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Sunny Jong
Noodle Expert Member

May 19, 2020

Even if reading or writing isn't what you would consider one of your strengths, achieving success in an English class is accessible to everyone.

Before being able to declare a major and undertake specialized classes, most college students must first fulfill the general education criteria. This means taking at least one literature course, which, especially for non-English majors, is intensive and difficult work. Generally speaking, since these courses combine critical thinking with technical writing, it can be difficult for students to conceptualize and apply these concepts articulately enough for a high grade. Fortunately, there are many strategies you can employ to survive in these courses without having to dedicate inordinate amounts of time trying to build an expert command of things like grammar, syntax, and style. Here are some things that you can do:

Attend your college writing center

Most schools have a writing center that is deliberately designed to aid students in their literary endeavors both in and beyond the classroom. Whether you need help with a writing assignment or are looking to refine a research paper, the writing center offers all of the resources that you will need in succeeding in what you seek to do. Students who visit the center have access to a database of model papers they can glean information and techniques from, are able to receive review of their papers from peers, and can make one-on-one consultations with a tutor. This can be a meaningful boon to students looking to up their technical writing skills, and ensures that students are able to gain the insight and practice they need in acing assignments.

Make a study group

Connect with new people, get their numbers, and get to know different people. Ask around - your English classmates, peers who frequent the writing center, or members of related clubs - and create a circle of people who share your ambitions and would be comfortable in meeting up a few times a week to exchange advice, peer review, or even just to do homework  in each other’s presence. At the end of it, you’ll be able to broaden the scope of your understanding of literature through your peers, and hopefully make a few friends out of it.

Go to your English professor’s office hours

Of course, relative to the course, what is probably the best source of information is your professor. Professors have office hours for the precise reason of helping students who could use that help. Pay them a visit and let them know what you’re struggling with, and don’t worry about feeling like you’re imposing yourself upon them -  it’s a block of time designated specifically for you. 

This may be rare, but sometimes, the difficulty of an English course might not necessarily be the course material, but the guidelines that the professor uses in grading your assignments and projects themselves. For instance, one might prefer, for varying reasons, that you write in the active voice as opposed to the passive one in essays. Some might prefer that you refrain from using “and" or “but" to preface your sentences. Others may be particularly stringent about the format of your academic writing (MLA, APA, etc.). Find out how to conform to their preferences even if you’re only doing it for the duration of the course because that’ll guarantee that you won’t lose points where you don’t need to.

English being a complicated language is difficult to overstate, and especially for students who haven’t dedicated their time to doing profuse amounts of reading or writing on their downtime in their childhood or prior to taking the course, it may be overwhelming - in fact, even I do as someone who has a more developed background in those things. You don’t have to have an expert grasp on English to thrive in an English class, and you definitely don’t need to be majoring in it to do so either. It’s all about how much you apply yourself towards finding the resources out there to support yourself through school because most of the time, they’re there for you.

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