I didn't come to Illinois as a creative writing major, but after switching into it, I found that it was one of the best decisions I've made as an undergraduate student. The program has so much to offer, from its classes to its faculty to the great advising, but here are the top 5 things I love about being a creative writing major at U of I:
1. Amazing faculty members and instructors
When I first began taking creative writing courses at Illinois, I was pleasantly surprised by all of the great faculty and instructors I have met (such as John Rubins, Julie Price, Michael Hurley, and Ted Sanders...just to name a few)! The faculty overall are friendly, helpful, knowledgeable, and, obviously, great writers. They’re all great to talk to outside of class as well and have definitely shaped my experience as an Illinois student in the best way possible.
Outside of class instructors, there are also wonderful academic and career advisors available. It’s pretty easy to contact them by in-person appointments or through email, and the Humanities Professional Resource Center has other advisors ready to talk to you about where you’d like to go in your journey past graduation.
2. The workshop-format classes
When starting out as a creative writing major, you’re likely to take either CW 104 (Introductory Narrative Writing) or CW 106 (Introductive Poetry Writing). You take one or both, but regardless, one of the requirements of the major is to go down the introductory → intermediate → advanced track of either narrative or poetry writing.
Both of these tracks operate with a workshop format. If you’re unfamiliar with workshops, they’re essentially a discussion space where peers read each other’s written pieces and then typically come the following period with comments and questions to discuss. The author of that piece will then receive plenty of feedback about their work! Your peers truly make the class, and this unique discussion format allows for all writers to improve their writing.
3. The English Building itself
The English Building has the privilege of being on the Quad, aka the epicenter of academic life at Illinois. Not only is it next to our wonderful Quad, where you’ll find plenty of people out and about on nice days, but the architecture of the building is great. This isn’t to mention the skylight and atrium that is located in the middle of the building! The English Building atrium is a nice place to take a break between your classes or to hunker down and get some work done, and it’s lit by the skylight during the daytime.
4. Flexibility of the major, supporting work, and other courses
I find the creative writing major to be quite flexible. There aren’t a lot of strict requirements to complete the major, which can allow you to make your academic career your own! You can choose to take more literature courses solely focused on American writers, take more history courses to build your knowledge on how to write about history, or pick up a major or minor (or both!) to further shape your academic career. For example, I picked up minors in both statistics and informatics, which has allowed me to study both STEM and technology alongside reading Shakespeare and revising my short stories.
5. Applying the creative writing major to any career
This is perhaps the most significant thing I have found about being a creative writing major at Illinois—being able to apply your skills to just about any career. No matter what you do after graduation, there is no doubt that you’ll need to write in some shape or capacity. Even in just the application process, you’ll probably be writing dozens of cover letters or personal statements to secure a job or a spot in a graduate program.
Writing and being able to communicate is a vital skill in anything you do, whether it’s news journalism, conducting scientific research, or preparing a lesson plan for a high school English class. If you can improve your writing and communication skills here and now, you’ll be more than prepared for your future post-graduation.