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Scared of Going to University

Jim SharkmagicJim Sharkmagic That's the Sharkmagic magic.England, UKRegistered User regular
I'm sorry for this, but I just needed to get it out somewhere.
In nine days, I'll be moving out for the first time to go to University, to study English Lit + Creative Writing. I'm not worried about making friends etc. (even if everyone hates me, I have good friends outside of Uni that mean the world to me), but I *am* worried that the work's going to get to me. I've always been...well, *fairly* bright, but I'm worried I'm going to get bored. I love books and I love writing, but I absolutely detested doing my A-Levels because every book/play/poem I genuinely liked, we went over it so much and sucked it so completely dry of any intrigue/enjoyment that I just wanted to tear my eyes out by the end of it. Maybe I'm just worrying for nothing, but part of me is scared that I should've just taken a different subject and worked on writing on the side. Anyway, thank you, and apologies for the mini rant.

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    DarkewolfeDarkewolfe Registered User regular
    You should absolutely take a different subject; not because it'll be boring but because there's really little justification for a lit degree in the current market.

    Take a look at this story and just chew on this sort of thing for awhile.

    http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2013/09/10/219372252/the-most-and-least-lucrative-college-majors-in-1-graph

    Now, that isn't to say that literature isn't a great thing to study. It is. But getting a literature degree is not a wise investment when you're looking at returns.

    What is this I don't even.
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    Jim SharkmagicJim Sharkmagic That's the Sharkmagic magic. England, UKRegistered User regular
    Darkewolfe wrote: »
    You should absolutely take a different subject; not because it'll be boring but because there's really little justification for a lit degree in the current market.

    Take a look at this story and just chew on this sort of thing for awhile.

    http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2013/09/10/219372252/the-most-and-least-lucrative-college-majors-in-1-graph

    Now, that isn't to say that literature isn't a great thing to study. It is. But getting a literature degree is not a wise investment when you're looking at returns.

    Thanks for that-it was a very interesting read! However, I'm not really looking to do a degree so I can get a job out of it. (Perhaps a stupid decision, I'm aware.) I'm really just looking to do something I'd enjoy learning about.

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    GreeperGreeper Registered User regular
    I can only speak of my experience but the few literature classes I took in college were all, as you put it "went over it so much and sucked it so completely dry of any intrigue/enjoyment that I just wanted to tear my eyes out by the end of it."

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    RendRend Registered User regular
    I'm sorry for this, but I just needed to get it out somewhere.
    In nine days, I'll be moving out for the first time to go to University, to study English Lit + Creative Writing. I'm not worried about making friends etc. (even if everyone hates me, I have good friends outside of Uni that mean the world to me), but I *am* worried that the work's going to get to me. I've always been...well, *fairly* bright, but I'm worried I'm going to get bored. I love books and I love writing, but I absolutely detested doing my A-Levels because every book/play/poem I genuinely liked, we went over it so much and sucked it so completely dry of any intrigue/enjoyment that I just wanted to tear my eyes out by the end of it. Maybe I'm just worrying for nothing, but part of me is scared that I should've just taken a different subject and worked on writing on the side. Anyway, thank you, and apologies for the mini rant.

    The magic bullet to not getting bored in class is, when you are going over something you've already been over, to dig deeper.

    No matter what subject you're in, if you have already mastered the material you're going over at that particular moment, there's always a deeper subject you can explore. For instance, in literature, if you're discussing symbolism and meaning of a certain chapter, passage, character, story arc, or what have you, and you are pretty much hearing the professor repeat themselves, or if you are assigned to write a paper about it and you feel like everything's already been gone over, you can instead go a step beyond what you know and try to find additional symbolic links not only within the text itself, but the context in which it was written.

    There is no way to fully know any aspect of any subject. If you find yourself bored, and you consistently channel that boredom into studying more advanced aspects of the subject matter, not only will you find yourself leaps and bounds ahead of the curve, but you will find that your professors, and, eventually, the people who end up paying you (be that a boss, or a readership), will absolutely take notice and appreciate what you've been able to accomplish.

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    alltheolivealltheolive Registered User regular
    edited September 2013
    From your description, it seems unlikely that you're going to fail at your major or anything; if your problem with your A-levels was just that you hated them, and not that you did poorly, you'll be.... okay. You can't possibly be duller than the dullest person to have succeeded at this (this frame of mind is how I learned to drive). Presumably you don't want to spend 3-5 years of your young life miserably eking out a degree like that... hey! It would probably work.

    But if you really hate A-level English work, mmmaybe you do want to change majors? I don't know. A certain percentage of character-building unpleasant work is usually bearable. If you really want to do writing, what you've chosen is a good way to get a load of practice (beyond the facts and methods you'll learn), and if you switched to Business or Chemistry or Teaching (I have no idea what your uni does or how difficult switching is or what your next choice would be), you would get less writing practice, bottom line. You'll be surrounded by people suffering the same. And you know, grades are only grades- it's dramatically less horrible when you only care the right amount.

    alltheolive on
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    EncEnc A Fool with Compassion Pronouns: He, Him, HisRegistered User regular
    I'm sorry for this, but I just needed to get it out somewhere.
    In nine days, I'll be moving out for the first time to go to University, to study English Lit + Creative Writing. I'm not worried about making friends etc. (even if everyone hates me, I have good friends outside of Uni that mean the world to me), but I *am* worried that the work's going to get to me. I've always been...well, *fairly* bright, but I'm worried I'm going to get bored. I love books and I love writing, but I absolutely detested doing my A-Levels because every book/play/poem I genuinely liked, we went over it so much and sucked it so completely dry of any intrigue/enjoyment that I just wanted to tear my eyes out by the end of it. Maybe I'm just worrying for nothing, but part of me is scared that I should've just taken a different subject and worked on writing on the side. Anyway, thank you, and apologies for the mini rant.

    Hello Jim,

    I am a former English Lit BA/Creative Writing Minor graduate who has since gone on to work and teach in university settings. For the several years I served as an academic adviser for an English department and presently work with incoming students for STEM majors. I mention this because I know what you will be getting into (from several perspectives) and what you can anticipate.


    The first thing I want to convey is that most schools have a means to change major should you wish to do so. My experience has been with the US public university system, so your miles may vary, but there are usually options in case you decide to change your research interest into something different from what you applied for. That said, English is a very applicable major not only for teaching, but also for gainful employment should you make sure to apply yourself in specific contexts. If you are in the UK/Canada/Australia I am uncertain of your policies concerning this.

    That said: English Literature primarily teaches you to teach English Literature (if you are lucky) unless you ensure you are getting the courses needed to be competitive in the long run. Technical Communication courses are essential for ensuring you have useful and applicable skills between your BA and your MA/PhD should you wish to stay true to the literature field. Publishing as a student is also a must to be competitive in the long term. I encourage you to consider a practical application minor program (such as business, accounting, psychology, etc) that most employers will be interested in at the BA level to ensure you have a means to pay for higher education down the line. Typically this is only a handful of courses, but the can be a major difference between graduating and floundering due to not being able to pay for the next step, and graduating and being able to continue on to higher education degrees. When I went to school this wasn't the case, but presently it is a major concern. Plan accordingly.

    English Literature programs are usually driven by critical writing and analysis. You will be diving into and using literary theories to take apart and put back together novels, poems, and screenplays from across our history. Some programs (though not many) will also include historical analysis and potentially new media in addition to the more traditional forms. Many programs right now are adding a special emphasis into rhetorical theories and various practicum on teaching to better prepare you for employment afterwards. If this sounds dull to you, then you may want to consider major exploration.

    Falling back to Technical Communication/Technical Writing, these are the English majors that make the big bucks with greatest frequency (comparatively). Tech writing is essentially editing, writing manuals and communication between specialists (engineers) and non-specialists (consumers), and various types of statistical writing hybrids for folks in other disciplines. There is money in this field, but it can be dull (yet exacting) if you are not greatly into grammar.

    English Literature, Creative Writing, and Rhetoric/Composition majors typically go on to teach as their target job. The best positions, that of being a tenured faculty as an established university, are comparatively few and far between these days, with more instructors and adjuncts being hired as STEM emphasis grows. That said, there are still lots of opportunities to teach at each level of education, and some decent money to be found in it. BA level graduates typically teach via foreign exchange to ESL programs, at high-school or primary school levels, or in tutoring capacities (pay varies depending on nation, region, and need). MA graduates can often teach at community college settings or as part time/non-tenured full time instructors in university settings (pay is usually about half to a quarter of tenured faculty, but usually half again more than high school teachers). PhD graduates typically do some combination of MA and BA program duties until publishing enough to make a name for themselves and finding a tenured position, though there is as much luck required at this stake as skill. Being an English instructor means you go where the work is, so you usually can't expect to stay in a specific town and find work, you will cast a very wide net and go where the best offer is. Being willing to travel where the best offer is must be acceptable to teach in the modern environment (at any level).

    Tenured faculty typically are not the dusty professor smoking a pipe in an office anymore (well, maybe at Harvard or Oxford). Most tenured faculty in English Humanities make approximately 80k-200k a year in the US, with the lower typically being the trend for most new hires unless they land a gig at an established private college or are serving in an administrative role. Tenured faculty are typically expected to teach 2-4 classes a semester, serve on several committees, and usually publish critical or creative works with a great deal of frequency (a book every other year, 4-10 articles a semester, depending on your school your miles may vary). Promotion requires many years of service and being willing to change locations as better positions become available. The benefits, being able to (in a limited way) work only a few days a week at the office and essentially have a life devoted to academia are considerable, though in modern settings class sizes are considerable so grading and student evaluations are increasingly relevant and you must be comfortable speaking in a classroom setting. Most MA level professors teach English Composition (or whatever your local intro course is at the University level) for 3-5 years before gaining higher level courses to add to their skills.

    It can be a very great job, most of my colleagues love what they do, but there is a lot of work involved. Most MA level instructors put in about 60 hours a week realistically, and most full time tenured faculty put in about 25 hours a week (not counting the many, many hours for research and publication). While only 10 of that may be in the classroom for either, the non-classroom duties are substantial. That said, most faculty are on 9-month contracts so you get summers off and paid for.


    The second thing I want to cover is that you shouldn't view your college education as limited to the "what major am I picking" or "what am I going to do with the rest of my life" questions. Your BA/BS is essentially answering "which doors am I opening for the next stage in my life." Most bachelors degrees will open a massive amount of doors simply by having a paper. Certain major programs will open doors only available to them, and some have a good deal of overlap between them.

    For example: an English: Creative Writing degree will:
    -open the door to many jobs that require a BA/BS
    -will overlap with many jobs that require professional editing skills
    -will open exclusively positions that teach creative writing

    It will not:
    -Guarantee you a novel publication/jobs in creative writing/etc.

    The reason why is creative writing is ultimately a portfolio based discipline, and the credential will not mean as much as what you have on paper. In this regard, while a Creative Writing BA would probably greatly assist you with becoming a strong writer, it won't likely be a factor for getting a novel published.

    Consider what doors your major selection will open, what skills they are giving you, and what jobs you can utilize with those skills. There are always more than you think with each of those, and you should see your college's Career Services office as soon as possible once you begin to find out more information.

    Note: For the opposite reason that creative writing only preps exclusively for teaching creative writing, a Business degree wont guarantee nearly any exclusive positions. When the major is so non-specialized as to have universal application, the amount of niche skills you have go down considerably (which is why an Accounting degree is more employable than Business typically).


    The third, and most important, thing you can do is find out who your advisers are and see them as soon as possible. You want to know your faculty and staff advisers, you want them to know you. More often than not these people are the ones writing your letters of recommendation, informing you of internship or publication opportunities, and probably know all the secret offices, tutoring resources, and ways through, around, and over the red tape at your institution. Be polite and friendly with them, rely on their information, and they might just save you a lot of time and effort when it comes to post-graduation studies.

    You also want to know where your University Writing Center is, along with the other tutoring resources for STEM majors and specialty programs (specifically math). You will be taking more than a few of non-English courses during your studies and tutoring is a good thing. These resources are typically not remedial, there is no shame in using them, and they can be just as effective in pushing that B into an A for your final grade as they are getting the kid failing to get a C. Use them!


    Fourth, and shortest of these: the average university student changes their major 3.245 times (as of 2012). You are not alone in going through this. Major exploration is a great thing, and you are likely young. There is plenty of time to look around and see what there is to offer in your college education. Most schools require a general education program which gives you a sampling of many different humanities, STEM, and social sciences disciplines. Get the most out of them!


    Finally, and to repeat it again, you don't need a creative writing degree to write creatively. Many (most, in fact) of authors come from non-English Humanities disciplines and took writing courses on the side or just practiced their craft regularly to gain their skills. If you want to teach English Literature or Creative Writing, and you want to publish regularly in both creative and academic concepts, this is the job path for you. If those things don't sound good, I'd recommend speaking with your faculty in the field to get their opinions of the field to see if their experience matches my own. Faculty have a lot to share, you just have to ask.

    If you ever want to talk about the field, give me a PM. And best of luck in your studies.

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    Jim SharkmagicJim Sharkmagic That's the Sharkmagic magic. England, UKRegistered User regular
    Thank you to everyone for your answers, I didn't think I'd get any replies at all! I think I'm probably going to go and at least try the course for a few weeks. If I do end up hating it, I can always change courses, even if it means waiting until next September.

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    minirhyderminirhyder BerlinRegistered User regular
    Did you just graduate high school or are you older?

    College education is different from high school education.
    You'll likely have classes two or three times a week instead of every day. On top of that, college courses are a lot faster paced and go over a lot more material.

    Given that, I doubt that literature will be gone over so much you'll detest it. Likely you'll go over a thing in the span of a week (because really, a semester is 6-7 weeks and there's only so much time you can spend on one topic) and move on to a new piece.

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    Jim SharkmagicJim Sharkmagic That's the Sharkmagic magic. England, UKRegistered User regular
    minirhyder wrote: »
    Did you just graduate high school or are you older?

    College education is different from high school education.
    You'll likely have classes two or three times a week instead of every day. On top of that, college courses are a lot faster paced and go over a lot more material.

    Given that, I doubt that literature will be gone over so much you'll detest it. Likely you'll go over a thing in the span of a week (because really, a semester is 6-7 weeks and there's only so much time you can spend on one topic) and move on to a new piece.

    This is a little difficult because I actually live in the UK-I *think* I'm the equivalent of having just graduated high school, as I'm eighteen. Thank you, that's a good point about semesters (or "terms", as we crumpet eating ninnies say), there's so much to cover that I may not get so bored as I did before.

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    EncEnc A Fool with Compassion Pronouns: He, Him, HisRegistered User regular
    minirhyder wrote: »
    Did you just graduate high school or are you older?

    College education is different from high school education.
    You'll likely have classes two or three times a week instead of every day. On top of that, college courses are a lot faster paced and go over a lot more material.

    Given that, I doubt that literature will be gone over so much you'll detest it. Likely you'll go over a thing in the span of a week (because really, a semester is 6-7 weeks and there's only so much time you can spend on one topic) and move on to a new piece.

    This is true of general survey courses, but not most of the upper level curriculum in my experience. A general survey course will likely have a different novel selection/short story/poem/play each class session, with a short paper every other week and a long paper at the end of the course. An upper level course, such as an author or theme based topic "LIT 3XXX - Chaucer and his Times" or "ENL 4XXX - The Victorian Novel" will have fewer works, with much more in depth analysis. For that last one, you might have 3 or 4 novels that you focus on for 2-4 weeks each, with a short and long paper on each novel and the expectation of 150 pages a week for that class alone.

    Which is great if you enjoy the topic (which I did for Victorian Studies, love dem Dickens books), but awful if you hate the author (such as Faulkner, who for me is painful).

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    deathnote666deathnote666 Registered User regular
    edited September 2013
    deleted

    deathnote666 on
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    MulysaSemproniusMulysaSempronius but also susie nyRegistered User regular
    A friend of mine who was an English major had a nice rant about the lack of jobs thing.
    There are so many jobs out there for english majors, even if they don't specifically require english degrees. Besides publishing and technical writing, there are a lot of jobs in advertising, publicity, or other office jobs where english majors are looked upon favorably. If you double major or minor in something like comp sci, you would be golden for so many jobs as well.
    Getting a "top majors for jobs" degree won't help if it's not something you are interested in or something you won't want to do for life. I would suggest doing what you want to do, and focus your Junior/Senior year on internships and networking. You really should not think about just the next few years, but where you would like to go with this.

    If that's all there is my friends, then let's keep dancing
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    bsjezzbsjezz Registered User regular
    edited September 2013
    my first degree was a BA in humanities, majoring in creative writing

    first off i'll agree with enc - the university study context is very different to the high school context, and the pace at which you approach new material means you're very unlikely to 'burn out' on any given text. for me, even at the more focused subject levels (eg, modernism) there was always opportunity to act in a self-directed fashion, and master the texts that were most interesting - in that unit my readings of woolf were cursory, while i became thoroughly invested in conrad, for example.

    yes, you will confront a lot of very dry critical readings - dense tomes of them - that may or may not actually resonate with you. many of them you will have to read thoroughly and write on. engaging with this stuff in the way they'd like you to is a skill, and one that can take years of undergraduate study to develop.

    my advice in approaching it is to trust the courses and trust your teachers. don't get bitter about the slate of work, and abandon the idea of 'burning out' on a text - maybe cast your mind forward to the PhD students, who can spend years researching and writing thick theses on one text. they will tell you what you need to do to burn something out. as an undergrad, you'll get nowhere near it.

    mostly, have fun. personally i've found it more useful - and rewarding in results - to get really excited about the interesting parts of a course and to ignore the duller stuff. to do that well takes time - for now, just be grateful you have an opportunity to become a literature expert.

    congratulations on choosing the world's greatest discipline. don't let anyone tell you your study won't be worthwhile.

    bsjezz on
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    hsuhsu Registered User regular
    Just going to post a few articles here by an English professor.

    "Graduate School in the Humanities: Just Don't Go"
    http://chronicle.com/article/Graduate-School-in-the-Huma/44846/

    "Is Graduate School a Cult?"
    http://chronicle.com/article/Is-Graduate-School-a-Cult-/44676

    iTNdmYl.png
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    JasconiusJasconius sword criminal mad onlineRegistered User regular
    I would strongly suggest minoring in a scientific discipline. If you go whole hog in humanities it's probably going to burn you

    unless someone else is paying your tuition, and even still, a tough road to travel

    my girlfriend is an English major. I can tell you first hand that unless you recycle yourself in Academia, the job market is mostly brutal and low paying

    The nice thing about having a general liberal arts education though is that generally, companies do look upon them with favor, but you have to prove that you can work in that kind of environment, the piece of paper won't be enough

    hence: minor in something that has some kind of industrial or commercial application as a safety net

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    TechnicalityTechnicality Registered User regular
    He says he's in the UK, and over here we don't have majors and minors and such.

    As far as I'm aware, you pretty much always go to University to study one thing here. Sometimes there is flexibility in what you specialise in though. For example I studied "Electronic Engineering", but came away with a degree in "Electronic and Computer Engineering" due to the modules I took within the course. I could not however have got a degree in "Electronic Engineering and Interpretive Dance" or anything else outside the field.

    I imagine if you wanted to study literature and also get a qualification in business or something you'd have to do them separately. It might be possible but I've not heard of anyone doing so. This is not direct advice for the OP, but I thought it might help people giving advice understand the situation a bit better.

    handt.jpg tor.jpg

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    ThundyrkatzThundyrkatz Registered User regular
    I just want to point out also, that the academic side of college is only part of the experience you are about to have. There is so much in the way of personal development through non academic means that is available to take advantage of. Join some clubs, meet some people and spread your wings.

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    Rhesus PositiveRhesus Positive GNU Terry Pratchett Registered User regular
    Literature courses, at least early on, will be more concerned with looking at how trends carry across multiple works, rather than drilling down into specific books - that'll probably be saved for later on. In my experience, anyway.

    To echo Thundyrkatz: during university, the main thing an arts degree will provide is flexibility of time. Go to the handful of lectures a week, complete your coursework, and the rest of the time's your own. Work out what you like to do as a hobby, and get involved.

    University societies and clubs are, at the very least, a great way to fill out your CV doing something you love. I wrote for magazines, I was in multiple roleplaying groups, I was president of a minor sports club and I hung out with a bunch of cool interesting people as a result.

    Spend some time looking for summer internships - there will probably be a fair for companies who are looking for undergrads, and they don't all look for the STEM subjects.

    [Muffled sounds of gorilla violence]
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    VeritasVRVeritasVR Registered User regular
    hsu wrote: »
    Just going to post a few articles here by an English professor.

    "Graduate School in the Humanities: Just Don't Go"
    http://chronicle.com/article/Graduate-School-in-the-Huma/44846/

    "Is Graduate School a Cult?"
    http://chronicle.com/article/Is-Graduate-School-a-Cult-/44676

    I agree with "don't do it", but those articles are all kinds of terrible.

    CoH_infantry.jpg
    Let 'em eat fucking pineapples!
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    CelestialBadgerCelestialBadger Registered User regular
    I think you can change subject at the last minute, even in the first couple of weeks of term if you get cold feet. Give it very serious thought. Phone your contact at the university and discuss it.

    I liked literature and computer science, but chose computer science as the job prospects were better and it was more challenging to me. What other subjects do you like?

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    SatanIsMyMotorSatanIsMyMotor Fuck Warren Ellis Registered User regular
    Jasconius wrote: »
    I would strongly suggest minoring in a scientific discipline. If you go whole hog in humanities it's probably going to burn you

    unless someone else is paying your tuition, and even still, a tough road to travel

    my girlfriend is an English major. I can tell you first hand that unless you recycle yourself in Academia, the job market is mostly brutal and low paying

    The nice thing about having a general liberal arts education though is that generally, companies do look upon them with favor, but you have to prove that you can work in that kind of environment, the piece of paper won't be enough

    hence: minor in something that has some kind of industrial or commercial application as a safety net

    A minor in a subject isn't going to impress anyone.

    The trick is to do what you're interested in and then do everything you can to become exceptionally good at it. Realize that you're going to University to learn. All of your professors are smarter than you and have a lot to offer. Open yourself up to the experience and you'll become better for it.

    As a counterpoint to a lot of what's been said in this thread, I have a Liberal Arts degree. I double Majored with an Honours degree in Anthropology and English Literature. I made sure to make use of what I learned in school instead of just waving my degree around. I now have a job that's relevant to my area of expertise making a great amount of money.

    Just providing a different perspective.

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    CelestialBadgerCelestialBadger Registered User regular
    OP is in the UK where you don't have majors or minors. You can do a dual subject degree but it is extremely unusual and generally hard to schedule.

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    Jim SharkmagicJim Sharkmagic That's the Sharkmagic magic. England, UKRegistered User regular
    Sorry for the lack of replies-I've been out all day. Again, I want to say thank you to everyone who's posted, it's given me a lot to think about. But like some people said, I don't have the option to do a major/minor, I only have the option to do a single degree that might be a joint honours degree (like how I'm doing English + Creative Writing), but the subjects will still be somewhat related. (For example, I could do English Lit and Drama, English Lit and Film etc.)

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    LiiyaLiiya Registered User regular
    @Jim Sharkmagic My sister did English at uni, 10 years ago, and she was very lucky in that she went into the route of proofreading, perhaps when you start talk to your course leader about something like that? There are few jobs I can think of that can lead on from studying English but that was one.

    Where are you going to uni? You'll be fine.

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    Jim SharkmagicJim Sharkmagic That's the Sharkmagic magic. England, UKRegistered User regular
    @Liiya

    Thank you, I'm going to Royal Holloway in Egham, England :)

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    LiiyaLiiya Registered User regular
    Ahh I'm starting at Manchester, shame!

    Knock em dead.

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    Jim SharkmagicJim Sharkmagic That's the Sharkmagic magic. England, UKRegistered User regular
    @Liiya

    Thanks-you too! Good luck!

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    Anarchy Rules!Anarchy Rules! Registered User regular
    I recently graduated with a degree in Microbiology, though I did know many people who did Humanities. The impression I got from them is that at A-level you're told exactly how to think, what different things symbolise etc. At uni you'll have much less contact hours (think a few hours a week), instead it's more up to you to decide what something symbolises, represents or whatever. You'll be given a lot of reading and essays to do, learning from the feedback/seminars

    A degree in English language is pretty much the same as any other degree when it comes to applying for a job - you just have to remember that most people do not work in the field that they studied.

    In regards to friends, unless you are an absolute arse it will be very difficult not to make friends at university. The friends I made at university are far stronger than the ones I had before - uni gives you a chance to make friends with people you truly get on with, rather than with people you happen to live near/in the same class.

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