What it’s like to be an English Major

Professor of English Garry Walton with a student in his Shakespeare course

As someone who was raised by a writer and who grew up surrounded by books, majoring in English was an obvious choice when I came to college. I declared my first semester, purchased my Norton anthologies, and haven’t looked back since. While I was initially drawn to the field by a love for stories and writing, my experiences with the Meredith faculty, my fellow English majors, and the many opportunities available in the classroom and on campus have led me to discover even more things to love about my major.

A Day in the Life

So what do English majors do? A lot of reading, of course, and even more writing. However, there is so much more to the major than that. Discussion and community play a massive role in understanding literary works, and most literature classes revolve around engaging with and analyzing a text as a group. Before graduating, English majors also usually complete a thesis – a large research paper on a specific text or group of texts – that they can present to their faculty and peers. And when you’re really excited about a certain book, there’s nothing quite like having a captive audience to listen to you talk about it for 20 minutes. An English major is also flexible. Most programs offer classes in various types of writing, from creative nonfiction to poetry to professional writing. So no matter what your preferred style, there are opportunities for you to develop your skills.

So What’s So Important About Books, Anyway?

One aspect of an English major that often goes overlooked is its universality. Because literature ultimately deals with the human experience, the ideas discussed have broader applications and can be carried over into other classes. This focus on human experience encourages empathy – an attribute useful in both personal and professional life. However, English majors also leave with a number of other marketable skills, including enhanced communication and research abilities, improved time management (you have to balance all those papers somehow), and strong general organizational and problem-solving abilities.

Who are English Majors?

English majors are great company. While we might carry the stereotype of being a bit brooding or solitary, or of being likely to recite poetry at unlikely times, as a group we are incredibly enthusiastic and passionate people united by a love for what we study. It’s hard not to make friends in English classes, as the discussions encourage students to express their opinion. Before you know it, you’ll find your best friend through a mutual adoration of Lucille Clifton or a mutual disdain for The Taming of the Shrew. At the very least, because you take a lot of the same classes, you’ll always have something to talk about.

Professors Who are Just as Excited as You Are

One of the best things about majoring in English is working with professors as passionate about literature as you. The professors generally teach classes that they are personally invested in, and that enthusiasm is contagious. A knowledgeable and involved professor can change your entire perspective on a work. While you might enjoy reading Paradise Lost, watching your British Literature professor lie on a desk and recite a monologue in character will forever change how you think about the work. At a small college like Meredith, you have the opportunity to discuss class material with the professors during office hours, which can be a wonderful opportunity to gain extra knowledge on texts that interest you as well as to bond with role models and mentors in your field.

Outside the Classroom

Another wonderful aspect of an English major is the opportunities it offers for campus involvement. Campus publications, such as the literary magazine, yearbook, and newspaper, available at Meredith can be a great place to make friends and hone leadership and communication skills. Most campuses offer poetry or writing clubs where majors can share their creative work and receive feedback. These organizations are not only a great way to find community, but they also help you develop skills that might later serve you in an internship or career.

Being an English major has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. While there are some semesters where I might be facing nine papers due in four weeks and things feel bleak, it’s still worth it. At the end of the day, a long night writing papers is still better than a good day doing anything else.

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