by victoria gilmore

Sometimes our interests don’t fit neatly into a single college discipline.  What can you do if you love lots of subjects but can’t decide on a single college major?  You could major in one subject and minor in another.  Or, you could go the interdisciplinary route and design your own major!  This could be a very exciting road to take if you are organized, an out-of-the-box thinker, and have very specific interests and career goals in mind.  

A few examples of interdisciplinary majors are: 

  • Urban Planning and Design:  Combines architecture, geography, sociology, and urban studies to understand and design sustainable and livable urban spaces.
  • Global Health and Development:  Combines public health, international relations, anthropology, and economics to examine global health challenges and development strategies.
  • Ethnomusicology:  Combines music, anthropology, and cultural studies to study the role of music in different societies and cultures.

When it comes to designing your own major, the sky’s the limit.  This list of the pros and cons of creating a major can help you decide if you want to chart your own course. 


  • INTERDISCIPLINARY LEARNING: A custom college major creates a wonderful opportunity to integrate courses from various disciplines.  This will give you a broader understanding of different fields and foster interdisciplinary learning.
  • FLEXIBILITY AND AUTONOMY: Choosing your own major means you’ll have the academic freedom to choose the courses that resonate with your career goals.  You will be able to explore topics that may not be covered in traditional majors.
  • ENHANCED SKILLS: Independent major design can help you develop creative and critical thinking, problem-solving, research, and communication skills.  You will be able to navigate and connect diverse topics to construct a cohesive, well-rounded program.
  • STAND OUT TO EMPLOYERS: A unique, self-designed major can set you apart from other candidates in the job market.  This will allow you to showcase your creativity, initiative, and organization skills.


  • INSTITUTIONAL SUPPORT: Before you decide to create your own major, do a little research.  Not all colleges or universities may offer this option.  Even if they do, the process may lack sufficient administrative support, which can prove to be challenging.
  • RIGOROUS PLANNING AND APPROVAL PROCESS: A tailored academic path requires organization.  You will need to carefully plan, research, and consult with academic advisors, faculty, and administrators. The approval process can sometimes be quite lengthy and complicated.
  • PERCEIVED LEGITIMACY: Some employers or graduate programs may be impressed with your initiative but some might question the legitimacy or credibility of a self-designed major.  If your chosen area is not a well-established or recognized field of study you might encounter issues when you enter the job market or when applying to graduate school.
  • POTENTIAL GAPS IN KNOWLEDGE: A self-designed major may inadvertently lead to gaps in your knowledge compared to a traditional major.  Be sure to include certain foundational courses or subjects in your custom curriculum. This will ensure you have a well-rounded education.
  • LIMITED ACADEMIC RESOURCES: Depending on your college or university, there might be limited resources.  You might not be able to find specialized faculty or advisors to help you.  And the courses you need for your curriculum might not be offered.  This could hinder the depth and breadth of your learning experience.


In short, a self-designed major can have many benefits and be a rewarding experience. It can provide you with a unique and tailored educational path that can ensure a gratifying academic life.  However, carefully consider the pros and cons and discuss them with your academic advisors before you jump in.  If you are organized and have the appropriate support and resources it can be an extremely fulfilling journey through higher education. 

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