With only half a year to complete my undergraduate career, everyone around me is entering a post-college panic. “Are we ever gonna get jobs?” and “Do we have to go back to working at McDonald’s?” are the common concerns I hear on a daily basis. Understandably, the brutally competitive corporate world has not been favorable for fresh out of college workers and with the election of our new president, these concerns are justified. However these concerns from parents and fellow students sometimes transform into belittlement, especially for English majors like myself who are constantly bombarded with questions concerning the value of an English degree.
The most aggravating question of them all; “Are you going to be a teacher?” The answer is no. Teachers are amazing and deserve a lot more respect and money for the hard work they do, but not every English major wants to be a teacher. English majors are future lawyers, innovators and anything else that they aspire to be. The dream of being doctors, nurses and engineers are commonly found on campuses all around the world but not everyone subscribes to these standard aspirations.
In high school I decided that when I start my college career, I was not going to major in any subject that required me to do math and science after pulling my hair out over geometry and biology class almost every night. However I was killing it in my English class. I sat front and center, ready to discuss why The Great Gatsby is not just a tragic fairy tale love story about a man sacrificing his life for the woman he loves but a lesson to readers to value life over wealth like the commoner Nick Carraway. That novel also taught me the importance of leaving your past in your past regardless of how much the people and memories in that time period impacts your life. It came natural for me to read and write analysis essays about all these different characters. I passed my science and math classes with B-s, but my outstanding grades from my humanities class made me an overall A- student.
Senior year of high school was one of the most nerve wrecking moments in my life. I knew that I wanted to attend a four year college right after graduating, but that all depended on my SAT scores. I took my SATs and as usual, I bombed the math portion and aced the reading and comprehension section. My average SAT scores took the rest of the confidence and hope I had to be accepted to a four year university. I went to my guidance counselor for reassurance or even a plan B, and she basically told me to go extra hard in my college essays because admission officers sometimes overlook grades in the case that the student’s essay is really good. Since writing was my forte, I immediately started preparing for the essay and decided to write about my upbringing in Ghana and having to adjust to American life.
I remember just staring at the blank word document for about ten minutes and found myself pouring out my feelings? about not being born with a silver spoon in my mouth but not allowing that to set me back. It felt freeing to just put all my worries and aspirations on paper because none of those words could come out of my mouth but somehow, they flowed out of my hands.
Fast forward a year , I got accepted to Stony Brook University, which ironically happens to be a science focused university. Needless to say, the pressure, stress and confusion to decide on a future career was more intense than ever. Almost 99.9 percent of everyone I met here was a science major and I was the undecided student. Everyone would say, “Aw, are you sure you don’t want to try majoring in biology or health science” or “Do you know how hard it is to find a job with an English degree?” Well according to recent statistics, the unemployment rate for English majors is approximately 8 percent, not far from the 7 percent and 6 percent unemployment rate for health and computer science majors, respectively. So the reality is, it is hard to find entry level jobs post college with any type of bachelor’s degree. Regardless of one’s major, it is important to focus more on building up your resume with experiences and accomplishments that can help you stand out in the vicious corporate world.
I decided to major in English because I enjoy reading classical and contemporary literature where I am able to find my own world and also have access to other worlds. I see my friends that are majoring in the sciences struggling with classes and hear complaints every single day about how hard their classes are, and most of them believe that their workload would be lighter if they had majored in anything but the sciences.
The misconception that English majors have light workload because “how hard can reading and writing be,” is an ignorant and supremacist way of dividing students into hierarchies. English majors also spend endless days and sleepless nights, coming up with coherent theses for countless papers along with keeping up with other classes. It is great and wonderful that we have over pouring amount of students aspiring to be doctors, but most of them pursue those careers for the status and money,not because they want to be in the hospital, helping the sick.
This is not their fault because these professions were written into the definition of the “American dream” that everyone wants to achieve. It takes courage to defy societal traditions, but regardless of how lowly society views my English degree, I choose to define my own American dream.