Pursuing an Independent Major: When Forging Your Own Path Is the Best Option - Geneva College
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Pursuing an Independent Major: When Forging Your Own Path Is the Best Option

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Early College
You arrived at college intent on pursuing your passion, only to discover that existing program structures fail to move you towards your long-term goals. Or perhaps you love the school but they aren’t offering your preferred major. Transferring may be a possibility, but what if no other institutions offer your vision of the perfect academic program? Instead of jumping ship, consider carving your own path via an independent major.

What Is an Independent Major?
An independent major is a self-directed approach to college that falls outside of the scope of existing academic programs. This intentional course of study typically corresponds with students' unique interests and abilities. Often, it involves the purposeful integration of two or more fields of study.

Benefits of Seeking an Independent Major
Do you like to forge your own path? Do you have a clear idea of where you want to go in life and what you want to accomplish? An independent major might be an ideal solution for you.

As its name suggests, this approach requires an independent mind and spirit. While you'll spend your time in class with students from conventional academic programs, you'll guide the selection of said classes (with input from a trusted advisor).

If you're highly passionate about a niche field, an independent major allows you to hone in on your focus. You don't have to worry about cramming a double major in four years or giving up on an area of interest to fit within the scope of existing academic programs. You'll enjoy the freedom to select classes and experiences that actually relate to your field of interest. Upon graduation, you can frame your major as an example of your passion and drive.

Developing Independent Major Objectives
The term 'independent major' isn't code for 'coasting through college by taking whatever courses you want.' Independent majors are just as rigorous as departmental programs. In fact, this approach often requires more work than traditional avenues to graduation, as independent students must thoroughly plan every aspect of their college education.

One of the first steps towards implementing an independent major plan is developing objectives for that major. What do you want to accomplish while enrolled in college? How will the skills obtained through your unique combination of courses prepare you for the future?

Take some time to reflect on your interests and priorities — and whether an independent major will help you reach your goal. Is it possible to achieve these objectives within the scope of a traditional program? If not, how will your self-directed approach be different?

Studying at Other Colleges — Or Abroad
Many independent majors include a semester or year of either studying at another institution or participating in a study abroad program. This experience could grant you a valuable new perspective on your selected niche. Study abroad is particularly valuable for independent students with a cultural or international focus.

Gaining Approval for an Independent Major
Like any college program, independent majors require faculty oversight. Students will ideally complete planning for their major by the end of fall semester during their sophomore year. To gain approval, students should develop academic objectives and determine which courses will help them meet these goals. A faculty member willing to serve as an advisor must endorse these objectives and selected coursework.

Upon achieving advisor endorsement, aspiring independent majors should submit the following to their college's academic dean:
· Major objectives
· A list of courses that will help meet said objectives
· Timetable for completing the self-directed program
· Transcript

As a student interested in pursuing an independent major, it's imperative that you begin early. This program is not intended as a last resort for students who struggle to meet the requirements of their existing major. Because you play such an instrumental role in planning and executing your academic pursuits, you need time to develop an itinerary that actually works.

An independent major could be your ticket to a rewarding college experience. Don't hesitate to think outside of the box and craft a program that caters to your calling.

If you’d like to learn more about professions that enable you to serve wholeheartedly and faithfully in your life’s work or want to learn more about a biblically based, Christ-centered education at Geneva, we’d love to chat with you. For more information on how Geneva College can help you pursue your education goals, please phone us at 855-979-5563 or email web@geneva.edu.

Opinions expressed in the Geneva Blog are those of its contributors and do not necessarily represent the opinions or official position of the College. The Geneva Blog is a place for faculty and contributing writers to express points of view, academic insights, and contribute to national conversations to spark thought, conversation, and the pursuit of truth, in line with our philosophy as a Christian, liberal arts institution.

Jul 24, 2018