Choosing the right college and getting accepted were major milestones for you. Now, you are there and taking courses in your chosen major…and it’s just not working out. You are bored. Your grades are low, maybe even failing. The content of the major you picked is very different from what you expected. You only chose that major because you had to make a decision…or to please your parents. Or, perhaps you’ve become interested in a different subject thanks to an elective or general education course you took, an experience you had, or people you met. And thanks to those experiences, you’re feeling much more interested and passionate about a whole new area of study.
Well, you might consider transferring to a college that does offer the major you want.
But what if you could stay right where you are and earn a degree in your new area of interest?
Many colleges offer students the opportunity to create their own academic paths. They might call it Ad Hoc Majors, Individualized Studies, Independent Majors, Interdisciplinary Majors, or Self-Designed Studies, but the idea is generally the same. These degree routes encourage motivated students to carve out their own academic curricula, usually working closely with faculty or special advisors. What’s more, students in these individualized degree programs can usually select courses from not just one, but multiple disciplines. So, if you’ve become excited about an area such as, say, Political Psychology, or Musical Theater, and your school offers the individualized degree route, you are in luck. At large universities with multiple, separate schools (i.e., schools of health, eduation, arts, social work, etc.), individualized degree students can often choose courses that cut across those boundaries, as well.
Do you have what it takes?
You should expect that the individualized major will have it’s own application process and criteria for admission. The required GPA may be higher than what was required for your current major. You might be expected to supply a letter of recommendation from a faculty member. You will probably have to submit a statement about what you want to study and what you expect to learn.
One student’s story.
Emma was enrolled at Brooklyn College, one of the 11 four-year colleges at the City University of New York (CUNY); she was enrolled in Brooklyn’s Journalism program, but that major wasn’t satisfying her academic appetite. As an upper junior, she realized she really wanted to be making films. But not just any films – she wanted to somehow combine her passion for social justice with documentary filmmaking. Emma found out that CUNY offers an individualized degree route called CUNY Baccalaureate for Unique and Interdisciplinary Studies, commonly known as CUNY BA. She says, “CUNY BA has allowed me to explore my academic and intellectual interests in a way that works with my creative mind and independent nature. The major I created is ‘Film through Sociological Research and Practice.’ This allows me the freedom to learn about society through a sociological lens and use that knowledge when creating documentaries. I am achieving my goal of being a filmmaker through the classes I am taking, working on my own documentary, and gaining hands-on experience through internships. The courses in the film department at Brooklyn College are providing me with the knowledge I need in order to perform different tasks on professional movie sets. I also take sociology courses in order to better understand the world I capture on film. Throughout the year I make sure to work on different projects that give me the experience I need in order to turn my passion into a career. For the past two years, I have been continuously learning.” To design her degree, Emma is working closely with her faculty mentor, Assistant Professor Sarah Christman, in the Film department at Brooklyn College. Prof. Christman is an award-winning, internationally-known filmmaker who makes non-fiction films that examine the intersection between people, technology and the natural world
Does Emma’s story resonate with you? If you are a student enrolled in a CUNY college, or at another college that does not offer an individualized degree route, learn how to transfer to CUNY BA where you can design your own degree working closely with faculty mentors. Just click here: