Top Tips to get on a degree

I wrote this blog nearly a year ago and thought I would revisit it. As term nears its end for many about to go into their final year at comprehensive, thoughts will start to turn to life beyond and university and degrees.

2012 will be an interesting year for many universities as course fees will have risen dramatically.

Here are some top tips if you’re thinking of applying for a journalism programme.

I invite all applicants for an interview, as I believe people deserve a chance and it’s a great way to meet them face to face to find out what they’re like and how they respond. Not all, however, get a place on the course and many are rejected for various reasons. For some, it ‘s simply not being able to convey themselves and use English to a high level, for others it’s because they don;t show any interest or passion for the subject. Some can’t even discuss why they like a particular news programme. Most often an answer is “because it’s on”.

Journalism is about writing and being able to tell a story in a variety of ways that actually engages an audience.

You’d be surprised at how many applications I read that are not well written or constructed. Do these people actually read through their work to check for errors and to ensure it flows and reads well?  While I write this blog, I am constantly reading it and re-reading it and changing things. I am never satisfied and take pride in my work. So first tip is to have an idea of what you want to say and construct it so it makes sense. Tip two, check for spelling and grammatical errors. So many applicants use lower case i, instead of I. It’s lazy and sloppy.

Don’t lie on your form. Be honest. You should be demonstrating why you deserve a place on a university programme. Journalism degrees are popular. You will be competing against many people. Look at what you have done while at school or college, which makes you stand out. Have you done work experience at a newspaper or radio station? Have you contributed to a school newspaper? Helped produce a community newsletter? Examples like this show your enthusiasm and passion in the subject. Simply saying you’ve always wanted to be a journalist, without being to able to show some determination, in my opinion, is not good enough. It shows you have commitment and a strong interest in the subject and will stand you out amongst thousands.

Another important thing, is ensure you have the grades to get you on the programme. There is no point in applying to a course that you will not get on to. I have had applicants send in forms and they clearly have not got enough UCAS points. Also ensure that you have met the entry requirements and if it says GSCE English at Grade C or above, don’t apply if you have it at D or not at all. With me these people get a letter recommending what they need to do. Many never come back, as they were not serious about getting on the course in the first place.

Also, if journalism is your subject, then demonstrate you read more than the local newspaper. While the local newspaper is good, demonstrating that you read other papers or magazines shows you take an interest. The same goes for TV and radio. If pressed, could you tell the interviewer why you like one programme or publication above another? Understand what journalism is and find out what a journalist’s role is. So many still come in talking about print journalism. They fail to realise (and this is probably because they’ve never looked) that print journalists use video to produce content for the web. So at least show you have a basic understanding of the career pathway you’re choosing.

These are some of the key issues. The next stage is when you get invited in for an interview and assessment.

So to recap on my top tips:

Tip 1 – Have an idea of what you want to say and construct it so it makes sense

Tip 2 – Check for spelling and grammatical errors

Tip 3 – Get involved with publications or writing while at school or college

Tip 4 – Ensure you have the grades

Tip 5 – Have a strong interest in journalism

Tip 6 – Understand what journalism is about

For more information on courses at East Coast Media call 01472 315550.


Interview gone wrong

I have just heard the most horrific University interview story. I interview everyone that applies for my course so I can meet them, they can view the facilities, occasionally meet the current students and sit an assessment test. It helps put them at ease and if they’re not suitable I’ll give them some advice as how to proceed should they wish to reapply at a later date.

Today my applicant was telling me about an experience they had at a university  (I won’t reveal names), which left them in a state of distress, crying and dreading the one with me today (she left here smiling and laughing).

It was their first experience of an interview and when they arrived quickly found it was a group interview, where they had to display their portfolios in front of everyone. The applicant found this very humiliating, especially when the tutor said they didn’t think their work was up to much. To top it off they were further humiliated when their coursework documentary was played in front of everyone too.

Then the person was interviewed by a final year student who sat and talked about himself. When finally they met a tutor, they were told they didn’t have the points to get on the course so needn’t have bothered turning up. At the end of this two and a half hour humiliation, the applicant said everyone else was being told they’d got a place and when  they got to them, they simply said they couldn’t a decision and would send an e-mail.

The person found the whole process soul destroying. There seemed to be no sense of how the applicant feels. It is a daunting experience to be interviewed by academics, but there are ways of letting someone down.

I’m happy to say that person left my interview feeling very positive and upbeat. “Grimsby is the place they want to be”, which is nice to hear!

Check out what I have to say for preparing for an interview

Communication – the art of the interview

Interviewing is done for a number of reasons, to first of all get information from people. That information can be to entertain, educate or inform the audience.

There are different tricks and tips to an interview. First of all know your subject. Why are you interviewing them? What do you hope their interview will give to your audience? Is there a purpose behind it? You’d be surprised how some I have come across, really do not know why they are interviewing the person, which is a concern.

Talk to the person before the interview to get some background on them. Ask around, learn as much as you can to help build up a profile and help assemble the questions. Understand what the contribution is they are making and what the audience will get out of it.

Even in those situations when I’ve been at an event and been told I’m interviewing Mr So and So, a quick chat before the interview helps me find out information and then think on my feet for the questions. It’s like flying by the seat of your pants, but you get through it. The importance is to listen.

Listen to what they tell you and follow through any lines. Listen or watch any of the greats. A good interviewer will listen to the person and encourage them and be thinking on their feet. They’ll also phrase their questions to get the best answer. Be on your toes and look interested (even if you’re not!), engage with them.

I only mention this as I’ve got an interview to do tomorrow, but of a different kind. The principles are the same. I’m interviewing for the BA (Hons) Multi-Platform Journalism programme and I want to see whether these applicants have got what it takes for be a journalist.