This guest post is by Hugh Grigg of East Asia Student.
Guest blogger Michael White has already written an excellent article on student blogging, looking at the career benefits of blogging for students.
He’s covered that area better than I could have (I’m still at university), but here I want to look at the fantastic potential of blogging right from the start of your course, and how it can help you with your studies.
1. It’s a ready-made niche
We all know that one of the biggest challenges in blogging is finding a good, workable niche. This is such a significant task, in fact, that quite a few people make thousands of dollars a month selling software to help people with it. But if you’re taking a university degree, you don’t need to worry about that. Your field of study is a ready-made, off-the-shelf niche.
Now, some subjects will turn into larger niches than others. There aren’t as many maths blogs as there are language-learning blogs, for example (maths bloggers, please reveal yourselves in the comments!). But no matter what your degree is, it makes a perfect niche to work in because you’ve got constant inspiration and input for content.
I write about my East Asian Studies degree, and have far more content than I could ever write about. I’ve never been stuck with the question, “What could I write about?”, but I’m often faced with the query, “Which of these promising topics shall I write about today?”
On top of that, your notes and learning materials are perfect for conversion into online content that will definitely be useful to a lot of people. Which brings me to…
2. You’ve got a guaranteed audience
Not long after I started blogging, I found that I was getting consistent traffic from the city I study in. Not only that, but I noticed my site being mentioned as a useful resource in discussion threads with my classmates, and even saw people with print-outs of my content in class!
At that point I hadn’t even mentioned the site was min—he other students on my course had found it naturally online. Since then, I’ve had students and staff from other institutions contacting me to express thanks for my content or ask if they can use it in their classes.
That felt amazing, of course, but most importantly, it demonstrates that there’s a real demand for hands-on, genuine content about the challenges people have with their university courses. As a student, you find ways to tackle those challenges every day, and that kind of experience is worth so much in the world of blogging.
You’ve got an endless source of ways to help your readers deal with their problems and build an audience. Plus, you spend time with your target audience every day in class, and know them better than anyone else for that reason.
3. It’s your passion
So your university course carves out a good niche and lets you know you’ve got an audience before you even begin. If that wasn’t enough, it also gives you a topic you’re passionate about. You’ve got the topic, audience and motivation for a great blog right there.
Okay, so maybe not everyone is totally in love with their course, and nobody likes it all the time. I enjoy my degree very much, and think it was one of the best choices I ever made, but I still have plenty of days where I’m not motivated. More often than not, though, having the blog provides that boost in interest.
Rather than thinking, “Oh, not another Tang dynasty poem”, I think, “Well, my annotations and translation would be a useful post for anyone studying this”—and that gets me into it. Blogging about your degree makes you more passionate about it.
4. It’s a great way to keep track of your studies
Keeping track of your progress is extremely important if you’re going to stay motivated in the long term. Day-to-day changes in your knowledge can be small, but when you look back over months or years, the difference is staggering. Plus, as Michael White pointed out in his article, it all makes an excellent portfolio to show to others.
What better way to do this than with a blog? This has helped me out on more occasions than I can remember. Rather than leafing through piles of paper or searching for files on my hard-drive, I just Google for my own notes and work. Sometimes I even come across work I’d forgotten I’d done, because it’s all faithfully stored and available online. And, of course, you’re attracting everyone else in the world who finds your notes and coursework useful.
5. Blogging helps you learn
And finally, a slightly less concrete point. As well as making an excellent record of your studies, keeping a blog actually helps you to learn directly. This happens because the old adage that “teaching helps you learn” is true.
Rather than just writing up your notes idiosyncratically for yourself, you’re forced to re-write them in a way that’s useful and accessible for all. That process pays dividends to you.
Throughout each year at university, I consistently convert my class notes and materials into web content, which requires research, analysis and careful presentation of the topic. At the end of the year, I also use my own posts as a revision tool before exams.
Ultimately I’m writing for myself, but that just ensures that I’m offering the best content I can to my audience, which is what blogging is all about.
Are you a student blogger, or do you know one? Share your story with us in the comments.
Hugh Grigg is studying East Asian Studies (Chinese) at the University of Cambridge, and writes about it at his site East Asia Student.