Dartmouth offers a choice of established majors in a broad array of disciplines and interdisciplinary areas that meet most students’ interests. In rare cases, a student may pursue a special major program of study, provided that it demonstrates intellectual coherence and educational merit and has the approval of two faculty advisers and of the Divisional Council for Interdisciplinary Programs.
After consultation with appropriate faculty member(s), the student wishing to pursue a special major should submit in writing the proposed individualized program of study to the Associate Dean for Interdisciplinary Programs. The proposal should state the purpose and objective of the program of study and list ten interrelated courses, at least one of which must consist of independent study or research in association with a primary adviser. No more than three courses may consist primarily of independent reading, study, or research. If an independent research course in a special major has a minimum GPA requirement, the minimum GPA for the research course becomes a requirement for the special major. For advising assistance, the student should meet with the Assistant Dean of Faculty for Pre-Major Advising.
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.
In its review of a proposed special major program, the Council will consider the intellectual coherence of the program 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 Divisional Councils do not meet in the summer, students 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. Petitions for a special major will not normally be considered by the Council unless the petition is presented early enough to allow the student three full terms of regularly enrolled course work at Dartmouth before graduation.
Application for a special major is a demanding process requiring considerable time and many steps. The applicant should not apply for such a major unless s/he 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 uninterested in pursuing a standard or modified major. The Council requires evidence that one of these established majors will not suffice.
Upon approval of a special major, the Council will notify the student, the advisers, and the Office of the Registrar. The notification letter will indicate 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 primary adviser and the Associate Dean for Interdisciplinary Programs, who will send confirmation of any changes to the Office of the Registrar and the secondary advisor.
Upon the student’s 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.