Interested in English, Journalism, Technical Writing, Creative Writing, Professional Writing, or one of the many other majors that have to do with the written word? From one Writing student to (potentially) another, here are a few things you should know before declaring your major, plus some tips all college students can use in their classes.
You’ll need to determine your writing niche
“Writing major” is an umbrella term for a variety of majors that are writing-based. Be sure to explore the Writing majors offered within your college, what the courses entail, and what the professional outlook is for each one. It’s essential to understand the differences between Writing majors since writing takes on various forms. Are you able to construct essays without issue, or is building a story plot your strong suit? Did you prefer analysis of poetry in high school literature or composing articles for the school newspaper? The experience of writing an article as a Journalism major isn’t comparable to writing a computer manual as a Technical Writing major, and neither of those Writing majors is comparable to constructing a storyline for a novel as a Creative Writing major.
Your writing will be subjected to criticism
As a Writing major, be prepared to receive criticism, change your techniques, then receive criticism again. The constructive criticism your writing will face in college is designed to improve your craftmanship, including the inevitable process of editing. If you perceive feedback—even the kind you don’t agree with—as a challenge for improvement rather than a personal attack, you’ll strengthen as a writer. Developing a productive response to criticism will also help build up your tolerance when you’re writing in a professional setting after college. Bear in mind that your writing will be subjected to criticism for as long as you write anything and someone reads it, so invite it, accept it, and improve from it.
You’ll do a lot of writing about things you’re uninterested in
In college, you’ll be assigned and expected to write in a thorough and engaging manner on subjects that are your last choice of interest. The repetition of these tasks might occasionally cause you to feel that your passion for writing itself is devolving into a chore (this will pass). However, while feeling like a writing cog in the wheel, you’ll also begin to experience a powerful change. You’ll not only improve your writing by accommodating criticism, but you’ll develop a newfound perspective to critique your writing independently. After repeatedly writing, receiving feedback, and writing again, you’ll involuntarily develop an objective lens to view your writing through. More importantly, writing is a muscle that requires frequent practice to build, and while you won’t always be writing about a subject you’re passionate about, your writing will always be in training to do so when the opportunity arises.
You’ll have to adapt your writing
Each professor will have a different writing philosophy, grading style, method of feedback, etc. You’ll develop techniques for your writing that have proven effective for one professor but are irrelevant to the standards of the next. These can range from minor details of how they prefer MLA formatting to more analytical standards like what constitutes a strong narrative tone. The majority of these standards will depend on the type of writing you’re majoring in, but the inconsistency will help you develop the flexibility to make changes in your writing process. Be reminded that in the professional world, you’ll always be required to adapt your writing to accommodate the standards of what or who you’re writing for, be it a newspaper, engineering company, or a novel you’re looking to be published.
Majoring in writing can carry you into a lot of different careers—it's a very flexible path to follow, but that means you need to be flexible too in your approach to refining your craft. You'll learn a lot of new things in college and have to unlearn a lot of things that got you through high school. Take on this major boldly and confidently, and it will lead you to a bright and prolific future.
Learn more about writing in college and how to leverage your skills for class assi in our Majors and Academics section.