Emma Kate & Co.

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Monday, 9 April 2018

Should You Do An English Degree?



I've almost finished the second year of my degree, so I thought now might be a good time to impart a few words of wisdom to anyone considering studying English at university. After studying a subject I hated for a year, I know how important it is to be doing something you absolutely love. Thankfully, I adore my degree now. I honestly can't imagine doing anything else. There are a few things that I think would be helpful to know before going into an English degree though.

1 // READING NOVELS INSTEAD OF TEXTBOOKS

It's certainly a lot nicer to be reading novels than dense and dreary textbooks. I often sit in the library feeling like a bit of a fraud, because a lot of my reading doesn't really feel like work at all. That being said, you won't enjoy all of the novels you read. Some might be new favourites but others will be mind-numbingly dull. It's also easy to forget that you won't just be reading novels. You'll also be reading a lot theoretical texts on topics such as gender, marxism, postmodernism and psychoanalysis. These are often really interesting but tend to be more hard going than the actual novels. Then there's all your secondary reading, long essays by academics. Despite popular opinion, 'loving reading' doesn't necessarily mean you'll love an English degree.

2 // INDEPENDENT STUDY

The amount of contact time you get for an English degree is, frankly, ridiculous. I get taught for 8 hours a week, 4 of these being lectures and the other 4 seminars. You might want to ask yourself if you fancy spending £9,000 a year for the privilege of library access and having to trek to uni for just an hours contact time. If you're going to do an English degree, you're going to have to have some serious self-discipline. Nobody is making you do the work. It's all down to you to get in the library and get reading. It's not all doom and gloom though. Independent study means that you can really follow your own interests. In fact, this is encouraged. Your extra reading is likely to be completely different to somebody else's because everyone's following their own interests. In this sense, an English degree can be really well tailored to your own interests, rather than those of a random lecturer whose name you won't remember in 5 years time. Studying something you enjoy is a sure fire way to love your degree.

3 // MULTI-DISCIPLINARY

One of my favourite things about my degree is how multi-disciplinary it is. Of course, I learn a lot about books and authors, but I also get to dip my toes into all sorts of other things. I get to learn about historical events and cultures, politics, philosophy, film studies, classics, the list goes on! Not to mention all the random facts I learn along the way because they happen to be mentioned in the novels I read. If you're looking to get a broader knowledge of the world and culture in general, an English degree is a great choice!

4 // TRANSFERABLE SKILLS

Oh the elusive 'transferable skills'. Always mentioned at open days in a bid to convince you of the value of a humanities degree. Jokes aside, you really do gain valuable life tools from studying English. After three years of intense essay writing, you're likely to be excellent at articulating yourself. All that independent study means your time management skills will be on point and you're likely to be a lot more pro-active than those who have taken courses where the information is spoon-fed. If you don't really know what you want to do career-wise, English might not be such a bad bet.


5 // BREADTH NOT DEPTH

I had this idea that in getting a degree, I would become an expert in my subject. This has been far from the case. At A-level I studied two or three texts for a whole year. Now I might study two or three texts per week! The English degree gives you a broad overview of literature, rather than closely focused analysis of certain texts. This can be a little disconcerting and fairly overwhelming at first but it's actually pretty great. If you enjoy a text, you can choose to write an essay on it and really get into the nitty gritty stuff. Maybe you'll even choose to do a dissertation on it! Equally if you hate a text (I'm looking at you Medieval moral plays), you can forget about it in a week's time and move on to the next thing.



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