It is now January and for thousands of A level students across the country this is a very stressful month. It is the month where they need to finish writing their personal statement, gather all their teacher references and get their university application sent off to UCAS. It may have been 7 years ago for me but I can still remember what an anxious, overwhelming time it was. I decided to study media at university as it has always been my dream to write for a magazine (there is still time!) and I really enjoyed the subject.
Once in university, when I started to meet new people and tell them what I was studying, rarely were they that interested, let alone impressed. You see, many people have this fixed idea in their heads of what a media degree is all about, they envisage lazy students sitting around watching films while making the odd note or two, maybe. If you are a school pupil interested in studying media one day or a parent with a teenager hoping to fly the nest and pursue a media degree this September, I am here to tell you this is not the case.
I want future students to not feel the need to justify the degree they have chosen to other students who think they are superior, just because they are studying something more traditionally academic, I absolutely loved university but I had to work damn hard to get a first, there is a lot more to it than you may think.
Here are some genuine, common misconceptions of what people think it is like to study media…
1. It is an easy course to get in to – Wrong! When I was applying in 2009 you needed two C’s and B at A level. Granted, it is no where near the three A’s or whatever it is you need to be a doctor but you do need to achieve decent grades to get in. You can’t just show up on the first day of term, with a couple of F’s in your back pocket and except to be accepted because it’s just a media degree.
2. You just watch films all day – Nope. Of course media students have to watch some films but it is never just for fun. You watch them because you are later going to be analysing a particular scene, looking at the camera work, the semiotics, the political context or the feminist undertones. Not once did we just sit and watch a film. Unless you’re doing a film studies degree, watching films is only a very small segment of a media degree, usually only one or two modules.
3. You can name every actor/director in every film..ever – Ugh, this one really annoys me. Yes I studied media but please don’t be shocked when I ask you who that actor is or I don’t know what year a certain film was released. As I mentioned above, media lecturers are much more concerned about the deeper meaning and technical side of a film, rather than the people acting out the scenes.
4. This course must have been your second choice – Strange as it may seem, some people want to get a media degree. They enjoy the variety, the creativity it allows and learning about the history of the media and discovering how we arrived at the digital age we live in today. It is a really interesting subject and people who study it should be taken more seriously.
5. It is easy – Like most university courses, it is as easy or difficult as you want it to be. You can get by doing the bare minimum and be disappointed three years later when you don’t get the result you wanted. Or, you can work hard, listen in lectures, write essays to the best of your ability, study for your exams and then ,hopefully, you will get the result you deserve at the end. The work itself varies and differs slightly in each university but I wouldn’t say any of it was easy. When I was studying we learnt about several different media theories, video and radio production, writing for newspapers as well as online journalism. Not once was I given an assignment and thought ‘oh yay, this is going to be easy’.
6. There are no jobs once you graduate – Isn’t this the case for so many graduates though, no matter what they have studied? There are plenty of graduate schemes out there in the media sector, you just need to look and apply, apply, apply! Apply until you can’t bear to look at another application form ever again. The jobs aren’t going to just come to you, you need to put in some hard work and be prepared to sometimes work for free. So many companies want people with experience and sometimes the only way to get this is to do some good old fashioned, unpaid work experience. My life took a bit of a dramatic turn after I graduated, I ended up pregnant a few months after receiving my degree and any career of any kind has been put on hold ever since. I know with hard work and determination, when the time comes for me to go back to work, there will be media jobs waiting for my application. Nothing is certain when it comes to a career and you shouldn’t choose a degree you are not passionate about, simply based on an assumption that there is a job guaranteed for you at the end of it.
Did you or your child study media at university? Before reading this post did you share any of these common misconceptions? Have you ever had to justify your academic/career choices to other people? I would love to know what you think. I hope more people start to realise that a degree in media isn’t just an easy option and that the students are often really creative and actually, 100% of the time, they have a brain in that head of theirs.
If you want more information on studying a media degree at university, here are some useful links –
20 important reason to study media
What can I do with a media studies degree?
University rank tables for communication and media studies degrees 2016