The Book’s Always Better: Why You Should Major In English
By: Jim Davidson and Katie Moats
December can be an annoying month for English majors.
We’re not talking about finals. We rarely have those. We’re talking about the large, faceless uncle or neighbor who’s sure to wander up to us at a holiday party, eggnog in hand, and grunt, “Whatcha studyin’?”
“English,” we whisper. We already know what’s coming.
“Bah! What, are ya gonna teach?” He’s munching on a mini sub at this point. We feel our hair begin to turn gray as we lose several years off our lives.
And to be honest, that’s probably the toughest part about being an English major — the void of post-graduation life and the questions people ask about it. The rest of our time is spent (supposedly) reading (mostly) good books, writing papers that we think make us sound smart ten minutes before the deadline, and talking about the books we (probably) read.
This isn’t another treatise on liberal arts learning or a dig at engineers. It’s meant for the second-semester sophomore who is terrified about committing to a major but picks up a book on the weekends, or actually enjoyed CAS a little bit. It’s for the bio major who can’t stand labs, but also can’t see the practicality of novel writing.
We enjoy studying English because it’s fun and it exposes us to worlds and stories that we never would have encountered otherwise. But if you’re on the fence, here are a few things to consider about majoring in English at Penn State.
Sober Book Club
English classes rarely exceed 15 students, and lots of English courses are seminars. The majority of class time is spent sitting in a circle discussing the books we’ve read. This allows you to get to know your classmates well, and you soon look forward to going each day. The odds of knowing at least one person in each of your English classes from a class you took together in previous semesters are huge, and having interesting, thought-provoking discussions with both new and familiar people is a huge plus.
The Paterno Fellows Program
Because most people don’t really know what it is unless they’re in it, here’s the simple definition: To become a Paterno Fellow, you must be pursuing at least one liberal arts degree. If you’re accepted into the program, you automatically become a Schreyer Honors Scholar if you aren’t already. The program offers scholarship opportunities and connections to alumni resources that can be extremely helpful. The best part about it, though, is when you’re inducted, you get a pretty dope quarter zip that’s soft as hell.
Exams? We Do Papers.
Cramming during finals week is generally reserved for gen-ed courses when you become an English major. Grades are more likely to be based on projects and papers that test your ability to chip away at problems and ideas. If you’re more inclined to take time shaping your work into something that you can revisit, revise, and be proud of, English assignments won’t feel tedious.
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to follow any specific, English, locked-in path after you graduate. You don’t have to teach, or even like kids. If you want, you don’t need to go near a school or university for the rest of your life after you cross that stage at the Bryce Jordan Center.
There are about a million different things you can do with an English degree, because having an English degree means you can write well, communicate effectively, and analyze work. Law schools are filled with people who studied English during their undergrad, and every major company needs someone who’s able to tell their story.
No matter where your interests lie, there’s absolutely going to be a way for you to spin your English degree into a career you’re passionate about. You just need to have enough of an open mind to slog through 100 pages of Ulysses before next class.
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