Columbia Scholastic Press Association

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

Columbia University campus

Columbia Scholastic Press Association

The Columbia Scholastic Press Association (CSPA) is an international press association with the goal to empower and unite student journalists as well as school faculty advisors. Offering educational conferences, idea exchanges, critiques, and award programs, Columbia Scholastic Press Association offers some of the best resources for high school students interested in journalism and writing. This association, which has been making a name for itself since 1925, is directly affiliated with the Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism and offers students exposure to and connection to one of the best colleges in the country for journalism. If you’re considering a career in journalism or have an interest in learning more about the field of writing, then Columbia Scholastic Press Association is for you.

a group of medical students walking in a hallway

Why High Schoolers Should Consider the Columbia Scholastic Press Association

Ever since it was founded, the Columbia Scholastic Press Association has been known as one of the most prestigious press associations in the country and the annual conference has been known to catch the attention of many of America’s leaders. In 1952, President Harry S. Truman directly addressed the Columbia Scholastic Press Association at their annual conference in New York asking them, as the next generation of journalists, to rightly maintain America’s image – as it is their duty.

a male student sitting inside a classroom and smiling

Located in the media capital of the country, New York City, Columbia Scholastic Press Association is a great organization for students to be affiliated with if they are considering a career in journalism. For years on end, CSPA has kept its finger on the pulse when it comes to journalism and helps students not only build their writing skills but also stay in the know of the press industry.

What The CSPA Offers

The Columbia Scholastic Press Association offers 3 yearly events for students and faculty to get involved in. These events are:

Spring National Convention: 

This 3-day annual convention takes place at Columbia University in mid-March every year and attendance is open to student editors as well as faculty advisors to school yearbooks, newspapers, magazines, and other school media outlets. With attendees from the United States, Canada, and other countries that follow an American plan of education, this convention consists of over 350 sessions covering 8 areas of expertise.

The subjects covered include digital media, newspaper, yearbook, magazine, photography, broadcasting, advisers, and law/ ethics; which all run simultaneously in a sequence for all 3 days of this convention. Early registration for the convention, before February 26th, gets you in the door for $149 and any time after February 26th will cost you $159. There is also a free luncheon for faculty advisors that can choose to attend but they must reserve their seat beforehand, as there are only 180 seats can be accommodated. More information on registering for this event can be viewed here.

Summer Journalism Workshop 

Each summer during the last week of June, Columbia University offers 200 students the opportunity to participate in this 5-day intensive workshop. This workshop is available to incoming sophomore, junior or senior students in high school and gives them the opportunity to focus on either writing, editing, the management, or advanced design.

Whatever path each student chooses to pursue at the CSPA Summer Journalism Workshop, they will have the opportunity to spend the week in classes focused on that area of study specifically. Registration is limited and is first-come-first-serve for this prestigious workshop, but it is well worth each student’s time if they are looking to take their media game and expertise to the next level. The cost to attend this conference $775 for the week and housing and food fees are typically around $1200. More information about registering for the workshop can be located here.

Three university students lounging in the school

Fall Regional Conference

This one day conference takes place on the first Monday in November, at Columbia University in New York City. This conference is open to student editors and their faculty advisors that are involved in student digital media, newspapers, yearbooks, and magazines. This conference is typically advertised for students in the Northeastern region, as Columbia is conveniently located near them, but students from all around the country also have the option to attend.

This is a jam-packed day for the Columbia Scholastic Press Association and over 80 sessions in writing and editing, design and layout, law and ethics, and more are offered to the attendees. The costs to attend this conference are typical $52, but there are special discounts offered to groups of 4 or more. You can learn more about registering for the Fall Regional Conference here.

CSPA Competitions

The Columbia Scholastic Press Association also has competitions for students to participate in on both a team and individual level. There are 3 competitions available and all of them offer a great opportunity for meaningful feedback from one of the top universities in the country.

The first competition is the Medalist Critiques, which allows students/ faculty advisors to submit their print or digital publication and receive back detailed feedback as well as a Bronze, Silver, or Gold rating. The second competition is the Crown Awards, which is very similar to the Medalist Critiques, except print and digital publications are compared with other schools and given a rating accordingly. Lastly, the Gold Circle Awards recognizes achievements made by individuals who have submitted an entry in one of the many CSPA categories; the top 3 entries in each category then receive a certification.

Levels of Memberships

Becoming a member of the Columbia Scholastic Press Association is rather easy, however, the more that students contribute to the association, the more they will get out. Students do not need to be members in order to attend the National Convention, the Summer Workshop, or the Fall Regional Conference, but they do need a membership to enter the competitions – which are often the most valuable aspect of the CSPA. There are 3 levels of membership offered which are: Basic, Associate, and Regular.

  • Basic membership offers:
    • 30 Free Gold Circle Entries
    • Access to the Special Edition Crown Awards Slideshow
    • Cost $219/ year
  • Associate Membership offers:
    • Crown judging
    • 30 Free Gold Circle Entries
    • Access to the Special Edition Crown Awards Slideshow
    • Cost $239/ year
  • Regular Membership offers:
    • Medalist Critique
    • Crown judging
    • 30 Free Gold Circle Entries
    • Access to the Special Edition Crown Awards Slideshow
    • Cost $279/ year, for Digital and Print and $319/ year for both together

Now if you’re considering joining the Columbia Scholastic Press Association, you might be wondering which tier of membership is right for you? Well, if you’re interested in just submitting your personal work to the Gold Circle awards, which is the most popular than the basic memberships would work for you. However, members at the basic level don’t get much feedback from their work, and rather just receive a placing in the competition amongst their peers.

The Associate membership offers very similar perks to the basic membership, except it also includes entry to the Crown Judging – which allows students to submit their school’s digital or print publication.

The Regular Membership, at the top of the tier, allows students all the perks of the Basic and Associate memberships, except it also includes a Medalist Critique, which allows them to not only receive a rating on their publication amongst other schools but also meaningful feedback, which can be used to better their skills in the field.

This is essentially the most valuable aspect of the CSPA, especially if you are unable to attend a workshop or convention, and offer students feedback that can be critical in their growth as an aspiring journalist.

Skills and Advantages Acquired at CSPA

The Columbia Scholastic Press Association has clear goals set to ensure that all members of the association leave more knowledgeable about the industry than they entered with. These goals, which they have followed since their beginning in 1925 are as follows:

  • To make a clear expression the standard for success.
  • To maintain the student media for students, by students and containing news of students.
  • To conduct contests and offer awards that better student media.
  • To recognize that journalism can help give a broader understanding of society and people.

With goals set to help better each member of CSPA, this program offers feedback from that could tremendously help better a student’s writing, editing, or another media-related skillset. When it comes to writing, especially in the form of journalism, the best way to get better is to get feedback and that’s exactly why the Columbia Scholastic Press Association was founded.

Can CSPA Help with College Admissions?

With college admissions advisors increasingly shifting their criteria on which students should be admitted into the best colleges, good grades nowadays aren’t enough to help with admissions. We know that a good GPA helps, but to actually stand out to college admissions advisors, you have to participate in various extracurricular activities, and better yet national or regional competitions.

The College Scholastics Press Association is one of the best, if not the best, extracurricular activities for students interested in journalism or print/ digital media to pursue. This program is nationally acclaimed, easy to join, and offers a great opportunity to take a student’s passion for journalism/ media to the national level.

If students choose to attend one of the conferences, conventions, or workshops, they also have the opportunity to be a part of one of the top schools in the country of Columbia University. If a student is considering attending Columbia University, this program could also double as a great time to tour the college and the admission advisors at Columbia are also definitely familiar with the program, which doesn’t hurt.

Why Summer Programs are so Important

While students are in high school, there is a lot of free time year-round for them to get ahead of their peers when it comes to learning. Learning is not a seasonal affair and summer break is the biggest chunk of time for students to indulge in other academic opportunities that won’t distract them from their regular studies.

interviewer smiling at the camera

For students interested in pursuing journalism, The Columbia Scholastic Press Association offers one of the best and most immersive summer programs for just that. Given the opportunity to travel to New York and participate in the CSPA summer workshop allows students to focus on their journalism skills while they’re in between high school semesters.

Getting started on your journalism career sooner rather than later is super important since journalism comes down not only to how well you can write/ edit stories, but also who you know. Joining the Columbia Scholastic Press Association, and better yet, their immersive summer workshop helps students not only build their journalism skillset but also their connections in the industry. Staying in New York, and being at one of the most prestigious colleges for journalism is one of the best ways to get started in the industry and potentially make meaningful connections that will continue to serve you through your college career and beyond.

The Much Needed Jumpstart to Your Journalism Career

Regardless of whether or not your goal is to get into a top college for journalism, becoming a better journalist and learning as much as you can about the industry in the early days of high school will continue to serve you for as long as your educational career lasts.

At AdmissionSight, our goal, however, is to get students in the best colleges in the country. If you’re interested in pursuing journalism and want to get into the best colleges in the United States, then the Columbia Scholastic Press Association is definitely a program that you should consider joining.

At best, you will solidify your skills for journalism and win various competitions offered by the CSPA, and at worst you’ll still learn new knowledge and skills from people that know the industry and live in the media capital of the country, New York City.

The CSPA is a phenomenal resume builder for college admissions since it already takes place at a college and for the fact that it shows a student’s dedication to journalism from a young age. The Columbia Scholastic Press Association is definitely a program you should know about if you’re considering studying journalism and is also one of the best associations to be a part of if you’re in the field of media.


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