March 30, 2012 / Spring 2012 / Staff Management

Yearbook exists beyond high school

Written by Sally Renaud

My editor walked into the Sunday night staff meeting and said, “I have been dreaming yearbook.”

I knew exactly what she meant, and my guess is that your staffers do, too. It’s that feeling that engulfs you as you start filling up your ladder, completing assignments, realizing a new trend needs to be addressed, selling advertisements, returning proofs in three days… you start dreaming yearbook.

As an adviser of a yearbook at the college level, I can tell you:  We want your students! We want staffers who know a little about design, photography, reporting and writing, and have heard of gutters, colophons and divider pages.

Naturally, there are differences between the high school and college yearbook. At the college level, yearbook is similar to an extra-curricular activity. It is often attached to either a journalism or public relations department. So students will have to find their way to the yearbook office either physically or on the web to apply or volunteer for a position on staff.

Whether your students plan to major in something yearbook-related, such as journalism, photography or design, or not, they should plan to seek out their college yearbook. And here’s why:

A built-in support system

As with any staff, yearbook staff has a hierarchy. Upperclassmen are the editors, who know the school and the newsroom. They are a great resource for younger staff. I have heard them offer advice on what classes to take, how to make it through that tough math class, what to do when you break up with your hometown honey. I have seen them take younger staff under their wings and nurture them as journalists and as college students. Lifelong friendships are formed.

Pay or credit

Often staff members are given tuition or fee waivers or actual pay for their work, making yearbook a job. As staffers become section editors or editors-in-chief, more money is attached. The act of payment for work produced means that students consider the newsroom their office. They treat what they do as they would any job – keeping office hours, doing work assigned, attending staff meetings. In schools that offer yearbook as a class, a grade is given.

Improve talent

When freshmen talk to us about their high school yearbook experience, they often tell us that they did everything. At the college level, we want them to take time to develop certain skills more completely, which is why, for example, the best yearbook photographers are usually photojournalism or photography majors. They hone their specific craft, and they want critiques and feedback to get better.


As in high school, college yearbookers travel to conventions and workshops. These state and national conferences involve professionals talking about their craft. Students attend sessions and hands-on workshops, meet staffers from other schools and share what they learned. While traveling they get to know each other and their advisers better. These experiences enhance the collegiate experience.


Staffers in college, as in high school, are often the brightest, most interesting people on campus. They KNOW things. They pay attention to their classmates and the fliers on the student union walls. They attend residence hall and Greek functions, lectures and sporting events. They have a better understanding of the university as a whole because they want to reflect all those events and populations in the yearbook. Being a part of the yearbook staff helps them understand their place on campus, and they meet that challenge.

As your seniors head off to college, encourage them to head to the college yearbook office. There, no matter what their major, they will find a purpose and family, and maybe a job – and they will have a great time all the while.

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Sally Renaud