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How to Get an English Degree with Minimal Effort

01/03/2011

Full disclosure: I do not have an English degree. But I do have three-fourths of one!

Want an English degree? No problem! Universities are handing them out like candy. Very expensive candy.

I won’t ask why you want an English degree–that’s easy! You want one so you can teach English too. (This will require either a PhD or a second degree, in education.)

Or maybe the idea of spending years reading literature under the guise of contributing something to society appeals to you! It’s a great way of convincing your parents and peers that you’re a responsible adult who’s investing in the future. (LOL)

Universities don’t care why you want one. Does your grocer care why you want carrot cake and milk? Universities are just running a business–namely, a degree factory. The purchase of a degree in English literature is a simple transaction. They are generally priced at several thousand dollars, which is paid in installments over the course of four years or so. This cost is mitigated by the availability of student loans, which you pay back by…uh…next paragraph.

The integrity of the brand is sustained by the idea that English degrees also require a substantial investment of time and effort. Dear aspiring English graduate: this simply isn’t true! Certainly, when you multiply the number of major texts listed on the average syllabus by five courses you arrive at a daunting figure. You cry, “I’ll have to read one to two books a week!” Nonsense. I’ll let you in on a little secret: you don’t have to read any of those books!

The following how-to will not advocate cheating or lying to your professor, though these things happen all the time. Most professors are incredibly lenient. Many are willing to extend deadlines based on undocumented excuses and are also exceedingly gracious in grading papers. That’s how they keep their customers–er, students–satisfied.

No, this guide will fall well within the bounds of standard university regulations. Without further ado, here is how to get an English degree with minimal effort, and even get A’s!

1) Bookmark SparkNotes.com. Got a pesky reading quiz coming up? Piece of cake! Find the SparkNotes entry for the text in question and extract the names of characters and settings, as well as any important dates involved. Write them all in one place and memorize them. Also skim the summary for salient plot points. You should be able to cobble together a 70 or 80. These quizzes are rarely worth much, anyway. If you can’t find it on SparkNotes, a quick Google will almost always turn up a summary.

2) Each week, attend at least one lecture in every course. At the undergraduate level professors usually spend at most three weeks on any given text, but one class a week should be enough to glean his or her perspective. This is crucial. Write down any page numbers given in support of this perspective. Reference them in your essays. Coupled with a firm grasp of the plot (gained from SparkNotes), this regurgitation-disguised-as-insight will be sure to titillate the marks out of any prof.

3) In every course, acquaint yourself with a couple earnest note takers. Add them to Facebook! Try to target the ones with laptops, since it’s easy for them to forward you the notes and they will hate you less than someone who constantly has to lend you their only copy. This will supplement your sporadic lecture attendance.

4) Manage your time shrewdly. Essays take the same amount of time to complete whether they’re written two weeks before the due date or the night before. The goal here is to spend as little time obsessing about an assignment as possible. Shit, why not blow off a couple classes and write it the morning of?

You may be concerned that this approach will not adequately prepare you to be an English teacher. Don’t be silly! If it’s possible to get A’s with such a diminished understanding of literature, then it is perfectly acceptable to impart a diminished understanding to your future students.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Kimberley Walsh permalink
    01/03/2011 5:54 PM

    Doesn’t just work for English! This is pretty much how I got my Art History minor with a 4.0, while the 5 inch thick texts acted as couch legs.

  2. Candice Pinsent permalink
    01/06/2011 7:40 PM

    It’s true! Also works for Poli Sci!

    Tip # 3: CRUCIAL. I do this every semester. hahaha

  3. jooniper permalink
    06/08/2011 11:05 PM

    HA!! This is GREAT. Unfailingly accurate. I still have 16k in debt and a super official looking placemat with my name on it to prove it!! LOVE IT!!

  4. raeme67 permalink
    12/12/2012 4:42 PM

    Sort of like a degree in Sociology. My sister is an English Major, she works in insurance.

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