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Tips and Tricks from an English Major


Submitting the paperwork to officially be an English major is one of the best things I’ve ever done while at college.  It’s something I feel truly at peace with, and felt like it was something meant to be. I’ve loved reading for as long as I can remember, and it’s one of my passions.  But being an English major can easily become overwhelming, and I’ve had my fair share of anxiety-induced work sessions and breakdowns from the work. For any upcoming English majors out there (or people just dealing with a lot of papers or readings), I’ve got some tips to deal with the work:


1)  Use audiobooks


I first heard this trick the end of my summer of senior year in high school, but didn’t use it until I got to college.  If you’re a slow reader, like me, then you know how hard it is to get a bunch of readings done before they’re due. Right now, I’m taking two different English classes by the same professor and he loves to give a lot of readings, and that’s on top of readings from History classes for GEs.  By finding and listening to audiobooks, I’m able to finish the readings on time and actually process the language, rather than half-remember it in a sleepy haze.  An added benefit is if the book is over a century old, odds are it’s part of the public domain and copies will be legally free online! I found an audiobook of Jane Eyre on the Apple Podcast app of all places, and Spotify has a playlist of audiobooks, most of which are classics.  Something else I’ve done is use the app Libby, which is from Overdrive, an app connected to your library card/library system and all the digital media available.


2) Make outlines


English majors are constantly writing papers.  While MLA style is annoying and full of high school fever dreams of thesis statement workshops, it’s nice to not have to learn an entirely new writing style before jumping into a paper deadline. Since I rarely do multiple drafts of a paper, I start with a basic outline of the paper. While I know some people grab their quotes at the outline, I instead put in the concept of a quote I vaguely remember (and then search on Goodreads or Shmoop for quotes if I don’t want to flip through an entire novel for one random quote).  I break down my paper by introduction (where a subsection is my thesis), conclusion, and then each major point to my argument in between. So it usually looks something like this:



  • ​Thesis:
  1. Point One

  2. Point Two

  3. Point Three

  4. Conclusion


Within each point, I’ll narrow it down and explain it better, as well as using explicit examples from the text.  It really helps me get my head on straight for writing papers, especially when classes ask for an 8-10 page paper at finals time.


3) Track your readings


I use a bullet journal to keep organized and keep track of everything I have to do, and one of the things I keep a running list of is readings for each week.  It’s one of the biggest boxes I have for tracking different things, because I know how many readings I have. It usually has enough room for readings for class twice a week, since classes here usually occur once every three days.  By writing down what the readings are in one place, I don’t have to carry five different syllabi at any given time. I also include color-coded checkboxes next to each reading, so I have incentive to get the readings done to color it in and feel proud and productive.  I’m able to see everything I have to do and manage my time better by seeing how many pages that need to be read within, say, the next two days.


Those are the best tips I can think of for surviving as an English major or someone who has a lot of readings and papers to write.  I hope these help you, and that you find yourself less stressed and managing time better. Good luck!

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Dylan Lee

New Paltz

Hi, I'm Dylan! I'm an English student here at SUNY New Paltz, and plan to declare a Creative Writing minor soon. I love to read (Young Adult books, comics, anything having to do with magic or mermaids), write, daydream about a world with mermaids and witches, and slowly make my way through my Watch Lists on Netflix and Hulu.
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