The 10 Best Minors to Match Your English Major

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You’re looking at that minor requirements sheet, wondering “Do I really want to do this?” Do minors really even matter anyway? What if minors distract me from keeping up my GPA for employers?  Take it from an English major with two minors in psychology and Spanish: if you love studying literature, you’ll love studying a lot of other things about the world too. I mean, you’re not reading only about reading in your English classes; You must have other interests too. If you have a secret talent for mental math or a passion for radical feminism, then go explore other departments at your school.

Learn from current English majors why their minors give them a more holistic educational experience.

1. Psychology

Do you revere Freud as much as you do Austen? Do you want to understand how people actually think so your future YA novel can reach a level of sophistication that Twilight never achieved? Then embrace a psychology minor. Learn about all aspects of humanity so you can understand how the hell Caulfield and Tolstoy got everyone to want to be BFFs with their characters.

Classes you’ll take: Intro to Psych, Statistical Methods for Psychology and some life-changing electives like The Psychology of Beauty.

Mix or match: The research aspects of psychology obviously stray from those six-page English papers, but your already killer writing skills will give your reports a serious advantage.

Read our master guide to the psychology major.

2. Humanities

a stake of humanities books

Let’s be real, humanities isn’t exactly a large jump from the English major. But if sitting in a circle for 80 minutes debating the definition of a single word and breaking down concepts outside of the fictional realm gets you excited, put your creative mind to use with a humanities minor.

Classes you’ll take: Intro classes like “History of Ideas in Context I” along with electives like Folk Music in the Digital Age and Shakespeare Today. Anything from anthropology, history to economics is fair game.

Mix or match: It’s a toss up; most of your classes will fall in line with your English major, but subjects like econ and sociology pop up when reading classic texts by Adam Smith or Kinsey.

3. Foreign Language / Culture

girl walking though asian garden

As a Spanish minor, I’ve literally read numerous short stories in both English and Spanish classes. So if you’re feeling lazy, pick up a foreign language minor. Just kidding—minors are definitely not for the faint hearted. However, you’ll find a foreign language minor one of the most diverse experiences you could ask for. “In all honesty, I know for a fact that this is basically a certificate that proves I can speak Chinese and that can open doors to job opportunities that would be difficult to attain with just an English major,” Northwestern junior Kori Cooper said. So say “adios” to anyone who says you can’t get a job as an English major.

Classes you’ll take: Intro-level classes focus on culture, while upper levels kick your butt with literature and grammar. But let me tell you, the lit is pretty lit, and a good grammar professor knows how to make the dry topic approachable and even easy

Mix or match: Your classes might seem similar to your English and literature courses, but hey, they are in a different language after all. Your history and culture classes will give you a nice break from the heavy reading with movies and group projects to break up those lonely nights in the library. And you know what they say, two is better than one… especially in today’s diverse job market.

Check out our master guide to a foreign language major.

4. Religious studies

a person folds their hands in prayer

Religious studies tackle a lot of the same big concepts as your favorite novel. “It’s a great, interdisciplinary program that focuses on literature, history, anthropology, you name it,” Northwestern junior Adina Goldman said. “I do Jewish studies, so that’s particularly great if you’re looking to deepen your understanding of the Christian context and the Judaic biblical heritage of a lot of English literature.” If you love contemplating how people think and why they think that way, then listen closely; the religious studies minor calls you.

Classes you’ll take: Intro to Religion, Intro to Buddhism/Hinduism/Judaism etc. and electives like American Teenage Rites of Passage.

Mix or match: You’ve just won the match game! Usually the profs pile on the reading, so you’ll probably find the in-depth analysis of hefty texts easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy. After all, you signed up for lots of reading as an English major.

Learn more about a majoring in religious studies here.

5. Linguistics

Where the hell do words come from anyway? I can read Darcy proposing to Lizzie (twice) a thousand times, but, even as a creative writing major, I don’t know the first thing about the structure of a sentence. That’s where the linguistics minor comes in handy.

Classes you’ll take: Syntax, phonemes and even foreign language opportunities (Guess who’s taking Intro to Spanish Linguistics next quarter?).

Mix or match: Like the perfect relationship, English and linguistics have similarities but differences that complement each other perfectly. You’ll encounter words, words and more words while tapping into that left brain going by examining the science behind, well, words.

Here’s the logic behind a linguistics major.

6. Economics

The average Faulkner-obsessed English major might not be dying to study supply and demand or corporate trends, but who said you were average? Studying a social science, and really honing your ability to track trends in society, fleshes out your resume in a huge way that employers love. If you don’t want to be reading and writing pages and pages 24/7, taking an intro class never hurt nobody.

Classes you’ll take: I’m sure you’ve heard “micro” and “macro” thrown around campus more than a football. Your higher-level classes allow you to concentrate in one of these aspects of economics with electives like corporate finance, international finance or economic history.

Mix or match: This is a mix–in a tossed salad sort of way. Math and social sciences help you analyze the world from a different perspective and add to your skill set immensely. Just think, when you can write the perfect email, have intelligent literary conversations and crunch numbers, employers will hire you before you even walk off that graduation stage.

Read what it’s really like to major in economics.

7. History

historical artifacts in a museum

Most English majors find the drama of WW2 battles and English royalty familiar to what they’ve read in literature. I mean, literature has to be influenced by something, right? Even if you don’t dream of writing historical fiction, learning about historical events improves your non-fiction writing skills and gives you endless creative inspiration. You can even read your favorite novels again from a whole new perspective. Did you know that Pride and Prejudice was hella feminist for its time?

Classes you’ll take: American or world history surveys along with special topic classes like Hamilton’s America or Religion in the West.

Mix or match: Something’s burning, must be a match. Students with history minors still write papers… just about things that actually happened instead of a dream had last night that you’re convinced would make the perfect YA novel.

Learn everything you need to know about majoring in history here. Ever thought about majoring in art history?

8. Journalism

a notebook, glasses and photos from journalism minors

When I was applying to my dream school of Northwestern, I wasn’t sure if I should apply to the journalism school or the English major in the College of Arts and Sciences. I just knew one thing: I love to write. If you can’t get enough of writing and literally want to do it all the time, this major/minor combo fits into your life perfectly.

Classes you’ll take: Journalism minors can expect Current Events, Reporting, Design, Editing.

Mix or match: Not as much of a match as you might think – while you’ll still be putting those writing skills to get use, you’ll have to take your head out of the clouds to interact with real people about their real lives.  Say goodbye to writing about mystical orange trolls, and hello to writing about politicians… oh wait, those seem to be the same these days anyway.

Here’s a full report of everything to know about majoring in journalism and the best j-school’s in the nation for 2016.

9. Women’s studies

four girl friends laughing in a green house

Face it, most of the best books you read in English class are either about women or by women. Pride and Prejudice? Check. Harry Potter? Check. The Catcher in the Rye? … Okay, well maybe not all of them, but all the more reason to study women in your other classes. In these arguably dark times, you might find comfort in remembering how much women fought to earn the rights they deserve. “The combo works well because I’ve always been a feminist and inherently curious about these things that affect me so much and that I have always been interested in,” Penn State senior Emmaline Theobald said. With historical context in your back pocket, you’ll finally be able to win those debates with your English major friends about if Margaret Atwood and Virginia Woolf are true feminists. Women’s studies minors for the win!

Classes you’ll take: Cross-culture classes (ex. Latinas in the U.S.) along with more science-based classes (ex. Race, Gender and Science).

Mix or match: “I think that understanding the fundamentals of writing helps me to understand the fundamentals of history and feminism that are being discussed today,” Theobald said. Call this one a match made in geek heaven.

Learn what women’s studies majors actually do.

10. International studies

tokyo travel departure time

Surely all the books you’ve ever read snuggled under your covers aren’t about people exactly like you. International studies helps you learn about other cultures and the experiences of people living in different nations. “I’ve always been interested in the world as a whole, and when I studied abroad, international studies seemed like a good fit,” Theobald said. Minors international studies pull your head out of the clouds and reminds you of what’s going on all over the world right now and what you can do to play a part.

Classes you’ll take: Global History, Macroeconomics, Foreign Relations.

Mix or match: A great match to supplement your exploration of what literature says about the real world.

Let current students give you the inside scoop on majoring in international relations.

Hi, my name is Meghan and I'm a sophomore at Northwestern University. I've had a passion for creative writing ever since I was creative editor of my high school paper, and now I'm pursuing the creative writing major at the college level. I love writing in my own voice to help other people get through tough times.

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