FAQ for Current Majors
Here are answers to some common questions about the English department. If you still have questions, please email the Department Chair, Professor David Ball, firstname.lastname@example.org, office hours: M 1-3 / T 10-12. You may also contact the English Department's Senior Academic Department Coordinator, Kelly Winters-Fazio, email@example.com, who will help you find the information you need.
For more details about the English major and current upper-level courses, please access our Spring 2016 student major newsletter.
- What courses is the English department offering right now?
Click here to see current course descriptions. If you have questions about a course, or if you are wondering whether or when a course will be offered, contact the appropriate faculty member.
- What courses do I need to take to complete the English major?
English majors must take eleven courses, including 101, 220, six courses at the 300 level, 403, 404, and one elective. You must take one elective to be selected from 101, 212, 213, 214, 218, or 300-level courses. You must take at least two 300-level classes on pre-1800 material and at least two on post-1800 material, and you must take English 300, a P/F non-credit research class, when you take your first 300-level course. At least two 300-level courses must be taken at Dickinson, and only one 339 course can count toward the six 300-level classes.
Click here for more information about the program and policies. Your English department advisor will help you make sure that you're fulfilling all requirements.
- What's the date and time of that reading/dinner/event I heard mentioned?
Check out the department's events page, which has all the information you'll need!
- I have a great suggestion for the department: a new course, a new policy, a new event. Whom should I tell?
You can talk to any of the students on the Student Advisory Committee: department faculty consult regularly with this group. You can also email your advisor or any faculty member. Be in touch! We want to hear from you.
- I want to minor in something else along with my English major. Is this possible?
- I want to double major in English and something else. Is this possible?
- I want to study abroad. Can I do this and still satisfy the requirements of the major? How can I find information about this?
You can certainly study abroad as an English major; many majors do, for a semester or full year. Courses at Dickinson's program in Norwich, England fit particularly well with English department requirements, but majors have also studied in Cameroon, France, Italy, and other locations. If you wish to study abroad, talk to your advisor during your sophomore year to make sure that you're planning courses appropriately.
- I'd like to apply for an internship. How does this work?
English majors have completed internships at newspapers, publishers, television studios, public relations firms, and state and local government offices. If you're interested in an internship, talk to your advisor and he/she can help you find specific possibilities. You can get transcript notation for your internship, too; contact Amity Fox in the Career Center for more information about this. Sometimes, students combine an internship and an independent study to coordinate experience and research.
- I don't see the kind of class I want in your course listings. I'd like to set up an independent study. How can I do this?
Plan ahead! Think about the study in the semester before you'd like to begin your work. Find a professor who will direct your study, and consult with him/her to shape a proposal and schedule. Make sure your proposal is approved by the department chair before you start.
- I'd like to minor in Creative Writing. How does that work?
Minors must take six courses in creative writing, including a course at the 200, 300, and 400 level. You can also contact any of the creative writing faculty for more information.
- I'd like to get involved in the Dickinson Review. How can I?
Dickinson Review is published by Belles Lettres, Dickinson's literary society (the oldest organization at the college and one of the oldest ongoing literary societies in the country). The journal is entirely student-run, which makes it a great opportunity to get hands-on experience in producing a high-quality publication. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for information on the next editorial meeting!
- I think I need help with my writing. Where do I go?
Every writer needs help with writing; conversation and review is essential to the writing process. English department professors are ready to work with you on specific assignments. There are also college-wide resources that provide assistance. The Norman M. Eberly Writing Center, located in Waidner-Spahr Library, provides one-on-one appointments with student writing tutors who will help you at any stage—from invention to final editing. Drop by the Center or call 5-1620 to set up an appointment. Click here for more information on writing in the English department or writing in general.
- I'm nervous/excited/uncertain about the senior experience in the English major. Can you tell me more about it?
The senior capstone in the English major is exciting—and unique among academic departments at Dickinson as well as English departments across the country. Seniors gain an intense experience of both scholarly community and independent work. During the fall term, students takes a seminar on an advanced literary topic. During the spring term, the same group of students comes together in a senior thesis workshop, during which each student writes an independent critical essay of about 50 pages. The workshop allows the professor and other students to help each student in the drafting and revision process.
The senior experience can sound intimidating, and it's inevitably intense. But it's also immensely rewarding, and many students remember it as the best part of the English major. Click here to read more about the capstone experience, including memories of recent seniors and sample essays.
- How do I get honors in the English major?
The professor of your 403/404 courses must recommend you for honors in the major. Honors students must produce a manuscript of breadth, depth, and sophistication beyond the normal standards of an A grade. Honors will be decided by a vote of the English department faculty.
If you wish to pursue honors in creative writing, speak to the chair about an independent honors project in addition to the regular 403/404 sequence. You must find a faculty director for this independent work, and that professor will decide whether to recommend your work for honors at the conclusion of the term.
- What do I tell my parents about the English major, especially if they don't want me to major in English?
Some parents—and students—are wary of the English major because it doesn't point to a single career following graduation. But this is a benefit, not a detriment, of studying English. Courses in our department provide the skills that are necessary to almost all post-graduate employment. These skills include the ability to write clearly and effectively, to read critically and analytically, to speak persuasively and cogently, and to participate in group discussion with tact and acuity. During a time of fast-changing job requirements and career instability, such knowledge will prepare you for your future without constraining you to a certain type of job that may or may not be available in the coming decades. That's why you can find English majors on a court bench and in your doctor's office as well as in a magazine byline or in front of a classroom. Dickinson English department alumni are currently working in finance, curating at a television museum, finishing up a law degree, teaching high school, and managing PR campaigns—among other pursuits. Click here for the first-person accounts of some recent alumni, explaining what they're up to now and how Dickinson English helped them get where they wanted to go.
The Dickinson English department does more than just teach important skills. Along with Career Center advisors, English department advisors work specifically with students to plan intelligently for a career from early in your college progress. Faculty in our department get to know students, so that they can write an effective recommendation letter for that job, graduate school placement, fellowship, etc. The close faculty-student ties in the English department are a major advantage during your job search.
English department events will also help you to research career possibilities and develop career skills. The Cogan Fellowship brings a recent English major alumnus/a back to campus every year specifically to talk about his/her career path. That talk is a great chance to figure out your own options. Other talks and presentations provide good chances to meet people, ask questions, practice networking, and discover options.
Finally, as you're thinking about your future, remind your parents and yourself that you will be happier—and work harder, and get better grades, and learn more—if you're engaged in coursework that's genuinely interesting to you. College should prepare you for employment, but life beyond college consists of more than work. Your college major should speak to big questions as well as provide specific skills. Your studies should nourish wide-ranging interests as well as further marketable qualifications.
- I'm starting to think about my life after Dickinson. What kind of jobs can I get after majoring in English? How can I start getting ready for employment?
You can pursue many, many different jobs with an English major. That variety can be daunting as well as liberating. Don't worry! Start early in your college career, thinking about what you enjoy. Talk over options with your departmental advisor and with advisors in the Career Center. Think about coursework that will help you to decide on a career as well as summer jobs or internships that will build skills and test your interest in particular fields. Speak with alumni to discover options and decide what experience you will need. Your department advisor may be able to put you in touch with an English major alumnus/a who is working a field that you're thinking about.
Be sure to check out the Cogan Fellowship, too. The Cogan Fellowship brings a recent English major alumnus/a back to campus every year specifically to talk about his/her career path. Recent Cogan fellows have included an international art consultant, a political journalist, a lawyer working for the state of Pennsylvania, and a special-education caseworker. The Fellowship talk and dinner provide a great chance to learn more about making your way after Dickinson.
- Can I go to law school, medical school, or graduate school after majoring in English?
Absolutely. English department courses and requirements coordinate well with pre-health and pre-law recommendations. Check with the Career Center for ways to prepare in these fields, and talk with your English department advisor about your plans. English department courses—in particular, the senior experience—also prepare students to make strong graduate-school applications. If you're thinking about graduate school, talk to your English department advisor as soon as possible so that he/she can help you to tailor your coursework, prepare for the GRE, and assemble a strong dossier of writing and recommendations.