The Washington Post recently launched a new blog for college students called College Overload, that offers advice, news and commentary on issues important to students. I interviewed Jenna Johnson, education reporter for the Washington Post and the voice behind the blog.
How did College Overload come to be?
We realized we weren’t really writing much about what students care about or are passionate about. Last summer we shuffled around a lot of reporters and editors and one of the new beats they wanted to add was student life and culture.
So, we launched the blog two months ago. College Overload gives advice for the career-minded, high achieving college student. However, we also want them to realize that college can be the most fun four or five years of your life. This blog is about the culture that surrounds a college student.
We cover a lot of quirky, interesting news, educational studies, tips on getting internships, studying abroad, how to get a job after college…a whole range of topics important to college students.
Do you have a national audience?
Yes, it’s intended to be, but right now it’s very heavily D.C. schools because of location.
How often do you blog?
Two or three times a week. I also accept guest submissions. People don’t want to just hear my voice; they want to hear the voices of college students.
Did you blog in college?
I was a prolific Facebook status writer, but I don’t think that counts. (laughs) A few years ago, blogging was just kind of getting going among college students. I took myself maybe a little too seriously, and didn’t want something out there that would follow me into the future. In retrospect, I really wish I had.
So you suggest that college students start a blog?
Absolutely. Most college journalists I see have a Website or a blog as part of their resume, which is very sophisticated and a great way to get your name and information out there. But I think anyone could benefit from a blog, not just a journalism major.
My advice is to make sure you have a central idea to it, be humble and continue to learn and grow from other writers.
Do you use other forms of social media? Should students?
Social media is one of the best tools students can use. There are fewer jobs, it is a tough market, tuition is going up—technology and social media allow for more networking options for students. Be creative, put yourselves out there, and embrace it.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to start a blog or become a better writer?
The best thing you can do is just read and write a lot. The more you write, the wittier and sharper you get.
Before I even started the blog, I had a month or two to think about it. I read other blogs, such as The Paper Trail on U.S. News, The Choice on New York Times and a lot of college newspapers who have cool, innovative blogs. I also get up every morning and Google the words college and university to spur ideas.
Are there any quirky writing rituals you have?
Ha ha. Not especially. I usually write my first blog post or two in bed with my pajamas and a cup of coffee. The more comfortable I am when writing, the more comfortable my blog writing sounds. You want the tone to be fun, light-hearted, conversational.