Office of the Registrar
Campus Address
Hanover, NH
Phone: (603) 646-xxxx
Fax: (603) 646-xxxx
Email: reg@Dartmouth.EDU

Organization, Regulations, and Courses 2022-23

Special Major

Dartmouth offers a choice of established majors in a broad array of disciplines and interdisciplinary areas that follow contemporary trends in scholarship and meet most students’ interests. In rare cases, when a suitable major, modified major, or combination of majors and minors does not suffice, 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 advisors and of the Council for Interdisciplinary Studies (CIS).

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 Assistant Dean of the Faculty for Academic Advising 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 advisor. 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 Academic Advising Programs.

The proposal must also include a detailed supporting letter from the faculty member who agrees to be the primary advisor 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 advisor.

In its review of a proposed special major program, the CIS will consider the intellectual coherence of the program and the academic qualifications of the applicant. The CIS will also consider the proposed special major in relation to current major/minor offerings at the College and in comparison to established programs of study at peer institutions. The CIS may, at its discretion, call upon the applicant and the advisors to explain the proposal in person.

Since the CIS does 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 CIS 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 the student has a carefully planned program that is of great personal interest. Often, the goals of the special major may be met through other means, such as major/minor combinations, major modifications, or a senior fellowship. A special major is not likely to be approved if the applicant is simply uninterested in pursuing a standard or modified major. The CIS requires evidence that one of these established majors will not suffice.

Upon approval of a special major, the CIS will notify the student, the advisors, the Assistant Dean of the Faculty for Academic Advising Programs and the Office of the Registrar. The notification letter will indicate the title of the major and list the courses therein. The major advisor and the CIS 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 advisor and the Assistant Dean for Academic Advising Programs, who will send confirmation of any changes to the Associate Dean for Interdisciplinary Departments and Programs, 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 advisors, the CIS will decide the student’s final standing in the major.