Guest post written by Caroline Hughes, Texas Christian University student and creator of Sunday Morning
Writing is one of the essential skills that every student should strive to improve upon during their time in college. No matter what major you are, what your learning style may be, or what career path you plan to trek, you will have to utilize your writing skills. Whether you aim to one day have your own column, or simply want to sound more diligent in your professional emails, tidying up your writing skills certainly has no setbacks.
Although we gain a strong writing foundation in our collegiate courses, writing in the “real world” often takes a different direction. Your future career assignments may require a different level of formality, structure, and frankly, type of content, than what you were assigned to do as a student in academia. Hence, it’s time to gain some real-world experience.
A common misconception is that because college students are young and unpracticed, they cannot begin writing in the “real world.” But, it’s time to remove the stigma; there are plenty of opportunities to expand your craft as long as you work for it. Read on to see my top three ways to gain real-world writing experience as a college student.
1. Freelance for College-Based Websites
Freelance writing for college students is the optimal way to expand your skillset on your own terms. There are plenty of websites explicitly targeted for college students; the content ranges from test prep and student politics to relationship tips and Greek life advice. As long as you are confident in the knowledge of your niche, the owner of the site will probably love to read your pitch.
As you learn more about your career field or even become a master at your hobby, you can begin pitching to more credible websites with higher authority levels. For example, I recently pitched to a sizeable health magazine about how to go vegan in college. Leveraging your position as a college student, and all of the insights that come with that role, can be a smart way to get your name out there, and your voice heard.
Finally, it is important to acknowledge that freelancing is not all sunshine and rainbows. You will face rejection from some of these sites, and a few of your well-thought-out pitches may even go unanswered. However, you can’t let that affect your morale. Have faith in your writing and understand that every freelance experience, whether it is a win or loss, still holds value in your writing career development.
2. Create Your Own Blog
Creating your own platform in which you write about your interests is a great way to show potential employers your initiative and drive. Even if a New York magazine does not publish these articles, they still show that you can write non-academic content.
Having a blog proves that you took the time to write for the love of it, regardless of the fact that it isn’t professionally acknowledged. Additionally, it shows that you have at least basic experience with website building and development, which are valuable skills in this digital era.
Delving into the technological side of blogging may at first seem intimidating. However, fear not! Web hosting has transformed into a low-cost service that anyone can afford by scraping up some change for a rainy day. Although websites seem expensive and time-consuming, they can actually be quite simple if you take the do-it-yourself approach.
Because this student blog is likely more of an expressive outlet than a way to make a living (at least at first), chances are you are looking for something inexpensive. There are easy-to-use website builders out there that have a low barrier of entry. You can receive “drag and drop” templates that appear to be designer looking, but in reality, are as easily manageable.
Even if graphic design isn’t part of your original plan, to appear the most professional, high-quality web design is crucial. Your audience will view your information as reliable and hip, and Google will also recognize your site as credible. This relates to SEO, search engine optimization, which uses various tools to ensure Google ranks your website on the search engine results page.
Although SEO may not be at the forefront of your mind when writing your first article, consider some of the simple tips given in Google’s SEO Starter Guide. If your site doesn’t rank on Google, fewer viewers can reach it. Hence, it is worth the time and effort to invest in some SEO practices.
3. Write for Extracurricular Clubs
Finally, writing for extracurricular clubs is a great way to grow your skills without having to land an internship. By writing for a club you care about, your passion for writing will shine through, making the “work” far more enjoyable.
Depending on the club you choose to write for, your work can be as professional or casual as you desire. If you are in Greek life, apply for the position in which you submit articles to your organization’s national magazine. If you are in a community service group, see if you can write copy for event flyers, outreach emails to donors, or even a club description for your college’s website.
In addition to providing an endless list of potential writing opportunities, joining a club can also grow your network. Most student organizations have a faculty representative as well as connections to professionals in the community. Reach out to these accomplished adults and ask for feedback on your work or other ways to practice writing in a non-academic context.
Sharpen up your writing skills with these three actionable paths. Your portfolio will thank you.
About the Author
Caroline Hughes is an honors student at Texas Christian University, obtaining a Strategic Communication degree with a minor in Business. Caroline is a Content Creator with Magnus Opus, as well as publishing thought pieces on her personal lifestyle blog.