Frequently Asked Questions

Please note:  This department teaches the study and creation of literature written in English.  If you are looking for courses in English as a second language, please visit our Additional Information page.

General Help with Writing at Barnard

Writing Center

User's Guide to Resources for Writing at Barnard College

General Course Questions

Can first-year students take English courses?

What are the non-major requirements I can fulfill with English courses?

Where can I find a list of English courses requiring special procedures to enroll?

English Major/Minor Questions

How do I declare an English major or minor?

How do I major with a concentration?

How do I double major/combine majors/make a special major?

How do I get an English major adviser?

Where can I get more information about the requirements? 

Transfer Student Questions

How do I fulfill the English requirement if I'm not planning to major in English?

How do I plan my program if I want to major in English?

How do I take creative writing courses my first semester at Barnard?

How do I sign up for English courses?

How do I transfer credits?

Preparing for after Graduation

Beyond Barnard

Getting Recommendations

 

General Course Questions

Can first-year students take English courses?

A list of courses designated as open to first-year students is included in the student handbook.  A more frequently updated list of current English offerings can be found on our Courses Open to First-Year Students page.

What are the non-major requirements I can fulfill with English courses?

Non-majors may satisfy the distribution requirement in the Humanities (Part A) and in Cultures and Societies (Part B) by electing appropriate courses listed under language and literature.  The full list of courses fulfilling general education requirements can be found here.

Where can I find a list of English courses requiring special procedures to enroll?

A list of Barnard English courses requiring special procedures to enroll can be found here.   

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English Major/Minor Questions

How do I declare an English major or minor?

After obtaining the necessary form for the major and meeting with your current adviser to discuss your academic progress, bring the paperwork to the English Department Office (417 Barnard Hall). The English Department Assistant or Administrator will assign you a major adviser, and the Department Chair will sign your major declaration form. Once the English Department has made a copy of your form, take it to the Office of the Registrar.  It is not necessary to declare an American literature, film, and/or theatre concentration at this time, but you are able to do so.  You can only add a writing concentration after you have applied and been accepted.

To declare the minor, file the appropriate form with the Registrar after having completed the minor requirements.

How do I major with a concentration?

To declare a specific concentration, first review the major requirements and the requirements for the desired concentration, and consult with the appropriate professors and your own major adviser. If this is the first time you are declaring a major, write your American literature, film, and/or theatre concentration(s) in the appropriate section of your Major Declaration Form. If you have already declared an English major, fill out a Change of Major/Adviser form to add your American literature, film, and/or theatre concentration(s).

Note: The writing concentration is an exception: students enter only by permission and at the end of their junior year.  For details on how to apply, see the creative writing requirements.

How do I double major/combine majors/create a special major?

The forms for double/combined/special majors are available from the Office of the Registrar.  Use the Major Form for a complete double major; if you are doing one senior essay, use the Double Major-One Integrating Senior Project Form.  See your English adviser for his or her signature of approval.  After you have taken the necessary steps in the other major department, including selecting your second major adviser, file copies of the appropriate forms in both departments, and return the original to the Registrar. Both departments must agree on your departmental honors nomination and, if you are doing a single essay, on your senior essay grade.

A combined major is a program of study which allows you to create your own major from course offerings in two or more departments.  It culminates with an integrating senior essay, requiring advisers from both departments.  Unless that particular course combination is listed in the Barnard Catalogue, you must petition the Committee on Programs and Academic Standing and receive the approval of the chairs of the sponsoring departments.  Both departments must agree on your senior essay grade and your departmental honors nomination.  Contact your Class Dean for advice and information on declaring a combined major.

A special major is a major designed by you and not normally offered at Barnard.  A list of courses that satisfy the special major must be approved by the Committee on Programs and Academic Standing.  A special major does not necessarily involve more than one department.  If it does, both departments must agree on the senior essay grade and departmental honors nomination.  Contact your Class Dean for advice and information on declaring a special major.

How do I get an English major adviser?

When they declare, majors are assigned an adviser from the full-time faculty in the English Department.  (This holds for students declaring double and combined majors as well.)  If you would like to have a specific professor as your adviser, make arrangements with that professor prior to filing the Major Declaration Form. Not every faculty member in the department may be accepting advisees.  If you would prefer to simply be assigned to a faculty adviser, indicate this to the Department Assistant or Administrator when you declare.  You will be assigned based on your academic interests and professor availability.

Should your adviser go on leave, you will be assigned to another professor for the duration of your adviser's absence.  This will be determined on the basis of professor availability.

Where can I get more information about the requirements? 

You can find details on major, minor, and concentration requirements here

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Transfer Student Questions

How do I fulfill the English requirement if I'm not planning to major in English?

Transfer students who did not pass a satisfactory course at their previous institution are required to take either The Art of the Essay (ENGL BC3103 or 3104) or a 3-point literature course from the Barnard English department offerings.  Please note that some English courses require sign-ups

The course must be taken at Barnard, not Columbia.  Creative writing courses will not count.  This requirement is separate from the GER requirement in literature, which is an additional requirement; thus, one English literature course cannot serve to fulfill both the First-year English and the GER requirements.

How do I plan my program if I want to major in English?

Barnard English majors are required to take certain core English courses at Barnard.  If you are a sophomore, even if you are only thinking of majoring in English, you should take Critical Writing (ENGL BC3193).  Juniors should take Critical Writing as well as enroll in a Colloquium (ENGL BC3159 or 3160).  In either case, please contact the English Department as soon as possible as sign-ups are required for these courses and they fill up early.  

Declare your major as soon as possible to facilitate planning your program and completing your requirements.  (See "English Major/Minor Questions" above.)  Once you have declared, we can assign you an adviser so you can receive the best and most up-to-date guidance.  Major Declaration forms can be found here.

How do I take creative writing courses my first semester at Barnard?

Submit an application and writing sample as soon as possible.  All Barnard creative writing courses require an application and the deadline to apply is a week before the first day of classes.  If the deadline has passed, however, space may still be available.  More details can be found here.

How do I sign up for English courses?

Certain English courses are limited in size or have restrictions on admittance.  All creative writing courses, independent studies, and special projects require applications.  Enrollment limits and procedures are included in course descriptions in the Online Catalogue.  The Office of the Registrar publishes a list of special enrollment procedures, and the English Department posts a summary of its restricted courses each semester.  Courses on this list require additional procedures for enrolling.  The courses will also have statements in the "Comments and Reminders" box in the course's myBarnard listing or in the "Prerequisite" section in the Online Directory of Classes.  There are two ways Barnard College handles controlling registration for such courses:

The Limited-Enrollment (or L course process), which is handled by the Registrar directly.
English Courses flagged with the warning "Departmental registration required," "Departmental permission" or "sign-up required," indicate the courses for which you must sign up or submit application through the English Department.  Note: Find the dates and times for signing up on our sign-ups page.

Though the English Department offers courses in dramatic literature and playwriting (with ENGL or ENTH in their course number), some courses cover similar material but are offered through the Theatre Department (with THTR in their course number.)  For procedures for enrolling in theatre courses, please contact the Theatre Department or go to their office, 507 Milbank.

How do I transfer credits?

Review the Requirements for Transfer Students section of the Online Catalogue.

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Preparing for after Graduation

Beyond Barnard
There are many opportunities available for English majors. Here are some resources to get you started.  We list these sites for your information only; their inclusion does not imply that we endorse them. 

For more information about Summer Programs, Graduate Programs and Internships that may be of interest to English students are posted on the Department's bulletin boards between rooms 405 and 407 Barnard Hall. Please also consult the Department's Internship Page.

For more information about graduate schools, visit the Dean of Studies' website and speak with your adviser.

Articles and References

Working Your Degree

The Chronicle of Higher Education

Looking for a job?

Barnard Career Development

Write Jobs

Mediabistro Job Boards

The Chronicle of Higher Education Career - Chronicle Careers

Professional Associations

Modern Language Association

National Council of Teachers of English

American Society of Indexers

American Society of Journalists and Authors

Society for Technical Communication

Association of American Publishers

Directory of Investigative Journalists

Public Relations Society of America

American Library Association

American Association of Advertising Agencies

The Association for Women in Communications

Faculty Recommendations for Jobs or Graduate School

Some members of the department will write letters for students whom they have not gotten to know, provided they come in, introduce themselves, and spend some time discussing their plans.  Other members of the department feel comfortable writing only for students they know personally, and do not wish to write letters for students whom they did not get to know in large lecture courses.  Some professors prefer not to write letters unless students have received high grades; others are willing to write letters for students who have not done distinguished work.  Please consult with individual instructors about their policies.

Your recommendation is important to you, so you should spend some time making sure that you have prepared materials that will enable you to get the best endorsement possible.  It will be helpful to have the following materials with you when you come to see a faculty member to discuss a recommendation:

  • Your transcript, with grades in the faculty member's courses highlighted.
  • Your current resume.  This should include your academic activities, work experience at school and during summers, extracurricular activities and internships.  It should also include your academic and non-academic awards and recognition.  Make sure it has your contact information (address, telephone, e-mail).
  • A personal statement.  You should discuss your educational and career plans and how you decided on them. This statement should not be a recapitulation of your resume.  It should be personal in every sense of the word; it should give some insight into your values, your aspirations, your hopes and even your fears. You should avoid abstractions and write about yourself and your experiences.  This statement can be a copy of whatever personal application essay is being asked for by the school(s) in question.
  • All forms needed to complete the recommendation.  For pre-law or pre-medical students, this generally involves a single form from the pre-professional adviser.  For students applying to graduate or fellowship programs there are usually separate forms for each institution.  You can also use the universal form provided by the Dean of Studies; if you choose to do this, make sure the recommendations are returned to the Dean of Studies office and placed in your file.  For internships and employment recommendations, supply the name and address of the organization.  Indicate if the faculty member should use a form or if the recommendation is to be a letter written on departmental letterhead.
  • A list of all schools or organizations to which the recommendation is to be sent.  Sometimes a faculty member will write different letters to different schools. Others may reserve the right to refuse to write letters for one or more of the schools on your list, and they will inform you if that is the case.

If the faculty member is sending your recommendation directly to the interested party, include addressed envelopes. Postage is helpful but not necessary.  If the recommendation is to be returned to the Dean of Studies, it is your responsibility to instruct that office to send the records and provide envelopes and postage.

If your recommendation must be submitted online, provide clear, written instructions for the faculty member writing your recommendation.

A cover letter with any special instructions and deadlines for these forms to be completed. Include your address, telephone number, and e-mail address.

Plan in advance and allow at least several weeks, if not longer, for a faculty member to write a recommendation. Most will not be able to write recommendations during final-exam week of the semester and the vacation week that follows.  Some will be available during the summer vacation, but others may not, so you should find out from each faculty member when he or she will be able to write for you.

Do follow up with each school or employer to determine if the recommendation has reached its destination.

Please tell the professors who have written for you to which schools, jobs or internships you were accepted and (if you can bear it), from which of these you were rejected.  The information will help them to guide students who follow in your footsteps.

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edited 7/26/2016