From time to time, people will assume that an English degree is an “easy” or “useless” program choice. Let me tell you, as someone who wholeheartedly loves their major — it is no. such. thing. I think people who don’t (or haven’t yet) studied English might not have a clear idea of what it really entails… so here’s a couple of side effects of an English degree:
- You may get better at forming strong arguments and providing evidence. This is useful in all sorts of ways: being able to articulate your thoughts clearly and with impact makes you better equipped for any circumstance where you might have to interact with people. I’m definitely not the most eloquent person, but thanks to my studies I’m getting a lot better at making sure my points land, and making a persuasive argument. How does this translate to real life? Think job interviews, meetings, cocktail parties, conflict resolution etc.
- You will become able to critically engage with current events and media. The key to studying literature is to engage critically with the text and examine the different layers of meaning within it. How does this translate to real life? Watching movies, listening to music, reading news articles, following politics, deciphering cryptic texts and DMs (this is not a joke — you really get good at reading between the lines).
- You may develop heightened empathy — reading a diverse variety of texts = examining things from perspectives you may not otherwise be exposed to. In my Children’s Lit class I learned so much from the diversity of texts and the diverse group of classmates, many of whom were parents or from other countries. How does this translate to real life? Being able to consider the perspectives of others can help to support an ethos of intersectionality and allyship, as well as being a more empathetic person in general.
- You may experience improved upper body strength from carrying massive books. Lift with your legs, friends. How does this translate to real life? Saves on a gym membership.
- You may become more adept at time and workload management based on how many pages you have to read that day. How does this translate to real life? Time management is a skill that will serve you throughout your life — get good at it ASAP.
- You will develop a keen eye for detail/editing skills. Four years+ into my degree, dozens of essays and a side hustle as a copywriter later, I’ve written/edited/proofread countless cover letters, resumés, bios, and applications for myself and several friends — in English et en français. How does this translate to real life? Being able to write effectively will serve you abundantly. Need a flawless application for your dream job opportunity? A fire Tinder bio? A professional clapback? You get the idea.
- Understanding an audience= understanding a demographic. A big part of understanding literature is understanding its intended audience. How does this translate to real life? This skill is helpful in LOTS of job markets. Retail? Communications? Business? Service? You’re set.
- Sudden appearance of very specific and unusual general knowledge: did you know that the Puritans were the first to publish literature specifically for children? Have you ever spent hours reading about the economics of Caribbean tourism for an essay? Have you ever had to actually decipher secret codes when doing a presentation on Poe’s detective stories? How does this translate to real life? I mean, you’ll be a hoot at parties. You’ll also probably be really good at trivia and pub quizzes, as I discovered when my friends recently got me to join them playing the HQ Trivia app.
There’s a lot more to the English program than meets the eye — so don’t write it off if it piques your interest!