An option that many students don’t know exists is the ability to create your own major degree program. Even at my university, where I created my own major, I get asked about it all of the time because no one knows that it is a possibility. So I am bringing you my knowledge and experience of making my own program, so you can learn how to do it too.
The steps for creating your own major may vary depending on your school, but here are the general steps I took that can help you.
Check To See If It Is Possible
Some schools may not offer this as a possibility, so check to see if it can be done. You can browse your school’s catalog to see if it is listed there (like I did) or go to academic advising and ask an advisor if they know.
Contact The Office That Runs It
It’s always good to meet with the main person in charge of such a program, because they can discuss all of the details and answer your questions. I just made an appointment with the person and she answered all of my questions and confirmed that I could successfully fulfill requirements, which is always good to know.
There will be a lot of paperwork involved, I guarantee it. Partnered with the paperwork is certain requirements that need to be fulfilled. For example, my school has a GPA requirement because they want to see a successful student who can, presumably, be self-disciplined and handle the obstacles.
Paperwork usually consists of a document listing course information that will be the required courses for the degree, including units. There will also be a signature page, which I discuss further in a later step. You might also have to supply a statement of purpose, meaning you will have to explain why you wish to pursue a specific program and why a program that already exists at your school will not suffice. For example, my major is Digital Communications and Marketing, and my statement of purpose consisted of an educational objective and career objective, which are the following:
To develop an understanding of different forms of media and competency in the ability to utilize media as a form of communication and marketing. Also, to learn how media has a social impact on society.
To provide marketing communication via different forms of digital media, i.e., websites, social media and blogs, for companies or non-profit organizations.
The following pattern of study provides the interdisciplinary education needed by providing numerous communications courses focusing on multimedia and media law, introductory video production and design classes, and marketing courses on advertising and ethics in business in order to be able to effectively provide communication between an organization, stakeholders and the public.
Look Through The Catalog
I spent hours analyzing the catalog to see what courses would fit what I wanted to do. It is the easiest way to get an outline of courses you would want to take. However, be prepared for advisors to cut some classes or require others that you don’t have on your initial list. There will be a few drafts of course lists before a final one is done.
Meet With Departments
In order for you to get your major approved, you will need to get signatures from the departments involved. I had to get signatures from advisors, department chairs, deans of the colleges, and the dean of undergraduate studies (who is the person in charge of the program). It took about a month to get all of the signatures, because there can be a lot of bouncing around between departments in order to come to a consensus. This is the portion that takes the most patience, and can get frustrating when having to bounce around between buildings and offices.
Once Approved, Update Information
After you get all of the signatures and turn in the forms, you wait for approval. Once approved, you will have to update documents, like transcripts, to include your new information. Also, make sure you have multiple copies, including a digital copy, of all of your paperwork, because you will probably need it to contact departments to make updates.
It is important to establish if making your own major is actually a beneficial option that you are willing to take on, because it does take great amounts of work and self-discipline to do. Personally, I chose to make my own major because my school did not offer what I wanted to do and study, so it was my only option that would have me stay at my school. I could have also transferred, but transferring seemed even more difficult.
What I mean by needing to have self-discipline is that, DIY majors tend to be in multiple departments, so you don’t have a single point of reference for help. For example, at my university if you are a Communications major, you are assigned a specific major advisor to help you. In my case, because I am designated “Special Major” on all documents, and I am in both Communications and Business, I do not get a major advisor. If I need help, I have to seek out a person who is willing to help me.
I have also found financial aid issues, because schools have a unit limit to how long you can get aid, so if changing your major pushes you over the limit, you will have to find a solution. It is possible to petition for financial aid, but be aware of the risk.
Also, applying to graduate has been an obstacle course, because I cannot apply online like the majority of my peers can, so I have to stay extra steps ahead.
However, I really enjoy having a program made by me, because I can truly appreciate and personalize my education, have a unique talking point, and put it on my resume. Yes, it comes with challenges, but the challenges are worth it if you are really dedicate to it.
If you could create your own degree, what would it be?