Mackenzie is an Associate Producer for the Morning News at WZZM 13 in Grand Rapids. She graduated with a bachelor of arts in Broadcast News from Grand Valley State University in 2013. She loves to read, watch television with her friends, and is a self-proclaimed nerd.
I never questioned that I was going to college. It was always something that I felt like I should do. For more reasons than I can really explain. So the question was, where should I go? What should I major in? I didn’t know what I wanted to do as a career, and I didn’t have any idea what I wanted to study when I started looking at colleges. I auditioned to be a music major at a couple schools, looked at Psychology, sociology, communications, film, history, anthropology… I was all over the map. In fact, when I went to orientation and got my course guides, I sat and highlighted things I was interested in. The pages were very colorful. I had a lot of options.
I chose to go away to school, despite the extra cost of not living at home. I felt that it was important for me to get out on my own a bit, to grow as a person by not depending so much on my parents. I wanted to change things up a bit, but stay close enough to home that I could visit for a weekend if I wanted to. I felt a connection to Grand Valley State University in Michigan, about 2.5 hours from my parents’ house. It just felt like home when I visited. And it was the best choice I ever made.
I still didn’t know what I wanted to do when I began classes, but I had an idea of the general direction I wanted to focus on. Communications of some form. I wanted to talk about the way people interact and communicate. I liked creating something that connected to people. So, even when I wasn’t sure what it was I was going for, I began to take classes in the School of Communications. Knowing those things about me helped immensely. I began my college career with all of the prerequisites for Communications classes so that no matter what particular major I chose within that area, I would already be on my way. That made it possible for me to fit in classes that were fun, creative, or in no way related to my major later on in my school career. It even helped me make time in my schedule to have a job, work with the campus television station, and work on my senior project at the same time as I was taking classes. Getting a head start on the pre-reqs is a big deal.
It actually wasn’t until a conversation with a stranger on campus that I realized what I wanted to do. It was midway through my second semester, and I suddenly knew I wanted to go into broadcasting. The conversation didn’t even really have anything to do with news or the creation of television. But for some reason it clicked in that moment, and I immediately set to work making it happen. I spent hours looking at all of the options I had when creating a schedule for the next year. I planned everything as far in advance as I could to make sure it would work out the way I wanted. I checked and double checked to make sure I took the classes I needed to when I needed them. You can ask my roommates. I worked hard to make sure everything went smoothly. Preparation helps save the headaches and the necessary advisor over-rides later.
I was lucky that I discovered one of my passions my freshman year. For some people that isn’t the case, and that’s okay too. I know people that had no idea, and just randomly chose something. I know others that changed their minds several times. And others who knew what they wanted from the start. Sometimes things take time, and others just need a spark to ignite a fire in you. Whatever is your case, give it your all. If you don’t know, go with something general and start exploring your interests while also getting the general education requirements out of the way.
That’s one of the most important pieces of advice anyone can give you. To pick a general area if you can’t determine exactly what you want to do, and then explore a bit. Talk to advisors, professors, and other students, test the waters with extra-curriculars outside of classes, and meet people. They can help point you in the direction you want to go. One of the most helpful and rewarding things I did was get involved with the campus television station. It helped me with my schoolwork, gave me the experience that gave me the edge over my fellow graduates. I met some of my best friends there and I still keep in contact with them with a group video chat every week.
College is about growing up. College is about finding out more about yourself. College is about exploring new ideas. College is about learning. College is about creating a foundation on which to build a career. Make choices you will be happy with years later. You won’t regret it.