what it's like to design your own major

So, I have recently settled on a major: I am doing Psychology and Theatre as an Interdisciplinary Studies major. What is Interdisciplinary Studies? Up until about a month ago I didn’t know either:

After I got the news that I didn’t get into the Jepson Leadership school here at the University of Richmond, I had no idea what I was going to do. But, like I talked about in a recent post called “a significant setback” (click here), I felt better than fine. For the first time since I got to college, my entire academic future was open for opportunity. Because I was so dead set on majoring in Leadership, I never considered another option. Always a silver lining, my friends.

I was told that if I reapplied to Jepson next year I would pretty much be guaranteed a spot. I was also told that the only reason they didn’t admit me was because they didn’t like my essays which talked about how I saw myself fitting into the Leadership school. I kept an open mind and tried not to be bitter about my rejection but Jepson felt completely thrown out the window once I heard about Interdisciplinary Studies.

My favorite thing about college has been, hands down, being able to take random courses in totally different departments. I’m interested in so many things and love learning about things I never thought I would. I met with a career/academic advisor and after telling her that, plus the long list of my interests, she suggested designing my own major of Psychology and Theatre.

From then on I have been so much more excited about my major than I ever was with Leadership. Designing my own major means I am not limited to one department; what actually makes up my “completion” of my major is by tailoring a course schedule based on my passions and with the help of two advisors, one from the Theatre department and one from Psych.

This means that I could take... a Religious Studies course, a Leadership course, a Rhetoric and Communications course, a Philosophy course, AND an English course PLUS numerous Theatre and Psych courses and have it all count towards my overall major (which isn’t even a hypothetical situation, this is my current plan).

Then, as a senior, I’ll spend the entire year doing research for my thesis project. I’m in the process of figuring out a project that lives in the overlap of Psych and Theatre but I have so many ideas.

What originally drew me into the Leadership school was this image of my first job interview: the first question I’m sure they’d ask is, “What the hell is a Leadership major?” It was so flexible and intriguing to me that I could apply it to numerous career paths. But, combining Psych and Theatre will do that exact same thing AND give me even more flexibility. I get to further develop my passion for Theatre without the fear of not having any stable options out of college; and I get to study how people and their minds work without giving up on my artistic side.

I think we often forget why liberal arts colleges exist. In an ideal world, you’re supposed to expand you mind by taking courses in a bunch of different disciplines. In practice, most people pick their major and won’t deviate enough to actually take advantage of their liberal arts degree. Ever since I got to school, the liberal arts foundation has been the best part.

Designing my own major is just materializing the liberal arts purpose.

As much as I’ve hyped this academic path, be warned: it is a LOT of work. It’s easy to just choose a major and do the requirements. It’s a lot harder to design those requirements, design a project combining studies, and find a way to also incorporate advisors’ opinions. I’m gonna spend a lot of my career defending and fighting for my choices, undergrad and post grad. But, honestly, I’m probably just as excited for that.

I’m quite cynical but it’s pretty hard not to believe the whole, “when a door is closed, you’ll find an open window” theory.


#major #academics #career #school #college #collegestudent #theatre #psychology

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