7 things to expect as an advertising major

Bryan Rodriguez holding the SOJC banner on graduation day.
Bryan Rodriguez holding the SOJC banner on graduation day.

Story by Bryan Rodriguez

Photo by Connor Reardon

“What is your major?”

This question haunts most freshman students when they enter an institution of higher education. It’s daunting and stressful to try to figure out your entire future at such a young age. Like many, I changed my major more than once.

When I dropped human physiology as a major at the beginning of my sophomore year, I could name all the bones in the body. I could have told you the prefixes, roots and suffixes to over 200 medical terms. But I couldn't use my creativity, and I knew it wasn't my passion.

My advisor walked me through my options. After I expressed an interest in writing, filmmaking, storytelling and photography, she suggested I take a couple journalism courses. After taking J201: Media and Society, I discovered my passion for mass communication, advertising and cinema history. The course material resonated with me, and I wanted to know what the School of Journalism and Communication had to offer.

It wasn’t until Deb Morrison, the Carolyn Silva Chambers Distinguished Professor of Advertising, came into my Media Professions class and talked about the advertising program that I realized what advertising actually was. She told us about the amazing work coming out of what she called the "idea industry" and agencies like 72andSunny and Wieden+Kennedy, illuminating career paths within advertising, such as art direction, strategy, production and copywriting. She also emphasized the need to always ask questions. I knew I found the perfect major for me: advertising.

If you’re a student who hasn’t figured out what major you’re going to pursue or just wondering what life as an adverting major is like, I recommend contacting the SOJC advising team. In the meantime, check out my list of what you can expect in the major:

1. Resources to help you succeed

You should expect to spend countless hours in Allen Hall, mostly in collaborative spaces and computer labs. You will become familiar with Adobe Creative suite programs, which are key for your success as a student and will come in handy when you start taking upper-division advertising courses. Take advantage of the broadcast studio, the podcast studio and the “cage,” the school's equipment repository.

2. Lots of group work

You will collaborate with your classmates. So much amazing work comes from inside the walls of Allen Hall, and many assignments emulate agency work.  You will typically be working with teams of five to six students, each with a different set of skills, focusing on one project. Google Docs is a godsend when it comes to collaborating with a group and meeting in person doesn’t work.

3. Plenty of competition

The SOJC is highly competitive, in the sense that the pressure is on to produce high-quality work. However, this atmosphere will make you better and prepare you well for life after college. A wise brand strategist once told me, “There are two things you can control: your attitude and your effort.” Don’t get discouraged if you feel like you’re behind — just understand that you’re on your own path.

4. Working with real clients

The advertising program gives students the opportunity to work with real-world clients. This challenges students, exposes them to real-life situations and enhances both their resumés and their portfolios. In addition to classes that connect you with clients, the highly competitive Allen Hall Advertising (AHA) student-run agency and award-winning Ad Team are great student organizations that give you great experience and portfolio-worthy content.

5. A kick-butt portfolio

If you have a digital portfolio before you take The Creative Strategist class (the advertising program's introductory course), then you’re ahead of the game. But if you’re like me and waited until the last minute to create one, you’re still going to be fine. You can use template sites such as Squarespace, Wix and WordPress to showcase what you know, your resumé and all the relevant work you’ve produced. Remember, the perfect portfolio is always a work in progress.

6. Flying like the advertising Duck you are

I mean this figuratively and literally. The advertising program gives students the chance to travel with faculty and staff around the globe. Science & Memory, for instance, takes students to the Oregon Coast, the Republic of Ghana and Cordova, Alaska, to conduct research, create campaigns and produce media about climate change, animal conservation, composting and other environmental issues. Over 100 students also get the chance to travel to New York City each year to visit advertising agencies during Creative Week, learn from professionals and begin building a professional network. Many of the students who go on this trip each year come back with a summer internship or job offer.

7. Being part of a community and graduating with a network

Reach out to other classmates, faculty and alumni and begin building your network early. The supportive community atmosphere of the SOJC and the ad program make this easy. These relationships are crucial for passion projects, internships and post-graduation plans. Reach out to UO SOJC alumni in your hometown and get connected. It’s as simple as sending an email and asking them if they can meet you for a cup of coffee. Make connections with students inside your classroom. You never know — you might end up creating an advertising agency in the future with the person next to you.

A few parting words of advice:

Freshman year is tough, and it is totally OK to enter "undeclared" with no idea what you’re doing. Take this time to take classes that interest you, pick up a new hobby and make new friends. College is fun and something you should enjoy to the fullest. Don’t ruin your experience by chasing a major you’re not happy with. Ask questions, do your research and look at all the majors available to you.

And don’t dismiss the advertising major because you think advertising is just about selling products. Advertising today is about solving problems and using the arts of storytelling and strategic communication to evoke emotion, spur action or spark a movement.

Finally, just be patient with yourself, have a positive attitude and know that you will find the perfect major for you.

Bryan Rodriguez, BA 18, is a recent SOJC graduate who majored in advertising with a minor in folklore. His final year in school, he interned as a digital content creator for the SOJC Communication Office with specializations in photography and film production. He is currently living in Los Angeles, working as a production assistant and creating films for small businesses and brands. Check out his portfolio to see more of his work.