By Emma Riglin
I’ve known that I wanted to major in PR since I was a junior in high school, and that hasn’t changed since.
I came into my first year of college thinking I would take a lot of PR classes and get hands on experience, but found out that my first year of college would mostly be general education credits. I felt discouraged after scheduling; I wanted everything to start right away and it didn’t seem like that was possible. Despite that, after coming to campus, I realized that even if you’re not taking a lot of communications or PR related classes, you can still get involved in the PR field and get some experience before your sophomore year. Here are some helpful tips for your first year.
1. Get involved. If you’re a member of PRSSA, you probably already know to get involved with communications related clubs, but PRSSA is one of hundreds of clubs on most campuses. At PSU, for instance, there’s also the Ad/PR Club, Bellisario College Student Council, Comm Agency, Happy Valley Communications, Kappa Tau Alpha, and many more, all just relating to PR. There are so many ways to get involved, and in an organization like PRSSA you get to meet other people in your major, learn about other members’ experiences and create future opportunities.
2. Find a way to do some hands-on work. Ask other members what they’ve done for their internships, or what else they’re involved in. Take on a project, such as writing a blog post, doing some graphic design or leading a fundraiser.
3. Contact your professors. Your first year you’ll be taking a freshman seminar class which gives you a little introduction to your future career, as well as a few writing classes. Get to know your professors, because they’ve been in the field a long time and have a lot of useful connections.
4. Get in touch with someone at home. If you’re like me, you’ll still be living at home the summer after your freshman year. If you have a summer job at a local restaurant or other business, ask to take charge of their social media. If you were involved in anything in high school, like a sport or club, or a community organization, you could also ask to do social media for them. If they have any events coming up, write press releases and send them to local news sources. This summer, I worked a full-time job and did PR for a local community theater I was involved in throughout high school. I created ads, wrote press releases, contacted local newspapers and radio shows and did social media for them, all while working my summer job.
It might be kind of upsetting thinking that you won’t be able to dive into your major your first year in college, but there are still plenty of ways to get experience or learn about the career field even if you aren’t taking classes.
Emma Riglin has been actively involved in PRSSA since her first semester at Penn State. She is active in other organizations, including the Oriana Singers, Alpha Phi Omega Honor Society, Volé, and she serves as PR director of a local community theatre group, Front and Centre Productions. Career goal upon graduation: crisis communications job in Washington, D.C. This post also appears in the Penn State PRSSA newsletter.