This letter from journalist Scott Meslow ’10 first appeared in the English Department’s “Letters to a Young English Major” series.
Dear LMU English Major:
Congratulations on selecting your major! I wouldn’t tell just anyone they should pursue an English degree, because an English degree isn’t for everyone — but if you’ve actively chosen to spend your college career in a program this rigorous, I suspect you’ve made the right choice.
There are many well-intentioned clichés that come along with being an English major. You’ve probably heard a few of them already: that the love of literature is a lifelong pursuit; that this kind of knowledge is its own reward; and that the real value of earning an English degree is that it teaches you how to think.
For what it’s worth, all of those clichés are true — but if you’re anything like I was in college, they’re not very helpful right now. When I graduated five years ago, I was laser-focused on concerns that felt a little more immediate: how am I going to get a job? How am I going to pay off my loans? How am I going to pay rent?
So as someone who has been there very, very recently, let me start with the one piece of advice that is always applicable: Relax. I had the same professors you did, and let me assure you: you have earned a place in a top-notch English program. That’s not an easy feat, and you have every reason to celebrate. Enjoy your time in college, and trust that the skills you will acquire over these four years will carry you into post-collegiate life. I graduated in a class full of talented English majors, and I don’t know a single one who hasn’t gone on to a career they love.
I was friends with a biochemistry major who became a biochemist. I was friends with a pre-law major who became a lawyer. If your career path doesn’t seem that clear right now, that’s only because you haven’t committed to it yet. And why should you? As an English major, you have given yourself the gift of versatility. There are very few careers that don’t require the writing skills or analytical skills you’ll earn over the course of your studies.
Today, I work as an editor and film critic, and it’s a rare day when I don’t apply the tools I honed during my time at LMU. (You’d be amazed how useful an Irish Gothic Fiction class turns out to be when a movie like “Dracula Untold” comes out.) But in the months after I graduated, I looked at all kinds of jobs: teaching, advertising, public relations. My degree prepared me for all of those careers, and yours will prepare you for them, too. When you graduate, you’ll have the chance to explore until you find the right one.
I can’t tell you the path your English major is going to take you down, but I’m confident there is a path. I hope you enjoy finding it.
Best of luck,
Class of 2010
Scott Meslow is the entertainment editor and film and television critic for TheWeek.com. He has written for publications including The Atlantic, POLITICO Magazine, and Vulture.
Are you an LMU alumnus/a whose English degree has served you well? Contact Professor Kelly Younger to submit your “Letter to a Young English Major.” The English Department is especially interested in stories from alumni who graduated prior to 2000.