When you think about it, writing is one of the only art forms that all college students have kept at since a very young age. From reading responses in English, to lab reports in Biology, there’s always been a reason for students to spell out their thoughts and ideas on a piece of paper. And no matter how good their writing may be, they’ll still be encouraged to perfect their work through both revision and edit processes.
For some students, having to produce multiple drafts for an assignment can get nettlesome and stressful, and leave them with no desire to write for themselves whatsoever. But for others, being able to pen their personal thoughts and stories leave them feeling more exhilarated than annoyed; they’re getting the opportunity to express their own voice, as well as begin conversations on topics that they’re wholeheartedly passionate about.
In college, the popular aspiration to write does not go unnoticed on campus, either. Universities are well-known for advertising a multitude of student writing opportunities, each with their own thematic agenda. From news and op-eds, to short stories and poetry, any student’s bound to find a medium for whatever genre they want to write in. And whether or not they plan to write professionally someday, writing experiences remain a great way for students to hone a skill that they’ll need well beyond their college graduation.
1. Student Newspapers
If you’re interested in reporting what’s happening on campus or planning to pursue a career in journalism, then the student newspaper can be a considerable place to start. Depending on what college you go to, the student newspaper tends to run issues once or twice a week, guaranteeing students weekly opportunities to write bylines and build a news-writing portfolio. Plus, the fast-paced nature of the campus publication prompts them to practice their time-management skills, as they’re expected to write about the most recent news while it’s still relevant.
But even so, you don’t have to be a news writer to contribute to the student newspaper. Most student papers also publish other styles of writing—opinion pieces, reviews and comic strips, to name a few. And of course, there’s no requirement that students can’t send submissions for both the news pages and another one of the paper’s sections.
2. Literary Magazines
For student writers who prefer to tap into their imagination, the campus literary magazine tends to be an ideal fit. The magazine primarily features different genres of creative writing, such as poetry, short stories and essays; and sometimes, the magazine will also include student art and photography to accompany its written pieces.
Students should note, however, that writing for a literary magazine does not ensure that they’ll have their work published. The publication can be choosy about whose work makes the final cut, as it only produces a handful of new editions each year. Still, the rejection shouldn’t make students feel discouraged. The team behind the magazine usually makes a point to read all submissions and offer constructive criticism, since their ultimate goal is to help other students become better at writing.
3. Digital Publications
Given that the latest generation of college students has grown up with computers and the Internet, it isn’t surprising to see more and more digital writing opportunities appear on campuses nationwide. Not to mention campus-based online publications are specifically geared to spotlight undergrad writing, including “Odyssey,” where students can share their honest perspectives on topics they care about; “Spoon University,” where students can write about food and wellness culture; and “Society 19,” where students can post their thoughts on everything lifestyle.
But, hands down, the most attractive part about writing for a digital publication is that students don’t have to worry about putting together a portfolio manually. Every student contributor has their own writing profile with all their published pieces in one place, and if they’re looking to do digital writing as a future career, all employers have to do is view their profile to find a collection of writing samples.
4. Spoken Word and Slam Poetry
Besides traditional published writing, there are also on-campus writing opportunities where students can bring their work to a whole new level. Spoken word poetry allows students to perform their original verse in front an audience. More than that, the oral art draws on the aesthetics of intonation and voice inflection, making it easy for others to understand the emotion behind the writing.
There are even some campuses that hold poetry slams, competitions where people read their poems without props, costumes or music. Slam poetry isn’t very different from spoken word, as both poetic forms have the writer focus on what they’re saying and how they’re saying it. But what makes slam stand apart is that the poet must move the audience through different moods in the span of three minutes and convey a message through both their content and performance.
While most college writing gigs require students to write in either prose or verse, there are also times where they’ll have the opportunity to write short plays. For the most part, a lot of student writers don’t consider dabbling in playwriting, as they usually don’t have much knowledge or experience in the genre. But there are a few who’ve taken a shot at it after seeing many plays or taking a playwriting class, and eventually deem penning plays their new calling.
As for opportunities, colleges will advertise playwriting festivals and contests, specifically for up-and-coming student playwrights. Truthfully, it’s a hit or miss whether a student’s play will be accepted and produced for a festival; playwriting, like any acclaimed writing field, is known for being very competitive. But despite the possibility of rejection, student writers can learn a lot from tackling a different style of writing, and use the experience to become a more well-rounded writer.
Granted, college students don’t have to limit themselves to only one writing medium. There’s no rule that you can’t be involved in both the student newspaper and a digital publication, or send stories to the literary mag and take part in slam competitions. College is the time for aspiring writers to take advantage of any and all writing opportunities that peak their interest. And nothing—i.e. your major, peer pressure or a fear that you’re not good enough—should hold you back from doing it.