As a high school senior known for her indecisiveness, one thing I knew for sure was that I did not want to go to college undecided on a major. In that way, I learned my first lesson from college life. I made a decision and stuck to it. I would be an English major.
How did I decide to become an English major? Process of elimination.
When I realized I had to choose a major when applying to colleges (or else select the dreaded “undecided”), I felt frantic as to what I would choose. As a high school senior, I really had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I had tried out a lot of potential careers during high school: art, fashion, accounting, architecture—nothing seemed to stick. By my senior year, I had realized I was not inclined to study a STEM-related field, and social studies was not my favorite either. Out of the four core subjects, what did that leave? English. It felt wrong to figure out my favorite subject by process of elimination, and even worse to base my major on that, but that is exactly what I did.
Choosing this major taught me that I like having a plan and setting a goal.
I prefer going into something, especially something as considerable as college, with a plan of action. The reason I forced myself to choose a major even when I was not entirely certain was to give myself something to try. That is another thing I have learned about myself—I love trying new things. If I had to try ten majors before settling on one, then I figured it would be best to let the experiment begin as soon as possible. I also learned that I need deadlines to hold myself accountable. It is too easy for me to push off decisions until the last minute, so choosing a major while applying to schools kept me from wallowing in uncertainty for another year or two.
Fast forward to freshman year of college. I was not any more certain, but I started to get a feel for what the English major would be like. Besides the introductory course that all freshmen had to take, my first English classes were a global film art course and a creative writing workshop. Watching movies and writing poetry for homework honestly felt like a dream.
The English major was already growing on me.
Another great thing about the English major was that the requirements to graduate only comprised forty credits, leaving lots of room to explore other subjects and departments. I continued trying out careers in college, just like I had in high school. I took classes in nutrition, journalism, sociology, criminal justice and women’s history. Believe it or not, I even tried out the dance major for a semester and picked up a minor in Spanish.
Even within the English major, the courses fall into different categories, forcing everyone to take a variety. There are multiple courses that fulfill each category, so no two English majors will have the same exact schedule. I have studied grammar, poetry, global film, linguistics, modern literature, Arthurian legend and pre-1800s literature.
I already knew I loved trying new things, but taking such a wide range of courses has made me flexible and taught me how to learn valuable lessons from a variety of texts. This leads to another thing I learned about myself. Being an English major has helped me rediscover my childhood love for reading. As a kid, I always had a book with me. As an English major, I cannot say much has changed.
In this way, English has been a better fit than I originally thought.
Of course, enjoying my major is one thing, but more important is what I will do with the English major. Choosing a major for the next four years may have been difficult as a high school senior, but by the time you graduate college, you are expected to know what to do with the rest of your life. Many people wonder what someone could do with the English major. And I have wondered the same thing. Many also assume English majors become English teachers, but they do not realize the possibilities are endless. I could become a writer, lawyer, editor, human resources specialist, social media manager and so much more. Even within teaching, the options are endless when you take into consideration that Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL/TEFL) can take you anywhere in the world.
At first I thought I wanted to be an editor and work for a publishing company. I still enjoy editing my friends’ papers, so I have not completely eliminated this option. Last year, I considered working in the field of law and took a legal writing course. However, briefing cases made me doubtful it would be a good fit for me. Taking a course in linguistics showed me how fascinating it can be to study how we use language in everyday speech, but I do not think I could be a linguist for the rest of my life. In fact, thinking of myself in any one career makes me uneasy—I like change too much. Teaching English abroad has started to appeal to me more and more for this reason. No two days would look the same and I could teach in multiple countries over the years.
A major with endless opportunities fits me perfectly.
I have learned applicable skills such as writing, rhetoric, speech-giving and analytical reading. These skills can be put to use wherever I go in the future. As someone who never knew how to answer the question, what do you want to be when you grow up? I have come to realize that the English major is the perfect way to leave my career possibilities open. I may have been uncertain when I chose it, but I have come to embrace the open-endedness of the English major.