Independent Major Program
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 Major Committee. We strongly recommend meeting with a member of the Independent Major Committee prior to submitting the proposal.
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 capstone project during the senior year, normally in the form of an independent study. In the spring of the student’s junior year, they will be asked to submit a formal, detailed proposal for their capstone along with a discussion of their progress to date through the major. In the spring of the student’s senior year, they will be expected to present their capstone project at the Colby Liberal Arts Symposium.
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.
Independent majors must be approved by the end of a student’s sixth semester at Colby. The Independent Major Committee has set October 15th and March 15th as the due dates for independent major proposals for the fall and spring semesters, respectively. Proposals received after that date must wait until the following semester to be considered. The committee strongly encourages applicants to contact the committee before submitting the proposal, during the planning phase of their major. We have found that providing feedback early in the process leads to a smoother process and faster approvals. Typically, students intending to submit a proposal meet with the committee co-chairs.
Please submit the following materials to [email protected]:
- A completed Independent Major Application and written proposal. This proposal will serve as the main rationale for the major and, if approved, will be updated in the junior year. It is intended to help students articulate to the committee and potential employers and graduate schools what they have gained from their major.
- Two Advisor Recommendations (primary and secondary).
For Current Independent Majors and Advisors
Regular Meetings with Advisors
Students are asked to review progress in their independent major each semester with their advisors. This review is necessary because irregularly scheduled courses can impede a student’s completion of the major. Faculty advisors should contact the Independent Major Committee if they have concerns about the student’s progress or if the direction of the proposed major has evolved sufficiently that they no longer feel comfortable advising the student in the major.
Registering for Courses
Students should be aware that course rules generally do not prioritize independent majors. It is therefore the student’s responsibility to contact course instructors pro-actively to respectfully request admission to courses required for the major. We recommend including an explanation of why the course is essential to the major.
Course Change Requests
Students pursuing independent majors should keep in touch with the committee, which must be notified about any changes in their program; course or scheduling changes, or a change of advisor, must be approved by the committee. Please submit the Course Change Request Form to [email protected].
Junior Year Report
To ensure that the capstone experience truly reflects the goals of the major and to provide students with an opportunity to re-articulate what they are gaining from their major, students will be required to send an update to the committee during the spring of their junior year. A form and revised narrative are due April 15th.
Colby Liberal Arts Symposium
Independent majors are expected to present their capstone projects at CLAS. The committee will organize a special session for these presentations. Students are not required to present at this session if there is a more appropriate session.
Distinction in Major
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.
Students in good standing (with a grade point average of at least 3.50 overall and 3.70 in the major) may elect to pursue Honors in their independent major.
In order to pursue honors in an independent major, candidates will normally be juniors in good standing with a grade point average of at least 3.50 overall and 3.70 in the major. Students are responsible for designing an honors project, preparing an honors proposal, and forming an honors committee consisting of an honors advisor and at least two readers with relevant expertise. Where appropriate, one of the readers may be designated as co-advisor. The honors committee will conduct an initial review of the candidate’s academic qualifications and the suitability of the proposed honors project. Students with honors advisors from departments or programs with existing honors policies will proceed along guidelines established by these departments or programs. In some cases, independent majors may wish to work with a professor affiliated with a program or department that does not have an existing major or honors policy. In these cases, the student and honors advisor will follow the guidelines established by the IMC. In cases where an entire department normally participates in administering an Honors program, the independent honors major is exempt from this requirement.
Students may apply for admission to the IMC honors program by providing all of the following to the chair of the IMC: a copy of the honors proposal, names and affiliations of honors committee members, a current transcript, documentation that they have achieved a 3.70 GPA in the major, and a letter of support from the honors advisor (and the academic advisor, if different). The application deadline is the last day of classes of the student’s sixth semester, typically the first week of May of the Junior year.
If all the requirements are met by the deadline, the chair of the IMC will clear the student for registration for 483 Honors Research in (name of the independent major) for three or four credit hours. Continuation into 484, the second semester of the sequence, also for three to four credit hours, requires a letter from the honors committee to the chair of the IMC indicating that the student is making satisfactory progress in the honors program. If satisfactory progress has been made in 483, a grade of CR (nongraded credit) will be recorded for that semester. If progress is unsatisfactory in 483, the course reverts to a graded 491 (Independent Study), and the honors sequence is terminated.
At the end of the second semester of an honors project, the honors committee will indicate in writing to the chair of the IMC whether the student has fulfilled all the requirements for honors in the independent major, including maintaining the IMC’s required GPAs (in addition to specific departmental GPA guidelines, where applicable). The IMC chair will then notify the Registrar’s Office as to whether or not honors have been earned. If the 483, 484 sequence is completed successfully, a single grade will be assigned to both semesters (replacing the CR for 483), i.e., an A- for 483 and for 484. In cases where requirements for Honors have not been fulfilled at the end of the second semester, 483, 484 (Honors Research) will revert to a graded 491, 492 (Independent Study) sequence, with the same grade assigned to each semester.