One of the many responsibilities I’ve been juggling this semester is the multifaceted title of Newhouse Ambassador. This means I’m a friendly face towards which interested or accepted students can direct their questions. I’ve been attending Open Houses and Preview Days, giving tours of the complex, and most recently, sent a “welcome” email to a handful of recently accepted advertising graduate students. It’s difficult to sum up the year in just one — and to not let your current state of stress write a panic-filled email for you. I tried to give them an accurate overview of the year that awaits them.
I’m sure I got a similar welcome email about a year ago, and I really don’t remember what it said or if it swayed my decision to attend. I know my biggest source of anxiety eased by talking to current students was that I was going to be the underdog: I was coming into Newhouse too young, with the wrong degree from the wrong school, with not enough internship experience. I was terrified I was going to be “‘That Person” whom everyone spent the year doubting.
The truth? We’re all underdogs. We got accepted here because we were great at what we were doing, and being thrown into a program with a bunch of other brilliant people is very humbling. Newhouse throws you into the pool, and you have to learn how to swim.
We all bring different strengths and weaknesses to the table, and it’s knowing how to use them that sets you apart. I may have an English degree (gasp!), but I know how to think critically, how to write a paper the night before (this one is only half a joke, sorry professors), and how to read efficiently and effectively. Having the “final editor” title bestowed upon you for every group project is also a nice perk. Along the same lines, get to know the people in your cohort and spend time with them outside of class. Figure out their strengths and weaknesses in the classroom and play to them. After all, one of them could be your connection to that awesome job you’ve been searching for. Better yet, get to know the people in other cohorts. If a friend in another program needs you to contribute to his or her project, jump in. Dip your toe in everything you can here, because you can’t even begin to imagine what people are doing and creating within these walls.
You may feel like the underdog when you first arrive on campus, but that feeling won’t last. The moment you delve into industry publications and your first project, you’ll feel like you’ve been doing this forever. And whatever your “thing” is, never stop improving. Get better, until your underdog story is just a story.
-Laurie Silverstein is a graduate student studying advertising