7 Journalism Extracurriculars for High Schoolers
- Extracurricular Activities for Aspiring Journalism Majors
- How Do Extracurriculars Impact Your College Chances?
If you’re a high school student who plans to go into journalism, there are many opportunities available for you to pursue your interest. Obvious choices include joining your school’s newspaper or volunteering at a local news organization. But what if your school doesn’t have a newspaper or your local news team isn’t interested in help from a high school student?
Niche interests like journalism might seem difficult to pursue at first glance, but rest assured, there are many extracurricular activities out there that will improve your skills and increase your experience to help prepare you for your future journalism pursuits.
Some of these opportunities are facilitated by your school, while others are independently run. To learn more about how to explore the field of journalism, read on.
Extracurricular Activities for Aspiring Journalism Majors
1. Student Newspaper
This is the most obvious option for students who are interested in journalism. Many schools already have a school newspaper, and getting involved is usually as simple as talking to the editor or faculty advisor.
You may have to start in an entry-level role taking assigned stories, but you can think of this as good training for an actual career in journalism, where you’ll likely have a similar start. Over time you may be able to work towards a leadership position or at least start to source and pitch your own stories.
If your school doesn’t have a student newspaper, you might want to start one. Begin by finding a group of interested and skilled students. Choose a teacher as a potential faculty advisor. This should be someone who has taught you in the past and who has some kind of expertise in writing or publishing. Meet with that teacher to request advice and guidance.
Once you have the ball rolling, create a proposal for your school. Include any operating costs and details about how you plan to raise the funds needed to run the paper. While printing actual hard copies can be the most expensive part of operations, publishing online is a less expensive alternative that is becoming quite legitimate in the Information Age. Starting a student newspaper will allow you to pursue your interests while demonstrating your initiative and leadership skills.
2. Other Clubs
If you aren’t interested in writing for your school’s newspaper for whatever reason, bear in mind that there are other school clubs and organizations that can help you improve your journalism skills.
If you’re interested in broadcast journalism, you should consider organizations that emphasize technology and communications methods, as well as organizations that emphasize verbal presentation. These include:
- AV Club
- Radio Station
- Daily News
- Debate Club
- Mock Trial
- Model United Nations
If you have an interest in print journalism, you should consider organizations that emphasize writing skills and effective formatting. These include:
- Writer’s Group/Workshop
- Literary Magazine
- Poetry Club
- Quill and Scroll
- Journalism Club
- School Yearbook
- School Magazine
3. Volunteer Your Writing Skills
Any organization that produces written communications needs strong writers. Consider reaching out to local organizations that could use volunteers. These include:
- Animal shelters
- Food pantries
- Retirement homes
- Community centers
- Youth groups
- Your local church
These types of organizations generally welcome any publicity they can get, so they would likely be very happy to have your help. Offer to write a newsletter outlining recent changes or developments in the organization. Ask leaders for stories they would like to see highlighted or propose your own if you’re familiar with the organization.
Volunteering your writing services is a good way to build a portfolio. As you progress to more professional roles, you’ll be asked for samples of your work. Be sure to keep copies of everything you’ve written, especially when it has been formatted and printed as part of any professional copy.
Additionally, you could be a communications, social media, or public relations manager for any club on your school’s campus. Student government, service leagues, and activist organizations are often looking for help with outreach.
4. Enter a Writing Contest
There is a huge variety of writing contests available to high school students. If you want to gain some recognition or to win cash or scholarship prizes, entering one of these contests would be a good choice for you. Some writing contests even focus explicitly on journalistic writing.
For a complete list of some of the most respected writing contests open to high schoolers, check out The CollegeVine Ultimate Guide to High School Writing Contests.
5. Get Published
Similarly, you can submit your work to be published in existing journals or magazines. Many online news sites rely on submissions from freelance writers. Even if they don’t specifically seek work from high school students, they won’t necessarily know your age when you submit a piece of writing.
At some publications, you will only get one chance to be considered seriously. If you submit something that is not polished, they are unlikely to take your submissions seriously in the future. Proofread carefully and get constructive criticism from a teacher or peer before sending in your work.
Some online publications that might be good to start with include:
- jGirls+ Magazine (focus on Jewish girls)
- iGeneration Youth Magazine
- Affinity Magazine
- Cripple Media (focus on disabled communities)
- Ms. Magazine (focus on intersectional feminism)
- GeneseeSun.com (focus on upstate New York)
- BRIDGE: The Blufton University Literary Journal (focus on literature)
- Adolescent (focus on content creation)
Be sure to select carefully and keep in mind that publications that pay for submissions are likely to be more competitive and to hold you to higher standards overall. Consider submitting to smaller local or regional publications first.
6. Enroll in a Summer Program
Academic and extracurricular summer programs are becoming a more and more common way to pass the summer break. Many of these programs exist just for students interested in pursuing journalism. In these programs, you can expect to develop your journalistic skills, build important connections, and gain a better understanding of the field of journalism.
Some of the most renowned programs include:
Location: Washington, D.C.
Duration: 9 days (sessions available in mid-June and early July)
During this program, students travel to Washington, D.C., where they have the opportunity to explore the inner workings of important media outlets. Additionally, students get familiar with professional studio equipment and the methods of high-level journalism. Two tracks are offered—Newswriting & Investigative Reporting and Broadcast Journalism.
Location: Cambridge University
Duration: 3 weeks (July 12 – August 2, 2023)
Cost: $8,616 – $11,114
Through seminars and practical assignments, students attending ISSOS programs learn research skills, writing skills, and formatting skills. Students choose one Academic course and one Elective course, then supplement their learning through hands-on experiences outside of the classroom.
Location: Arizona State University Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication (Phoenix, AZ)
Duration: 1 week (June 11-17, 2023)
Camp Cronkite offers students three different tracks to pursue their journalistic interests—digital journalism, broadcast journalism, and sports media. Through the camp, students get exposed to the various elements and voices that go into the journalistic craft. 25-30 students are selected for the program each year.
Location: Washington, D.C.
Duration: 6 days
JCamp is a multicultural journalism program. The program focuses on the value of cross-cultural communication skills, the fundamentals of leadership, the importance of diversity in the newsroom and media, journalistic ethics, and the value of networking and career mapping.
While the programs above vary greatly in price, many of them offer need-based financial aid or scholarships. Be sure to research these options before dismissing a program.
You should also consider summer journalism programs available at colleges or universities. Through these programs, you can network with faculty and students who might ultimately be able to help you with the application process.
Some popular college programs include:
7. Start Your Own Online Publication
It’s important to have writing samples to show for yourself as you apply to college journalism programs. Starting your own online publication is a great way to produce this content. You can start a blog for free on many different platforms, including WordPress, Blogger, LiveJournal, or Weebly.
First, choose an angle to focus your writing on. You could focus on local news, arts and culture, sports, entertainment news, opinion pieces, travel, etc. Once you’ve chosen a focus, create a content schedule and publish articles regularly. After you’ve done this for a while, you will have an informal portfolio of your work that will be marketable during college admissions.
Once your blog is up and running, use email, social media, and word of mouth to let friends and family know about it. As with any other time that you add to your online presence, be sure to discuss your plans with a parent or guardian beforehand. It’s also a good idea to limit commenting on your posts to filter out spam or unwanted attention.
How Do Extracurriculars Impact Your College Chances?
Grades and test scores are important in the college admissions process, but admissions officers also want to see who you are beyond the numbers. Through extracurriculars, you can show admissions officers your interests and, more importantly, your commitment to your interests.
Our CollegeVine team recommends that you focus on 2-3 extracurricular activities that you care deeply about. If your extracurricular list shows breadth rather than depth, your admissions officer might not understand how truly dedicated you are to a future in journalism.
Additionally, admissions officers often group activities into one of the four tiers of extracurricular activities. The highest tiers—Tiers 1 and 2—heavily influence college admissions and are reserved for rare extracurriculars where students show extraordinary skill or leadership. Lower-tier activities—those in Tiers 3 and 4—are less distinguished, and thus, have less of an impact on college admissions.
For example, an admissions officer is going to be more drawn to a student who started their own school newspaper that went on to win a national high school journalism competition—an activity in Tier 1—than a student who was a general member of their school’s yearbook committee—an activity in Tier 4.
As you choose your extracurriculars, think about what will stand out to admissions officers. Additionally, put your extracurriculars into CollegeVine’s free chancing engine, which will tell you how your extracurriculars will affect your admissions chances at hundreds of colleges and universities around the country!