Interview Experience – ACJ

Have been postponing this post for quite some time. Cannot really conclude on the reason though. Getting into the Asian College Of Journalism (ACJ) was one of the happier moments of the past one year but the fact that I was not going there made it bittersweet. Nevertheless, here is a post on the entire process and what I have taken from the whole experience.

I stumbled upon ACJ during one of my marathon browsing sessions late last year. To be honest, had not heard of it till then. But, as I got access to more information about it, I was only impressed. I have always been fascinated by journalists. There is something very special about having the ability to tell stories to people and make an impact. Every news item is a story – something I learned during the interview process. I remember being glued to the television when Barkha Dutta covered the Kargil conflict and listening to Prannoy Roy’s analysis during elections. These people have a kind of power and responsibility which I found very exciting. I really wanted to be in their shoes, but, never had the focus or the guts to think about making it a professional choice. I mean isn’t studying engineering and then getting a decent paying job in an IT firm so much more easier/comfortable. Sure is, but, I never really enjoyed my work. That coupled with the fact that I knew I had a good shot at this course, encouraged me to send in my application.

The application is a mere formality but , there are a couple of sections that ask you about why you want to be a journalist and the journalists you follow. I tried to be as honest as possible while answering these questions and luckily, got shortlisted for the written exam. I went with zero and I mean absolutely nill preparation. There are two sections to the test. The first tests your English and the second is a general awareness test. I did the first one pretty well, the second, not so much. I went in with a slightly cocky attitude, thinking , how difficult can the questions get. But, the moment I opened the paper, my jaw dropped to the floor. The paper covered practically everything that had been in news over the past one year. Thai protests, Costa Rica’s political situation, aeronautical stuff, rural projects etc etc. I had no hope of being called for the interview after I finished the paper.

Fortunately, a lot of people pooped as badly as me :). So, I got called for the interview at the ACJ campus in Chennai. I knew I had a real shot at this thing and prepared to the best of my ability. But, general awareness is something that you build over time and do not mug up at any instant. Having said that, it is always better to recollect things especially if you have an attention span as small as mine. I reached the ACJ campus after a bit of a struggle given I am new to the city and how difficult it is to communicate with auto drivers in Chennai. You feel like they are abusing you :). I entered the campus with mixed expectations but was pleasantly surprised to see how small and cosy it was. It looked like a niche college – which it is. I tried to study the group and the only positive conclusion I could draw was that – none of them came from an engineering background.

I tried talking to quite a good number of people and their backgrounds surprised me. A guy had done bachelors in Sociology, one was from Humanities background. A lot of folks had done their under graduation in English and Political Science. A majority of them were taken aback when I told them my background. They had an “are you nuts” expression on their face. That made me realize just how big a chance I was taking with my career. Once, my turn came to attend the interview, I was a bundle of nerves. First, I needed to do well. Second, I wanted to major in Broadcast which was my first preference, so, I needed to do really well. My panel was filled with intellectuals. They were well read and informed and knew about a lot of IT stuff since they kept asking me again and again about my choice to change streams. I told them that I did not really know much about engineering till I got into college and the decisions up until then were heavily influenced by parents, peers and the society. The experiences in college have influenced me and even I have grown as a person and know what I want to do. I told then that I never regretted doing a bachelors in science, but, now I have an opportunity to do what I really like and will most probably enjoy. They seem convinced and kept advising me to think about my decision twice because, the media industry, contrary to my belief, is not doing so well and hence, the hiring has dropped significantly. Also, the pay scales are obviously not as high compared to those in a software job, although the hard work and struggle is the same, if not more. They were actually thinking more about my future than I was :). They did ask me questions about lots of topics and I think I gave them my informed opinions. They wished me good luck and asked me to think hard again before making any choice.

I came out confused because, although the interview had gone well, the concerns and points raised by the panel, made me think real hard. But, I decided to postpone the thinking till the results came out. Luckily, I did get in and got my first choice as well – Broadcast Journalism. But, just like the wise panel, my parents were also not totally convinced. They felt that it was quite a big risk and the whole point of studying so hard to get a good rank and then join a good college would be lost if I steered my career away in another direction , so early on. Fair points and eventually, even I decided that journalism could wait. There is no age limit for the course and if my interest and passion is sustained after a few years, I could always give it another shot. So, if anyone is really keen on journalism and has the support to go through with it, then there is no better college than ACJ – atleast for Broadcast and New Media.

As for me, I am content for the time being with my blog :).

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34 Responses to Interview Experience – ACJ

  1. yash says:

    good article nammu. As always..the grass is greener on other side classics :P

  2. Pankaj Saini says:

    I guess both the decisions were tough… first deciding to go through the whole procedure and then declining the offer… but more often then not we settle for comfort, security… same is true with me :(

    Still a commendable effort nonetheless :)

  3. g2 says:

    Well to be honest, there is a lot of sense in what the interview panel told you. First of all, the media has become so dumb in the last 2 years that the average IQ of the news correspondents now hovers somewhere close to Barkha Dutt’s age. I can only see it going down in the near future!

    And one more problem is that the media is becoming increasingly corrupt and the news is pretty much controlled by the ruling party and a few corporations. News is now designed in the editorial rooms and not reported… and again there is no glimmer of hope that things might change for good in the near future. In such a scenario, it is really difficult for one single journalist to really make a difference because his/her story, however ground breaking may it be, does not make the cut if it does not make economic sense both in terms of TRPs and in terms of the political affiliations of your editor.

    I got most of this information from a young CNBC correspondent who I met in a train. Even she got inspired by Barkha Dutt and Rajdeep Sardesai during the Kargil war

  4. g2 says:

    However she insists that she doesn’t regret choosing journalism… she is just a little frustrated and feels helpless that she cannot do much to change it.

    • Namrata says:

      I think most news channels today are entertainment channels first. So whatever/whoever is eye-catchy gets air time while, the more important things are sidelined. Having said that, I can understand why this girl you mention must be frustrated.

  5. obelix says:

    go for it I say – do what you like and like what you do …

    much applause for the guts and bravery involved in taking such a call

  6. mythalez says:

    it is hard to leave the comforts of a comfortable life … but still … what would you like to be?

    and I guess, they don’t have something like a part-time – occassional visits based course? That would have enabled you to explore without chucking the current lifestyle ;)

    • Namrata says:

      Unfortunately, they do not have a correspondence or a part time course, and rightly so since the course is just one year long and pretty hectic from what I hear. But, its over now :) , so moving on !!

  7. sameera says:

    Go with journalism only if you think you can sustain in this corrupted society. It really needs a lot of guts. Take a step ahead only if you can bring a difference in the society.
    – Just my piece f advice :)

  8. sundeep says:

    nice.

  9. sashidhar says:

    cool… i always wondered what can they possibly ask in a journalism interview, apart from english of course. LOL i never knew there was a situation in costa rica until i read this post

  10. Hmm… although I appreciate the points being made by the panel, are they not part of what you’ve labeled as “parents, peers & society” ?

    I’ve been where you are… Medicine, everyone says, pays much more than Computer Science. But in the end, what you will take along with you will be the impact/difference you will make as a journalist, and hopefully not the amount you got paid for it.

    I hope your interest remains alive, and a few years hence you take the decision you’ve deferred for now.

  11. Trisha says:

    I am so glad you had such positive results from the ACJ exams. Although I do believe its never too early to follow your passion, it is never too late either.
    But It almost seemed like the interviewers were discouraging you to join the course. I cant imagine why would they even slightly disadvantage their chances of adding new talent to their university. Weird people!

    • Namrata says:

      Ya, I think they were just making me aware of the scenario and giving a clear picture of what to expect so that I could make a choice. Apparently, the placements for the recent graduates from ACJ were not upto the mark and a few students were very disappointed. I guess, that must have had an impact on the panel too.

  12. ramana says:

    I can never have Barkha Dutt has a role model. For give me if I offend.

    Chitra Subhramaniam and Tavleen Singh and Seema Mustafa should be the ones one should look to.

    Frankly, news papers, esp. English news papers have no integrity.

  13. Kunal says:

    Wow!
    Contrary to what you are thinking, I would say you should follow your dream now, and enroll in the journalism college.
    Being an engineering graduate, you can anytime come back to this field. Granted you would not be in the same position as your peers, but at least one of the many in this rat-race would have followed her dream..

  14. ghost runner says:

    well … what you could do is get into that pit called IT and take up writing on a part time basis :) .You know have a go at it whenever you get the time (IT main tho milta hain time :p )

    That way if it sustains beyond the average time of a standard crush (talk of analogies !) , then you should think about jumping career (if you are really good you would have already made a couple of relevant CV points by then, even though its part time)
    … remember Mr.Qureshi from 3 idiots :)

    • Namrata says:

      I do not want to become a writer. There is a huge difference between being a journalist and a writer. Precisely why I wanted to do a proper course.

  15. Rohinee Venkataramu says:

    Dear Namrata,
    This article gave a lot of information to me, as i am trying for ACJ ( Radio Communication). Thank you for sharing your experience. This helped me a lot & also, it did boost my confidence. Thank you.
    Regards,
    Ro

  16. sadiya says:

    hey just ran into your blog while searching for acj. I actually have gotten through both acj and xaviers and am torn between the two..do you have any idea which is the better college??
    btw i am also an engineer who’s had a change of heart. :)

  17. Saikat Ghosh says:

    quite stunned to hear your story believe you me i also belong frm engg. background and graduated this year only in IT,previously i thought that journalism is much more interesting than doing a software job bt nw i am confuzzed plus i am nt placed this also paved the way for ACJ exam! my written xam was also terrible bt nw i am shortlisted for the interview

    • Namrata says:

      Hi Saikat. If despite your terrible written exam you got selected, it means the others were even worse and you were not so terrible in the first place :). So leave that behind you. If you really want to pursue a career in journalism then there is no better place. But, if you are going there because you have not got a job (which is a wrong reason) then rethink. Journalism is a tough field. All the best for your interview :)

      • Saikat Ghosh says:

        i am done with my interview and i am damn sure i will be selected at ACJ by the way i am also selected at IIJNM bangaore pls help me which one’s better???????

  18. I have my ACJ interview tomorrow and I’ve been surfing through the internet so that I could find at least some experiences regarding the interview. I found your experience and all I can say is I’m in 90% match now with your situation then. Bad performance in GK,Engineering background, parents apprehensive about the field, broadcasting stream are some that matched. I don’t know what/how I am gonna do tomorrow with the interview. And its highly appreciable if you could let me know how deciding is GK in the interview to crack the same?

    • Namrata says:

      Hi darknightvistas. All the very best for your interview. Being from an engineering background is actually a differentiating factor at ACJ because most people there are from arts. So leverage this to your advantage (better analytic skills, computer skills etc etc). As for GK, although the paper was tough, the interview does not focus much on it. If you read the paper regularly you should be fine! Keep an eye out for local politics or the situation in your local state because that is usually asked about!

      • Thank you Ms.Namrata. Your response is highly appreciated :). Will definitely keep the things you mentioned,in mind. Going through your blog and all I can say is I love it. Keep writing..you have a regular follower now :D

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  25. Aspiring Journalist says:

    Can anyone tell me how long it would take to know whether you got short listed for the exam? The exam is scheduled on May 17, as given on the website, but they have not yet reverted.

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