English majors are always portrayed as struggling to find a job. While majoring in English may not be the best idea financially (especially in South Africa and especially now), there are some handy skills you pick up that you are able to make use of in any job.
Reading (and actually understanding what was read)- This sounds like something so simple but you would be surprised at how many people cannot read. It’s not that they never learnt or lack the ability. Their minds are incapable of reading and making sense of what it is. As someone who works in Customer Care, this drives me crazy and leads to lots of (unnecessary) back and forth emails. Another perk related to reading is that as an English major you probably developed the skill of speed-reading. Yay you!
Research Skills- Always necessary in any field whether you’re looking for information that is academic in nature or even just information on basic skills such as Microsoft Office.
Effective communication- As an English major, you learn how to communicate effectively via both verbal and written communication.
Working with deadlines- Being an English major means learning how to manage large chunks of work in a short amount of time. Since graduating uni, I always say that deadlines are not a thing for me. It’s now a habit for me to get things done before deadlines.
Understanding other’s point of view or opinion- As an English major you learn that 1) there is never one correct answer and 2) how to see things from other people’s point of view.
I would like to start by pointing out that everyone is different and everyone has different ways of doing things. You may not agree with my tips but it’s vital that you know what works for you and what doesn’t. Kay, here we go!
1) Write notes instead of typing them- writing notes helps you to remember them better. Also if you write instead of type there’s less chance of you being distracted by Facebook on your laptop.
2) Record notes so you don’t forget/fall asleep- I love recording my notes. It’s like having a PVR for lectures. You can listen to the recordings whenever you want as well as have a copy of precisely what the lecturer is looking for in essays and projects.
3) Take a rough draft first- Nobody has time for a perfect set of notes especially when you’re in the lecture. Write a rough set of notes that you are able to understand. You can clarify it later and make it look pretty. My notes always start off as a bunch of illegible words and some very neatly written reminders of how I want to sleep. No that’s not a joke.
4) Use colour- when you’re rewriting your notes use colour to make themes stand out. For my Human Resources class I had two different colours for the work that was tested as a question and the work tested as an essay.
5) Make sure that YOU understand- whether your notes are plain or coloured, neat or horrifying the most important thing is that you’re able to understand them. These are your notes and when exam time rolls around you’re the one who needs to be able to understand them.
I detest cover letters. Is there anything more difficult to write? Thankfully, cover letters are one of those things that get easier to do with time. Below, I’ve listed a short guide to what your cover letter should look like.
Address to who you’re writing
(it’s always a good idea to know who’s going to be receiving your application and then addressing them here. It shows that you have done your research on the business).
Paragraph 1: Introduce yourself. State your name, where you go to school and what you’re studying. State why you’re applying. Make sure you catch the readers attention so that he or she is eager to continue reading.
Paragraph 2: Highlight anything important you think they need to know. For example, have you have previous experience in this field?
Do you have a skill that makes you excellent for the job? EVERYTHING is important. Jobs teach you skills that can be used in any field.
Paragraph 3: Make it clear that you will be an asset to them. Whether it’s because you thrive on pressure and deadlines or because you have amazing qualifications, show the company that they should want to hire you.
1) Anything by Cal Newport- if you haven’t noticed already, I’m a bit obsessed with Cal Newport’s books. He makes college so much easier with his advice. While reading his books I saw my grades pick up instantly.
2) Leave Your Mark by Aliza Licht- this book is described as a “mentorship” and I cannot agree more. Aliza Licht has great advice. This is a book that you need to have highlighted or stick in post-its. From internships to starting a job, this book has it all.
3) All Work, No Pay by Lauren Berger – this book is an invaluable asset to anyone looking for an internship. Personally I found this book to be excellent help when dealing with cover letters and resumes.
4) Leadership and Soft Skills for Students by Cary Green- I like to think of this book as a how-to guide to success. Cary Green presents real solutions that work. I’m not going to lie- I believe in this book because several of the points covered here are things I believe in for my daily life. College students and high school students will both greatly benefit from this book.
Ah, college. The one place you can study everything from Marketing and Mythology to Cooking and Creative Writing. But how do you choose your classes? There’s just so many!
1) Consult your handbook- The college handbook is an excellent guide for when it comes to choosing classes. It details the classes necessary for your degree as well as information about the method of assessment. Knowing more about possible modules can help you decide whether they’re worth choosing.
2) Choose the purpose of your electives- Do you want something fun? Do you want something that complements your degree? For me, I chose a mixture of both. After all when else would you have the opportunity to study the kind of subjects offered at college? My modules consisted of Media and English (my majors at that time) as well as Criminology and Human Resources (simply for fun).
4) Have a plan B (and maybe a plan C-just to be safe)- Sometimes you may not be able to register for the class you want. In this case it’s a good idea to have a list of back-up classes. And then a back-up of your back-up just in case those don’t work out either.
Ah, English. We speak it everyday and chances are you’re passionate about it if you’ve decided to major in it. Or in some cases you had nothing else to choose (that’s hurtful but hey it’s true).
For me I chose English because I loved it in school and thought it would be a breeze. It’s not. It’s actually pretty difficult. Here’s a few tips for coping as an English major.
1) Get Your Reading List Early- I’ve heard other English majors tell me how they love reading but personally I’ve always struggled through my assigned readings. It’s a good idea to get the list of readings early so you know what to expect when it comes to your workload. Email your lecture or the administration to ask for a list. Worse case scenario you get a refusal. Best case scenario you know the books you’re expected to read and can start looking for them early.
2) Compare Book Prices- My campus bookstore is always ridiculously expensive. It works out easier to either buy the books secondhand, online (Takealot and Readers Warehouse usually have reasonable prices for their college books) or even to borrow a copy from your campus library.
3) Read the Book- I’ve seen so many people simply ignore the book they’re studying and it just irritates me. Those people chose English as an elective but their lack of interest was disappointing. How do you expect to write a test or exam when you know nothing about the material being tested? No matter how boring the book is, reading it on your own allows you to form your own opinions that you can include and support in your assignments.
4) Practice Your Writing- Start a blog, keep a diary, write extensive notes. Do something to help improve your writing. Practicing your writing in even a small way allows you to express yourself better and makes for better essays.
5) Proofread Essays- Always check your work before you hand them in. If there’s an option for a lecturer or tutor to read over your work, take it! They’ve been around longer than you have and who knows what is expected of you better than someone in the department?
6) Use Sparknotes- Most of my lecturers take their slides and notes from Sparknotes. I don’t know if they’re taking it directly from the site or if the site simply has the same work but reading Sparknotes makes understanding work so much easier.
7) Take Advantage of Office Hours- If there’s anything you don’t understand, make an appointment to visit your lecturer or tutor privately. I’ve seen students make silly errors simply because of a misunderstanding of the text that could have been cleared.
Are you an English major? What are your tips for a successful semester?
Few things irritate me more than having a deadline or appointment jump out at me from nowhere. It makes me feel like my whole world is upside-down and I need to take back control of my life. Here are a few tips to help you never miss an important event or date.
1) Buy a planner- I love Typo planners but they’re a bit too expensive for me. Instead I use an ordinary dated diary as well as my cellphone to keep track of dates.
2) Write down everything- First start with concrete events that you know won’t change such as birthdays or your weekly night out. Then enter in important dates such as deadlines for a project.
3) Plan a week in advance- I like to think of myself as pretty organised. Those dates that I miss are usually family events that for some reason my mother doesn’t tell me about (am I not family? Maybe not). To compensate for her serious error, I ask her well in advance if she/me/we has any plans for the week ahead. If she gives me an event we need to attend, I list it down. If not I simply plan my week around that.
4) Use your planner on a regular basis- You could have the most gorgeous (Typo) planner but it doesn’t matter if you’re not using it. Be sure to check your planner often to keep on track with dates and to add in new ones.
How do you keep track of everything? Have you ever forgotten an important date? (I forgot my parents’ anniversary once). Let me know below.
Okay, I know I might be a bit biased but I really believe that starting a blog is ALWAYS a good idea. Starting a blog in college is like the best idea. Here’s why:
1) You have a record of your college experience- College is not something that is forever (honestly I wouldn’t want it to be either). A blog is a great way to keep track of your college experience. It’s been two years but I still like to read and reread the horror of my first year. I like looking back and marvelling at how things have changed.
2) You gain writing experience- You’re probably wondering why do you need writing experience. Well if you’re a student of humanities chances are that you’re going to be writing essays. Knowing how to write well is a great advantage to have in college. There have been so many occasions when I had no idea what I was saying in an essay but I managed to scrape together a pass.
3) You gain friends- blogging is a great way to make friends. You find people who are going through the same things as you. Being a college blogger allows you to meet other stressed college students who you can share your woes with.
4) You get a portfolio of writing pieces- if you’re interested in a job that involves writing, starting a blog is a good place to begin. You can gain writing clips simply by writing on your blogs. Some paying jobs actually look for blogging experience.
Do you have a college blog? What’s your favourite blog to read? I’d love to know!
Does anyone even care about their lecturer’s office hours? I know I certainly didn’t..until I started my third year of college and my classes clashed. If it wasn’t for office hours, I probably would not have graduated. This is why you should take advantage of them (preferably before you realise that you’re failing your classes)
1) Your lecturer gets to know you- personally I don’t like the idea of my lecturer getting to know me. But if you want a letter of recommendation or help on an assignment, it’s helpful to have a lecturer in your corner. Knowing your lecturer outside of the classroom also allows you to expand your professional circle which can help when it comes to job hunting. (*Sends LinkedIn request*)
2) You gain a greater understanding of the work- most of my meetings with my lecturers were to discuss assignments or concepts that I didn’t understand. One meeting that was especially valuable was when my lecturer ran through concepts quickly with me. It amazed me how easily he explained everything and how easily I was able to understand. The fifteen minutes in his office did more for my education than the entire semester of classses.
3) You can find out exactly what your lecturer expects of you- The day of my driver’s test, I missed my last Criminology lecture as well as the scope for my exam. My lecturer was more than willing to meet with me to give me the scope and tell me what she was looking for. Since it was my first year at college and I had no idea how to write an essay, that was a really productive session.
4) It’s the lecturer’s job- okay this is a stupid reason to attend office hours but hey lecturers are around to help you! If you can’t ask a question in class, pop in to visit your lecturer and ask them in private.
Some of my best and most effective learning has been done during office hours. Whether it’s learning to write an essay, revising assignments or going through concepts to make certain you understand it, office hours are a great tool for college students.
Do you make use of office hours? Let me know below.
As a college student, it’s difficult to find snacks that are both healthy and quick. So I searched all over the internet and here are a few of the snacking options I found:
-Bagel or crackers with cream cheese
-Yogurt with fruit or granola
-Dried fruit and nuts
-Cereal bars(these aren’t good for a meal though. I tried them for breakfast and was still hungry)
– Peanut butter sandwich
-Chicken or tuna salad(these both are really tasty and healthy).