1. First off, you’re basically leaving your options open to pursuing a bunch of different careers. Law? Teaching? Freelancing? Marketing? An English degree can easily start you down any of these career paths. Or multiple paths, at different times, if you’re really undecided.
2. In the same way that it can lead to a wide array of career paths, it can also be specialized to your interests while you’re still in school. If you like poetry, you can write a thesis on a poet you love. If you like gender and women studies, there’s a literature focus for that. If you like philosophy, there’s a literature focus for that, too. The list goes on and on.
3. You will actually learn a lot of really random, interesting things. In one of my literature theory classes, we studied linguistics and semiotics fairly in depth. Sometimes, I still look at a chair and think about how the word “chair” can never come close to the reality of what a chair really is. And that probably won’t help me in life, but it was fun to read about.
4. It’s a great major to double with something else. As you can specialize what to study within English Lit to a certain extent, you can read things that will support your knowledge of your second major. Want to double major in English and History? Take literature classes focused on certain time periods. It’ll help you learn it all that much quicker. Want to double major in English and French? You can read French translations of your favorite books. Or, even better – you can read things in the language they were originally intended for! Multitasking in the best way.
5. A lot of classes will likely assign final papers instead of final exams. If you’re not a great test taker, this is huge.
6. By the time you graduate, you’ll already have some things for a “portfolio” (if you’re into that kind of thing, which I am). Most likely, by the time you’re done with school, you’ll have a senior thesis, a paper that got accepted into a conference, a digital essay, or something with which to start a collection of your work. You’re consistently making things that you can take with you.
7. A lot of tasks throughout your life will be easier. From Reddit posts to love letters to whatever you want to write, it will be pretty quick and painless. Jobwise, even if you don’t pursue a career directly related to your major, you’ll be able to write cover letters and complicated e-mails with ease.
8. When you meet other English majors in your life, there’s a weird inexplicable connection. You just get each other.
9. You’ll get a lot more pop culture references and generally have a good understanding of cultural movements. Even if you never had the patience to read Huck Finn in its entirety or skimmed through The Awakening, you went to lectures and were tested on (or had to write about) this stuff, so you know it well.
10. Some of the things you’ll read in college can lead to really powerful discussions. Not that you can’t get this in other disciplines, but if you read something that addresses a sensitive social issue or something vulgar or something tragic in an English class, there’s really no shying away from those subjects. They’re plot points. You have to have really candid and interesting discussions with your classmates about things that are important and meaningful. You get to disagree. You get to talk about your opinions on things that people don’t really get to talk about in everyday life.
It’s definitely not the track for everyone, but if you’re tempted and unsure about it, these are my thoughts. It’s a flexible major that won’t change you – but will definitely make you more knowledgeable about the world and better able to express yourself. And that’s just the beginning.