Surviving freshman year of college

Heather Swick graduated from Bradley University with a degree in journalism in 2013. During her undergraduate career she worked as a staff reporter, news editor and editor-in-chief for the campus newspaper. She also interned as a student reporter for the local NPR affiliate WCBU, an editorial intern for three different magazines and a marketing intern for an insurance company. She currently works in tourism marketing and has published two books.

I tell everyone the newspaper was the best – and most challenging – part of my college career. I learned skills there that have helped me considerably in the professional world. Here are four life lessons I borrowed from my years with the newspaper:

1. All news becomes old news
This lesson has been critical in my day-to-day personal and professional life. On occasion, we would print something in the newspaper that people didn’t like. Sometimes it made the students angry, sometimes it made the administration angry. Other times we would print a glaring error and I was sure our credibility was lost for good. People would write in, calling us all kinds of demeaning names, and it ate at me for weeks. But then I realized those people moved on. New stories popped up. I still wanted to hide in shame, but another newspaper had to come out. No matter how bad something seems, it becomes old news eventually. People move on. So should you.

2. There is always another side to the story
As a student myself, I heard the complaints from my classmates, friends and roommates. Mostly I agreed with them. I was in their shoes. But often sitting down with the person who makes the top decisions gave me an entirely new perspective, one I would share with other students. There were plenty of times I was absolutely sure of something, only to have my viewpoint flipped entirely after an interview. Consider your sources and their positions, and realize there are many angles to every situation.

3. Learn from, but don’t obsess on, negative feedback
I dreaded the emails I would receive on Fridays after the paper went out. There are few things more humbling than someone writing in about the spelling error on the front page you checked over dozens of times. But it happens. It happens in the New York Times, and it certainly happens in campus newspapers. The thick skin I developed at the paper has helped me immensely in dealing with post-grad rejections. You learn that a mistake or failure on your part doesn’t have to define you; sometimes it’s the boost you need to become better and more skilled than you had imagined.

4. Follow Your Dreams
The first time I visited the campus where I would eventually become a student, I picked up their newspaper. I remember thinking how one day I wanted my byline in that newspaper, even if it was just one article. So I gave it a shot. After a little while, I dreamed of what else I could do, what other roles I wanted to take on. I remember the exact day I finally said, “Maybe I could become the editor.” And I did. It didn’t happen overnight. I worked my way slowly up to it, but I never lost sight of it. “Follow your dreams” is a cliché you hear hundreds of times throughout your education, but take it to heart – one small, doable step at a time.

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