By: Kathleen McManus
As a freshman eager to get involved, I wanted to find organizations that would supplement my learning and give me a well-rounded experience outside of the classroom. After being accepted as a member in Capstone Agency, I quickly realized I had much to learn in the public relations field, and an upperclassman in the agency recommended PRSSA. I attended my first meeting just a week or so later and quickly found myself excited to join another organization on campus that pinpointed my interests and felt like a good fit.
PRSSA is the Public Relations Student Society of America, and I am entering my third year as a member of The University of Alabama’s Chapter. Though I know I still have much to learn, joining a pre-professional organization like PRSSA has expanded my knowledge of the public relations field by leaps and bounds.
By joining PRSSA as a freshman, I gained incredible insight into opportunities in my chosen career path, had numerous professional development experiences and enjoyed learning from and meeting others with similar interests. Here are just a few of my favorite aspects of being in a pre-professional organization on campus:
Learn from Guest Speakers
My favorite type of PRSSA meeting is hearing from guest speakers. During my time as a member, I have had the opportunity to learn about the specific types of communication work of professionals in higher education, agency, corporate, music and many other industries.
One of my favorite presentations was learning about the development of The University of Alabama's Where Legends Are Made campaign. It was interesting to hear about how it evolved, especially being a member of the target audience and having a personal connection to the campaign. Listening to speakers share their career experiences has given me an inside look into opportunities I can pursue with my degree. Who knows if you choose to join and attend these meetings — maybe you'll discover your dream job from an outside speaker!
Grow Professionally from Workshops
As a freshman, you'll likely be taking lower-level or introductory classes. While these can be helpful to see if this field is right for you, they are very broad. If you are sure of your field, you will likely be eager to begin your professional development.
I have been confident that a combination of marketing and public relations is the path I want to pursue for a few years now and found that being a member of a pre-professional organization provided the opportunity to grow in a non-classroom setting. With workshops like PRSSA's Lunch & Learns, I am able to learn about topics like digital personal branding and scholarship opportunities with PRSSA. While the information I learn in my classes is a strong foundation, the topics I learn about in PRSSA supplement my curriculum to help me prepare for life post-grad.
Because being involved has helped me feel more at home on campus by meeting more students and provided me with great professional development opportunities, I am a huge advocate for getting involved on campus early in your college career.
I am thankful PRSSA was one of the organizations I joined early. There was no application (just a membership form), and the time commitment as a member is minimal. However, it allowed me to meet upperclassmen in my major who have provided teacher recommendations, internship tips and often serve as mentors. I have been able to become friends with so many people in my major simply because we are in the same organization. I love having this group of friends who constantly strive to learn more about the industry and grow professionally.
Being a member of PRSSA can easily extend beyond a monthly meeting and membership. The UA chapter is part of a national organization, which offers opportunities to hold leadership positions, travel to national conferences and network with industry professionals. Being a member of The University of Alabama Chapter gives me access to a national internship database and webinars that can help in my search and preparation for landing an internship. Plus it opens more opportunities for scholarships.
Getting involved as a freshman allows me to grow in the organization throughout my four years and will help me maximize my experience. I'm a firm believer in the idea that what you put in, you get out, and being a member of a preprofessional organization is a great example of the benefits of investing your time in your future.
No matter how far along you are in your college career, joining a pre-professional organization can be an easy but incredibly beneficial way to get involved. If you are a freshman, grab a friend and come to a meeting. It is never too early to get involved. I am so thankful I joined PRSSA and am able to grow with others in this professional environment.