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.
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?
Considering majoring in English? (The answer to this question is always yes btw). Here are 10 signs that you’re meant to be an English major.
UPDATE: It’s been 7 years since I posted this and it’s still one of my most popular posts. As an English graduate I have no regrets (unless you count the crappy job market but that has nothing to do with my studies). Here’s a more recent post that I did about the 5 useful skills I picked up as an English major
2) You enjoy writing 3) You’re good at both reading and writing 4) Your literary collection consists of more than just the latest bestsellers. You have the classics too. 5) You can write an essay in your sleep
6) You’ve written something that wasn’t for school (poems, short stories, fanfiction) 7) The idea of having to read and be rewarded for writing about what you read, excites you. Hello easy A 8) You’ve read a classic novel without it being compulsory for class. 9) You don’t mind putting in work for a module that most believe will only lead to you working at McDonalds or Starbucks. 10) Well you’re reading this so you obviously believe you’re meant to be an English major.