The college student’s guide to ONA 18

Christian Monterrosa of the ONA Student Newsroom photographs the opening of #ONA17 conference in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Curt Chandler)
Christian Monterrosa, a former member of the ONA Student Newsroom, photographs the opening of #ONA17 conference in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Curt Chandler)

If you’re a college student attending ONA for the first time, it’s easy to feel intimidated.  You may be looking to snag your first job, land an internship or just want to enjoy yourself without letting your nerves get the best of you.  Whatever the case may be, here are some ways to make the most of attending ONA:

Step outside of your comfort zone

ONA gives you the opportunity to make lasting connections, so be sure to put yourself out there.  Don’t be afraid to take a leap and introduce yourself to the journalists you admire. Track down people who work at your favorite media outlets and ask them what types of skills and experiences their organization finds valuable.  Take advantage of the collaborative environment at ONA and learn a thing or two from the professionals. It’s the perfect time to pick their brains.

“Meet with people for a coffee or lunch and ask any and every question. Everyone is in the spirit of learning and teaching all things journalism, so students should capitalize on that.” – Christian Monterrosa, ONA Student Newsroom, Class of 2017

Stop by the Midway

Location: Lonestar D on Level 3

The Midway is where you’ll find interactive booths, tech demos and free goodies, and it is open each day of the conference.  You’ll get to have engaging conversations, learn about new tools and stock your tote bag with everything from mugs to stickers to magnets.  Since “free” is a college student’s favorite word, it’s worth stopping by. Multiple graduate programs also run booths at the Midway, so if you’re thinking of continuing your education, it can’t hurt to begin your graduate school search.

Put those Twitter fingers to use

You spend all of your free time on social media anyway, so why not use it to your advantage?  Many people like to engage in ONA via Twitter, so join in on some of the trending hashtags and even live tweet the sessions you attend.  You can even peruse #ONA18 to find people who are looking to meet up. You will get to connect with so many other students and early career journalists this way.  

Have some fun

When you’re not attending sessions, why not go to yoga, sign up for the annual ONA group run or sip on a cocktail?  Peruse the ONA special events list and connect with fellow journalists while having fun. 

It’s an amazing opportunity to get to know people in a more relaxed setting and to actually talk to people. It can be super intimidating, but I suggest having a friend with you so you can force each other to talk to people (and) make connections.” – Alma Washington, ONA Student Newsroom, Class of 2017


This may be your first time traveling to Texas, so make the most of it. When you’re not attending a session, grab a group of friends and take a walk out of the conference hotel. Austin has so much to offer (and eat!) and so many activities are right at your fingertips.  When you need a break from networking, go on an adventure and see where it leads you. You might make memories you’ll treasure forever, but you won’t know until you get out there.

Remember to recharge

Interacting with people for days on end and trying to remember every detail of every session can be taxing. If you feel yourself shutting down as the conference progresses, remember to take a moment and just breathe. You need to make the best first impression to everyone you meet, and it’s hard to do that if you don’t feel your best.

Make sure not to overextend yourself. Conferences can be super exhausting if you’re forcing yourself to go (to) every single session. Don’t be afraid to take breaks during the middle of the day or sit out a session” – Alma Washington, ONA Student Newsroom, Class of 2017

Doing anything for the first time can be intimidating, but if you keep this advice in mind, ONA 18 can be a successful experience for you.