Students may find that the usual options for majoring or minoring do not meet their special interests or needs. Recognizing this, the College provides a unique opportunity for students to develop an individualized major within the A.B. program based upon their special interests, talents, experiences, and life objectives.

Review the Individualized Major policy


Why might a student pursue a self-designed major?

Students whose academic and personal interests fall outside the current offerings for majors/minors might benefit from designing their own majors.

What are some examples of past successful self-designed majors?

While previously-approved proposals from other students cannot be shared, some recent examples of self-designed majors are listed below.

  • “Communications and Society” (A&S, ENG, PSYC, WGS)
  • “Social Justice” (A&S, EVST, GOVT, PHIL)
  • “Chinese Language and Culture” (ART, CHN, HIST, PHIL, REL)
  • “Psychosocial Elements of Consumerism” (PHIL, ECON, PSYC, A&S, PSTD)
  • “Theory of Perception in Digital Media” (ART, PHIL, FAMS)
  • “Technology and Law” (GOVT, PSYC, ME, EGRS)
  • “Decision Making” (A&S, ECON, MUS, PSYC)
  • “Entrepreneurship and Marketing” (ECON, A&S, PSYC, PSTD)

How do you find an advisor for your self-designed major?

A minimum of three (3) faculty members must support your self-designed major proposal, one of whom should be designated as your academic advisor for this major. You should look for a faculty member with whom you already have a good rapport, and ideally someone who has experience with helping students develop a self-designed major and making necessary edits to the course list along the way.

What are some reasons that a self-designed major proposal may be denied?

Students cannot design a major within a single department to avoid departmental requirements. For example, if a student wants to be a math major but doesn’t want to have to take a particular upper-level course, they cannot create their own math major that simply doesn’t include that course. The self-designed major requires breadth and depth across several departments/programs and encompasses a central theme. If there is limited representation across academic departments, or if there is not a distribution of courses across the 100-200-300–400 levels, then the proposal may be denied as it does not demonstrate both breadth and depth.

Can you double major with a self-designed major?

Yes. Students can use the self-designed major as a single major or as a second major under the Bachelor of Arts (A.B.) degree. If a student is already pursuing a Bachelor of Science (B.S) degree, they can petition to add the self-designed major under an A.B. degree. Having a dual degree (B.S. + A.B.) will require a minimum of 40 credits instead of 32 or 36 for a single degree.

It is important to note that only 4 classes can overlap between two A.B. majors

Review The Major policies

When should a student start planning/declare their self-design major?

College policy requires that a self-designed major should be fully approved by the end of the student’s sophomore year. However, proposals have been considered when submitted later than the end of the sophomore year.

What forms do I need to submit for a self-designed major proposal?

The student should submit the General Petition requesting the major change (from one major to the self-designed major, from one A.B. major to a double major, or a to dual degree, adding AB/Individualized Studies); approval from your current advisor is required.  In addition, there should be endorsement from at least three faculty across the different disciplines that are represented in your proposed course list, one of whom should be designated as the primary advisor for the self-designed major.

A full proposal must also be attached to the petition which should be comprised of the following parts:

  • Introduction / rationale for the self-designed major (i.e. why do you want to do this, and why can your proposed major not be met with any of Lafayette’s existing majors/minors?)
  • A list of courses. A minimum of ten (10) courses is required which includes at least 2 intro, 2 intermediate, and 2 upper-level. The remaining 4 courses should be fairly evenly spread over the 100-499 levels. At least one course must be a writing [W] course.
  • Capstone experience / course. One of the 10 listed courses must be an upper-level capstone and should function to synthesize and capture the special focus of your self-designed major.

Who writes the proposal? Can I use one from another student who already had theirs approved?

Creating a self-designed major is an individual, student-driven process.  While faculty input and approval is required, the student should be crafting the theme and curriculum within the plan. Students should not copy other self-designed plans, as the purpose is to create something unique for each student who pursues this opportunity.

How does someone design a capstone for the self-designed major?

Often (but not always), a capstone for a self-designed major comes in the form of an independent study. Since the idea behind a capstone is to allow the student to synthesize and capture the special focus of the self-designed major, the capstone will look different in each proposal. Consulting and working with your advisor will be key in developing your own capstone.

Can a capstone take the form of a thesis (department honors)?

Students with a self-designed major are normally not eligible to pursue a thesis. Students with a double major or dual degree may still be eligible for departmental honors in their other area of study.

Review Department Honors/Thesis eligibility

What should a student do if one or more of the courses that were approved for their self-designed major are no longer offered or offered very infrequently?

The student will need to revise their original proposal which will require a petition to the Student Affairs Committee for a program change or course substitution. This petition should be endorsed by the faculty advisor for the self-designed major.