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Self-Designed Major


  • Self-Designed Major

    Requirements for the Major:

    The Self-Designed Major allows students to develop academic majors of their own, whose requirements they themselves will set, and must meet, in order to complete the major.

    The only requirement of all Self-Designed Majors is that they culminate their studies (meet the Senior Studies requirement of the General Education Curriculum) in a senior thesis or a research project: the senior thesis is strongly encouraged.  In other words, there is no senior seminar in the Self-Designed Major, and students may not propose to complete their senior studies requirement with a seminar in any regularly-offered major. Self-Designed Majors must complete their senior studies requirement with a substantial piece of independent work.

    In addition, the College’s general limitation on the number of Independent Studies (Tutorials) and Internships is waived for Self-Designed Majors.  If a student, her advisor in the major, and the Self-Designed Major Committee deem it important to serious study in the major, a Self-Designed Major may complete any number of such courses, although identification of tutorials  should be judicious, with a clear rationale for their inclusion.

    Because the Self-Designed Major requires initiative, responsibility, and a substantial independent essay or creative work, students should consider carefully their interests, talents, and work ethics before applying to the program. They should consult with their advisors, their friends, their parents, and a member of the Self-Designed Major Committee before applying to the program.

    The Self-Designed Major is compatible with a student’s pursuit of a second major, and can be an avenue for studying one of the College’s interdisciplinary minors (such as Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies, Cinema Studies, Legal Studies, etc.) in greater depth than the minor will allow.

    Application Requirements:

    Applicants to the Self-Designed Major Program should consult with the Chair of the Self-Designed Major Program Committee or any Committee member before making their official applications to the program.

    Once a student, in consultation with a member of the Program Committee, decides to pursue a Self-Designed Major, he or she must submit a proposal to the Chair of the Self-Designed Major Committee.

    The proposal consists of three parts:

    1) A 1-2-page prose application

    This section should be well and carefully written, and must include the following:

    • A title, description, and brief discussion of the proposed major and its value
    • A sound argument that the goals of the proposed major cannot be achieved
          through any of the regularly-offered majors at the College
    • An indication and brief discussion of the senior thesis, creative project, or research project in which the proposed major will culminate
    • Identification of an Academic Advisor in the proposed major: Like any other student at the College, a Self-Designed Major must have an academic advisor in the major. The academic advisor need not be a faculty member on the Program Committee, in fact, it usually will not be, but rather, a faculty member with specific expertise in the area of the proposed major, and interest in working with the student intensively on it
    • An email from the advisor, accepting this assignment, must accompany the final proposal.

    2) A Specific Four-Year Plan

    This section should be clearly laid out, and must include the following:

    • A list of required and likely elective courses for the Self-Designed Major being proposed.

      The minimum number of courses required to complete a major at Lake Forest College is eight (8).  The proposed major must consist of eight or more courses.  The Program Committee suggests that proposed majors consist of no more than fifteen (15) courses.

      A student may plan any number of Independent Studies (Tutorials) or Internships, as needed to complete the major at a level of undergraduate expertise.  The Self-Designed Major Committee suggests, however, that the applicant obtain at least tentative acceptance of their assignments from any tutorial instructors and the chairs of their departments before submitting the final proposal.

      The course list must include a senior thesis, creative project, or research project in the proposed academic field.


    • A demonstration that all the courses in the proposed major, all the courses in any other planned major or minor, the College’s General Education Curriculum Requirements, and the thirty-two (32) credits required for graduation, can all be completed by the time of the student’s graduation. This can be in the form of a table or a list.

      This demonstration should take into account courses already taken by the time of application, as well as the likelihood that the courses the student proposes will be offered when the student intends to take them.

    3) A Working Bibliography in the Academic Area of the Proposed Major
    This section should be in proper MLA, APA or Chicago style, and should include works that the student, in consultation with her proposed advisor, agree are fundamental to the study in the proposed major.

    Applicants are encouraged to work with the Chair of the Self-Designed Major Committee as they prepare their proposals. Once the Chair and the applicant believe the proposal is ready, the Chair will submit it to the Self-Designed Major Committee for approval. The Committee may reject the proposal, or withhold their approval pending revision. This will be communicated to the applicant by the Chair.

    Once a student’s proposal has been approved by the Self-Designed Major Committee, the Chair will inform the student and the registrar, officially declaring the student’s Self-Designed major. It will appear on student’s transcript with the title he or she has given it in his or her proposal.

    After Declaration of the Self-Designed Major:

    Each student is personally responsible for completing his or her academic plan.  To insure that all graduation requirements in the major are met, however, the Chair will solicit an informal report from each Self-Designed Major’s academic advisor each spring semester.  The report will include an update on the progress toward the major and any changes in the student’s plans.