What You CAN Do with a B.A. in English

What can you do with a B.A. in English? What is my life going to be?
Four years of college, and plenty of knowledge
Have earned me this useless degree
I can’t pay the bills yet, ’cause I have no skills yet
The world is a big scary place,
But somehow I can’t shake the feeling I might make
A difference to the human raceā€¦

–Princeton, Avenue Q
Like so many wide-eyed college students, I decided that the ‘practical’ degree was not for me. I had no intentions of going to med school, which is to the benefit of the general public, and I certainly wasn’t about to take any more math than absolutely necessary. No engineering for me, Mom and Dad, even if you do get set up with interviews through the university. I was majoring in English.
I often lament this rebellion when I look at my checking account. Unfortunately, my other rebellious idea was to move to New York, so being young and broke has taken on an entirely new meaning altogether.
As jaded as the most expensive place in the country has made me of late, I like to pause and reflect on what I can do when I feel like my degree is nothing more than a large receipt with a FINAL SALE stamp on it.
1) Write a book. Everyone with a lit degree is urged by their non-bookish friends to write the next great American novel. This is one of few opportunities to boost your ego by using your liberal arts diploma as a foundation, so please, take advantage and modestly say, “Oh, I’m okay” when you’re introduced as a writer at parties. (Said writing does not guarantee getting published, but hey. It’s a start.)
2) Live the life of a human thesaurus. I probably get four emails/phone calls a week asking for a better word than what a friend of mine is using. See? Maybe you know nothing about actuarial math, but at least you can articulate your ignorance beautifully.
3) Join the Grammar Police force, which justifies your anger when you see typos in an email. Or my personal favorite, the emails where you are addressed by your first name, misspelled, when your email address is actually just your name at an address. Are people really not able to read it??
4) Roll your eyes after a movie and sigh, explaining to whoever accompanied you that “the book was so much better.”
5) Bust out your stellar vocabulary in conversation and remind everyone that while you may not make the big bucks, you’re a walking wealth of knowledge.
6) Become a starving artist… by working in media. You have to pay your dues with a salary that’s almost laughable to start, but eventually, in 3-5 years, you may be able to support yourself. Part of the starving artist mentality is taking a second job, like, say, freelancing. Take a breath and remember you’ll survive, at least your work sounds interesting.
7) Get thee to a graduate program. No one wants to crush your hopes and dreams in undergrad, but you’ll realize a year or so after you graduate that passion can’t always pay the bills. You can join all the frat boys you graduated with in taking the LSATs, try and re-learn basic math for the GRE, or throw yourself completely out of your element and go for the GMAT so you can go pursue an MBA and go on to wearing a suit for your 9-to-5.
Any other ideas? Please share with us!

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