The C-Word

July 30, 2009 at 7:50 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

I’ve been thinking a lot about the c-word recently. No, not that c-word – I’m talking about college. My dad has most graciously crafted a color-coded chart of the fifteen (fifteen!) schools I will be applying to in the fall, with their national rankings in various subjects prominently displayed (like me, he is a little, er, obsessive detail oriented).

Right now, after spending a month in an engineering program there, my dream school is MIT (I know, I know, keep dreaming). Their science and engineering curriculum is unparalleled, they have the largest SFF library in the world, and their campus is full of nerds just like me. The one thing they don’t have? A nationally ranked English department. The same is true for several of the other schools I am considering.

“Well,” I try to reassure myself, “some people tell you it’s not a good idea to major in writing, anyways. It’s important to get broader exposure. And most writers need a day job to support themselves financially.” Decent arguments, but college is also supposed to be about planning for your future. Do I really want to move towards a future where I have to struggle to fit in writing between labs and physics problems at 2 am?

On the other hand, most people don’t have unlimited amounts of time in which to write. Attending a college with a non-English related focus could help me learn how to manage my schedule so that I can make a place for writing no matter how hectic things become. Many schools now offer the opportunity to take courses at neighboring universities that might be stronger in the humanities. And where better to gather new ideas for SFF novels – which is what I write, after all – than a cutting edge scientific research institution?

Has anyone else with (as my dad refers to them) diametrically opposed interests faced a similar conundrum? I would love to hear your thoughts. And just so this post isn’t entirely about my neurotic concerns, I will leave you with a quote from Meg Cabot’s blog:

“What should an aspiring author major in in college? A lot of people think the answer to this question is obvious (creative writing, journalism, or English), but to me it’s really not. I know a lot of writers, and very few of them majored in these things. I actually know more people who majored in these things who DO NOT write professionally than do. What does that tell you?”

– DK


RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

  1. I am having this EXACT same problem. Engineering (and a hopefully decent paycheck) vs. Writing (and a rather sketchy paycheck). Of course, it’s a little easier for me to lean towards the steady paycheck, since I have never enjoyed an English course in my life. Part of the reason I thought of going into Engineering was that they’re so busy cramming Physics and Calculus down my throat, they don’t have time to make me analyse the symbolism in a miserable 100-yr-old book that would never be published in today’s market. [/rant] Anyway, long story short, I have no helpful advice whatsoever. :D

  2. I’m entering the third year of a law degree, and it leaves me plenty of time to write. Evenings. Weekends. Long summers. And law is a comparatively time-intensive subject (so I’ve heard). I wouldn’t stress too much about which subject you pick – unless you’re determined to get a first-class degree (or whatever the US equivalent is), you’re going to have spare time for writing.

  3. I’m about to start my Junior year and I can tell you’ve I’ve changed my major 3 times. I’ve only ever been really good at two things and they’re the only two things I can’t imagine my life without: music and English. I started as a Music Education major and after a year decided I couldn’t do that any more; I loved music but I couldn’t stand the thought of trying to make a career out of teaching it.

    I dropped the Ed. and added English so that I had a virtually useless music degree and English. I dropped music the next semester and have never been happier.

    My point? Choose a college with multiple programs you’re interested in, it’s natural to change your major. Sometimes we think we know what we want to do and then after taking classes we realize it’s not for us.

    Hope that helps a bit!

  4. I’m also a junior and people have started to ask me what I’m going to do after high school. I know I want to go to college, but what to major in? My interests are horses and writing. It’s hard enough to find a college with an eq team and an equine studies program and then there’s the cost of it all which is HUGE.

  5. A famous author once taught at MIT. He taught Physics. English, yes, but also Phsyics. I would never say that those who love the sciences cannot also love language. You can study English at MIT (best of luck with that, by the way. :D) and use the whole city of Boston as a learning experience for your writing.

  6. Barbara Sher once said that you should find something you don’t hate and do everything else on the side. I think that’s true. But, that means you need to go somewhere where everything-else-a-la-mode is offered, you know? Don’t pick a tech school that has cobwebs covering its Humanities building–that’s just stupid on every level, since even to be a good physicist you kind of have to be well-rounded. There’s a reason most employers don’t actively seek savants.
    Also, being a person is important. You have to make time for what you love, and you have to stretch yourself to learn things that aren’t in your comfort zone but that will genuinely help you in life. Be open-minded. Account for possibilities! Remember that many schools will let you take online or local classes at another college, especially if the two schools already have an agreement.
    Just please remember that this is a time to explore, to be you. Don’t kick yourself if you screw up, yeah? Live and learn.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at
Entries and comments feeds.

%d bloggers like this: