Why I Chose to Major in English

Thinking about studying English in college? See why one student chose to pursue this major.

Growing up, my mother made me read every day. When we got home she would say, “Bailey, it’s time to do your reading. At least half an hour today, okay?” This ritual chore blossomed into a profound love of literature as I aged. From Harry Potter to Percy Jackson, I read books from every shelf of my elementary school library, storing their characters in my heart as well as my mind. After I emptied the bookstore shelves of children’s fantasy novels, I sought out the stacks of young adult fiction, finding home in the words of John Green and Jennifer Niven. At last, when I couldn’t find anything else to read, I began writing stories for myself. These stories never amounted to much until I placed at the state level of the West Virginia Young Writers Contest.

Following my success at the Young Writers Contest, I applied for a summer camp for artists. The summer between my sophomore and junior years of high school, I attended the Governor’s School for the Arts at West Virginia Wesleyan College. For three weeks, I was submerged in a sea of artists practicing their talents and honing their skills, and I worked solely on reading and writing poetry and short stories. During my time at GSA, I decided I would pursue a career that would center on the reading, writing, and editing of literature.

Before I attended GSA, I was pretty sure that I wanted to be a psychiatrist, influenced by my love of Frasier. Even though I loved to write, I never knew what I would do with my writing. At 16, I only knew that I did not want to live with my parents for the rest of my life because my writing wasn’t good enough for publication, and I did not want to become a teacher like every female member of my family. I convinced myself that when I became a psychiatrist I could write in my free time and maybe get published while still having a stable income.

Related: English, Writing, and Literature Majors and Potential Jobs

All of that changed at GSA. For the first time in my life, I was introduced to people who made a living out of reading and writing. I met professors and students, local authors looking to expand their audiences, and an author whose work was being turned into a major motion picture. I realized all of that could be mine too.

At some point during GSA, I decided that I would no longer pursue a degree in Psychology, and I set my sights on a liberal arts education in English, hoping to major in English, Creative Writing, or Publishing. For the next two years, I threw myself into my writing. I read Strunk and White’s Elements of Style, attended workshops, and sent poetry and prose to publishing houses across the country.

Luckily, I’ve found some success and I’m looking forward to finding more triumph over the next four years. During my time at Fairmont State University, I expect to further develop my writing style and technique while I gain a deeper understanding of literature through discussion with my professors and peers. Professors such as Dr. Myers have already helped me find my voice and challenged me to embrace new literary techniques and genres.

Related: 3 Tips for Aspiring English Majors

As of right now, I haven’t decided what I’m going to do with my English degree. I know that I will go to graduate school after I earn my bachelor’s, and sometimes I think I want to get my doctorate in English so I can teach at the college level one day. Part of me yearns to move to New York City for editorial work, while another part of me wants to open an independent bookstore on a beach somewhere.

My passion for the English language and the art of writing and storytelling fueled my decision to be an English major. Thanks to my mother, a bit of luck in the ninth grade, and maybe even a little natural talent, I have chosen English to be my career, my meaning, my sense of life. I love reading and writing, I love talking about reading and writing, and I want to do these things for the rest of my life.

What made you choose your major? Did you have a similar experience? Tweet us about it @CollegeXpress.

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