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Vassar or Barnard for print journalism?

pinkpepsigirlpinkpepsigirl Registered User Posts: 20 New Member
edited April 2012 in College Search & Selection
Hello fellow College Confidential members! I have somewhat of a dilemma...

I am utterly torn between Barnard College, which I visited and absolutely loved, and Vassar College, which I have not visited as of yet, but find it to provide as many unique advantages as Barnard. Though still somewhat uncertain, I do have my eye set on becoming a fashion journalist of some sort one day--I have a special affinity for that scintillating world, and do imagine myself in the throes of its chaotic beauty as a career. Although it is somewhat deplorable in the minds of some to have such an aspiration, I dream of it nonetheless. Anyways, In terms of fashion journalism, what can each school offer me? I am planning on visiting both colleges for open houses/overnight stays, but I figured I should reach out to the online community in case there are snippets of important information I may not catch during my visits. Neither school offers journalism as a major, or even a minor I believe, so I am a bit scared that this may be a problem.

Also, when considering stability within my career, and job prospects outside of school, does anybody happen to have experience, or perhaps can tell me if it would be wiser to have a backup plan, or to write as a side job? I am quite confused.

On another note, financially, Vassar would cost me a bit less than Barnard would. Yet, I love that Barnard is in the city, and the fact that it is affiliated with Columbia University. Would it be worth it in terms of my aspirations to shell out the extra cash in order to go to Barnard, or to save my money and gain a (somewhat similar?) liberal arts education at Vassar? Thank you all in advanced for your consideration and advice!
Post edited by pinkpepsigirl on

Replies to: Vassar or Barnard for print journalism?

  • momrathmomrath Registered User Posts: 5,669 Senior Member
    First, let me be clear that you would receive an excellent education at both Barnard and Vassar. You'll be able to make a more informed comparison after you visit.If one or the other floats to the surface of your preferences, grab it; you won't go wrong.

    Now on to the fine points.

    I believe that Vassar would provide an excellent foundation for a career in fashion within the context of a liberal arts education focusing on all of the visual arts. This really isn't Barnard's strong suit.
    Print journalism and fashion writing are very different things. If you work for the NYT no one's going to care much what you wear or where you vacation (unless you're Suzy Menkes) but if you're an arbiter of fashion you have to walk the walk and talk the talk and most importantly dress the dress. Your personal aesthetic, fashion savvy and taste level will be as important as your ability to communicate in writing.

    Fashion journalism has undergone a seachange in the past few years. Glossy magazines are still popular, but so are web based formats and increasingly new venues like facebook, twitter, pinterest, plus apps for mobile devices that reach millions of consumers directly.

    So what you're looking for is exposure to a wide range of media, not just print, within the context of the world of fashion, art, design and style.

    In my opinion (and please, you still have to follow your gut, not the advice of a stranger) Vassar would have the edge over Barnard, both in interaction with the arts and in building fashion industry credentials.

    In fact, a superficial focus on material things is often considered a Vassar negative. In your case it would be just what you need. "Things" and the creative force behind them are exactly what you need to immerse yourself in -- how to describe them, how to predict them, how to promote them, how to make them irresistible.

    Again in my opinion, the last thing you need is a journalism major to become a fashion marketer. What you need is a love for fashion, a belief that it is important (or at least a good force in the universe.) During your undergraduate years, you should seek out resume building opportunities -- internships and summer jobs in the industry. Could be with fashion media, could be with the PR departments of retailers or brands. Could be folding t-shirts at the Gap. You need to get close to the product and the consume.

    In my opinion Vassar is closely tied to the fashion network, more so than Barnard. To get a clearer picture you should contact (or visit) each school's career counseling center and ask about their placements in fashion. My guess is that you would get a very different response from Vassar than from Barnard.
  • FutureVpFinanceFutureVpFinance Registered User Posts: 1,671 Senior Member
    Are you SURE Vassar accepted you?
  • pinkpepsigirlpinkpepsigirl Registered User Posts: 20 New Member
    Momrath, thank you so much for your advice! I shall definitely visit the career centers of both schools, as you suggested, and inquire about their placement in fashion. I hadn't really considered a difference between fashion and print journalism--though, on the point of the New York Times, I did have the opportunity to speak with Chelsea Zalopany, who works for T Magazine of the NYT. To me, this seems a marriage of both occupations.

    I do not know how I forgot to mention this, but I also got accepted into Syracuse University's magazine journalism program for the SI Newhouse School of Public Communications. This seems a choice I should consider as well, for I have the notion that it is widely accredited.

    In addition, Penn State was one of my top choices, for I've visited and loved it as well. Yet, financially, these last two schools would be a bit more of a burden than Vassar and Barnard--which is why I immediately narrowed it down to those schools. The value of the education, internships, and ultimate job placement may, however, overweigh costs.

    Also, momrath, if you don't mind my asking, would you happen to have estimates of what fashion or print journalists make in one year? I have gotten several estimates from the internet, yet wonder if you happen to have specific examples.

    And futurevpfinance, I will not conjecture as to what that statement means, but yes, I am sure.
  • redpointredpoint Registered User Posts: 1,235 Senior Member
    I'm sure the Vassar comment was a joke, given what happened with ED.

    I'm sure you have thought it through, and will be great at fashion journalism, however, this is a really really shaky field. I used to be in publishing. Don't count on making any money at it. I'm not saying don't follow your dream, but do have a back up plan, unles you have inherited wealth. Double major in something that can pay your bills. I'm not kidding. Journalism is absolutely not the best field to to into right now.

    Go to the cheaper school and save your money. They are both great choices. Congratulations.
  • pinkpepsigirlpinkpepsigirl Registered User Posts: 20 New Member
    Oh. I did hear about that Vassar ED scandal, woops!

    And redpoint, phew, that does scare me. I am aware of it, yet it is almost as if I sometimes refuse to believe it. Thank you for the advice, I will definitely take it to heart. I now how to figure out what else interests me....It's all so nerve racking!
  • momrathmomrath Registered User Posts: 5,669 Senior Member
    pink, I have no idea what entry level journalists are paid. I think like any profession your ultimate financial success depends on a combination of hard work, connections and being in the right place and the right time (i.e. luck). Top PR or investor relations positions at retailers or brands are very well paid as are top magazine editorships, but you have to work your way up.

    Again, I can't stress enough how much journalism has changed with the advent of new media. I'm not sure how the traditional journalism schools have kept up with the seismic shift in the industry. You are more likely to find opportunities writing for an e-tailer than Vogue magazine.

    Fashion reporting is a specialty niche and much like sports writing, you need to have a passion for your subject. The best fashion writers are totally immersed in style and design -- not just clothes but lifestyle.

    Taste level is innate -- you either have or you don't -- but you can develop personal style by exposure and emulation. That's why Vassar is a good choice, for better or for worse.

    My observation is that in fashion reporting, understanding the aesthetic trumps journalism credentials.

    My advice would be to get a BA in whatever interests you, ideally something that requires a lot of writing (not necessarily jouralism) and a lot of art history. In the summer get an intership at a retailer, fashion brand or cosmetic company. Learn how the industry works, then write about it.
  • chris'momchris'mom Registered User Posts: 56 Junior Member
    Search for "contrast" on the Vassar website - it's their fashion magazine. I don't know anything about Barnard or if they have an equivalent.
  • pinkpepsigirlpinkpepsigirl Registered User Posts: 20 New Member
    I have just came back from an overnight visit at Vassar, and I must emphasize just how much my view on the college has expanded, and how the 'intellectual curiosity' that was highlighted in the viewbook and forums is so very prevalent upon actually experiencing the campus!

    Now, of course, in terms of an English major: I do take into consideration job prospects. What are some views (if anybody happens to be graciously reading this) on the thought of double majoring in a humanities and a science? For example, if I majored in physics, and as redpoint mentioned, got a job in a more 'practical' environment, and double majored in english, so that I can dabble in my passion for print as well--would that work out? Vassar is extremely flexible in terms of scheduling, so I am not entirely worried about the course load and such (although a great workload in and of itself) as much as how it is going to help me after college. I am really trying to hone in on what I want to study before I enter college--I have too much anecdotal evidence on the horrors of the undecided college student! I am doing some serious consideration. Thank you guys, for all of your help!
  • momrathmomrath Registered User Posts: 5,669 Senior Member
    ppg, the beauty of a liberal arts education is its breadth. You'll have nearly two years' exposure to the humanities, social studies and sciences before you need to choose your major(s). It's too soon to worry about it. After you take some college level courses the decision will become clear.

    And, no, double majoring in disparate disciplines is not uncommon. Same for experimenting with different career paths. It's hard to imagine what "work" entails from the outside, but college is a great time for internships, summer jobs and networking, so the ultimate decision is less overwhelming.
  • pinkpepsigirlpinkpepsigirl Registered User Posts: 20 New Member
    I feel as if most of these collegeboard discussions are left with somewhat of a 'cliffhanger' in that those in future years that read these forums shall never know what the final decision was, thus making them only more confused. This has literally been the most difficult decision of my life, and I've deliberated morning and night, nonstop about which is best for me, and what would be worth it. My heart lies in both places, but I must say that I ultimately chose Barnard College for several reasons. I believe that the advantages of the city, in addition to my history with it, and the affiliation with Columbia pushed me towards this college. The cost is a bit higher, but I feel it just may be worth it. Although I'll always wonder what may have happened had I gone to the intellectual haven that is Vassar, I feel confident that I can thrive in Barnard just as well, perhaps better. :) Thank you all for your advice!
This discussion has been closed.