To my fellow English majors,
Did you ever give in to the myth that English is a worthless college degree? Have you ever hesitated when someone asked you what you’re studying? For some reason, people seem to think the career prospects for people who study literature are few and far between.
I’m here to tell you that’s absolutely not true.
As a lifelong lover of books and literature, I know in my heart that English is the right path to pursue. It has always been my favorite subject in school. I was the kid everyone asked to edit their papers; I did it because I could see the grammar mistakes from a mile away and it bothered me. But before graduating high school I was told that I needed to study something more practical. Something “challenging.”
I felt like I needed to impress people with my choice of study. So, my freshman year, I forwent my original idea of English and declared my major pre-med biology. I ended up being miserable for my first two years of college.
During my Freshman and Sophomore Year I spend countless hours and late nights studying for classes I have no interest in.
All I really want to do is read, write and be creative. Despite these feelings, I press on, hoping they’ll go away. The ooo’s and ahhh’s I receive from impressing my friends and family when I explain my findings from molecular biology lab reports are enough to keep me going.
It’s 3 a.m. and I’m the last one in the library. I’m studying for my organic chemistry final exam, feeling too tired and frustrated to even function. After two years, I reach my breaking point. At this moment, I decide it’s time to be real with myself and change my course. I slam my textbook shut and storm out of the library.
The next day, I march into my advisor’s office and tell her I’m changing my major.
She responds by giving me a look of uncertainty, but I tell her I’ve never been more certain of anything in my life. I’m at a point in my self-awareness journey where I know I need a change. I no longer want to take science and math classes that don’t interest me. So halfway through my undergraduate career, I take responsibility for my passions. I decide to pursue English (at my school the major is called Editing, Writing & Media). I’m lucky, and a little shocked, to have the full support of both my parents.
I hit the ground running and never look back. I feel captivated by my classes because they allow me to be creative. My coursework includes everything from copywriting and editing, to graphic design and video recording. My ability to create compelling stories skyrockets. From all the deep reading and writing, I notice my vocabulary improving over time. Instead of feeling frustrated while doing homework, like before, I have fun with my assignments. My professors inspire me to become a better writer, thinker and speaker.
In pursuing a major that I genuinely enjoy, I’ve learned how to take charge of who I want to become: someone bold and resilient who rolls with the punches and overcomes adversities. The process of changing career tracks when I was already halfway through college was a rocky one. But it isn’t about what other people think. I will pursue something that aligns with my interests and my goals.
I can see myself being passionate about English for the long run. My Editing, Writing and Media track lets me explore the exciting worlds of literature, digital media and journalism. Each of these fields require talented and sharp writers, and the skills we learn can be applied to every industry. Pre-medical studies are a great thing to pursue and many people feel that this is their calling in life, but it isn’t for me. I’m glad I got out before it was too late. Even the mere thought of spending my days sequestered to a lab, staring at beakers and titration equipment gives me anxiety.
I immersed myself in what I actually love and the time I spent wondering what my purpose was diminished.
Instead of focusing on what I’m missing out on, all my energy is devoted to creating, writing and searching for new opportunities.
Despite my initial concerns, I found that the career options are numerous for students who study English. There is also a breadth of internship opportunities. Companies like to hire liberal arts students because, as it turns out, people like hiring creative, idealistic and articulate individuals to work at their companies. Who would’ve thought? The jobs are out there, just waiting to be taken by the next ambitious English major. All you need to do is find them. This is a chance to put those research skills to good use.
The Opportunities are Endless.
Since going with English, I’ve been a writer for my school’s newspaper, lived in Chicago for a summer while working as a communications intern and am now working as a creative marketing intern at a technology startup. Oh, and I’ve written lots of essays.
The major can prepare you for careers in business, public affairs, education, law and there’s always the occasional best–selling author. Seriously, it could happen. Regardless of which field you want to go into, the English major will make you a great communicator, something needed across the board. In fact, Richard Branson, billionaire founder of Virgin Group, said in 2015 that communication is the most important skill any leader can possess.
To anyone on the fence about majoring in English, I say go for it. Your job prospects are limitless. Don’t get me wrong, the process isn’t going to be perfect. It will have its ups and downs just like anything else. However, it is so important to be doing something you love and care about. No matter what you study, with the right amount of desire, hard work and tons and tons of research, you can land amazing jobs and internships. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. It’s the ambition that matters, not the major.