Things I Learned as an English Major

Rebecca Malachowski, Arts and Leisure Editor

     Don’t put so much pressure on yourself. So, you didn’t read that one chapter. Or that one essay was totally not the best thing you’ve ever written. It’s okay. We’ve all been there. Sometimes one class or obligation might be more important than another. Sometimes it’s finals week and you just want to be done because you are about to burn out. The most important thing I can stress here is that even though we English majors seem to be living behind books or a keyboard we are still humans who make mistakes. One week your mental health will be more important than your five papers and three tests. Don’t put so much pressure on yourself. You will get through it and you know you will do better on the next paper.

     Most of us can’t actually quote Shakespeare: professors can. But alas, students usually can’t (if you can quote a whole excerpt or soliloquy from a Shakespeare play, seriously bravo). You would be surprised how often I’ve been expected to have this ability. I mean, yeah, I like a weird, macabre, story or poem as much as the next person but most English majors, at least the ones I talk to, don’t just go around quoting Shakespeare. Although I fit the English major stereotype well and can say I do like Shakespeare, I also know a lot of English and Arts majors who don’t. So, I guess you really can’t judge a book by its cover.

     Write what you like: I feel like this is kind of self-explanatory, but it is worth repeating because I sometimes have to remind myself of this. Write about what you like. Write essays that matter to you or poems that are about something personal. Of course, us English majors sometimes have to write papers on literature that probably wasn’t our choice. Still, make sure your paper has your voice. Or you may be taking a creative writing class. While in a class like this you may be tempted to change up your writing so other people like it better. I know I am. It’s one thing to edit and revise your work, but it’s another to filter your work to the point where it doesn’t even sound like you anymore. Just a little reminder. When you write, keep your voice.

     Learn to take advantage of the writing center or your friends: Your research paper, poem, or essay will not be perfect the first time you sit down and write it. Once you face the music on this the better your life and grades will be. If you have the time, start your paper early and make one or two appointments in the writing center. If you do not have the time, have a couple of friends look over your work. At least try to make sure you get one other pair of eyes on your paper.

     People will question your major. A lot: Whether it is family, friends, or that business or biology professor you always seem to run into, people will question your major. Some of my favorites are, “What are you going to do with that?”, “Wait, why are you an English major if you don’t want to be a librarian or teacher?”, or the classic, “How will you be marketable to employers with that major?” Don’t listen to these people. I can confidently tell you that you can do much more with an English major than teach or work in a library (however if you want to do those things, right on). Your skills will be marketable as you can usually talk and write circles around people. As for what your next step should be after college? Whatever the heck you want.