Advice to Aspiring English Majors — Real Students’ Stories
This article was written based on the information and opinions presented by English majors Brooke Elkjer and Katie DiFrancesco in a CollegeVine livestream. You can watch the full livestream for more info.
You might be set on an English major already, or maybe you’re uncertain about what you’re going to pick as your college major—and that’s normal. Sometimes, you’ll have an idea about what subject you want to pursue in college, only to realize that you’d much rather be studying something else. In this article, you’ll hear from real English majors about how they came to study the discipline and how it wasn’t always the most straightforward path.
High School Activities
Sometimes, high schools don’t provide any activities that could suit a prospective English major. At my school, there was only the school newspaper. This can be a great way to build up your skills, but I didn’t do any writing for our paper.
I wouldn’t say that my extracurricular profile made me look like a great candidate to pursue English in college. I participated in many things—I was one of those high-strung kids who had everything on their resume. I wanted to be at the top of my class and go to a good school, but I don’t think that I got invested in anything. There are many activities that you can pursue in high school that could help you out later as an English major, but in my experience, it’s not necessary to participate in them.
Choosing the English Major
As a young child, I was an avid reader. That likely has something to do with my eventual choice of major, and I had that passion from a very young age.
I was always good at my English classes in high school, but ultimately, I think my path to the major involved me failing at everything else. My tests at Princeton University were horrific. It all felt impossible and that it wasn’t for me, but I excelled at writing essays. I did those better than pretty much everyone else.
I decided to look into a major that just involved writing essays, and I ended up falling in love with it. You should be aware that you’ll change from high school to college. For example, I was great at tests in high school, but it all turned upside down in the new environment.
College can teach you what you’re best at, often through trial and error. I didn’t come in thinking that I was meant to major in English. I didn’t even know what I was going to do after finishing college, and I certainly didn’t realize that a degree in English would correlate with my future plans. It all just fell into place.
Follow what you’re good at. Follow what you’re passionate about. There’s this fallacy that you need to do many things, especially extracurriculars, to prove your interest. But you don’t need to do every single thing, especially if you don’t care about them. You need to find something that you like doing—that’s the most important part.
You’re probably going to end up majoring in something that you enjoy. After all, you’ll be immersed in it. I’ve learned to love writing essays. When you feel like you have a good idea, it’s exciting to take care in putting your thoughts down onto paper. You’ll also feel exhilarated at the prospect of impressing your instructor. When you pick a major that you care about, you’ll want to succeed in it.