BYU-Idaho communication students recognized their individual potential as they competed in the Washington Media Scholars Case Competition, a program that pushes students to practice real-life skills in the marketing industry.

Beth Hendricks, a faculty member in the Department of Communication, encourages her students to get involved in programs like this that get them outside of the classroom, networking with professionals, and enhancing the skills they have learned in their studies.

This particular case competition requires students to put together a competitive media plan. The top 24 submissions are invited to further participate in the competition, and the final six teams are invited to Washington, D.C. to present their media plans to a panel of judges.

Since BYU-Idaho students began participating in this competition three years ago, the university has had five teams make it to the final six, including this year's participants: Callie Sprenkle and Shannon Doxey.

One of the benefits to competing in programs like this is a novel recognition of individual aptitude for students. Participants begin to witness what they are capable of. According to Sprenkle, competing in the program gave her greater confidence.

"I never dreamed I was good enough to be a finalist, but I surprised myself," Sprenkle said. "It gave me a lot of confidence in myself and
the quality of education I got as a communication major at BYU-Idaho."

Among the many advantages to competing, networking proves to be one of the most significant benefits.

"Even if you are not specifically interested in media buying, it is an amazing opportunity to rub shoulders with professionals in advertising and business," Doxey said. "It is also fun to get to know the other students competing, who are all so smart and just extraordinary people."

Hendricks affirms networking as one of the best reasons to participate in competitions like the Media Plan Case Competition. "It's really the networking," Hendricks said. "That's what the students gain access to when they go. They don't just meet the intern at Google, or the intern at Washington Post. They meet the president or the vice president. They meet executives."

According to Hendricks, companies look to hire students that participate in competitions and get involved outside of the classroom. It gives students an advantage when they are moving forward with their careers after college.

"Companies want to get students involved because they get the cream of the crop," Hendricks said. "They're getting a proven commodity when they hire these students because they see that they've already gone through this vetting process as they progress in these competitions."

Sprenkle agrees participation in extracurricular activities is not an effort that goes unnoticed by future employers, and these competitions give participants a unique advantage.

"While we were in D.C. for the competition, some of the most competitive companies in the world gave us tips to acing an interview and starting a new job," Sprenkle said. "That week helped me land my first job after I graduated. I'm now a marketing director for a student apartment complex, and during my interviews I was asked about my participation as a Washington Media Scholar. My experience with the program really helped me during the interview process."

Above all, competing in programs like the Washington Media Scholars Case Competition enables students to recognize what they are capable of, as well as the resources that they have access to. Doxey said this is something she learned from her experience participating.

"I realized that you never know what you are capable of until you give it everything you have, lay everything on the table," Doxey said. "When you do that, it's not just about winning or losing, it's about not having regrets. I also learned that there are literally hundreds of people who are willing to help you fulfill your dreams. If you have the courage to ask, to try, to do something, you'll find someone who is willing to help."