Declare the major
If you've decided to declare English as your major, your first step is to go to the English Department Office (Fenton 277) or the Registrar’s Office (located in Reed Library) to fill out the appropriate form.
Start the process of deciding your minor
Your first semester is the time to research your options; there’s no rush to declare a minor just yet! Narrow your interests down to a few fields and try out relevant courses in each.
- The Creative Writing Minor and Writing and Rhetoric Minor, both offered through the English Department, are always great options, but be sure to cast your net wide and cover your bases before you make a decision. Interdisciplinary skills are crucial in many industries, so play to your strengths!
- Consider which classes interest you as you start to engage in general education (Fredonia Foundations) coursework. Make sure to expand your search to include majors and minors through the Interdisciplinary Studies program such as Ethnic Studies, Film Studies, International Studies, and Women’s & Gender Studies. Ambitious students may be urged to choose more than one minor/major, depending on the individual’s skills and goals.
QUESTIONS TO ASK:
- How does this discipline complement the study of English?
- What are some possible fields that I could go into with this focus?
- How will this minor make my writing more effective and credible?
Stay on track: You’ll probably be taking ENGL 100 (as a Basic Communication course) and ENGL 106 (as an introduction to literary studies) in your first semester. Second semester you should take ENGL 213, Texts and Contexts, which focuses on research and writing in the discipline. During your first year, you should also choose a course from each of several categories—such as Literary Genres, Literature and Identities and Literary History I (Broad)—to prepare you for later course work in the major.
Pave the way for your minor
As you work through general education courses, think about advanced work in fields that require introductory-level pre-requisites. This will make your minor path much easier.
Gain enjoyable, hands-on experience
Think about how extra-curricular activities that interest you might complement your major or minor interests: there’s no substitute for hands-on practice working on the campus newspaper, tv station, radio station, or other media, or getting involved with groups in the Intercultural Center that give you insight into other cultures, genders, and ethnicities.
Pick the brains of your mentors
Have meaningful conversations with your advisor and trusted professors—that’s why they are there! Tell your advisor what you’re thinking about studying and ask for recommendations for courses, groups, etc. Talking with an advisor or mentor can be a great way to brainstorm possible careers and outline the possible steps needed to build on knowledge and experience.
Explore international options
The world you’re graduating into is not an English-only world. This is the time to start developing some fluency in another language. Don’t be satisfied with the bare minimum required by the CCC: keep taking Spanish or other languages through the “conversation” level and consider study abroad in non-English speaking countries. This is your future—Don’t rely on people to tell you what’s going on because you can’t speak the language!
Start to think about whether study abroad and internships might be in your future plans: it’s NEVER too early to collect basic information from the Career Development Office or International Education Center. Take a look at the websites for these offices and get some information from your advisor.
QUESTIONS TO ASK:
- Which general education courses have most interested me?
- What country would offer the best study abroad opportunities to complement my major and minor?
Stay on track: Consider branching out into more advanced categories like Literary History II (Focused), World Literature, Major Author, Theoretical Approaches, and Rhetorical Writing during your second year in the major. If you've chosen a minor in Creative Writing or Writing and Rhetoric, keep in mind that while you may count only 6 credits of course work from those minors toward the English major, you will still need to take 66 credits outside of English, so don't neglect other fields that complement courses in your major and minor.
Use your breaks to gain experience
Junior year is a critical time for internships, extra-curriculars, and significant work in your major as well as your minor(s). Make sure to use summers and other breaks productively: don’t waste them away at a minimum wage job when you could be gaining invaluable experience!
Research more advanced degrees
Does your ultimate career goal include advanced study? This is the year, especially summer before senior year, to investigate MA or other professional programs. Look into programs that interest you and talk with your advisor about which next steps to take.
Network in Honor Societies
Think about Honor Societies you might be eligible to join: Golden Key, Sigma Tau Delta, and others have national and international networks including journals, conferences and driven peers that can help with career connections and networking.
QUESTIONS TO ASK:
- Do I see myself furthering my education? Which potential programs stand out? What do they look for in an applicant?
- What would be my dream internship? Are there any local businesses in a similar industry?
- Which campus groups offer the most opportunities for me? What do I bring to the table as a member of each?
Stay on track: If you take a course in the Theoretical Approaches category and complete your portfolio no later than the junior year, you may have your choice of senior seminars to take in either your senior fall or spring. Consider patterns in the English courses you've learned the most from, enjoyed the most, and best prepared you for work and life after Fredonia, and choose remaining categories and advanced electives accordingly. Don't forget you need to have at least 24 hours in the major at the 300-level or above and 45 total upper-level hours in order to graduate from Fredonia. Your minor, by the way, is another place to focus on upper-level courses. Finally, be sure to join at least one relevant club or organization. Build upon your experience in any ways that you can. This is the time to add to your résumé and develop your voice as a writer for a variety of audiences. Think about which areas you’d like to learn more about and get involved while there’s still time!
Stay focused and start planning
By this time, you’ve developed multiple paths toward a successful transition from college to career because of planning, strategic coursework, and extra/co-curricular/applied learning activities. Have fun but stay focused, too! Decide who would be good people to ask for letters of recommendation for graduate programs or jobs and set up a Credentials File with the Career Development Office.
Tie up any loose ends
Make sure that you’re in a senior seminar and that your portfolio is complete! It’s time to gather writing examples and revel in all of the hard work you’ve done.
Highlight your writing, editing, and researching skills
Consider creating a blog for your freelance projects in writing, editing, researching and other related fields. This can be a great place to showcase the work you’ve done—just as art students need a portfolio to show their skills, think of this as a collection of your writing masterpieces. Blog frequently and add new content that’s relevant to the audience that you’re trying to attract. Consider getting a head start on our new Certificate of Advanced Study (CAS) in Professional Writing. Undergraduates with at least 90 credit hours and a 3.0 GPA may sign up for graduate courses, including courses that count toward the CAS. Even if you don't complete the CAS, having a graduate course on your undergraduate transcript is testimony to your skills in these areas.
QUESTIONS TO ASK:
- What writing/editing/researching assignments am I most proud of? How could the skills learned while producing this work apply to a potential career?
- How have I prepared myself within the fields that interest me? What further steps can I take before graduation?
Stay on track: Senior Seminar and portfolio completion are both required for graduating seniors. To further develop your professional writing, consider taking a second rhetorical writing course. Also, try to pinpoint any areas that you wish you’d gained more experience in—there are several resources on campus that can provide you with relevant networking connections and professional insight. So long as you have 66 hours outside the major, you can take as many classes in the major as you want, so don't hesitate to sign up for that once-in-a-lifetime course you'd regret not taking!