I'm a freelance writer...at the moment I do a weekly feature for a paper and web/brochure copy as well as ghostwriting. I have both clients that need that minimalistic style and those that prefer "flowery." I think one of the biggest things you'll learn at university is how to cater your writing style to the job. You will need a tough skin as you learn to take edits/feedback. It can be disheartening, but it comes with the territory both in school and when your editor sends something back to you with half of it crossed out. It happens to us all and sometimes you have to step back and disconnect your work from your self worth or you'll lose it.
Bottom line: the same things that make you a good creative writer can make you an excellent journalist, but you have to know how to make that shift. The formula becomes second nature after awhile, especially in a program like the one you're entering.
I'm just getting back to work post baby now, but feel free to message me if you have other questions or want to chat about writing. :)
Starting Uni in a few days myself.. Haven't had time to read the whole thread. I will reply more later.. But I'm wondering where you are in Canada? I am also starting at a well known University in Canada :)
Like East Coast? Ontario? West Coast?
Edit: Now that I have read through I would advice you that nothing is set in stone. Go in with an open mind and remind yourself that you can always switch things up to suit you better. My friend is in Journalism (might be the same University as you, actually) and loves it. She has a great mix of very structured pieces that she has to write as well as opinion pieces that allow more of her own writing style to come out.
Even if you find that this course doesn't suit you, switching majors is not a huge deal- it happens a lot and from stories from friends I can conclude that it usually leads to people discovering what they really want to do!
As for grades, you will have to work way harder in University. All my friends (they started last year as I took a year off) have said it is very different from high school. I also have noticed that some people just thrive in University. My friend who got so-so marks in high school is doing amazing, on the other hand my friend who is used to having a 95% average is getting a bit of reality. Don't stress too much about it. Work hard and it will pay off. Go for extra help, get to know your TA's and professors. Use the help and guidance that is available for you!
I wouldn't be too worried about University. Enter it with an open mind.
Since you chose your major from the beginning and are attending a University that has a great program in Journalism, you'll be taught by excellent professors and be surrounded by passionate students. Don't compare yourself to the other students. University is about your development. It's all about becoming a more well rounded person.
Look at the marks as them trying to take your unique style and guiding into the journalism niche. You may find that you don't want to confined to a certain genre.
Journalism may not be for you because you don't like being concise. The journalism major is good to have because as long as the world goes round there will be stories that people will want to hear. Journalism isn't only about conciseness and learning to be professional. You'll learn about international affairs, didn't viewpoints in politics and religion. You'll see the world in a different way. You'll appreciate the writers of the Telegraph even more.
After graduating you can write a novel, an advice column, or run a blog. You don't have to use your Journalism way in the intended way.
I would take a deep breath and realize that University is an experience that will give you more experience, maturity, and a better direction for what you want to do. It's always easier to know what you want than what you don't want. Your University accepted you, they want you, the BELIEVE in YOU. That you are capable of greatness. They know that at the beginning it will be a difficult adjustment, but before you know it, you won't even remember what you were so afraid about. It's like jumping into a pool. It's scary and cold at first, but after a while it's warm, you don't know what you were afraid of, and you don't want to leave.
I wish you the best of luck and don't forget to breath.
Before I started junior high, then before high school, then before college, I heard the same messages. Things are different! The work is a lot harder and your grades may drop! Teachers won't be as easy on you! You won't know anyone! It's like, jeez, yes,(of course) it will be different, but I think it's always blown up to be more than it is. If you take it seriously and keep up on things, you will be fine, I promise.
I hear you on the different styles of writing. I am very good at technical, research-y writing, but I hate it! I much prefer the creative side, but if you are good at one type, you will probably be fine at another. You have the fundamentals and the skill, which not everyone has.
Your grades might drop. Mine did. I was an all A student in high school and my first semester of university I got more B's than A's. In my case, it wasn't necessarily the amount of work so much as the social distractions that got me. Nevertheless, I just barely scraped honors when I graduated. But here's what I've learned since then: no one cares what grades you got in college. No one has asked to see my transcript or talk to my professors.
I work part-time as a freelance writer. What my various clients want to see is that I have the ability to write. Your portfolio is going to say far more than the grades you received in your various university classes. Yes, you need to do reasonably well because your work will need to reflect that you're learning something, but don't sweat it if your grades drop a bit. In my experience, it's not going to matter later!
I feel like I'm in a position to talk about this a bit.
I'm a sophomore film major at a very good school that happens to be 2,800 miles from home. In high school, I did zero homework but paid attention in class and did fantastic on tests, so I coasted by with mostly B's and B pluses. My first semester of college...well, let's just say I'm lucky to still be here. My grades tanked. I was able to rally in January and mostly turn it around last semester, and this semester things are looking up. But still. It can happen. Your concerns are valid.
However, the fact that you're already worried enough about it that you're asking advice from strangers on the internet makes me think you're the type of person who will stay on top of things. Honestly, as long as you actually show up and do work, you'll be fine. It's good that they're managing your expectations, but it's possible they may have been exaggerating a bit. If your writing isn't always what they're looking for, that could potentially be tough, but hey, you're there to learn. My screenwriting professor actually instructed us to "sell out" yesterday, so I can completely relate to the struggle between writing what's assigned and writing what you feel. If necessary, you can always decide journalism isn't for you and switch majors, like Jess said.
I know how weird it is to suddenly be a small fish in a big pond (film was my thing back home, but here it's everyone's thing!) But there are positive things about it, too. It can be fun to be surrounded by people with similar passions/interests.
Anyway, I think you'll be fine. I'm not going to tell you how wonderful university is--I'm sure you're tired of hearing that, and you're about to find out for yourself! Best of luck.
Thanks everyone for your responses! Don't have time to respond to each of you individually but in general:
I like how a lot of people are saying I can always change majors if I need to, and what irmgard+theodorian said about not necessarily going into journalism even if that's what I major in. It's interesting to hear how some of you got better grades in university and some did worse (at the start anyway)- goes to show how everyone has a different experience! Thanks for reminding me that the professors and everyone aren't against me; they're actually trying to help me become a better writer.
I'll check in again later since I have a feeling many of you will be wondering how I actually find university once I start!
Journalism majors unite! *virtual high five*
I've just come out of a three year course studying Journalism at one of the best universities in the UK for the subject, and I'll admit I was bricking it at the start too. What's considered 'average' in school is considered 'good' at university in terms of grades: I don't know how the Canadian system works, but a first is 70% over here, 60% a 2:1 which is what most people aim for, when at school 80% was an A*, reducing in increments of 10%. It's quite hard to get a high mark - my highest uni mark was a 78% for a piece of coursework, I know a couple of people who hit 80% mark but very, very rare. 40% is the pass mark though and very few people fail unless they do absolutely no work.
WRT the point about flowery writing, get into features writing if that's your style, you're allowed to be more descriptive than news writing. Plus I don't know what your syllabus is like but ours is 50% practical journalism assessed by articles etc, and 50% theory assessed by essays and exams - stuff like media law, public affairs, things that would help us in the real world to know.
Expect to meet people with massive egos - those who think they're God's gift to journalism. I had a handful on my course and they did my head in at times. But there's also some genuinely lovely people at university too, and you'll work out who's who after a couple of hand-ins - who does the gloating Facebook posts when they get a first is a bit of a clue :p
I don't know if you learn shorthand as part of your course but it was the cause of 90% of first year failures on mine - it's the one thing you can't blag your way through. If you want any more advice or to talk, feel free to message me - but you'll be fine :)
I'm going into my third year at uni in Britain. Uni is scary at first but once you're settled in and made some friends everything is much easier. I recommend going out on freshers week (or the Canadian equivalent) and joining some societies that interest you as you'll make friends much easier this way. Remember also that everyone else is in the same boat as you: it's new for them too!
As for the academic side, I'm studying midwifery so journalism isn't something I know a lot about. However, my advice is to ask for help if you need it. The second years were right in saying that your marks will be different from high school but because the work is different and more demanding. Universities expect different things than high schools. This isn't something to worry about. As long as you can sit down with a paper after it's graded and think "Right, what does the feedback say? How can I act on that?" you will improve: reflection is key to academic and personal growth at university. Don't be afraid to ask for help, just don't expect it to be offered unless you ask. University won't spoon-feed you, they want you to grow and graduate and an independent and professional graduate ready for the work place.
It has been years since I graduated college, in May of 2001 to be exact. My BA is in writing, creative writing, I didnt "do" journalism (well, wrote for the school paper but that was it) for many of the reasons you mentioned. With stars in my eyes, I wanted to write novels and poetry for a living, honestly *not* a great "on paper" career move (which, I am currently a SAHM of 5 kids, lol) where as general "writing" or journalism is quite marketable in many ways. I sort of wish I had done a generic writing degree and taken all the creative courses "on the side" but came out with something to use later on in life. Don't get me wrong, my talent is *not* in matter-of-fact reporting (have you seen me here? I am all over the place with my sentences!) however, you can read all you want, take all the "fun creative" courses you want and if it sits well (which I hope it does) settle down with a "practical" degree in writing.
There you are, my 2 cents for the evening. ;)
But all actual coursework aside, I loved college. Loved the social aspect and "finding myself" aspect the most and doing things on my own terms without my parents/family around to dictate what I needed to do at any given hour.