A student may pursue a special major program of study provided that it possesses intellectual coherence and educational merit and has the approval of two faculty advisers and of the Divisional Council of the primary adviser.
After consultation with an appropriate faculty member or members the student wishing to pursue a special major should submit in writing the proposed individualized program of study to the Chair of the appropriate Council. The proposal should state the purpose and objective of the program of study and list ten interrelated courses, no more than three of which may consist primarily of independent reading, study, or research. The proposal must also include a detailed supporting letter from the faculty member who agrees to be the primary adviser and the written endorsement of an additional faculty member who is the intended instructor of at least one of the ten courses, this faculty member to serve as secondary adviser. Finally, at least one course must be listed consisting of independent study or research in association with the primary adviser. It may be the case that an independent research course in a special major has a minimum GPA requirement. In those cases, the minimum GPA for the research course becomes a requirement for the special major.
A proposed special major program will be reviewed by the Council, which will consider in its evaluation the intellectual coherence of the program, the program’s relevance to career objectives, and the academic qualifications of the applicant. The Council may, at its discretion, call upon the applicant and the advisers to explain the proposal in person.
Since, to date, some of the four councils have not met in the summer, students who will be due to file a major in (or before) the summer term should make application early in the spring term or should file a related standard major from which they may later shift. Again, the approval of a special major is a quite demanding process involving many steps. Necessarily, securing it requires considerable elapsed time. The applicant should not apply for such a major unless he or she has a carefully planned program that is of great personal interest. A Special Major is not likely to be approved if the applicant is simply not interested in pursuing a Standard or Modified Major; the appropriate Council requires evidence that one of these usual majors will not suffice. Students who graduate with a Special Major often start with a standard or modified major and later develop the plan for an individualized program.
Important note: Petitions for a special major will not normally be accepted by any of the divisional councils, or by the council for special programs, unless the petition is presented early enough to allow the student three full terms of regularly enrolled course work at Dartmouth before graduation.
Upon approval of a Special Major, the council will notify by letter the student, the advisers, and the Office of the Registrar; the letter will give the title of the major and list the courses therein. The student will then file with the Office of the Registrar a completed major card with the signatures of the two advisers; he or she will also supply the advisers and the Divisional Council with signed duplicate major cards.
The major adviser and the Council shall have the right to reconsider a program at any time they may regard the candidate’s work as unsatisfactory. Moreover, changes in the course program of the special major will not be made without the approval of the student’s adviser and the Associate Dean of the appropriate division, and confirmation by the Dean to the Office of the Registrar.
Upon completion of the major program, and upon receipt of a recommendation from the two advisers, the Council will decide the student’s final standing in the major.