn new skills, to meet new people, and to find new truths.
And that is what you should think about before you go to college:
What ignites this spark in you? What do you enjoy deeply? It’s a tough decision, especially as many schools offer more and more time to choose your major.
Obviously, you don’t need to go in with a career choice like I am. You don’t need to have life mapped out - goodness knows I don’t! But you need something, maybe just an idea of something you think ignites your spark, because I assure you that when you find a college or university that can kindle this flame, it will be an amazing experience that will help you make your eventual decision.
How to choose?
I don’t know, only you do. Look at your activities, perhaps, but not alone. Look at your interests, of course, but be realistic. Look at what things you can actually do, and build on that.
What I mean to say is this: don’t go to music school just because you play cello. Don’t aspire to NFL football just because you like sports. Don’t try for quantum physics just because you got an ‘A’ in calculus. These can be sobering truths.
We’re all coming to a point in our lives when we actually have to be part of our world in a really big way. It can be difficult for teens like me, who have so many opportunities in front of them, to accept the reality of what actually constitutes a job and a living. But it’s exponentially more comforting to find your true spark than to phone one in.
Let me put it this way: If the flow and rhythm and beauty of music is the body and soul of who you are; if the mechanics of melody is the beat of your life, then music school is what ignites your spark.
If the camaraderie and adrenaline of the gridiron is what makes the hard work of practice all worth it; if the thrill of a win, the agony of a defeat, and the amazing spirit of a team are what keep you going and drive you forward, sports may well be your spark.
If the argyled-perfection of numbers delights you; if the interlocking wonder of science is your curiosity incarnate, then try for that high level science.
But don’t do anything lightly; it’s harder in the short term but in the end, you won’t regret it.
This is part two of a series on my personal college applications. If you have not already, please consider reading Part One before continuing. Thank you.