Undergraduate Handbook

What to Consider

Look through the list of factors below and decide upon the relative priority of each as it applies to your own unique and personal situation; supplement this list with any other factors that might apply. Think about any factors that might present special problems for you in your progress toward your degree.

  • The amount of pleasure you take in reading and writing and your desire to learn more about this subject.
  • Your own abilities in this area, including such factors as self-confidence, self-motivation, etc.
  • The input of family and friends: how much support do you expect as you pursue the major? How important is it to you that those closest to you understand and appreciate what you're doing?
  • Career expectations: how important is it for you that your degree lead directly to employment opportunities? Do you want or need to find a job immediately upon graduation, and must that job be connected to your major?
  • Do you intend to pursue a graduate degree? If so, would that be directly after graduation, or would you prefer to wait a few years before applying to graduate school? Will your major provide the sort of preparation for graduate studies that you expect to be necessary?
  • What financial pressures do you face? Can you complete your major within a time-frame that is reasonable and in line with your financial responsibilities?

When to Declare the Major

Ideally, you should declare the major as soon as possible, so as to take advantage of departmental advising in planning the best sequence of upper-level courses. If you can complete the GER Composition Requirement in your freshman year and English 215 the following semester, you should plan to declare in the spring of your sophomore year. The next step is to contact the Associate Chair for Undergraduate Studies, preferably via email, or by calling 229-5912. You should request an appointment. At that appointment, the Associate Chair will be able to answer your preliminary questions about the major. You, in turn, will be asked about your background, your current interests, and your long-range plans, so that you may be assigned a departmental advisor qualified to help you create a fulfilling major program appropriate to those interests and goals.


Once you have declared your major, you will have access to three different advisors: your L&S college advisor, who will help you with your overall degree requirements; the Associate Chair for Undergraduate Studies of the English department, who will answer any questions that come up regarding technical aspects of the major (e.g., which courses satisfy which requirements); and your major advisor, who will help you plan a coherent array of courses within the major and generally act as a mentor to you.

Selecting a major advisor will be easy for you if you have already encountered a faculty member whom you like and respect, and with whom you feel comfortable. If you have not yet met a professor that you would want as an advisor, you will have the opportunity to discuss with the Associate Chair your particular requirements and needs. For example, you will want to decide if gender is a factor for you, or age, or ethnicity, for it is important that you feel at ease with your advisor, able to discuss with him/her any problems that arise or particularities of your hopes and aspirations. The English Department is an extremely diverse group, so it is quite probable that an appropriate fit between you and a faculty member can be found.

You should plan to meet with your advisor once a semester, before registering for classes, to talk over your progress in the major and your plans for future classes. (If you should forget the name, phone number, or e-mail address of your advisor, simply contact the Associate Chair for Undergraduate Studies.)

A good sequence would be this:

  • first see what courses you need to fulfill specific requirements and which of those are being offered in the upcoming semester.
  • then, go to the online schedule and check what courses will be offered. The course descriptions listed on the English department web site should help you to refine your choices by telling you what texts will be covered, what the main issues of the course are likely to be, how many papers and exams will be expected of you, how grades will be determined, and so on.
  • next, talk over those choices with your major advisor to get his/her feedback.
  • remember to do all this early enough so as not to be closed out of any courses you may want or need.