According to College Board's Book of Majors, "More bachelor's degrees are earned in English than in any other liberal arts." As I think about it, I would agree that in the last few years I have seen an English major trend developing among students with whom I work. Probably, about half of the females in my practice (from all over the US) are now saying, "I want to be a writer," and identifying Creative Writing and/or Journalism as their likely future college major. Where this comes from, I not sure; but perhaps it has something to do with the ease of producing writing for public consumption through Internet opportunities such as blogging and personal websites.
As a result of my students' attraction to the field, I have been gathering and passing along information to future writers that I thought HuffPost blog readers might find useful.
The Classes Students Should Take and What They Should do in High School to Prepare for a Writing Major and/or Career:
When I first meet future writing majors, one of the first questions they usually ask me is: "If I want to get into a really good college writing program, what courses should I take and activities I should get involved with during high school?" Here is some of what I say:
Students should enroll in a good strong, college preparatory program including the usual four years of English, but also take advantage of (if not exhaust) special offerings in and out of school such as the two AP English courses, creative writing, fiction and non-fiction courses, classes in journalism, and whatever else is available. Of course, one of the most important things a budding writer can do is READ A LOT.
I suggest that students become active in-school and out-of-school experiences, such as newspapers (writing about politics, current events, sports, cultural events, movies, adventures, personal stories -- whatever tickles their fancy), yearbook, literary and other magazines, a personal blog, website and other Internet writing opportunities. Also keep a journal and look for special writing workshops and seminars that are often offered in the community. My standard advice is always, "When in doubt, write about something, anything every day."
Some Well-Known Summer Writing Opportunities, 2015
As I say in my blogs over and over, colleges are very interested in what students do with their time when they are not in school, particularly during summers. Many people don't know about the amazing summer opportunities various colleges offer to high school students. You must check these out. Keep in mind that if finances are a problem, these programs often offer scholarships.
Here are a few of the more highly touted summer writing programs:
- Stanford Summer Institutes Writing program (CA)
- The University of Iowa's Young Writer's Studio (IA)
- The Carleton College Summer Writing Program (MN)
- The Kenyon Review Young Writers Workshop (OH)
- Lewis & Clark Fir Acres Workshop: Summer Writing Program for High School Students (OR)
- Northwestern Journalism Institute (IL)
- The Duke TIP Ghost Ranch Creative Writing Institute (NM)
- Sewanee Young Writers' Conference (TN)
- Interlochen Arts Camp Creative Writing Programs (MI)
- InnerSpark California State Summer School for the Arts Creative Writing program (CA)
Other programs can be found on the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth Imagine Journal's website section, "Opportunities & Resources."
It doesn't hurt to have a little recognition for your writing or an award or two to identify on college applications. To act on that advice, I urge my students to take a look at:
- The Alliance for Young Artists and Writers and their Scholastic Art & Writing Awards
- The National Council of Teachers of English Writing Awards
Which Colleges Offer The Best Writing And Journalism Majors?
From a variety of sources (including The College Finder, John's Hopkins's Center for Talented Youth, the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) Listserv, and College Board's Book of Majors), here are two lists of colleges known for their excellent writing programs:
Outstanding Creative Writing Programs
Bard College (NY), Barnard College (NY), Brown University (RI), Carnegie Mellon University (PA), Colby College (ME), Colorado College (CO), Emerson College (MA), Emory University (GA), Eugene Lang College (NY), Franklin & Marshall College (PA), Kenyon College (OH), Lewis & Clark College (OR), George Washington University (DC), Goucher College (MD), Hamilton College (NY), Hampshire College (MA), Hollins College (VA), Johns Hopkins University (MD), Knox College (IL), Lafayette College (PA), Middlebury College (VT), Northwestern University (IL), Oberlin College (OH), Pomona College (CA), Purdue University (IL), University of Redlands (CA), Sarah Lawrence College (NY), Skidmore College (NY), Stanford University (CA), Susquehanna University (PA), Trinity College (CN), UC Santa Cruz (CA), University of Iowa (IA), University of Michigan (MI), University of North Carolina (NC), University of Virginia (VA), Vassar (NY), Wesleyan College (CN)
Outstanding Journalism Programs
American University (DC), Bard College (NY), Boston College, Boston University (MA), Chapman College (CA), Columbia University (NY), Emerson College (MA), Fordham University (NY), George Washington University (DC), Gettysburg College (PA), Loyola Marymount University (CA), Kenyon College (OH), Macalester College (MN), New York University (NY), Northeastern University (MA), Northwestern University (IL), Oberlin College (OH), Puget Sound University (WA), Sarah Lawrence College (NY), Susquehanna University (PA), Syracuse University (NY), University of Indiana (IN), University of Missouri (MO), University of North Carolina (NC), University of Oregon (OR), University of Iowa (IA), University of Pennsylvania (PA), University of Rochester (NY), University of Wisconsin (WI), University of Southern California (CA), Wesleyan College (CN)
Writing-Related Majors Besides Creative Writing And Journalism
Other undergraduate majors that young writers may want to consider are: Advertising, American Literature, Business, Digital Media, E-Commerce, Educational and Instructional Technology, English, English Teacher Education, Marketing, Media Studies, Public Relations, Radio and Television, Sports Communications, Technical and Business Writing, and Webpage and Multimedia Design.
Where Writing Majors Are Employed
Understandably, students--and especially their parents -- worry about "where the jobs are" after undergraduates get a writing degree. Here are a few of the job/career areas that specifically look for new employees who can write:
Business and Professions
(Advertising, Marketing, Presentation, Public Relations departments)
All functions that require writing and communication
College Professor, Elementary, Middle, High School Teacher, Grantwriter, Professional Journal Writer or Editor
Copywriter, Freelance Editor, Journalist, Magazine Editor, Newspaper Editor, Online Editor, Writer
Radio, Television, Movies, Theater
Agent, Lyricist, Marketer, Multi-media Designer, Producer (and all Assistants), Playwright, Publicist, Screenwriter, TV or Sports Newscaster
Blogger, Content Manager for Website, Digital Media Producer, Grantwriter, Information Architect, Social Media Specialist, Software Documentation Writer, Website Content Manager, Website Editor/Writer/Designer, Writer for Online Publications and Services,
Copywriter, Editor, Freelance Writer, Freelance Editor, Literary Agent, Poet, Print or Online News Reporter, Speechwriter, Sports journalist, Writer of Fiction or Non-fiction
The good news is that writing is a highly valued skill, no matter the profession or job. In a Time Magazine article, Lauren Simond says, "Whether you're an entrepreneur, small business owner, manager or an employee aspiring to any of those positions, you need to know how to write effectively..." Of course, ..."that means paying attention to grammar, spelling and punctuation, along with good word choice and a consistent style." Hmmm. Just like what you need to do for college application essays.
Bottom Line: the world is in desperate need of good writers. If you are so inclined, by all means go for it.