Frequently Asked Questions

Find answers to the most common questions we get from prospective and current English majors. If you can't find an answer here, either send an e-mail or book an appointment with our undergraduate adviser, Dr. Karen Redfield.

FAQs about the New Major

Why is the Department making these changes to the Major?

The Department is making these changes for a number of reasons.

  1. To eliminate bottlenecks, streamlining the major so that students can move easily through the requirements, easing stresses on specific courses and providing flexibility.
  2. To create small class sizes and increase faculty contact, ensuring that all of our majors have the experience of small classes taught by faculty, which research shows is highly beneficial to student learning.
  3. To strengthen writing skills, continuing to refine and deepen the teaching of writing, developing student capacities for critical and creative thinking in clear and powerful written forms.
  4. To keep current with new ideas in the field, reflecting the research interests and specialties of our current faculty to explore new directions in the field of English studies, allowing us to teach the innovative approaches that make this English Department a field leader.

Should I switch to the New Major?

 Should I switch to the New Major?


Yes, if:


No, if:

 1. You have completed only the 6 literature
credits required to declare the English major
and will start taking major classes in the Fall.

 1. You are graduating in December 2014.
 2. You are declaring as a sophomore (or have
declared as a sophomore) in Spring 2014.
 2. You have completed 3 or more electives.
 3. You have recently declared the major and
still have 4 or more major classes to take,
including 2 electives.
 3. You have completed 7 or more major requirements.
 If you wish to switch from the current
(Spring 2013) major to the new (Fall 2014)
major, please do so by the end of September,
2014. We cannot guarantee that you can be transferred to the new major after this date.
 4. You have stepped out of UW for more than 2 years and only have a few major requirements left to complete.
 After August 25, 2014, all students declaring in English will automatically be declared under the new major. After August 25, 2014, all students declaring English will automatically be declared under the new major.

 These are suggestions and may not fit every student. For questions, come to an information session or make an appointment with an English advisor:

If you are a transfer student, speak with the English advisor before you make any decision on the major:

What are the Changes to the Survey Requirements?



The Old Major


The Major Beginning 8/25/14

 English 215: Brit Lit to 1750     English 241: Lit & Culture to the 18th c.
English 216: Brit & Anglophone Lit after 1750 English 242: Lit & Culture from the 18th c.
English 217: American Lit

 The English Department Faculty believes it's important for students to grasp the large historical sweep of literature and culture in English. But excessive time spent in large survey courses gives majors relatively little flexibility. At the moment, to meet demand, the department has offered all three of its survey courses only in large format, 4-credit versions each semester, forcing students to spend 12 credits in surveys. The new survey sequence will be just two courses, or a total of 6 credits. This change will ease bottlenecks and encourage students to explore more topics in depth. Our new surveys also reflect new, transnational directions in the field. Numerous faculty today consider the ways that literature travels across borders, and don't divide literature into national traditions.

What is English 245: Seminar in the Major?

English 245: Seminar in the Major, is a new requirement that replaces one elective in the old major.

Recent research into effective teaching and learning at the college level stresses the value of faculty contact, active participation, and constructive feedback. This new class will be taught only by tenured or tenure-track faculty, and it will be limited in enrollment to 20 students, encouraging the kinds of active learning and engagement that are clearly best for students. In English 245, students will be required to meet with professors in individual writing conferences and will write at least 30 pages, including drafts and informal assignments spread throughout the semester. There will be lots of choices of specific topics for these seminars. This will allow students and faculty to pursue current and emerging topics, from AIDS literature to ecocriticism to new models of Modernism. It will also invite faculty to share their own research questions with undergraduates, creating a collaborative environment in which students are introduced to new currents in the field.

Why is there an English Language/Linguistics or Composition/Rhetoric Requirement?

A course in English Language/Linguistics or Composition/Rhetoric is a new requirement, replacing one elective in the old major.

At Wisconsin, English has long been an interdisciplinary department, joining literary studies to linguistics, the history of the language, literacy and composition studies, rhetoric, and creative writing. English now invites majors to explore the Department by taking a course either in English Language/Linguistics (ENGL 214) or any course in Composition/Rhetoric. This change allows you to keep up with currents in the field and the job market. The study of language and linguistics has been growing steadily among undergraduates for some years, with students especially eager to learn how to teach English as a Second Language. In addition, Composition and Rhetoric faculty are asking urgent, fascinating questions about literacy, writing, and rhetoric in our changing digital environment. This new requirement invites students to explore topics and methods that they might not ordinarily encounter.

How do I Declare or Double Major?

What do I need to do to declare an English major?

1. Complete (grades/credits must be posted) the 6 credits of literature (L) required for the Humanities Breadth requirement (see the following question for more information).

2. Make an appointment with the undergraduate advisor.

Does AP credit, literature in translation, or other non-English lit courses count toward the 6 credits of literature I need to declare an English major?

The requirement for declaring the English major is the completion of the six credits of Literature (L) that is required for the Letters and Science Humanities Breadth requirement. The six credits of literature do NOT have to be in the Department of English.

The best way to determine whether you have completed the 6 credits of literature is to look at your DARS report under "My Academics" in your MyUW Student Center. If the Literature portion of the Humanities Breadth requirement is complete then you are eligible to declare.

How do I undeclare a major or certificate program?

You will need to contact the department or program that is responsible for that major or certificate.

I’m majoring in English and Chemistry. Does this mean I’m earning two degrees?

No, regardless of the number of majors you have, you are always working toward one degree, most likely a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science. Even if you are in, say, Journalism and are working toward a JBA and have an additional major of English, you will still receive one degree. The same holds true if you are in the School of Engineering and are also majoring in English. In every instance you are earning one degree. Majors are noted on your transcript, while your diploma indicates only the degree that you are receiving.

Are there any special rules I need to know about double majoring?

No, not really. You need to complete all requirements for both (all) majors that you declare. If all majors are in the College of Letters & Science, you do not need anyone’s permission to declare more than one major. If you are a student in another school or college and want to declare an additional major in L&S you will need the permission of your home school or college.

Can I take a course in Literature in Translation, Comparative Literature, or a foreign language department and count it toward the requirements for an English major?

All of the courses that count for the English major have a subject code of ENGLISH (or are crosslisted with ENGLISH).  These courses primarily deal with literature, creative writing, or language and linguistics originally written or published in English.

Can I have a double major within only English? For instance, one major with an emphasis in creative writing and another with an emphasis in language and linguistics?

Sorry, but no. You are welcome to take courses in any of the programs in the English Department, but you would have just one major.

Is there an English minor or certificate?

The College of Letters and Sciences does not offer minors. There are a variety of certificates that are available. The English Department offers a certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL), but otherwise there are no certificate programs for English literature, language and linguistics, or creative writing. You may find that the requirements (31 credits of coursework) of the major are flexible enough that you could consider adding it as another major.

Courses & Registration

I would like to take an English class, but it is closed. How can I get in?

It depends on the course.

If the course is a creative writing workshop (English 203 or 300 – 307) you should read the Admissions and Registration page of the Program in Creative Writing website for information about registering for these courses.

Most other courses offered within the English Department now offer a waitlist option in your MyUW Student Center. You can find out more information about wait-lists and registration in this helpful KnowledgeBase article.

Can I take the same class for credit more than once?

Only in a few limited instances. Some courses can be repeated for credit, typically either creative writing workshops or upper-level topics courses. Since these change from semester to semester, please consult the English adviser to be sure that you can do so.

I've already taken English 215/216/217 for four credits. Can I take the other two for three credits?

The requirement for the major is to take English 215, 216, or 217 in the four-credit, writing intensive format. Requirements are often stated in terms of minimums, and it is not uncommon to exceed the stated requirement, especially with these courses. The English Department does not frequently offer English 215, 216 or 217 in the three credit format, so most English majors will take all three courses in the four credit format. At this time, it is not possible to elect to take one of these courses that is offered in the four credit format for just three credits.

How do I find an advisor for my senior thesis?

You should start thinking about topics for your thesis prior to the semester you plan to start writing it. As you take English classes get to know the faculty teaching them, attend office hours, and ask questions in class. Tell them you are thinking about writing a thesis and what some of your potential topics might be. (Or, if you don't have one yet, talk with them about how to develop a topic!)

Once have determined your likely topic area, check out the faculty listing to see who has interests that match yours and contact them. You don’t need to have a precise topic and thesis established, but having some ideas and having a little research done prior to meeting with a potential advisor can be helpful.

More information about writing a thesis is available on the Honors page (most of the guidelines for writing a thesis pertain to students taking ENGLISH 681/682 or 691/692). You will need to have an advisor before you can register for a thesis course. Thesis advisors must be Assistant, Associate, or full Professors; unfortunatley, TA's or adjunct instructors do not qualify to direct your thesis, though you can certainly talk about your work with them.

Creative Writing

I’ve already taken a creative writing workshop. Do I have to submit a writing sample in order to take another one?

It is highly possible that even if you have taken a creative writing workshop previously you will need to submit a writing sample in order to get a place in a workshop in a future semester. Students should first try to register for a workshop using the regular registration system on MyUW. If the course they are interested in is closed, then they would need to submit a writing sample in order to be considered for a place in one of the 300 level workshops.

The exception is English 203, which does not require a writing sample. When it appears closed online, it really is closed. Unfortunately, English 203 can not be used for English major requirements.

Can I take more than one creative writing workshop a semester?

Not without special permission of the Creative Writing Program Director, Ron Kuka.

Do I have to have all three workshops completed before I take 695?

Yes, students must complete three workshops (English 300 – 307), typically over three different semesters, prior to taking English 695.

I can’t register for English 695 online because all of the sections are listed as closed. What should I do?

You should contact the Creative Writing Program Director, Ron Kuka, for permission to register.

Can I take English 695 in the summer or fall semester?

Students should try to plan their courses in such a way that they are ready to take English 695 in a spring semester. If this is not possible it is the student’s responsibility to contact Ron Kuka to see if it is possible to make arrangements to take it in a term other than the spring.

When will I know if I was given a seat in a creative writing course? And how selective are they?

When you turn in your writing sample they will tell you when the announcement will be made. The list of names is posted on the sixth floor of Helen C. White and on the Creative Writing website.

Acceptance to each class depends on how many students submit a writing sample. The capacity for courses in the English Department are determined prior to the start of enrollment based on available staff.

What is the difference between English 203 and English 300?

English 203 is a sophomore-only course and does NOT require a writing sample to register, whereas English 300 is a course for students of any standing and does require a writing sample. While both are introductory multi-genre courses, English 300 is perhaps slightly more advanced than 203, because students in 300 have often already taken 203.

Important note: If you are already considered a junior by the number of credits you've taken, you will need to register for English 300 if you wish to take a beginning creative writing course. Keep in mind that the registration system will take into account courses currently in progress when determining your standing for the following semester.

I wasn't able to register for a workshop. Is there any chance for me to still enroll in a course this semester?

A student who is unable to register for English 203 or a 300-level classes online, and who is not admitted on the basis of a writing sample during the last week of classes in the prior semester, may apply (with a writing sample) directly to the instructor of the course during the first week of classes. These decisions are ultimately left to the discretion of the instructor and are often determined by the number of students who drop the class within the first week.

Graduation & Beyond

When should I apply for graduation?

You should apply for graduation when you register for the courses that will complete all degree requirements. So, let’s say you plan to graduate in May at the end of the spring term, which means you'll register for classes in mid-November. After you register in November run your DARS and make sure it says "ALL REQTS COMPLETE PENDING FINAL REVIEW--IN PROGRESS CRSES USED" then go apply for graduation via MyUW.

For more information about this process, check out our "Graduation Checklist" page.

I need to take a summer course to finish my degree requirements. Can I still graduate in May?

There's a difference between walking at the graduation ceremony and the conferral of a degree. Basically, you can attend the commencement ceremony, even if you have some degree requirements outstanding, but your degree will not be conferred until you complete all degree requirements.

When I applied for graduation on the MyUW Student Center, it didn’t list my major(s). Is this a problem?

No, the only thing that is listed is the degree you are working toward. You are automatically audited for any major, certificate, or program that you have declared. If you are declared for a major, program or certificate that you do not plan to complete you need to cancel it before you will be cleared for graduation.

I'm going to be graduating soon. And I don't have any plans for when I'm done. What can I do?

One of the best things about a degree in English is that it can be applied to so many different jobs, fields, or further studies. Our students go on to do a wide array of things after graduating -- furthering their education in a graduate program, working for a non-profit, teaching internationally, even starting up their own businesses -- and we're here to help you figure out the next momentous steps in your life. The University has a huge number of career and advising resources, and within the English Department, we offer information and advice on a number of opportunities. You can see our pages here for more information on some of the options, academic and otherwise, available to you.

And, last but not least, be sure to talk with our undergraduate adviser, Karen Redfield, or with your favorite faculty members. As scary as it can be, graduation is a celebration of your accomplishments as a student and a bright doorway into the next chapter of your life, and we're here to help you figure out where your life might lead you!