Undergraduate FAQ

Q: I’m interested in biology but I also love poetry and novels. Can I be a double major in English and another field?

A: Yes. Many students at Hopkins combine an English major with a major in another discipline. Two fields from the humanities can strengthen and complement each other: there are double majors in, for example, French and English, history of art and English, and Writing Seminars and English. But there are also double majors from the sciences: the combination of biology and English is increasingly popular, and there are even neuroscience and English double majors. Because English does not require a set sequence of courses, it is relatively easy to schedule a double major that includes English. Do keep in mind, however, that a double major will require you to manage your workload in a way that permits you to excel in each field. The reading and writing requirement for English courses, especially upper-division seminars, can be extensive.

Q: What do people with an undergraduate degree in English from Hopkins wind up doing?

A: Because English at the undergraduate level is a uniquely flexible discipline, there isn’t a single career path to which it leads but a wide range of options radiating outward from it. A degree in English develops a variety of skills: reading, writing, arguing persuasively, pursuing independent research, and thinking critically about complex issues. Drawing upon this array, English majors graduating in the past five years have entered fields such as medicine, government, law, business, publishing, and media. As you might expect, some do decide, on the strength of their performance in the program, to pursue graduate studies in the humanities: many continue to study English literature, of course, but others have pursued graduate degrees in history, philosophy, psychology, and education.

Q: I am an English major trying to register for classes but SIS says that I have a “hold.” What does this mean? What should I do?

A: Every semester, SIS will place a “hold” in order to ensure that you meet with your faculty adviser to discuss your progress in the major. In order to clear this hold so that you can register in a timely fashion and take advantage of pre-registration, look at your academic calendar and make an appointment with your faculty adviser a few weeks before pre-registration begins. Be sure to print and fill out a major checklist and bring it with you to that meeting. Your adviser will look over your progress, discuss with you your options for coursework in the major, and help you come up with a plan for the next semester. Once that’s done, your adviser will release your “hold.” Note that although your adviser will be expecting to hear from you, it is your responsibility to arrange this meeting. Note as well that an additional administrative hold may be placed on your registration for other reasons.

Q: I am interested in writing poetry and fiction. Can I do that as an English major?

A: One of the best ways to train yourself as a writer is to reflect critically upon the tradition that precedes you, and the intensive study of a wide range of English literature in the classroom provides that experience. At many universities, the critical study of literature and creative writing are both grouped under the umbrella of an English department. At Hopkins, these are separate departments with distinct faculty and major requirements. The Department of English instructs students in the history and criticism of literatures in English, while the Writing Seminars is the department that trains students in creative writing.

Q: I am an undergraduate English major and I’m going to study abroad. Can I count my courses in summer programs toward the completion of major requirements?

A: Because not all summer courses are rigorous enough to be deemed equivalent to an English class at Hopkins, credit for study abroad is granted by the director of undergraduate studies on a case-by-case basis. It’s a good idea to acquire as much information about the proposed course’s reading list and writing requirements as possible and to show that information to the DUS in advance. In general, courses with less than a 20-page writing requirement will not be regarded as equivalent to a Hopkins 3-credit class. Please note that no student may count more than 6 credits’ worth of summer or study-abroad courses toward the major.

Q: I’ve heard that there is an English club. What is it and how do I join?

A: The English Club is an undergraduate student association that meets several times each semester and hosts social events: informal lunches with faculty members, pizza parties, guest speakers, and an annual English Club BBQ at the end of spring semester. It lets English majors as well as interested non-majors casually socialize with each other and connect outside of the classroom. To find out more about the next English Club event, email jhuenglishclub@gmail.com.

Q: I am an English major and I’m interested in pursuing the Senior Essay option. How do I do that? When do I need to get started?

A: The Senior Essay option is open to junior English majors with a GPA of 3.8 or higher for courses in the major. In the fall semester of their junior year, eligible students should approach potential faculty advisers to discuss possible topics. Though they have the option of supervising more than one Senior Essay if they so choose, each faculty member may also choose to be the First Reader for a single essay only. Given this policy, it is helpful to determine faculty availability before you submit your proposal. Proposals for the Senior Essay are submitted in the spring semester of the junior year, and the essay itself is written in the fall semester of senior year and submitted by the end of the final exam period of that semester.

Q: I am a double major. Can I use the same courses that satisfy my English major requirements to satisfy requirements for my second major?

A: Yes. The rules of the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences hold that any student may “double-count” courses in this manner. Please note that this rule applies only to double majors within a single degree program. It does not hold where a student is attempting to earn two separate degrees.

Q: Do I have to take Expository Writing courses in order to be an English major?

A: Though the Expository Writing Program is part of the Department of English for administrative purposes, the two are independent entities when it comes to the undergraduate curriculum. Students are encouraged to take courses in Expository Writing in order to master the essentials of academic argument, but the mission of the English Department is to instruct students in the history and criticism of literatures in English. Accordingly, courses in Expository Writing cannot be counted toward the English major.