1. From the moment you declare your major, you will claim authority over any and all grammar or spelling disputes that arise in everyday conversations. If two friends are squabbling about the difference between affect and effect, you but have to say, “English major!” and whatever you decree to be the right answer is accepted without contest.
2. Although any and all English majors will publicly scorn Sparknotes and decry it as a bastard resource, it is secretly a very awesome tool. Most books you read are old enough or famous enough to have a Sparknotes page, and even a fair amount of poetry; sure, it’s more satisfying to understand what’s going on in the book on your own, but it’s better to not show up for class clueless. Most of us English majors are great a bullshitting essays and the like—this skill transfers over well to bullshitting in-class discussions on books we may or may not have actually read.
3. Every so often—more often than you might think—you have already read a book you need to read for class because the list of great, classic literature that professors like to teach is evidently pretty finite. Yes, we are higher appreciators of literature who wish to expand our personal canon by reading new and exciting works with every course we take. But it is actually pretty sweet to find out that there is one less book you have to read for that class (unless you want to—I reread Pride & Prejudice for a freshman writing class because I actually enjoy reading it, but the same cannot be said for The Odyssey).
4. “Watching movies in class is still a thing for you,” said a nursing student friend of mine quite jadedly. You may have noticed by now that many English majors are also really into movies (myself included). That English majors are often movie buffs is a fact. My Advanced Writing professor simultaneously taught a Horror Film Studies course. As a mere sophomore I have not taken many upper level English courses, but so far every English class I have taken has shown movies in it. All of our qualities that make us appreciate literature—ability to pick up on subtle devices, understanding of different techniques and styles, appreciation for a good story, and so on—also make us enthusiastic movie-goers. Once you turn on that deep, intellectual, analytical brain for reading, it stays on for every movie you watch.
5. You’ll get chummy with some really great professors. We are the types of students who stay in touch with our professors after the semester ends, get advice on our personal lives from them during office hours, join them for tea to discuss films, go out to a pub as a class for a round on the professor to celebrate the end of the semester. These things do not happen with intimidating, unapproachable teachers that seem to teach all other kinds of subjects—you certainly won’t have the chance to get close with your Biology 101 professor in a lecture hall that holds 300 students. English professors are awesome, friendly, intelligent, approachable people (the good ones). They’re interested in what you have to say, but also challenge you to think harder.
6. You will meet people who admire you for majoring in English. Yes, you will grow to want to punch anyone who asks “What do you plan to do for a career?” or “do you want to teach?” No matter in how well-meaning of a tone that person tries to ask, these are questions you are very sick of hearing. And sometimes they’re not even really trying to sound well-meaning (cough, cough, business majors). But you will also meet some people who wished themselves they had majored in the humanities, and envy that you actually did it. They probably chickened out and majored in something really practical and specific per the advice of their parents, like human resources or accounting, but they admire that you are actually studying what you want to study. Once in a while you may also meet someone who majors in something really technical, like some sort of math or science, because that’s what they’re good at and they are actually quite bad at English. Yes, “bad at English” is something I struggle to wrap my head around too, but some people will really admire the work you do as English major because they can’t do it themselves. That will make you feel pretty special.
7. Your major doesn’t matter anyway. You’re in college to learn. Short of pre-med students and engineering students, most every person in your graduating class is going to spend a year either unemployed, in an unpaid internship, working in retail or food service, or working as a low-pay secretary or assistant or some other dead-end office job, regardless of whether you studied media studies or social justice or marketing or whatever. And really, English degrees are more marketable than you think. You think employers are going to look at your résumé and say, “Uh oh, no, we can’t hire her, her abilities to read and think critically, edit writing, write well, communicate well with others, hear out others’ ideas, compose research, speak well to a crowd and carry on an interesting conversation with clients will not go over well in this job and work environment”? Oh please.