If you decide to major in English, prepare to do a lot of reading. Of course, most students who choose this field of study enjoy reading anyway, so this shouldn’t be much to ask. However, studying English as a major in college calls for a whole new level of reading that you may not be fully prepared for. In addition to that, you will face a larger world of writing – but again, this is an activity you hopefully already enjoy.
Yet, regardless of how much you genuinely admire reading and writing, there are elements of the English major world that you’ll need to familiarize yourself with in order to get through these classes successfully. There are different approaches to assigned readings, more complex essays to write, and heavier class discussions to be had. You won’t be able to treat this set of classes the same way you treated past English subjects. A different academic lifestyle is required for such an intensive perspective on literature. But if it is something you are passionate about, the appropriate mindset shouldn’t be too difficult to acquire.
When it comes to the books you will read, be prepared to read a lot of material very fast. In high school, you may have spent a whole semester on a book – as an English major in college, you may spend a few weeks on one. Try not to get too freaked out when you give the syllabus an overview on the first day of class and see you will be covering around 10 books in the next 14 or so weeks. The tight page schedule your professor keeps you on may seem like a lot – and it probably is – but it is possible to carry through effectively. It takes serious discipline, however, to read at the required speed level rather than at your own comfortable pace. If you tend to take your time when reading a novel, you’ll need to really step up your concentration to complete these tasks on time.
Skimmed reading is not an option for English majors. At the very least, it is not an option for those who want to sincerely understand the material. General ideas are not acceptable for papers and tests in the English major world. It is true that all teachers even outside of this world look for better, well-thought-out ideas rather than general ones, but students who are English majors are put up against a much higher bar of standards. You are choosing to study English, so you are expected to draw up a much deeper analysis than other students would. You will have to do whatever it takes to give each reading assignment the serious attention it deserves in order to come up with truly thoughtful insights; these insights cannot be made up or halfway developed. Here are some great tips for reading an assigned book you dislike that you may find useful one day.
Since these reading assignments will be quite lengthy with incredibly fast approaching deadlines, it is important that you master how to give them the intense concentration needed in such a quick amount of time. You cannot rely on summaries or cliff notes because the insights your teachers are searching for will only come from true reading. Observations of specific quotes and passages that cannot be easily identified from those sources are things you should be pointing out. It is necessary to think about not just the story itself, but the author’s intentions for it. A big concept English majors are trained to look into is the mindset of the respective writer of a piece. It is never enough to simply analyze the plot and characters alone – the actions behind the author’s words and plot decisions are extremely significant. Looking into details such as these can genuinely increase a student’s awareness of the skill it takes to successfully execute this craft. English majors study more than just the story, they study the way the story was created and the reasons it was created in that way. You may also want to check out these tips on how to interpret a reading assignment.
While on the subject of the authors themselves, another part of being an English major involves getting familiar with who these authors were/are. You will learn about the most notable authors in the world as people and why they are so admired for their work. Get ready to begin recognizing a lot more of these names as if they were current celebrities. They will become more than just bylines to you.
When it comes to class discussions, it will be a lot harder to get by without saying much, if that is typically how you treat class discussions. However, if you are applying your best focus to your reading and writing assignments as you should be, then the discussions shouldn’t be such a burden. You’ll probably find yourself wanting to converse with your peers about these readings. Even if you don’t genuinely enjoy the reading as a personal form of entertainment, you’ll be inclined to discuss it just to improve your comprehension of the main themes and ideas. If you are as invested in the assignments as you need to be, discussions will be the opportunity you have been waiting for to get all of your thoughts out on the table and compare them to those of your classmates. Hearing different perspectives will really round out your understanding of the subjects and most likely inspire you drastically for your next essay topic. Here are some great tips on how to participate in a class discussion that you may find helpful.
Being an English major comes with a truly dedicated lifestyle to reading and writing. This would seemingly be a give-in, but it can be surprisingly overlooked. The seriousness of the matter is that these readings will need to be a main focus in your daily routine. If they are not, your chances of struggling and falling behind will increase. To reiterate, if you have chosen English as your major, then you should already have a sincere appreciation for these skills – this is just your time to take it to the next level. Make sure that is something you are ready and wanting to do and this adventure in literature will take you far.