Create Your Major
Students whose passions intersect in unrepresented ways sometimes create their own majors. By combining classes from various departments and proposing plans to their colleges or universities, students essentially create their own curriculum. If a customized major appeals to you, consider the following questions.
Should I create a major?
Many students benefit from following the path of a traditional major. Some students, however, determine that by uniting classes from two or more different majors, they'll learn more and make better connections to further inform an already well-articulated career goal.
If, for instance, you're interested in studying the history of film rather than history or filmmaking and you don’t want to double-major, a custom major might be right for you.
What are the benefits?
Creating your major means you'll take advantage of interdisciplinary learning, combining the knowledge and frameworks of different fields to obtain a unique educational experience. If you've known what you've wanted to do academically or professionally for a long time, creating your own major could give you the best chance to learn as much as you can.
A university’s stamp of approval on your major proposal indicates that you're serious about your passions and that you have the determination to forge your own path.
What about the downsides?
Although some students benefit from creating their own major, some feel isolated or frustrated. This is because of a lack of support from academic departments, which often serve as foundation for students. It also can be harder to make connections with peers and get into high-level classes, which are sometimes exclusive to students in one major.
How can I create my own major?
Creating your own major depends on your school's rules and graduation requirements. Have conversations with your administration and put together a proposal as early as freshman year. Faculty advisors can provide more specific information about the process, and they'll let you know if it’s a good idea. Crafting a custom curriculum isn’t easy, but in can be done in consultation with advisors and professors.
Which colleges or universities encourage creating a major?
Many schools allow a small number of students to create their own majors each year and some actually encourage their students to do so. For example, UC Berkeley offers an interdisciplinary studies degree, which requires a course study plan, individual research and a 40-page final thesis.
St. Olaf College’s Center for Integrative Studies is similar. Oberlin College, the University of Minnesota and James Madison University are supportive of custom majors for their students, too.