How To Win The K. Phyllis Wilson Award and Other Journalism Scholarships

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Tuition bills. Residence fees. Textbooks. When you add it all up, being a journalism student can get pretty expensive. However, if you’re eligible for scholarships, this essentially free money can help you cover the costs of your post-secondary education.

Currently, there are over 30 awards and journalism scholarships available to undergraduate students at Carleton. The best part is, you don’t even have to apply for them. 

But don’t get us wrong, this isn’t easy money. These scholarships have pretty specific criteria and are often based on a students’ academic performance. For example, the K. Phyllis Wilson Scholarship is “awarded annually on the recommendation of the Director of Journalism to outstanding students proceeding from one year to another in the Bachelor of Journalism program.”

So how do you score one of these coveted awards? Well, it all starts with being a strong student and developing good study habits. Here are some tips to position yourself to win one of these journalism scholarships. 

Attend all your classes

In university, students have more flexibility to skip class because attendance policies vary by professor. BUT, that doesn’t mean that you should. Even if the prof follows the textbook, sitting in class and listening to the lectures will help you absorb the material. 

Plus, many professors have attendance policies, so you can have a direct impact on your grade simply by attending. Last but not least, attending class and participating in class discussions can help you develop a relationship with your professors. This can have a major impact on your overall performance. 

Communicate with your professors

In a massive lecture hall, it can be easy to view your professor as some kind of abstract entity rather than an actual person. Building rapport with them can go a long way. Take the time to visit them during office hours or strike up a short conversation after class. Doing this will show them that you’re engaged in the course material. And, it will help put you in their good books.

On the other hand, if you’re having problems with the course work, meeting with your professor can be a good way to get the help you need. They can show you how to make improvements before it’s too late. 

Be organized

University is all about multitasking. You can easily get overwhelmed with due dates, team meetings, and other demands on your time. Make sure you’re using a planner, calendar, project management app— any kind of tool to help you stay on track. 

Also, don’t just throw old homework assignments or tests in the back of your car or the floor of your dorm room. You’ll need these to study for future tests, meet with your professor to discuss them, or to help figure out where you stand in the class. Try to keep all your class materials in a central location, like an accordion folder on your desk, so you can access them easily. 

Take good notes

Whether taking notes from scratch or following a professor’s outline, you need to make sure you’re getting the most important details down so that you can refer back to them when you need them. 

My note-taking approach would be to type up my notes in class and then re-write them out by hand when I was studying. Some students do the opposite and write them by hand in class and type them up later. Whatever you do, don’t rely on screenshots or getting the slides later. Studies have shown that there are benefits to taking notes the old-fashioned way.

Understand expectations

Most professors give out a class syllabus during the first week of classes and it’s your responsibility to know deadlines and all the requirements for the course. That means reading all the assigned material (yes, all of it) and at the same time, knowing which parts of the text are most critical. To get the most of what you’re reading, you should also take notes and outline the material.

When it comes to taking tests, make sure you know the types of questions that will be asked as well as the content that will be covered. Many students skip the last class before an exam to study but this is often the time where profs will cover this type of information, so don’t miss out. 

Once you get the exam, take your time at the beginning of the test to read through all the instructions and make a plan of attack. Pace yourself so you have plenty of time to complete all parts. And know the point values of questions, so you can be sure to complete the most important ones first in case time does run out.

Last but not least, ask questions. If you don’t understand something or need clarification of the question, ask the professor. Don’t wait to get an assignment or exam back to find out you answered a question the wrong way.

Develop good study habits 

Throughout their time in J-school, Carleton journalism students will often be asked to do news quizzes. These are short tests, often no more than 10 questions, that are meant to assess a student’s knowledge of current events. The best way to prepare for these quizzes is to consume as much news as possible from as many different sources. But this can be tough when you already have a lot of assignments, readings, and other coursework to do. 

You can’t really cram for them since the quizzes would be based on a week’s worth of news. So, my go-to ‘hack’ was listening to CBC Radio or The National while I was cooking dinner or cleaning. I would also try to study with friends or share notes before the quiz. 

While a big part of being a successful journalist is getting out in the field and doing the work, if you want to win big journalism scholarships, you also need to make sure you’re staying on top of your schoolwork too. Plus, every single one of these tips will help you just as much in your post-graduate career as they do for your academic career. Good luck and study hard! Your journalism scholarships await.