What Kind of Examples Are Best When I Submit Work Samples for a Master’s in Journalism Program?

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A common part of the application package for a master’s in journalism program is a portfolio or collection of work samples. Through these samples, graduate school admissions personnel hope to see the writing, research and storytelling skills you have developed so far displayed to the best of your ability. The types of work you submit when applying for graduate school in journalism can range from published newspaper and magazine articles to multimedia pieces of journalism content and even unpublished essays, memoirs, blog excerpts and academic papers. What is most important isn’t the format of the work but rather its quality.

Published Clips From Newspapers and Magazines

If you have an extensive portfolio of paid reporting work, you’re most likely going to choose some of the stories published in newspapers and magazines that you’re most proud of having written. They may be stories that made a big impact, such as investigative exposés that drew regulatory attention to wrongdoing. Perhaps your favorite piece is one that required you to dig deep when doing research or one in which you skillfully interviewed an eloquent source to get the perfect quote to drive home an important point.

You may have a story that stands out in your memory because the snappy headline and compelling lede drew readers in so well or because the topic of the article itself is one close to your heart. If you’re having trouble choosing which samples to submit for a graduate school application, consider asking your editor or a colleague which of your stories stand out most to them.

Keep in mind that you aren’t limited to paid work with a byline that you completed while in a staff reporter role. Unpaid contributions to school newspapers or community magazines count, too. So do paid articles that you wrote on a freelance basis.

Multimedia Work

Generally, applicants to a master’s in journalism program should have at least one written work sample to submit as part of their application package, even if prospective students don’t consider themselves writers. A written sample of journalistic work is traditionally expected. Beyond that one sample, though, prospective students who want to work in multimedia journalism may find that stories told in a traditional written format don’t convey their best work. If you’re going to school for multimedia journalism, don’t be afraid to submit out-of-the-box news stories like photo essays, podcasts and other audio pieces, interactive digital assets like graphics and documentaries and even software applications.

Of course, you should choose your work samples based on the strengths and requirements of the program to which you are applying. A school that offers only limited coursework in multimedia journalism and emphasizes traditional print journalism may not appreciate your ingenuity the way that a program that truly embraces new media and offers specializations in multimedia journalistic content creation would.

When submitting multimedia work, be aware of what formats of submission are permitted by the school and be sure to test links to online assets, double-check the accuracy of passwords and otherwise ensure that no common technical difficulties are likely to arise.

Other Examples of Nonfiction Writing

If you’re applying to a graduate program in journalism without prior experience as a reporter, you might worry that you don’t have much to show admissions personnel. Even though journalism schools tend to prefer to view writing samples with some sort of a journalistic angle, they mainly want to evaluate students’ capacity to tell a true story in ways that are compelling, accurate and unbiased. Journalism is one way of telling stories, but it’s not the only way.

You might submit other works of nonfiction, such as a memoir, academic research paper, published or unpublished profile or feature story or an investigative paper or report written for a prior class. If you write a blog, you might submit an excerpt that you feel is sufficiently high-quality to impress the admissions team. You might also submit a creative nonfiction personal essay, especially if it reads like a feature article or integrates some component of investigative research.

Not all master’s in journalism programs require you to submit a portfolio if you don’t have experience in the field. Programs without this requirement will evaluate your writing skills based on your admissions essay, statement of purpose and letters of recommendation.

Additional Resources

What Do Most Journalism Programs Look for in a Statement of Purpose?

Am I Better Off Getting Letters of Recommendation About My Ability to Write or About Potentially Being a Journalist?

What Counts as Journalism Experience for Graduate School Admissions?