Last month I graduated from university with a BA in English and Creative Writing. Because of the way that the English department of my university works, I ended up doing a lot more than just creative writing. I did modules in primarily Literature, with a couple of language modules thrown in too (although that was language applied to literature, so it's technically both). I don't actually know very many people who are going on to study English Literature for a degree, and nobody has actually asked me for advice (lol), but since this is fresh in my mind and I want to help people out, I figured that I would make this post for those people are going on to or are hoping to persure a degree in Literature (i would make this for just english, but english as a subject is incredibly broad and it involves linguistics, which i haven't studied since a levels, so literature it is)
Some classes have horrendously long reading lists and your teachers will advise that you buy and read all of the main books that you're going to study. Not only is that a lot of money, it's incredibly time consuming, so you lose your reading time by doing more reading. What's worse than losing your reading time to books you don't particular want to read and probably wouldn't be interested in reading for leisure? Reading books that you hate simply because you have to. School/college/university is where most people discover their most hated author, and having to read their work is just torturous. If I didn't go to university, I wouldn't have discovered that I can't bear James Joyce's work. I didn't even finish the assigned book that we had to read, it was just awful. I still have all of the books that I bought for uni and most of them were DNF books because I just couldn't deal with them. I'm still trying to figure out how to sell them. Just remember that you don't have to like the books that you study, you just need to understand them.
Some teachers have incredibly detailed PowerPoint slideshows that they use as a base for the lecture and then talk around them so you end up writing notes at breakneck speed until your hand starts to cramp out from trying to get them down as fast as possible. Some teachers have PowerPoint slideshows that have very little on them because most of the lecture is in their notes that they're reading from so unless you're a really good listener and understand everything completely you won't get much written down. And then you have teachers who don't use PowerPoints at all and just stand and talk. With these kinds of teachers, I made hardly any notes at all and had to do a lot of searching and research on my own when writing the assignment for that class. (it's a good thing that i'd read the book we'd studied twice. and it's one of my favourites)
University libraries can be pretty scary at times (i've had a couple of breakdowns in mine and needed to be taken home) but that's where all of the books are. Ebooks are a nice and convenient but when you've got a 2000+ word essay to write, they can be a bit inconvenient because the page closes after so many minutes of inactivity. You can take out up to twenty books at once, but let me tell you this: that many books for one essay is going to murder your back. The Literature books are on the top floor of our library and I don't like to use lifts, so lugging two bags of books and my laptop, and my lunch was never a fun experience. And then there was lugging it back down the stairs again by the end of the day. Sure you'll build some muscle, but the pain isn't worth it imo, so you're better off staying at the library so that you can get as many resources you need without needing a moving van for them all. Besides, bookworms love libraries, right?
I wrote my final assignment on vampires so my entire life was nothing but vampires for my final year (on top of doing assignments for my other two classes, of course). When I wasn't doing other work, I was researching vampires, watching vampires, listening to things about vampires, creating my own vampires, dreaming about vampires, wanting to be a vampire, and, of course, writing about vampires. Obviously I'm not sure of how it works in universities outside of the UK, but here your dissertation is the most important piece of work that you'll write, so while it will occupy your mind a lot of the time, make sure that you don't procrastinate too much, and try your hardest to get the final grade that you want.
Studying for a degree is tough work but it really is worth it in the end. Through university you're able to make new friends, visit new places, learn new things, and just have a blast. Obviously university isn't for everyone and not everyone gets the chance to go, but I'll always encourage people to continue studying and working hard because it opens up so many opportunities for you. It's a long journey to take, but it's one that ultimately pays off in the end.
If you haven't studied literature in Higher Education, would you? If you have, what advice would you give to first year students?