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Questions Answered: The USA Today Collegiate Correspondent Program

May 31, 2012

Becky Hayes

With two UVM students getting into USA Today’s competitive collegiate correspondent program in just as many years, we figured it made sense to ask the latest correspondent, Becky Hayes, a few questions about how she got in and what she’s been doing since she did.

Hayes, who is The Vermont Cynic’s news editor, started the job earlier this month and will continue throughout the summer. Much like her predecessor, former Cynic Editor-in-Chief Natalie DiBlasio, she will bring her talent and experience back to the Cynic when classes start in the fall.

What is the USA Today Collegiate Correspondent Program?
The program is offered to college students in the fall, spring or summer semesters as an opportunity to write articles for the USA Today college website.  Writers get feedback on all of their stories from real journalists and have their work published and publicized on Facebook and Twitter.
What do you spend your time doing?
Correspondents are asked to write one article a week about something that happened in the news from the previous two days and then relate it to college students.  My deadline is Tuesday morning, so I generally start thinking of a topic on the weekend and contact sources on Monday.
How did you get the job?
I was skimming Twitter one day when I saw a tweet asking college journalists to make sure they apply to the correspondent program.  I remembered that former editor-in-chief of the Cynic, Natalie DiBlasio, had gone through the program in the fall and I thought I would give it a try.  I sent in a resume and some sample clips.  A month later I was notified that I made the second round of applications and had 48 hours to come up with a unique article based on a story in USA Today from the last two days.  Out of hundreds of applicants, USA Today chooses 20-25 correspondents each semester. I was absolutely overjoyed when I received my acceptance email.
What’s the most interesting thing that you’ve experienced so far?
The most interesting part of my experience so far is getting to know all of the other correspondents.  Because the program is nationwide, I get to meet journalists from different schools, backgrounds and writing styles.  They are also very helpful for getting student sources from schools across the country.  It’s been an eye-opening experience and one that I could not be happier about.
Any advice for UVM student-writers who want to write for a national audience?
Just go for it.  Take advantage of every opportunity out there by applying to as many internships, programs and scholarships as you can because you’ll never know what you’ll get if you don’t try.  I’ve applied to a number of programs that have rejected me, but happened to get lucky with USA Today.  Just keep building that resume with every small job because each journalistic endeavor you take is a stepping stone to something bigger.
The USA Today program is offered each spring, summer and fall. For more information, click here.

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