Every semester right before registration for classes begins, Elon University students pull up their degree audits and look for the classes they need to take the next semester. They scroll through a variety of blocked off sections with bolded letters all in different colors, seeing phrases like “You need a C or better to meet this requirement” and “8 hours waived for students with a double major.”
Looking at a degree audit makes it seem impossible that any student would be able to graduate within four years. In addition, the audit makes classes seem as though they are the most important thing in the world. That failing your classes would be the end. But don’t be fooled: life isn’t all about classes because classes are not enough.
I am a Journalism and Spanish double major, and according to the most recent registrar's report from Elon, there are 147 other people also majoring in Journalism. I am also a very active member in the Elon News Network (ENN) and attribute most, if not all, of the journalistic skill I have to that organization.
According to the most recent roster ENN submitted to the university, there are 90 members in the student media organization. But from personal experience, I can say that about half that number actually show up on a regular basis.
I believe success in journalism is all about repetition. Very few people can walk into a newsroom and create a perfectly written article or news package on their first try. Nothing I have done so far in my classes even compares to the real world experience I get from being involved in ENN. I have covered everything from the Burlington mayoral elections to move-in day at Elon. I gained experiences like interviewing drag queens for Alamance Pride and being harassed by community members as I filmed a stand up in front a confederate statue. None of those experiences have even been close to replicated in the speeches and events I have been asked to cover for a class. Journalism is not a field you can go into without having gotten the real world experiences.
But is not the only field you need experience in in order to succeed. Musical theater, for example, also falls into this category. I have never heard of a musical theater major who doesn’t want to audition for the musicals, or who doesn’t want to act or sing in some capacity during their time in college. Even within the School of Communications, the organization that gives experience to strategic communication majors, Live Oak, has an application process before members can be a part of it. Strategic communications majors want to get in so badly that the organization has to filter them out with an application. How can a journalism major possibly think they could get by without getting experience outside of the classroom?
But what baffles me the most is that I know of countless people who only do class. People like the 58 Journalism majors – at the very least – who are not involved in the one organization on campus that does real journalism. People who are not at all doing the one thing that they came to college to study. How can this be when I have received such undeniable advice that just taking class is not enough to get into college, to get an internship or to get a job? The simple fact is, if you don’t have the experience, if you don’t get involved, if you don’t practice and perfect and learn the skills in college that you will need in your field, you will never get it. Class is not enough.