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.
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.