Letters from Senior Writing Majors to Their Younger Peers

Sep 23, 2013

The Hunting of the Snark

Last year the English Department started a tradition (Can it be a tradition if we've only done it twice?) in the Senior Seminar in Writing of having the seniors write an open letter to the other students in the department, offering advice on how to get the most out of their English major or minor. Here are their unedited, unbowldlerized thoughts and suggestions.

Dear English Majors,
As you start your four years in this department, here is our advice to you:
Don’t plan on sleeping, ever.
Keep a log of your ideas; it will be easier to reference these than to come up with something fresh if the pressure is on, and believe us, the pressure will be on.
Make sure you read before the beginning of class; it’s hard to catch up once you fall behind.
Always revise and edit your papers for class.
Don’t delete any work you do, you’ll need it for your senior portfolio.
There are many genres, so try to broaden your horizons and see what is a good fit for you.
Reading makes you a better writer.
Writing makes you a better reader.
Try to take classes from all the professors in the department because they all have a different teaching style and something unique to offer.
Always reread the literature before the test.
Make friends with the people in your English classes, they will be with you for the next four years.
Coffee and tea and other caffeinated beverages will be your best friends.
And don’t forget the 5-hour energy shots.
Shakespeare will be challenging, be prepared.
Unless you want to be a technical writer, we advise that you do not take technical writing.
Just because you’re an English major, you don’t have to get a career in journalism. You can go on to other things. No matter what you go into, an English major will look very impressive.
Don’t try to write your papers in one night, it does not work well.
Creative writing is a really good class to take if you want to write something other than formal papers. It opens up your imagination and lets your write different genres of pieces.

With Love,
Annette Roberts, Calista Hall, Sam Goshe

To The Brave Ones,
We hope you will read this letter all the way through, without skimming for the parts that you think might be important. That tactic, you will soon find out, although time-saving, is useless in the pursuit of an English Degree at Heidelberg University. The quotes that you think are miniscule, are probably the ones that will be required of you to understand and analyze.

One can never be too far ahead in the reading. If your mind can handle it, read early, and read often. The most embarrassing thing in a Heidelberg English class is for a professor to call on you and you haven’t read. You look like an incompetent peasant. Also, this isn’t high school anymore where the teachers won’t call you out for not reading. They will make you the center of attention, and make you wish you were kicked out of class.

Participate in your classes, the only way a professor knows you have prepared for the class, is if you prove that you have through TEXTUAL EVIDENCE. What you think doesn’t matter as much as what you can prove. Dr. Kimmel, Dr. Collar, etc. usually take participation grades in their head without telling you, and that is something that you can ace just by stating what you think of the texts.

There are classes that every English major should take (despite the fact that some professors might not be here after this year). Shakespeare is hard, and it pisses you off, and you think, “Why do these people talk like this?” But, it is an essential class where you learn history, character development, and universal plots and ideas. And you will know everything there is to know about Shakespeare if you are fortunate enough to have Dr. Wahlstrom. Creative writing lets you evoke your voice for the first time in college. Not to mention, Dr. Reyer is a cute little Santa Claus nugget. American Literature takes you through a journey of our country through different ethnicities, political parties, and major controversies all through the works of poets and authors. Dr. Collar makes you see that writing helped mold the country that we now live in. Dr. Kimmel’s literary theory course lets you crawl into the mind of the sick people we call authors.

These are just a few classes that offer you a chance to think how you’ve never thought, read how you’ve never read, and write how you’ve never written. Isn’t that why you’re an aspiring English major anyway? To experience these nights of sleeplessness, and burning eyes. You close those eyes and you can see printed words burning into your mind. Coffee, and energy drinks will become your best friends. After all that hard work, you fall asleep and miss your alarm. You just read for a class that you slept through. You write a paper that you are more than proud of, and it comes back covered in Satan’s blood, aka the mighty red pen.

Those things are inevitable don’t cry over it, or change your major costing yourself at least $20,000 more. That’s dumb. Revise, and work it out; you’ll be surprised how much better you can be if you learn to take advice from your professors, advisors, and most importantly your peers.
Good Luck, but don’t ask us for help, we are busy.

Senior English Majors
(Cole Randolph and Kayla Graves)

Dear former education majors,
The next few years are going to be HELL.

H is for helpful. An English degree, though looked down upon and mocked by “real” majors, can be the starting point towards a rewarding, if not prosperous, life. Critical thinking skills and effective writing are necessary in any potential career. Ever heard of Barbara Walters? How about Conan O’Brien? English majors. Charlie Sheen? Not an English major.

E is for evolution. As you start your Heidelberg career, you come in thinking you’ve written the next great novel. That Hemingway piece you read your senior year? That was nothing compared to your future midterm papers. After a career in Heidelberg, your writing style will evolve tremendously. Your writing will go from E.L. James to E.E. Cummings.

L is for the way you look at writing. Did you get the Nat King Cole reference? If not, these next four years will teach you! Using allusions to make connections between new and old writing will enhance both your knowledge and your understanding of literature (and pop culture). Did you know The Lion King is based on Shakespeare’s Hamlet? We do. You can be us one day, full of nothing but knowledge, sarcasm, and a hint of yesterday’s coffee.

L is for love. Your professors love you. Not intimately, but as a colleague or something. Those little red hashes all over your dreams and aspirations? Yeah, those are marks of love. They represent the firm belief professors have that you can do better. You will get the support you need that is going to fuel your drive towards being a better writer. Don’t take that for granted.

As you sit here and read this letter, we hope that you laughed, that you cried, and that you are inspired to pursue the clichéd journey of amateur to expert.

You're welcome,
(Logan Burd, Jackie Stanziano, Clayton Burke)