When WA’s Oli Nicholson was crowned 2020 AWARD School National Top Student earlier this month, it was obvious to everyone watching our Facebook Live virtual ceremony that she was blown away with her win. Since then, she admits it still hasn’t completely sunk in, but we did manage to bring her down to Earth temporarily for a chat about her AWARD School experience – and her Zoom meeting with the legendary Jeff Goodby 

ACA: Tell us about what you were doing prior to going into AWARD School.

Oli: Prior to AWARD School, I was in the first few weeks of an internship at Meerkats. And prior-prior to that, I was completing the Jump Start program in Perth. And 3x prior to that, I was a pretty miserable primary school teacher, who applied for AWARD School 2019 on a whim. (I did not get in).

ACA: How did you hear about AWARD School?

Oli: I heard about AWARD School through an ex-girlfriend, who is a copywriter herself actually.

ACA: What made you want to get into the course?

Oli: Knowing that it’s such a highly regarded and comprehensive almost ‘rite of passage’ for creatives, applying felt like a no-brainer.

ACA: What is it about advertising that has made you want to get into the industry?

Oli: The only way that I can explain it, is that it’s so colourful. Colourful people, colourful ideas, colourful thoughts, places and things. It’s so open-minded and progressive; both the instigator and responder to change in this world.

ACA: As you know, because of COVID, AWARD School had to be overhauled this year to take the whole course online – how was your experience over the 12 weeks?

Oli: You always question previous students’ experiences until you’re halfway through the course and think, ‘Oh, it’s exactly what they said it would be’. So even online, it was still the exhilarating and insomnia-causing hurricane that we were warned to expect. The positive was not having to see everybody face to face (pyjamas). And the negative was not seeing people face to face (lonely).

ACA: AWARD School is renowned as being very challenging – what did you find were the biggest challenges and how did you go about getting through them?

Oli: My biggest challenge was hitting imagination roadblocks, and also not being able to get rid of those pesky little ideas that clog your mind, even though you know they’re a dead end. Attempts at combating this included drawing flowcharts of loosely connected words, and sometimes just scrolling Twitter endlessly until my mind went blank again.

ACA: What was the best thing about being an AWARD School student?

Oli: Sharing all sorts of wacky ideas with like-minded lovely people!

You’ve now met the legendary Jeff Goodby online – what did you ask him?

Oli: Jeff is such a kind guy. Just easy to talk to, and even easier to listen to. I asked him his opinion on the art director-copywriter relationship, and on the future and the fun of advertising. But most importantly, I asked him how he would spell the short form of ‘usual’ (uzhe? uge?). Of course his answer was perfect, but it’s a secret I’ll never tell!

ACA: What are your next steps following your big win?

Oli: I’m packing up at the moment – getting ready to move to Sydney. Step one will be going to IKEA of course, and step two will hopefully be landing a job.

ACA: What advice would you give anyone contemplating applying for AWARD School?

Oli: The Nike slogan 🙂

Learn more at the AWARD School Application Workshop, October 2020.