What You Can Learn from a College Newspaper
While college visits, tours, and information sessions are great resources for learning about a school, student publications can be helpful as well. You can easily find a school’s main news publication with a quick online search, or grab a copy on your college visit. Looking through the most recent issue will tell you a lot about the school and its inhabitants. Student-run publications can paint a unique and full picture of a school that you may not find in the rest of your research into a school, and papers usually try to serve as objective records of campus life. Here are some of the things you can learn from looking through a school’s newspaper.
What are the most pressing issues on campus? The news section of a paper will often contain valuable information about controversial topics and events, along with updates on the most prominent on-campus organizations. You can gain a sense of which groups have a true presence on campus. You can also get an idea from reading news articles of how active and engaged students and organizations are, since reporters will often ask for student input on news events. If you’re seriously considering becoming a student at a particular college, the news section can also be extremely helpful in describing the conflicts and changes that will affect your life when you arrive at the school the following year.
What’s the political climate on campus? The opinions section of the newspaper can tell you a lot about the political leanings of students. If there seem to be opinions on both sides of political issues, then the campus dialogue is probably constructive, engaging, and two-sided. If the newspaper seems skewed and dominated by a particular ideology, however, it’s safe to assume that the students hold similar political orientations. Reading online comments on opinion articles and ascertaining the popularity of certain opinions can help you think about whether the college’s political atmosphere would be welcoming to your own beliefs, or not–maybe you want to be surrounded by those who think differently from you. You can also hopefully get a sense from the quality of the writing, not just in the opinions section but throughout the paper, of how strongly opinionated and eloquent students at the particular school tend to be.
Are arts and athletic events prominent and well-attended on campus? If not, which events are? You can certainly find this information in other places besides a student publication, but student-produced coverage of arts and sporting events will be more specific and atmospheric. Reviews of these types of events could also get you interested in joining certain groups when you arrive on campus or in attending performances or games, and these types of articles can show you which groups or teams are most active and successful on campus.
Reading a school’s newspaper can make you feel as though you’re already a student, drawing you into the world of the students on campus. Looking through a publication can be a great tool in determining whether the school is a good fit for you. Hopefully, you’ll find yourself engaged by the debates and interested in the events on campus, and excited about being a student already.