What to expect at a journalism MA interview at Sheffield University

sheffThe crossroads of life led me to Sheffield University earlier a few weeks back for an interview for their print journalism MA.

My railcard didn’t arrive, hence I rocked up into Sheffield after a lengthy 3 hour coach ride. The city is student-friendly, cheap and vibrant (if you can decipher the Yorkshire accents) and has one of the best students’ unions in the country – the smoothies are certainly on top form.

Course directors David Holmes and Marie Kingsey welcomed us to one the PA newsrooms with an introduction to the print and broadcast courses, including the different modules involved, teaching and assessment. They also spoke about the importance of Twitter and social media (but if you’re reading this, you definitely should already know that). The department itself is certainly full of leading experts, and a lot of them have worked extensively in the media prior to coming to work for the Journalism Studies department.

The facilities:

The group then split off into those of us who had applied for print and broadcast, and then had a tour of the university-owned newsrooms and facilities. They included a good newsroom, partly sponsored by the Press Association, lots of flashy computers, radio and editing equipment. Some of the décor definitely needs a lick of paint, but I’m told it will see a £3million refurbishment in the near future. We went through the course in a little more detail and saw some examples of student work, which did reassure me a little about the use of white space in a newspaper…

News test:

The second part of the day included a news test, which I actually found quite fun. There were 10 questions on current affairs, followed by 10 acronyms related to politics, general knowledge and new media (they differed depending on the course you had applied to). Next we had a copy editing task; looking out for spelling, grammar and style errors and picking them out of a written article. Finally, we completed a news writing exercise, a 400-word article for print in the local newspaper (the broadcast team had to adapt the story for radio). We were given four approximately 300 word quotes from a variety of sources, and had to use the information given to write it up as we saw fit.

The interview:

During the final part of the day, which was a two on one interview with the course directors, they went through the results of the exercises, and analysed them, along with a previous piece of work we had to submit. For my application, this was a 400 word article on transport in the local article, which I admit I did lose focus on a bit, despite extensively researching it. They also looked through my clippings and personal statement which I applied for.

The benefit of spending time in a group of around 10 others who we interacted with for the first half of the day calmed me down for the interview itself. Lasting just over half an hour, they analysed the work I had sent in, looked at my blog and clippings, and asked me a range of questions. This included a good grilling about why I wanted to work in journalism, the future of the industry, and situation questions about presenting stories and getting information.

How to shine:

There is no set format for a journalism interview, every one is going to be different. The best way you can be prepared is to prepare a range of questions you think they could ask, and brush up on your current affairs. As long as your passion shines though, that is all the interviewers are really looking for.

Possible interview questions: 

  • Why do you want to be a journalist?
  • Is print news dead or will it adapt?
  • What differentiates journalists from bloggers?
  • How would you persuade someone whose daughter has just died to give you a photo?
  • How would you lay up this page?
  • How would you engage with people in the community?

Sheffield Summary:

Transport: fairly good links, just 20 minutes from the station. Trains aren’t cheap though, and coaches are sloooow.

Dress: burgundy chinos, white shirt, navy blazer. Someone did wear a suit, but I think smart casual was the look of the day. Most guys wore smartish trousers, a shirt and jumper with no tie.

Bring: a newspaper, some work samples and a map – the city centre can be a bit hard to navigate (though that could just be me!).

Pros: everything is cheap – coffee at 80p a cup (!) and NCTJ accredited.

Cons: Not near London so perhaps harder to get work opportunities, some of the décor a bit 80s in style and paintwork…

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7 Comments

Filed under Journalism, Universities

7 responses to “What to expect at a journalism MA interview at Sheffield University

  1. f

    I have an interview for this course on Thursday–eep! Your post is really helpful, thanks! I’m so nervous about a possible general knowledge/acronyms quiz…

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