Mix and Match: the process of building an individualized major

By Collin Caroland | Online Writer

If you were to throw a rock at a group of 10 college students in the United States, the odds are good you would hit one of the eight students who has changed or will change their major, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Of that same group of students, most are more than likely to have a major that is a course-load advertised by their school. There are, however, some students who have taken it upon themselves to create their own special courses of study- these courses are often referred to as individualized majors.

Each student has their own reason for choosing s specialized study, Alec Cross cited his primary reason as marketability and practicality.

“I’m studying adolescent spirituality,” Cross said. “It’s basically a youth ministry major, I just pulled out a couple of classes that are more administration and other classes that conflict with my spiritual formation minor and just added them to my major.” Cross’ main concern with making a major was nobody would understand what it meant, but professors and advisors told him the major was fine and would make him more marketable.

Nick Lemerand has a similar story about his own personalized major. Lemerand decided one week before his sixth semester at Oklahoma University he would rather be studying ministry, with a focus on helping adolescents and young adults, than meteorology, so he checked with Spring Arbor, who worked with him so he could combine urban ministry and youth ministry to make college ministry major, and transferred here.

The individual major is unique for each student, and therefore not for everyone. While it may make the student more marketable, it can be difficult to set up.

“I had to look at the semester offerings of each course in all of the related departments myself,” Cross said when asked if the individualized major was a program that had no down sides. “I had to sit down by myself one day and decide which courses could work best, and then get them approved by the overseeing faculty and when they were finally approved, I had to get a form from the registrar and I needed to get six or so signatures from a lot of different people.” From the logistical standpoint, according to Cross, it can be a nightmare to set up. Lemerand advised those looking into it to be wary of the practicality of the individual major.

“You definitely have to have some idea of what you want to do with it,” Lemerand said.

Courses were pulled from a variety of different programs for both Cross and Lemerand, with special thought put into each course so as to make their majors truly their own. Cross and Lemerand both would encourage any student who is looking at an individualized major to talk with their advisors and faculty to determine if an individualized major would be suited for the student’s goals and aspirations.

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