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What’s it like doing English lit at uni?

Hi! I’m going into year 13 and I’m not completely sure what I want to do at uni. I’m thinking of taking a gap year, though I haven’t talked it over with my tutor or anything.

I know I want to do film studies. However, I’m not sure if I want to do film studies with English lit like I initially planned. In year 11, I expressed a desire to do film studies at uni to my head of sixth (my English teacher at the time), and he suggested I do a joint degree.

I don’t have a particular career in mind. I thought I wanted to work as a screenwriter, but the idea of working freelance and networking freaks me out as an anxious person who’s never really had a lot of money growing up.

I was thinking of doing teaching or something. If I were to teach, I’d want to do primary or secondary English. So, if those are my most likely career options, I want to make sure I’ll be able to do them. If I end up choosing primary, I’ll be fine with just a degree in film studies. However, if I want to do secondary English, then I’d have to do film and English to get onto a PGCE course, judging by most of the websites I’ve looked at.

It’s not like I don’t like English- I actually love it. It’s currently my favourite subject, plus (at the risk of sounding arrogant) it’s my best subject (I was 2 marks off an A* for my mock without revising, and I’ve consistently been working at an A) and I’m currently at the top of my class (though I’m taking it at a rough school so perhaps that’s not a fair way of measuring things). I really enjoy analysis and writing essays, but I don’t really read in my spare time, unless I need to read a book for English. I’m just worried that I wouldn’t be able to keep up if I did it at uni. Plus, there’s not much for me to write about it on my personal statement compared to film, since I don’t read anything outside what I’m required to, and I don’t necessarily have a ‘passion’ for reading or literature as much as I do analysis and storytelling as a whole.

So, what’s it like doing English lit at uni? I’d be especially interested to hear from people who do a joint degree. Also, any general advice you have based on this post would be much appreciated.

Apologies for the somewhat meandering post.
Original post by bowlingforsoph
Hi! I’m going into year 13 and I’m not completely sure what I want to do at uni. I’m thinking of taking a gap year, though I haven’t talked it over with my tutor or anything.

I know I want to do film studies. However, I’m not sure if I want to do film studies with English lit like I initially planned. In year 11, I expressed a desire to do film studies at uni to my head of sixth (my English teacher at the time), and he suggested I do a joint degree.

I don’t have a particular career in mind. I thought I wanted to work as a screenwriter, but the idea of working freelance and networking freaks me out as an anxious person who’s never really had a lot of money growing up.

I was thinking of doing teaching or something. If I were to teach, I’d want to do primary or secondary English. So, if those are my most likely career options, I want to make sure I’ll be able to do them. If I end up choosing primary, I’ll be fine with just a degree in film studies. However, if I want to do secondary English, then I’d have to do film and English to get onto a PGCE course, judging by most of the websites I’ve looked at.

It’s not like I don’t like English- I actually love it. It’s currently my favourite subject, plus (at the risk of sounding arrogant) it’s my best subject (I was 2 marks off an A* for my mock without revising, and I’ve consistently been working at an A) and I’m currently at the top of my class (though I’m taking it at a rough school so perhaps that’s not a fair way of measuring things). I really enjoy analysis and writing essays, but I don’t really read in my spare time, unless I need to read a book for English. I’m just worried that I wouldn’t be able to keep up if I did it at uni. Plus, there’s not much for me to write about it on my personal statement compared to film, since I don’t read anything outside what I’m required to, and I don’t necessarily have a ‘passion’ for reading or literature as much as I do analysis and storytelling as a whole.

So, what’s it like doing English lit at uni? I’d be especially interested to hear from people who do a joint degree. Also, any general advice you have based on this post would be much appreciated.

Apologies for the somewhat meandering post.

Hi @bowlingforsoph,

I'm a fourth-year English Literature and Creative Writing at Lancaster University. Like you, my main focus when applying for a university degree was actually on something else other than English Literature: the Creative Writing aspect of my degree. However, I decided to study a joint degree because studying English Literature provides me with amazing opportunities to improve my writing, analytical and problem-solving skills.

Studying English Literature is very different from studying it at school. Whereas at school, you study a few books, learn answers by rote and then write essays, at university, it's completely up to you what you write on and how you do it. At Lancaster, for example, in your first year, you'll study a variety of different texts, giving you a broad overview of English Literature in general, and then in later years you have the choice to pursue modules which most interest you. For example, I discovered a passion for Victorian Literature at university, so took this as one of my specialised modules.

I know you've said that you don't necessarily have a 'passion' for reading or literature, but I think the fact that you enjoy analysis and storytelling in general would make you a great candidate for the degree. You don't have to have read the classics or even know what you enjoy to study English, because you'll discover your interests as you go through the course. I think it's also a great idea to pursue it with Film Studies, because there is great critical and creative overlap between the two subjects.

You've already noted several different career options available to you if you study English at university, but it's by no means limited to those stereotypical routes of employment. English Literature is regarded very highly across many industries, due to the problem-solving and critical thinking skills you gain from the course, as well as your evident ability for strong articulation and communication. If you're not sure what career you want in the future, I wouldn't worry about it at all. There are so many options out there for you, particularly with a versatile degree like English.

Finally, if you're unsure whether or not to study Film Studies and English Lit as a joint degree, I would recommend looking at universities which offer a flexible route into the degree. At Lancaster, we have a flexible minor system, which means that you study three subjects in your first year (in your case, Film Studies, English Lit and then an additional module), and then you can choose at the end of the first year whether to pursue with a joint degree or a single. This might be something you're interested in, as it gives you the chance to try both degrees without having to commit immediately. You can find out more about this degree here: https://www.lancaster.ac.uk/study/undergraduate/courses/film-and-english-literature-ba-hons-pq33/.

If you have any more questions about studying English at university, let me know!

Maria :smile: - Lancaster Student Ambassador

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