College Planning Expert’s Tip of the Month – March

Make your own major
Major in magic? It’s possible if you major in an independent major program at college
By Jessica Haney
article courtesy of Next Step Magazine

When Jordan Goldklang started doing magic tricks in his high school’s courtyard between classes, he didn’t expect to make a future of it.

But Goldklang, better known as Jordini, will be the first from Indiana University ( with a degree in magic when he graduates in 2010.

Through IU’s Individualized Major Program, Goldklang and other students are able to design their own major and choose classes to support it.

More than 30 universities offer structured programs with interdisciplinary options.

From Sacred Dance to Violin Making to the History of Rock ‘n’ Roll, you can study just about anything. Is a make-your-own degree marketable, fulfilling and suitable for you? Here are five questions to ask yourself.

1. Is your ideal major already available somewhere else?
Individualized programs require extra work. You may have to justify why a course would support your major. You may have to negotiate with professors of closed and reserved classes to get into a class that may be vital to your degree. The responsibility rests on you.

“It’s important to cover all your bases to make sure you haven’t slipped through the cracks,” says University of Massachusetts-Amherst ( student Megan Kolb.

2. Do you like too many subjects?
Individualized major programs are best suited for students who are interested in multiple studies—and have a desire to connect them. Eventually, one senior thesis or project unifies the subjects.

3. Are you self-directed?
Once you’ve crafted a college major from your unique interests, no one’s going to hold your hand through the next four years. You have to select classes that adhere to your college plans and will benefit you beyond your undergraduate schooling.

Students pursuing an individualized major chart all their courses, find sponsors, arrange special tutorial classes, and complete a capstone project.

4. Do you like individual attention?
Though individualized programs require a lot of independence, they also merit additional advisor attention.

“They don’t cost more, they don’t take any longer; they just take more staff time,” says Alice Kelley, associate director of academic advising at the University of Pennsylvania (

Most programs require the student to seek out at an advisor to oversee their progress and help design a plan.

Especially at a large university, advisor support can make you feel like more than just a number. But you may also miss the comfort of having a formal program and familiar classmates.

5. Would your ideal degree serve you?
The wide range of studies combined with the independence they must show prepares individualized major students to be leaders and innovators.

“To be able to say you got the degree that you created yourself shows that you’re serious,” says Kolb.

Remember: You don’t have to choose your major from a list; you can dream up your own with an individualized major!

~ David Mammano, College Planning Expert, Campus Calm

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