Choosing your college major is one of the most important decisions a prospective or current college student must make. It can even have a larger impact than the school itself as programs availability differs from institution to institution. There are a multitude of obstacles that make this decision difficult for many. Some schools may not offer what you want, some students don’t know what they want, and sometimes programs seem outdated or overly generalized for the fast moving working world. This last issue is quite apparent in my specific field.
I went to school at Emerson College for Journalism. I specifically had interest in long form writing as in magazine journalism or news features. The Emerson journalism program included some of these classes but there was also a fair amount of courses I was required to take which seemed to serve no purpose in my personal path. In a case like this, specializations would be ideal but in my specific program they did not exist. Magazine writing was also part of the publishing program and was not integrated in the journalism program. Before taking steps to changing which classes I could take, I had a change of heart in what I wanted to do. I had a new desire to pursue a career in more visualized journalism including documentary and graphic design. Emerson offers graphic design as part of the publishing program, as well as offering documentary production courses in the visual media arts program. It was when I reached this juncture that I decided it would be impossible to encompass what I wanted to learn in a combination of electives minors and my major classes while graduation with a relevant degree in a timely manner. I then applied for the IDIP program where I was allowed to design my own major and select my courses tailored to my desired path. Many schools offer a similar option but the process is not always easy and requires dedication. It is not for someone who is not sure they want to do their specific request but if you are certain you want to design your major to fit a specific goal, this program, whatever it may be called at different schools, is an excellent resource.
The process for me started by meeting with advisors. From my personal experience, when you have a focused idea, faculty are on board to help you realize your desired path. I was met with loads of support from professors, advisors, and other faculty members about getting my program approved. The next step was the most work. I had to formulate the program, sorting through all the classes, finding a good balance, making sure the time tables work out, and writing explanations as to why I wanted to do this specific program. My major is titled multimedia journalism and design. I take part film courses, part journalism courses and part design courses. I wrote how this program would help me in the new rapidly progressing world of news media. I had to write out letters and explanations as well as filling on some tedious forms which is why this is not a process for an uncertain student. The next step was the review process. It started with the chairs. I had to contact the chairs of each of the three programs which were included in my designed major. I met with them each and reviewed my proposal, again I found nothing but support and commendation for what I was aiming to do and I hope all students are offered similar degrees of support. I had to make some changes to the original proposal but nothing drastic and each signed off on my new major. Then I had to submit the signed final proposal with all its required writing and await review from a counsel of unnamed administrators. A few weeks later I was approved and my new major was implanted into with all its required writing and await review from a counsel of unnamed administrators. A few weeks later I was approved and my new major was implanted into my degree audit, the program Emerson uses to check progress towards graduation.
Any student in a similar situation, no matter what their specific field may be should look in to doing something similar. Another option is too look in to minors but sometimes there is not combination of majors and minors that can appropriately accommodate each student and their specific goals. In that case a self-designed major is a wonderful resource and allows a student to take initiative in studying what they are passionate about.