I would like to start off by saying: Congratulations! You’ve passed the first test that all aspiring English majors encounter when choosing a major. That is, when people found out you graduated and launched into the same three questions (Where are you going to school? What are you majoring in? What do you want to do with your degree?) you didn’t listen to the people that felt the need to assert their misguided opinion that English degrees are worthless and you should definitely reconsider your career path. I’ll save you the emotional trauma and tell you right now that you’re going to get this reaction a lot when people find out what you’re majoring in, which leads me to my first piece of advice:
- Don’t get discouraged when people try to belittle you and make you feel stupid for majoring in English. A lot of people have this reaction because they think you won’t be able to get a job after you graduate, which is completely not true. English is actually an extremely versatile degree. It gives you soft skills that a lot of employers look for, not to mention you’re going to have pretty great writing skills, which is also a highly valued skill in the workforce. Some people are going to be condescending because they think they know what’s best for you (even if you’re just meeting this person for the first time so how would they know what major and career path you should go into? And small talk is already bad enough, can you not make it worse by insulting me?). I don’t want to tell you to not let it get to you because then I’d be a hypocrite and it’s not necessarily a bad thing to feel indignation when people try to make you feel bad for choosing a major that you’re passionate about, but I will tell you to not let it dictate your future choices or let it dampen your enthusiasm for your major. English majors are a special breed. We should be protected.
- There will come a day, probably in your sophomore or junior year of college, when you take your first higher level English class. It’s going to have a totally different feel to it than your beginner English classes, which could be a good or a bad thing, depending on how you look at it. In contrast to your lower level English classes, which were taken by students with a variety of majors, most of them just taking the class to meet a GenEd requirement, your higher level English classes will be made up of probably around ninety percent English majors. My advice to you when you take these classes is: try not to get cripplingly intimidated by your fellow classmates. English majors can be… intense. But that’s a good thing because it means we’re super passionate. Some are going to be more outspoken than others, but don’t feel bad if you’re not one to raise your hand every five minutes and make some profound statement about whatever piece your professor assigned for you to read. You’re still learning and it’s totally okay sometimes to just sit back and let your classmates direct the conversation. If you’re not totally getting a piece and it seems like everyone else in the class understands it, don’t panic. One, chances are you’re not alone and two, that’s the beauty of being a student – no one expects you to be an expert on everything you read. That’s what going to class is for. As long as you have a drive to learn, you’re golden.
- Don’t forget to read for fun and keep the spark alive. This may seem obvious to some (hello, of course we’re still going to read for fun, that’s why we became English majors in the first place (right?) but if you’re anything like me sometimes life takes over and we forget what it’s like to just sit back and lose ourselves in a good book. Whether it’s a book I’ve never read before or one I’ve read five times, I always try to make time for reading – my first love.
“Books are the ultimate Dumpees: put them down and they’ll wait for you forever; pay attention to them and they always love you back.” – John Green