Want to Create Your Own Major? Here Are Some Tips!

You won’t find my major, Advocacy and Justice Studies on the Furman website underneath the drop list of many, many majors you can take here, but you will see something called, “Individualized Curriculum Program”.

Individualized Curriculum Program majors (or ICPs, for short) are student-designed courses of study for students who feel a traditional major and/or minor cannot fulfil their educational goals. The end product looks very similar to a typical major, but ICPs tend to be interdisciplinary and unique.

My major in Advocacy and Justice Studies is a major I built through the ICP process with the help of my advisors and a lot of planning and research. It took a lot of time and drafting, revising, and reworking, but finally after a year and a half, my major was approved and now I’m a second semester junior diving into my major courses.

In the process, I have even helped a couple of my friends build their own ICPs– you can read about my friend, Nudrat’s ICP experience here. Nudrat does a pretty good job explaining the process of ICPs (and if you’re curious about my experience, you can check out our Instagram and view my story to hear more), so I’ll give you guys my tips when creating (or thinking about) your own major!

  1. Have a pretty solid idea about what you might want to do after Furman, so you can make sure you’re prepared

Typical majors make you take a variety of courses that will prepare you for a variety of paths after your undergraduate career. When creating my major I didn’t include a traditional “research methods” course. At the time, this felt like the right choice and I was able to advocate for it because I had a specific reason why I didn’t include it. But a year later, as I began thinking about preparing for graduate school, I realized that I would need to do research to be able to even apply to the PhD programs I’m interested in. Luckily, I have had room in my schedule to add in research courses, but I could’ve saved myself a lot of trouble if I’d just thought a little deeper about where I saw myself after Furman and what it would take to get me there.

2. Listen to your advisors

Yeah, so the whole mess of the last tip would not have happened if I had listened to my advisors in the first place and took their advice to include a research course even if I was not sure about it. Turns out, advisors usually know what’s best! Seek multiple perspectives and guidance on questions you may have, but don’t fight the wisdom of multiple people who have earned their PhDs in fields relevant to your interests!

3. Include multiple alternative courses

Part of the ICP process includes meeting with every department chair of the courses your major includes to check when the courses you’re interested in taking are going to be offered next. This is to make sure you’ll be able to finish your major on time. But just because a course is scheduled to be offered at a certain time doesn’t mean it will be. Things happen– including courses being cancelled or not being able to get a seat in a class. Including multiple alternative courses just in case you are not able to take that class will save you lots of time and stress in the future!

4. Seek out lots of learning opportunities outside of the classroom

Some of my most meaningful and monumental learning experiences have happened outside of the classroom while I was pursuing and applying my educational interests in unexpected ways. For me, this has looked like study abroad experiences in Rwanda and India, my summer internship with a local non-profit, and my advocacy work on campus and in my community. I didn’t necessarily mean to see lots of connections between what I was learning in the classroom to what I was learning in the “real world”, but I did- and it was epic!

5. Check out the interdisciplinary minors that Furman offers

It took me entirely too long to check out the minors Furman offers. All minors at Furman are interdisciplinary and they’re super cool! You’re not required to have a minor, but minors can allow you to explore classes in another discipline or deepen your education in a specific specialization. A lot of my major classes overlap with course offerings for the Poverty Studies and African American & Diaspora Cultures minor, so I’ve been able to have double minors and really explore my interests related to dynamics race, power, and privilege. Minors can add a lot of really interesting learning into your undergrad career, so don’t be afraid to explore!

The possibilities really are endless with ICPs. Some even have the chance to be made into real major programs like Sustainability. Good luck with all your dreaming and designing of your own major! -Asha