- Dillon Miller
- Friday, September 20th, 2019
What is the meaning of life? Where did we come from? What good is an English degree? These are the age-old questions that plague our society, and while the first two may be unobtainable, I can answer the third with a reasonable degree of certainty. When I decided to become an English major, my friends and family were nothing short of skeptical, and I will admit that I was as well; however, as my studies have progressed, and as I have seen what English majors can do, that skepticism has transformed into confidence.
English is a skill. Most people in our society may speak the language, but many do not know how to bend it and mold it to accomplish their goals. As an English major, most people think I read a lot of books and then write essays about them. This is one-hundred percent true, but it’s not as useless as it may sound. As I said before, English is a skill. I learn how to read closely, how to analyze a text, and how to find underlying ideas and meanings. I then take these ideas, formulate an opinion about them, and back that opinion up with evidence in a compelling argument. There is a reason why, according to CollegeConsensus.com, that in 2016, 3,549 law school applicants held English degrees, and why 80 percent of those applicants were accepted into a law school. After all, law is all about critical thinking and creating cohesive, logical arguments.
To create these arguments, I also need to know how to write and how to do it well. Every college student at WKU has to take a class about writing, and for good reason; we use it in every field and in every area of life. Scientists use it for writing reports and articles. Engineers use it to communicate technical matters. Medical professionals use it to prepare plans of care and to address patient needs clearly. The list goes on.
Writing is a powerful tool that can accomplish all kinds of professional goals. Remember that advertisement that caused you to think about buying a product? Someone wrote that. Have you ever written an email or letter asking for some professional assistance or advancement? Good writing skills help with that. The point is that writing is everywhere. It can help you get what you want, it can help you look professional and gain credibility, and it can improve your ability to think critically.
Many people would also be surprised to learn that much of my time as an English major has been spent dealing with fields outside of English. My minor is entrepreneurship, and I have been surprised myself at how well English transfers to the study of business. For example, I have had to create marketing schemes, business plans, cover letters, and résumés. If you’re drawing connections here, you will notice that a good portion of what I do in business classes involves persuading an audience and effectively getting messages across to potential customers. Does this sound familiar? I certainly hope so. My skills in English serve as a perfect foundation for all kinds of work in the business field.
It is not just in writing that I apply these skills; I also work with designing technical and professional documents. The words on a document are only half the battle. How the text and images are aligned, what sort of color schemes to use, the conciseness and selectiveness of information, and other various design choices all feed into the credibility and persuasiveness of a document. It is easy to create a boring flyer or poster for the workplace that nobody will read. English has given me the skill to make my message clear, present, and noticeable.
All of this talk of professional skills and the applicability of English is all well and good, but my major also provides me with benefits unseen by the world of economics and professionalism. Through reading literature, I am transported to other places, drawn into others’ minds and experiences, and presented with ideas different from my own. Through writing, I am able to express complex thoughts on the page and to take the chaotic mess of the world and present it in a tangible, cohesive work. In other words, English has taught me more about myself than I would have ever known otherwise.
The discipline I engage in is quite applicable in today’s busy world, probably more so than many people realize; however, it also gives me the time to experience things that the busy world rarely provides such as reflection, self-cultivation, and creativity. When you combine these invaluable experiences with the tangible benefits English has to offer, you can be confident that it is indeed a solid, worthwhile field of study. So, if you’re on the fence about studying English, or if you are second guessing your choice to do so, you can be assured that the world needs people with your skillset and state of mind. I know I have that assurance.