Why an independent major?

In the rare cases when students have academic interests that fall within the expertise of Northeastern faculty members and that are not available in the large number of existing majors, minors, and combined majors, they may propose an independent major.

Independent majors form an integrated program focusing on some issue, theme, or subject area not available within the context of existing curricula. These programs should be equivalent in depth and coherence to existing majors and may involve an integrative project. No student with less than a 3.250 grade-point average will be approved for an independent major. The proposal must be approved by the end of the first semester of the junior year. Proposals will not be considered before the end of the freshman year. For initial information and advice, interested students should consult the associate dean overseeing undergraduate studies in their current home college or the college most relevant to the proposed course of study.

The student assumes the initiative in formulating an independent major. High degrees of student initiative and self-reliance are also necessary for completion of this type of major. The student is responsible for securing the advice and approval of faculty mentors, at least one from each of the disciplines. These faculty mentors will help the student design the curriculum. The faculty mentors will guide the student’s academic progress through the major. The student should select one of the faculty mentors as the primary mentor.

If the disciplines partnering in the independent major are in different colleges, the college of the primary mentor will be designated as the home college, in which the student will be registered and from which he or she will be graduated. Students completing an independent major receive one degree and one diploma. The independent major and home college will appear on the transcript and diploma. When the components of the independent major individually offer different degree designations, the degree designation that will appear on the transcript and diploma will be designated during the approval process.

The student, with the assistance of the faculty mentors, must formulate in writing and submit to the home college curriculum committee an Independent Major Approval Form bearing the signatures of all faculty mentors and a proposal containing the following items:

  • A statement of the central concept around which the independent major is organized and a rationale for the major, including a discussion of why existing programs are inadequate to the student’s purpose and how the proposed major meets the student’s educational, professional, or personal goals
  • A list of courses—including names, numbers, prerequisites, and frequency of offering (if known)—and a breakdown of the introductory, intermediate, and advanced courses included in this list
  • A statement of the manner in which the requirements of the university core are fulfilled (and, if applicable, BA core requirements)
  • A list of courses—including numbers, names, and grades—already taken that will apply to the major or to the university core (and BA core, if applicable) requirements
  • A student transcript
  • A calendar for completion of the degree

A meeting of all faculty mentors and the student must be held before college approval of the major program. In accepting the proposal, the home college dean’s office certifies that the rules established for the independent major have been followed, and it assumes administrative responsibility by assigning an academic advisor to monitor the student’s progress and clear the student for graduation. Any changes in the curriculum must be approved by the primary faculty mentor, and the home college advisor must be informed.