This article was published Oct. 29, 2017. Click here to read my more recent posts.
Before you say anything, hear me out.
I loved being an English major. I thrived on the classroom discussions, and I crossed so many amazing works of literature off my to-be-read list while in college. But that doesn’t mean there weren’t some serious drawbacks to choosing English as my main course of study.
Before deciding on an English major, make sure you take these things into consideration:
1. You won’t be able to read what you want to read for a while.
There were times that I had to read a novel each week for all of my classes. With that kind of workload, you won’t have time to pick up the latest trendy story you find on Goodreads.
One of the most relieving parts of finishing up with school was being able to read what I wanted to read — and not feeling guilty about it. I no longer “should have been reading for class.” I could just read for me, which is something a lot of English majors who are passionate about literature really want to do.
But unless it’s summer, say goodbye to that until you graduate.
2. Your classes will all be very similar to one another.
I was a mass communication minor in college, which was a ton of fun. Every class was a different adventure, with a different structure, and a different topic than my last: I couldn’t even compare my graphic design class to my media law class. But it wasn’t like that in English.
While I thrived on the lecture-and-discussion-based format of my English classes, it’s good that I did, because there was very little variety. While the topics of the lectures varied from class to class, the structure of each course was basically the same: do the reading, come to class and talk about it, then write an essay on your own thoughts.
That’s exactly how I learn, so it worked out for me, but I do sort of wish I’d been exposed to varying pedagogies along my college journey.
3. People will make a lot of assumptions about you.
One of the worst things that people assume about me all the time is that I’m a grammar freak. I’m totally not. (But that’s a whole other story.)
After I switched my major to English, everyone from family to friends to people I’d just casually met on the street would assume that I was going to correct them on their speech or writing. In reality, I really hate doing that.
Similarly, people also had high expectations of my own speech. If I slipped up and said something that wasn’t grammatically correct or made up a word that doesn’t really exist, people called me out on it — and they weren’t very kind in their wording. It was like the felt that they’d accomplished something by being able to correct me, because I was an English major. But I’m just a person, too!
4. People will ask you what you want to do after college — a lot.
For me, it was easy: I knew I wanted to go into journalism, and I had a full-time job in the field before I even graduated. But for a lot of people, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what you want to do. And it’s even worse when people keep asking about it.
That said, if they don’t ask, they assume you want to be an English teacher, which also isn’t ideal — especially because as an English major, you have so many options in career paths!
5. It’ll be a challenge to motivate yourself to work on your creative writing.
I know a lot of people who have gone into the English major aspiring to be authors, but a typical English literature program doesn’t focus on creative writing. You may be able to take one or two classes in it, but it won’t take up the bulk of your time.
Instead, you’ll spend your days writing literature analysis essays, which is fun for some, but not so fun for others. And after a long day of analyzing the adaptations of Beowulf, working on your latest short story or novel won’t sound as appealing as it might normally.
Be wary of writing burnout as an English major: you don’t want to end up sick and tired of writing and reading altogether.
All that said, I really loved my time in college, and it was great to be exposed to so many new ideas and perspectives via literature from around the world. I feel like I found the perfect major for me, and if you still want to study English after reading these five drawbacks, I’m confident that an English major could be the right path for you, too!
What were your favorite and least favorite parts of your college experience? Share below in the comments!
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