The Independent Major


The College provides the Independent Major for those students whose academic interests do not match the course requirements of existing majors.

A student may design an independent major and submit a detailed written proposal to the Independent Study Committee.

An independent major should be a coherent program of study with a specific focus, rather than simply a haphazard choice of courses. The driving principle of a major should be discussed in the written proposal. If the college offers a minor in the subject, the courses required for the minor should be taken as a starting point for a major. To ensure depth, the student is required to engage in a synthesizing research project during the senior year, normally in the form of an independent study.

The Independent Major Proposal should:

 1. Offer a strong and coherent argument for the Independent Major and for why working within an established Major will not fulfill the student's academic goals.

 2. Be clear and substantive in scope (coursework including one or more in methods, integration of disciplines, senior project) and implementation.

 3. Be thoughtful, well written, and demonstrate in all particulars (grammar, sentence and paragraph structure, logical development) that the student is qualified to undertake the rigors of Independent Study.

The proposal must be prepared with the aid of one or two advisors who write letters of support and agree to assume responsibility for the duration of the program. The program must include a balance of lower and upper level courses normally totaling one third or more of the total credit hours required for graduation. In many cases, independent majors take their courses from two or more departments. In this case, students are asked to have two advisors, from different departments.

Many independent major proposals include courses taken abroad or in other institutions. In such cases, the applicant should check with Off-Campus Studies to make sure that the proposed program will be approved before submitting the independent major proposal. Approval of the independent major does not imply approval of the off-campus study portion.

Application Process:

Independent majors must be approved by the end of a student's sixth semester at Colby. The Independent Study Committee has set the 30th day of classes of each semester as the target date for independent major proposals. Proposals received after that date must wait until the following semester to be considered.

Please submit the following materials to the Chair/s of the ISC:

  • A completed Independent Study Application and written proposal.
  • Two Advisor Recommendations (primary and secondary).

Students pursuing independent majors should keep in touch with the committee, which must be notified about any changes in their program; substantial changes, or a change of advisor, must be approved by the committee. Students are asked to review progress in their independent major each semester with their advisors and submit any changes to their major via the Course Change Request Form.

Independent majors may receive a distinction in their major upon graduating if they have a GPA of 3.7 or higher in the major and an overall GPA of at least 3.5.

Inquiries about independent majors and preliminary applications should be directed to:

  • Jennifer Coane, Assistant Professor of Psychology (Co-chair)
  • Todd Coulter, Assistant Professor of Theater and Dance
  • Barbara Moore, Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs, Senior Associate Dean of Students
  • Larissa Taylor, Professor of History
  • Stephanie Taylor, Assistant Professor of Computer Science (Co-chair)

The Independent Study Application, Independent Major Course Change Request Form, and the Independent Major Proposal Advisor Recommendation can be downloaded electronically.  Please click on the links below or on the links in the Table of Contents on the left of this page.