Special Report

Why NYU?

Why NYU: So You Want to Be an AJO Student?


June 10, 2024


Special Report: Why NYU?


, ,


This article is part of our “Why NYU? Your Story Starts Here”  branded content* series explaining what it is like to attend NYU’s American Journalism Online master’s program with testimonials from current students and recent grads, Learn more about the program here.  

J-school changed my life. 

I know that sounds overly dramatic (and perhaps sadly clichéd), but it’s true. A master’s degree — that scenic stop on the highway of career aspirations, beloved by former corporate warriors and mid-career transitioners — set me on a course that, within two years, landed me a staff writer job at a storied feminist culture site. But I didn’t get there alone: In my case, I didn’t have the CV materials traditionally required for a career in journalism. A former professional dancer and publicist without a single byline to my name, I imagine most schools would’ve taken a look at my application and scoffed. Instead, AJO looked at me and saw a writer in the rough, someone whose voice they believed mattered. More than two years since graduation, the same voice that AJO fostered grows ever sharper and more impassioned — its aim more exact, thanks in no small part, to the professors and mentors who first pointed it in the right direction. Maybe they can do the same for you.

Around the world in NYC

Since its launch in 2019, AJO has become a global hub for aspiring storytellers, drawing applicants from Honolulu to Mumbai. The program meets students where they are, offering the flexibility to connect with world-class faculty and peers across time zones through our virtual classrooms. This allows students to weave narratives with heart and humanity from wherever they are.

Joining AJO also means experiencing the energy of New York City from anywhere in the world, without the cost of living in the Big Apple. 

AJO student Jamal Michel [Credit: Adam Penenberg via BeFunky]

Take it from Jamal Michel, a part-time student and freelance writer based in Durham, North Carolina: “The fact that this program exists online, and it’s flexible in a way where I can maintain my full-time job and have my courses in the evening — that the faculty, my professors make time to connect with us outside of class — is really a godsend,” said Michel. “I don’t think I’d get any of the bylines that I’ve gotten the last year or two if it wasn’t for the resources of this program.” Since joining the program, Michel has been published in the New York Times, WIRED, and NPR.

Choose your own adventure

At AJO, meeting students “where they are” extends beyond geography. It’s about offering a flexible, choose-your-own-adventure approach to earning that coveted NYU diploma. Whether you’re a recent graduate, a seasoned reporter looking to sharpen your investigative prowess, or a professional poised for a dramatic shift into writing, AJO adapts to fit your needs. You can pace your education with just one class at a time or dive into a full-time course load and accelerate your journey in under two years.

For Teresa Mettela, a Queens native and current AJO student, this flexibility was key to enhancing her already solid reporting skills on her terms.

AJO student Teresa Mettela [Credit: Adam Penenberg via BeFunky]

“Coming from my background as an immigrant first-gen South Asian, even saying the words ‘I’m a writer’ was so scary, because I didn’t know how I would be perceived. But coming out of the program, I’m more sure of what I bring to the table.”

Community, camaraderie, and crackerjack skills

Like many others in the program, Mettela discovered that camaraderie thrives in AJO’s online setting. Lauren Sierra, a former student and current congressional press secretary for Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, says she was amazed by the strong bonds formed within the virtual community of students, graduates, mentors, and professors, relationships she continues to maintain. Sierra even met one of her closest friends through AJO’s Slack channels and Zoom classrooms.

“The virtual format requires us to make an extra effort to connect, which paradoxically strengthens our community bonds,” Sierra says.

The real allure of an NYU Master’s program lies in the exceptional faculty and career coaches who are committed to your success. Known for its rigorous nature, graduate school demands much but offers substantial rewards. Your professors — award-winning journalists and editors who sometimes double as your mentors and confidants — are invested in your growth and resilience, offering multiple chances to succeed. They value your current potential, not just your past achievements.

Consider the experience of Paras Shah, a Harvard-trained attorney and NYU law professor, who unexpectedly fell in love with audio journalism through AJO.

AJO graduate Paras Shah
[Credit: Adam Penenberg via BeFunky]

 “Law school didn’t teach me audio storytelling skills—how to write for the ear, mix, or edit audio,” says Shah. “Now, I use what I’ve learned daily and host the Just Security podcast. AJO opened up a new world of storytelling for me, enriching my professional toolkit.”

For Shah, me, and so many other students, the AJO experience was — and continues to be — transformative. From refining your unique voice to receiving detailed feedback on your work from journalism legends like program founder Adam Penenberg, every interaction and edited piece contributes to your development as a writer. 

And then, you emerge, not just with a defined voice and polished skills, but carrying the prestigious weight of an NYU Master’s degree — a powerful catalyst propelling you to new heights in your career. This credential signals a depth of knowledge, opens doors, connects you with industry leaders, and places you at the forefront of journalism and media innovation. 

With AJO behind you, you’re not only prepared to enter the competitive field of journalism; you’re poised to change it for the better.


*Did we fool you? These articles look like journalism, but they’re actually what is called “branded content.” Branded content is content – written, audio, video – that mimics journalistic work but is paid for by the brand or company (in this case, AJO) that publishes it. It is, basically, a kind of advertising.

Special Report: Why NYU?

June 8, 2024

Why NYU: The Coursework is Only the Beginning

The AJO program offers professional mentors, career guidance, editing services, and a success coach.

June 7, 2024

Why NYU: Will I Fit in at AJO?

No matter your experience, identity, or location, there is a place for you at AJO’s world-class journalism program

June 6, 2024

Why NYU: Got a Great Idea? AJO Can Help You Get That Byline

From honing his pitch to assisting with investigative techniques to working connections, here is how AJO professors helped Ben Shimkus get a big investigative feature into Rolling Stone in the spring of 2024

Read More