Q: What courses absolutely must be taken during the first year (or the first semester)?
Because writing skills are so important to the study of literature, we recommend that students fulfill their VE (verbal expression) requirement as soon as possible—ideally during the first semester of the first year. For any student exploring the possibility of an English major, we strongly recommend English 20 (Introduction to Literary Analysis) or any First Year Intensive course offered through the English department. If you have any questions regarding your writing placement, contact Jennifer Plante at the Writing Center: jplante@clarku.edu.
Q: What are some good introductory choices besides a VE course during the first year?
After completing the VE requirement—or if you are VE exempt—you can take any 100-level English course. If you are unable to register for an appropriate VE course during your first semester but feel you might be ready to try a 100-level literature course, consult your summer adviser (and, ideally, the course instructor). For fall 2013, English 180 (Major American Writers I) has been designated to be "first-year friendly" with additional resources for students taking their first college-level literature course, but it is always a good idea to let the instructor of a 100-level course know if you are taking your first English class at Clark. If you have any questions about the suitability of a particular course, never hesitate to contact the instructor by email.
Q: What courses should first year students steer clear of?
Generally, we do not recommend that first-year students take 200-level courses.
Q: What is the preferred mix of courses?
A balance of workload and exploration of various fields of study are important in your first year. That is why we generally encourage students to take no more than one English course per semester during their first year. You don't want to overload your schedule with too many reading/writing intensive courses at once, and you will want to explore a range of subjects, especially because the English major works extremely well in combination with double majors, minors, and concentrations in other departments. That said, students eager to begin their English major career sometimes wish to take a 100-level; course in addition to a VE course. This scenario works best when the VE course is offered in another department besides English, such as Philosophy, History, Screen Studies, Comparative Literature, etc. 
Q: Does your department recommend that first year students explore the PLS during their first year? Or should first-year students focus more on fulfilling prerequisites for the major?
English courses at the 100 level generally fulfill core requirements of the major, so you will already be getting a head start by taking at lease one 100-level class in your first year. Fulfilling PLS requirments in conjunction with introductory English classes is a great way to explore different perspectives and potential secondary fields of study, all of which can only enhance the reading of literature.
Q: What courses in related departments do your majors usually take?
The English major is well suited to interdisciplinary study. Many of our students have double majors or various combinations of minors and concentrations in other fields. Combinations within the Humanities are popular (Philosophy, History, Foreign Languages, Music, Art History, Social Sciences (especially Political Science, Sociology, and Psychology), interdisciplinary programs (such as Women and Gender Studies), and preprofessional programs (such as Education). Many students also combine their interest in literature with their pursuit of science, mathematics, and computer science. The interdisciplinary potential of the English maroj is well demonstrated in the Senior Capstone, in which students are encouraged to craft independent projects that pull together their main fields of study.
Q: Is there any advice for potential English minors?
The same 100-level classes that fulfill core major requirements also fulfill many minor requirements. If you are unsure whether you want to major or minor in English, good choices include the historical survey classes (English 140 and 141: Major British Writers I and II or English 180 and 181: Major American Writers I and II) and any poetry offering (English 107, 110, or 184).
Q: How and when does your department assign advisors for declared majors?
We encourage students to ask a specific perofessor to serve as adviser when they are ready to declare the major. If a student does not have a particular professor in mind, the Department Chair is always happy to become the adviser. Because you will pursue a special area of focus within the major, we encourage you to find the professor who can best advise you as your interests evolve. That means a major should always feel free to switch advisors when appropriate to the specialization.
Q: If first year students have specific questions about your department, whom should they contact?
Department Chair James Elliott will be available prior as of July 22, 2013: JElliott@clarku.edu. (Earlier than July 22, 2013, you can contact Prof. Meredith Neuman (meneuman@clarku.edu).