Monthly Archives: January 2012

I’m so lonely, so lonely…

Going to a new place can be hard.  Sometimes it can be easier if you go to a college closer to home where there are people you know from high school to make the transition easier.  But not all of us go to school close to home.  Admittedly, SHC was actually close to home, but since it was a private school there was only one other person from my high school I knew of there, and I hardly ever saw her since she was already a junior when I started.

Luckily, since I’m a military brat, I had a little experience with moving to a new place and having to make new friends.  But it had been several years since I had moved and had to experience that so it was still hard.  It was especially hard since my first roommate and I didn’t click, although I eventually got to know the people on my hall pretty well by the end of the year.  The first month or so I felt like no one at Spring Hill was like me and I had a hard time adjusting and making real friends.  I had some people to talk to on my hall and in my honor’s classes, but I didn’t seem to find people with similar interests.  That is, until I started getting involved in extracurricular activities.

I found out about The Motley literary magazine since I had been on the lit mag staff in high school.  I joined a group called S.H.O.R.E.S. which is an oceanography and marine science club and the Sierra club due to my interests with ocean life and the environment.  I joined the history club since I had been president of the history club in high school and joined the college democrats as well.  As I started to get involved in these groups, I slowly started to find the people at SHC that had interests similar to mine and began to make friends.  Several of my friends I made at SHC have remained close even after I left and those friendships mean a lot to me.  In fact, I sometimes have more in common with them than some of the people I knew in high school.  When my grandparents told me after graduation that sometimes you make your lifelong friends in college, I didn’t understand what they meant.  While there are several high school friends of mine that are still close, many have drifted away and I’m now closer to some of my college friends.   Therefore, joining clubs and organizations are a good way to make friends and find people who are interested in the same causes you are.

Another great thing about college organizations is they can lead to contacts for job offers later and look great on a resume.  Sometimes the people you become acquaintances with in a club can help you get a job later in life, or the service project you were involved with can get you in contact with someone that can refer you for a job.  Or when you’re applying for a job, your future employer could have been involved in the same organization and it can give you an edge over the competition.  Furthermore, when you are involved with a lot of organizations, it can beef up your resume which can also give you an edge.

Therefore, when you start college or if you’re already at college, it’s always a great way to find a few things to get involved with outside of class.  It can make your college experience feel more fulfilling and worthwhile like it did for me.  Plus, if your club is active, it can give you activities and trips to go on to get away from campus every once in awhile.  For example, in S.H.O.R.E.S. I went on several trips that really relaxed me when I was feeling stressed.  We went to the beach, dolphin watching, and swimming with manatees and I will always cherish the fun I had on those trips.

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Honors college/program – to join or not to join?

When I took a tour at Spring Hill College to check out the campus and see what I thought, I was introduced to the head of the honors program.  She talked to me about how the program was set up, what the requirements were, and why I should join.  The classes were supposed to be more challenging and accelerated, and it was supposed to look good on your resume.  It didn’t cost anything extra and was in place for those who wanted to exert themselves.

However, after entering the honor’s program, I realized my AP English credit wouldn’t be accepted since they wanted me to take honors English.  Therefore, the 4’s I received on my two AP English tests wound up going toward extracurricular credit and was a waste of time and money.  Other than with that issue, I enjoyed being in the honor’s program and taking those classes.  I got to know my fellow students in the honors program since we wound up in honors classes together and enjoyed the classes and professors who taught them.  I was glad I had joined the program and felt it was worthwhile.

Then, of course, I left Spring Hill and eventually wound up at South Alabama.  I thought about joining the honors college there and looked into it…then realized that they required different honors classes and had specific seminar classes each semester I would have to go back and take.  Thus, since I wanted to graduate within a decent amount of time and deemed honors not worth the extra effort, I decided not to apply to join and just focused on my English and communication requirements.

I don’t regret not putting forth the extra effort and trying to join the program.  Yes, being in the honors program or honors college can look good on your resume.  But if you already have a full load or don’t want to put the time into it, there are other ways to prove your academic achievement.  Keep your GPA up and join the honor society related to your field of study (although you will have to pay a cost for this option) or join the honors program related to your major. In the end, an employer is more interested in whether you kept your GPA up, whether you were involved in extracurricular activities, and what experience and skills you have.

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10 Things Poll

Once you have finished reading all of the 10 Things posts, please take the poll to let me know which posts were most helpful.  Also, if you have any comments, questions, or suggestions, feel free to comment anywhere on this blog and I will do my best to help!

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Graduate School: What you need to know about getting into graduate school

We are finally at the last of the topics for the “10 Things I Wish I had Known as an English Major.” This particular part of the presentation dealt with how to prepare for grad school. While I’m not currently thinking about grad school since I took the job route after graduation, more than likely I’ll be going back for my master’s degree in the future (although I’ll probably go for communication). Therefore, I am going to rely on the information in the PowerPoint to provide tips for those who are preparing for the post-graduate college search.

Deadlines

Most college graduate application deadlines are between early December and mid-February, although some colleges accept applications all the way up to July. You should check to make sure what the deadlines are for each school you are applying to in order to give yourself time to prepare. You will need your application packet, including reference letters, gathered and submitted by the deadline date. Therefore, you need to make sure you have given yourself (and your professors and other references) enough time to gather all the documents you will need for your application packet before you send it in.

GRE scores

Your GRE score counts – the higher you score, the better chance you have to get into the college or university of your choice. The scale for the GRE is 200 to 800 for quantitative reasoning and verbal reasoning and 1 to 6 for analytical writing. If you are going to grad school for English, some English programs overlook QR (math) scores for high VR and AW scores. Therefore, if you score high in those areas you may have a chance. Some universities want a combined score of at least 1000. You should make sure you know what the minimum requirements are for each school that you want to apply to.

Writing Samples

Graduate schools require that you submit an analytical writing sample (or creative writing sample for MFA programs). The writing sample is typically 10 to 20 pages in length. You will need to submit one long or two short papers depending on the university. In 400 level classes you will generally have to write a 10-20 page paper so you should fill this requirement; if not, then taking the English honors class is a good way to tackle a long research paper that you can use for applications. It’s better to get this done ahead of time so you can have professors look at it and give you critiques on how to improve your writing.

References

You will need to submit three professional references from professors as part of your graduate application. Remember how I suggested earlier in the posts that you should get to know your professors? This is just another reason why. Since you need recommendations from professors to go to grad school or get a job, it’s better to get to know them so they can write a really good recommendation letter for you. Trust me, they’ll be happy to do it for a student they think is worth the effort. The more you go to them for advice or help during their office hours or show a willingness to improve and learn, the more you build up a relationship with them. It will be worthwhile in the long run.

Transcripts

Most grad schools require a minimum of a 3.0 GPA or a 3.5 GPA. Grades are important but are not always proof of your abilities as an English student. You should also focus on your test scores and writing sample. The better your test scores and the better quality your writing sample, the greater chance you will have even if your GPA is a little low.

Applications

Most universities allow you to apply and submit material online. Your GRE scores and transcripts will have to be mailed, however, which can take as many as two to three weeks, so start applying early! The more universities you apply to, the better your chances of being accepted. Most first-time application fees range from $50 to $65, but can be as much as $90 (Stanford U.), so you’ll need a good bit of money saved for the application process.

The MFA Writing Program

Requirements:

  • Three letters of recommendation.
  • Writing sample: 20-30 pages of fiction, usually from a single novel or a collection of short stories; 10-20 pages of poetry.
  • Statement of purpose.
  • Transcripts.
  • Most programs recommend GRE scores, but not all programs require them. Subject test rarely required.
  • Some universities recommend you research their faculty and apply to their programs if their tastes in writing are similar to your own.

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Filed under 10 Things I Wish I Had Known as an English Major, After Graduation, Upperclassman

The Real World: Part II

Tip #4: Build Your Portfolio

The reason why I actually got my internship (which has led to my full time job) is at my job interview I brought my portfolio to show my boss.  My portfolio contained examples of projects in my InDesign and advertising classes, pieces I had written for the communication department’s newsletter, and memos I had written for classes among other things.  You could include papers to give an example of your writing and editing skill or you could bring in a literary magazine/school newspaper with the article or piece you wrote for it.  If you want a job more related to art or design you could bring in examples of your work.  If you’re a business minor and you had a big end of the year project you can bring in the portfolio for that.  Any time you bring an example of the skills or work you have done it gives your possible future employer an example of the type of work you can do and it may give you that extra edge to get the job.

Tip #5: Prep for Interviews

The more experience you have doing interviews, the more comfortable and prepared you will be for them.  You can practice interviewing by having your friend practice with you, talking in front of a mirror, or going to job fairs.  Job fairs are also a great place to get resume tips and to network with possible future employers.

In fact, one reason why you should join different organizations is they sometimes have events where you can network with people.  For instance, I went to some PR conferences while in college and am involved in Sigma Tau Delta (the English International Honor Society) which has a yearly conference.  Conferences are great places to network, have people critique your resume, and practice talking to people/interviewing.  The more you throw yourself out there and gain contacts, the more likely chance you have to land yourself a job.

Here are some interview tips from the PowerPoint:

  1. Dress in a suit or conservative dress attire. No visible piercings or gaudy jewelry. Minimal is more
  2. Bring a pen and writing pad – if possible, get a professional portfolio for them.
  3. Practice potential interview questions before the big moment, on a friend or in front of the mirror.
  4. Have questions of your own to ask your interviewers, either about the company or your position. This shows engagement and interest.  This means researching the company you are interviewing for.

Tip #6: Never Give Up!

If your job interview didn’t go well or you didn’t get the job then don’t let it get you down.  By simply going to the interview you have gained valuable job interview experience.  The more job interviews you go to, the more you get exposed to different types of questions and interview styles so in the future you can prepare for them better.  After an interview you should assess what you did well and maybe some questions you could have answered a little better.  If you didn’t have enough job experience, go out there and build up your resume more.  Use the interview as a learning tool so the next time you go in for an interview you do it better and increase your chances of beating out the competition.

If you missed the first part of this post, you can find it here.

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The Real World: How to begin preparing for a career Out There while you’re still In Here

This post is dedicated to those like me that may not want to go to grad school right after graduation.  Maybe you want to work first to pay off your student loans.  Maybe you don’t want to teach and you’ve realized that if you go to grad school for English you’re pretty much going to get your Ph.D and become an English professor.  Whatever the reason, there are things you can do to prepare yourself for the job search while still working on your undergraduate degree.  I’m going to use tips from the PowerPoint and based on my own experience to hopefully help you get prepared for that job after graduation.

Tip # 1: Strategy

Try to figure out now what types of careers you are interested in.  You can use this post to get some ideas of possible job choices for English majors, but don’t limit yourself here.  There are lots of different ways you can use your English degree.

Tip #2: Experience

You should start gaining experience for your resume; experience is very important and can be just as useful (if not more so) than a degree.  Experience helps you gain skills to market yourself and also helps you gain contacts that can land you your job.

Ways that you can gain experience include writing or editing for your school’s literary magazine or newspaper.  I did both in high school and college since I knew I wanted a job related to writing and/or publishing.  You can also start a blog or send in articles to online or local newspapers or magazines.  If you’re interested in secretarial or office work then get position as a student worker for a departmental office.  See if the English department is hiring student workers to do desk work for them.  If you’re interested in law then try to get an internship at a law office.  There are lots of different avenues you can go to find ways to spruce up your resume.

Tip #3: Build your Resume

Make sure you get involved in different activities so you can gain skills that you can use to market yourself.  If you want to prove you have leadership capability, get a position as an officer in a club or run for a position in the SGA.  I was always involved in different clubs in college and usually wound up working as an officer since it meant I was more involved.  Learning a foreign language can be very important depending on the field you want to go into; Spanish can be useful if you live in an area with a large Hispanic population and French is used a lot in business.  If you want to do something related to foreign relations or study then you should definitely learn the language of the country you are interested in working in/with.

You can also learn special skills related to the field you are interested in.  For example, I learned how to use design programs such as Adobe InDesign and Adobe Illustrator because I wanted to work in fields such as advertising and public relations where you have to design and create publications.  Knowing how to use Microsoft Office products such as Word, PowerPoint, and Excel are also useful if you want a job in business.  Another important area you can focus on is community service.  Community service work for different organizations and non-profits is not only spiritually rewarding it can also lead to important contacts and experience for future jobs.

Now, the other important part of building your resume is good design.  If your resume is visually pleasing that can be the difference between your future boss actually looking at the document or throwing it in the discard pile.  You also want to make sure that there are no spelling or grammar errors on your resume; many times if a potential employer spots an error, that resume is going to be thrown away and forgotten.  Try to have as many eyes see your resume before sending it in – I had some of my professors help me build and proof mine because I wanted it to be the best it can be.  And remember, your resume is a living document – you will be constantly adding on to it and revising it as time progresses.  You want to make sure you tailor your resume for the job you are applying for.  I am going to provide an example of the resume I used to get my internship – I made sure I put information relevant to the job first and picked the clubs and activities I had been involved in at college that were relevant to the job on there.

Example Resume

If you want to read more job search tips, continue on to Part II.

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Career Opportunities for English Majors Part II

School Teacher

Although public schools require state teaching certification, some private schools will hire English grads with only a Bachelor’s under their belts. Various factors impact salary: teaching experience, the number of years employed at the current school, merit and performance, teaching load, and degrees and credits.

Wages in each industry:

  • Elementary and secondary schools: $53,190 – $55,210 (annual mean )
  • Public school teacher: $27,300 – $74,550 (2007 )
  • Private school: $32,935 – $68,933
  • High school teacher: $43,496 (annual mean )
  • Elementary school teacher: $40,437 (annual mean )
  • Middle school teacher: $42,308 (annual mean )

College Instructor

Universities and community colleges hire adjunct instructors to teach composition and developmental studies reading and writing.

  • You will need a Master’s Degree in English.
  • Wages range from $1500 to $2000 per class, per semester. That comes out to $500 a month (at best!) per class.
  • Most colleges are only interested in hiring part-timers, which means you can only teach two or three classes at a time at each college.

In 2-year colleges, master’s degree holders fill most full-time teaching positions, but these positions usually require extensive teaching experience.

Online Tutor

Online tutoring companies like SmartThinking and Tutor.com hire graduates with BAs and MAs to head their online sessions with a wide range of students, from high schoolers to adults. The application process and all work is online. Work is paid hourly. Some companies require you work part-time only. Wages usually start at $10 per hour.

Online Rater

Companies like the Educational Testing Services and Pearson hire English graduates to grade the essay portions of standardized tests like the GRE and TOEFL.

Positives
Raters with only a BA typically earn around $10 an hour. If you have an MA and plenty of experience, you can make $20 to $30 an hour. Work is online and work hours are flexible, as you decide what shifts you want to work.

Negatives
Companies are increasingly relying on computer software to score essays. Human raters are less in demand these days, which means there is no guarantee you’ll have a reliable source of income.

Marketing

Marketing is actually what I am currently doing for my job. I am doing marketing for a private school and have to work on designing publications, writing feature stories, sending press releases, etc. In marketing I get to use both writing and creative skills which I really enjoy. If you also feel a strong connection with your product or company it really helps and makes you feel like you’re doing a great thing.

Researcher

Just think about how much research you’ve completed as you pursue your degree! Academic researchers need a Ph.D. to work for universities. There are businesses that hire researchers, like certain oil and leasing companies.

Honestly, there are a lot of different jobs that require research. My aunt is a research librarian for a university. In advertising and PR jobs there are a lot of research jobs especially for creating surveys, researching the market before a campaign, and researching how well a campaign did. Also, pretty much every industry needs to do research for something or other so you can find a job researching something you enjoy.

Fundraiser

At some point most businesses (especially non-profits) need to hold fundraisers in order to raise money. You need someone who writes well and inspires people to donate to work on a fundraising campaign. Jobs that require fundraising ability could be through marketing and PR or some other communication based job.

Click here to be linked back to Part I.

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