Advising for English Majors


Frequently Asked Advising Questions Steps for Preparing to Apply to Grad. School in Literary Studies
Some Tips from Faculty on Getting an Override Jobs for English Majors
Publishing Opportunities for Students Winter and Spring General Education Literature Courses 2014
Locating Internships Winter and Spring Upper-Level Course Descriptions 2014


Frequently Asked Advising Questions

What's the easiest way for me to learn more about the activities and opportunities offered by the UW-L English Department?

English Department Pamphlet gives a lot of information in a few pages. It's downloadable as a pdf.

If I'm transferring from another college with General Education courses, how can I determine whether they'll satisfy UW-L's Gen Ed requirements?

Consult UW's system-wide Transfer Information System, which will tell you whether and how a course from another UW campus will transfer to UW-L. If you have credits from a non-UW course, you may need to submit a syllabus to determine which UW-L course, if any, is equivalent.

How can I choose the best 200-level English course for me to satisfy the "Humanistic Studies" General Ed requirement?

The following courses satisfy the "Humanistic Studies" requirement: ENG 200, Literature and Human Experience, is a general introduction to literature. Each instructor, however, chooses a different emphasis or unifying theme, so you should check the timetable to see what your options are. ENG 201 and 202 cover American Literature, before and after 1865, respectively. ENG 203 and 204 cover British Literature, before and after 1800, respectively. ENG 205 and 206 cover Western Literature, before and after the Renaissance, respectively. We encourage you to choose the course that is most likely to stimulate your curiosity and support your life goals.

Why do some 200-level courses not satisfy this GE requirement?

Some 200-level courses satisfy other GE requirements. For example, ENG 220, Women and Popular Culture, falls under the "Self and Society" category, while ENG 207, 208, 210, and 215 fall under the "International and Multicultural Studies" category.

Can I take a second 200-level course at UW-L, and will it count toward my major (or minor)?

You may take another 200-level course to satisfy a second GE requirement. However, only 300- and 400-level courses count toward majors and minors.

What if a class I want is filled? Can I get an override?

Overrides are granted at the discretion of individual instructors, whose policies vary greatly. For detailed suggestions on how to get an override, see our tips.

Should I consider a major (or minor) in English? How will I know if it's right for me?

Unlike certain majors like Accounting, Nuclear Medicine, and Engineering, English isn't directly a vocational-preparation major. However, English teaches students to think critically about life issues and to communicate ideas clearly and persuasively. What employer would not want to hire someone with those skills? It's much easier to train new employees to use specialized equipment or software than it is to train them to think and write well.

How do I get an English adviser? Can I choose one myself?

Once you do the paperwork to declare yourself an English major, the department will assign you an adviser. However, if you know a faculty member you'd like to work with and he/she agrees, you can request to have this person be your adviser.

May I continue under the "old" graduation requirements for English majors, or am I subject to the "new" system (either Literature or Writing/Rhetoric emphasis)?

Those students who entered UW-L before fall 2005 have the option of continuing along the "old" English major. Those who entered UW-L after fall 2005 must (and others may) elect to choose one of the two emphases within the new major: Literature or Writing/Rhetoric.

Should I take ENG 301 (Foundations of Literary Studies), and if so, when?

Although not required, students in the "old" major are encouraged to take ENG 301.

This course is required of students following either of the two new emphases (Literature or Writing/Rhetoric). It should be taken as soon as possible, because it forms the foundation of all future literary studies.

Why have so many English courses been re-numbered? Is there a difference between courses with 300 numbers and those numbered 400 and above?

Courses have been re-numbered to group them more logically according to subject matter.

Also, most 300-level courses are meant to be foundational. They serve as an introduction to a literary or writing genre, or to a historical period in literature. Most 400-level courses present more advanced topics that build upon one or more 300-level course. This is not to suggest that 400-level courses are "harder," or that they're designed only for seniors. Nevertheless, when preparing a two-year plan for your major, consider starting with 300-level courses (including ENG 301), especially if you plan to take 400-level course in similar areas. However, if a course is only offered in alternate years, you need to grab it when you can.

How and when do I declare a major (or minor) in English?

When you're ready to change your major to English, or to add an English minor, you can get a Change of Program Form from the College of Liberal Studies Office in 235 Morris Hall.

You can file the petition any time before midterm. After that, you'll need to wait until the next semester. Don't feel pressured, however, to declare your major right away. Whereas education, business, and the sciences, for example, require an early decision, you have plenty of time to decide about becoming an English major. As long as you've taken ENG 110 and a 200-level course by the end of your second year, you'll be ready to pursue upper-level studies in English.

Can I take upper-level English courses if I'm not a major?

In most cases, sure. Many upper-level classes have only ENG 110 or a 200-level English course as a prerequisite. If a course piques your curiosity, go for it!

Can I earn English credits for an internship, and how can I find an appropriate internship for me?

To find an internship, check with Career Services, watch for notices on bulletin boards, or even call an employer and offer your services as an intern. If you get an internship that involves substantial writing or other work related to English, you may want to earn credit under ENG 450, English Internship. You need to find a faculty member who's willing to monitor your work and verify that the work produced is appropriate for the number of credits (2-6) agreed upon. Grading for ENG 450 is pass/fail.

When and how should I apply for graduation?

During the semester before you plan to graduate, you need to meet with an adviser in the College of Liberal Studies to go over your SNAP report and verify that you're on target to graduate. You should also visit the graduation requirements site.

Some Tips from Faculty on Getting an Override

At registration time you may discover with dismay that a class you need next semester is full. What do you do?

The best thing to do is to avoid this situation. Work diligently and flexibly to satisfy your GE requirements during your first two years. If you put off taking a required class until your last year, or even last semester, you risk being put in a bind.

In this time of budget crises, most GE courses fill to capacity, with no funds available to hire more professors. Faculty dislike this situation as much as you do, as the proportion of state funding for the University of Wisconsin has declined considerably over the past few years.

It's tempting to rely on an instructor giving you an override for a class you're desperate to take, but you have to understand that instructors in English often have 100 or more students each semester. This is one reason that some teachers won't accept overrides under any conditions.

So how can you increase your chances of getting admitted into a section that fills before you're able to register? Here are a few tips:

  • Don't whine, vent your anger, or put the instructor on the defensive unless you're willing to listen to his or her problems in return.

  • If you're a freshman or sophomore, don't be surprised if you're asked why you can't try again next semester or look for another course that satisfies the same requirement.

  • If you're a senior, don't be surprised if you're asked why you waited so long to take this one class that stands between you and graduation. If a professor suspects that you've avoided taking this class because you dislike English, why would he or she want to add you to an already-swollen class roster?

  • A well-written email request showing genuine interest in the course is more likely to receive a favorable reply. If you sound as if you know nothing about the class except that its number appears on your SNAP report, don't expect to get an override. Phoniness and flattery are pretty easy to see through, too.

  • If the instructor can't give you an override, ask if you can leave your email address and be put first on the waiting list. Few students do this, so if you show you care enough about the class to come to the first session, you're probably the kind of student a good instructor will want to find room for, if at all possible.

  • Continue to monitor online the enrollment of any class you really want. A spot could open up at any time. Many students stubbornly beg for overrides but fail to take even a few minutes each day to look for opportunities to jump in after another student drops the class. A little persistence may yield your desired results without placing strain on the instructor.

Please understand that there are only so many seats in our classrooms, only so many textbooks, and only so many hours in the day to read student work. It may simply not work out this time. But try these suggestions and see what happens!

Publishing Opportunities for Students

English Majors and Minors at UW–L have an impressive number of opportunities to publish their creative and scholarly work. Here is a list of publishing outlets for undergraduate students.

Steam Ticket is a national literary journal sponsored by the English Department. Students may not only submit creative works, but also serve on the editorial board.

The Catalyst is an online publication for students of the University of Wisconsin at La Crosse. The goal of The Catalyst is to spark discussion and critical thinking about important issues of the day. The Catalyst publishes writing (fiction and nonfiction), artwork, videos, and music. The Catalyst is edited and produced by student members of the English Club.

The Racquet is UW–L’s weekly student newspaper.

The Second Supper is an alternative newspaper serving the La Crosse Community. Think of it as a pearl Onion. 

Journal of Undergraduate Research is a campus-wide annual journal publishing research performed by UW-L undergraduate students. Note that UW–L often provides grants and other financial support for students actively engaged with research.

The Rectangle is the annual creative journal of Sigma Tau Delta, The International English Honor Society

The Sigma Tau Delta Review is the critical journal of Sigma Tau Delta.

Search Internships on Eaglenet

An internship can provide valuable experience in a company or other organization related to your future career. Contact Karolyn Bald at UW-L's Career Services office to learn about Eagle Opportunities, the University's online resource for locating jobs and internships.

Steps for Preparing to Apply to Grad School in Literary Studies

General Education

If possible, elect literature courses for General Education Categories 2-A (Minority Cultures or Multiracial Women's Studies) and B (International and Multi-Cultural Studies), as well as E (Humanistic Studies).

Choose courses that will give you range as well as depth of experience in literary types and periods.

Try not to take 200-level courses which are all of the same type: e.g. all American literature. Experience with a variety of British, American, multi-cultural, and international/western literature will better prepare you to make the most of advanced courses and to succeed in graduate studies.

Sophomore/Junior Years

Take English 301 (Foundations for Literary Studies) as soon after declaring the major as possible. The course can help you to understand literary genres and provide you with methods for reading, discussing, and writing about literature.

Begin to build variety into your course choices: do not load up on one type of literature (e.g. fiction), one period (e.g. 20th century), or one cultural perspective on literature.

Junior/Senior Years

Depending on when you became an English major and what courses you have already taken, you may want to consider filling in gaps in your knowledge by taking additional 200-level or 300/400-level literature courses as general graduation electives (even though they may not count for the major).

To prepare for graduate studies, consider taking general electives that concentrate on areas related to literary studies--especially foreign languages, philosophy, history, linguistics, etc. Tailor these elective choices to your own special interests.

Be sure to take English 355 (Critical Theory) when it is available. The best time to take this course is after you have built up some experience with literature, so that you bring a base of knowledge to the class.

At the beginning of your junior year, begin to plan for your application to graduate schools.

Consult with the English Department Graduate Studies Adviser:

Dr. Susan Crutchfield
433A Wimberly Hall

Prepare for taking the GRE general and literature exams. The GRE is usually taken in the fall semester of the senior year, either a conventional exam or electronically. Information on the GRE is available at the UW-L Counseling and Testing Office, 1st floor Wilder Hall.

English Department faculty can assist you with strategies for preparing for the GRE.

Begin collecting information on graduate programs and financial assistance (teaching assistantships, fellowships, etc.). The English Department maintains a file on graduate programs in Literature, Rhetoric and Composition, Creative Writing, and other areas of emphasis. This is kept in the English Department mailroom, next to 433 Wimberly Hall.

There is also a bulletin board outside the mailroom which posts current information on graduate programs. Finally, you can find Web site URLs for schools you are interested in by going to the American Universities site.

Establish a portfolio or file of writing you have done for your courses, from which to select writing samples for the applications.

Maintain contact with professors in the English Department who might write strong letters of support for your applications.

UW-L English Studies Blog