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US College Students Customize Unique Majors

  • Ted Landphair

Amherst College, a liberal arts school in western Massachusetts, allows some students to plan a personal program of study under the direction of a tutor.

Amherst College, a liberal arts school in western Massachusetts, allows some students to plan a personal program of study under the direction of a tutor.

Some universities allow custom-designed majors, tailored to student interests

One of the first questions an American college student often gets is, “What are you majoring in?” Meaning, what academic subject are you spending most of your time studying?

A typical answer would be “chemistry,” “pre-law,” “journalism,” “sociology,” or “English.”

What is not typical is an answer such as “Keepin’ It Real” or “Grand Romantic Gestures.”

That’s right: “Grand Romantic Gestures.” It’s an actual course of study at the University of Maryland. But only for Elizabeth Limberakis.

You see, Maryland is one of a growing number of U.S. colleges that allows students to custom-design their own majors, tailored to their interests. As The New York Times reports, Limberakis happens to be interested in the study of love.

At Wesleyan College in Georgia, a little more than half of the undergraduate students individualize their majors, as it’s called. Yes, even love can be the subject of a student’s main academic curriculum.

Yes, even love can be the subject of a student’s main academic curriculum.

A number of University of Washington students do too, after receiving a warning from the university that cooking up your own academic program does not mean you can design a “light” major just to get an easy degree.

Instead, that university makes clear, individualized studies are for “the intellectually curious, reflective and highly self-directed students who embrace learning for its own sake.”

In fact, many colleges require those who invent their own majors to take classes in at least three widely-different disciplines.

Even the “Keepin’ It Real” major at the University of Maryland was a more serious undertaking that it sounds.

The Times says it included courses in pop culture and the “purity of art,” because the student was planning an undefined entertainment career.

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