Major and Minor
To provide depth in their education, students must, before completion of 56 semester hours, elect a department or program in which to do major study. Those who have not declared a major after 56 hours will be allowed to enroll only with the permission of the Dean of Studies. A student may subsequently elect a different major and drop the previously declared major with the consent of the heads of the departments or programs involved. Students may elect to do major work in more than one department.
Each department or program determines the detailed requirements for completion of the major or majors in that department or program. The requirements that apply to a student are those published in the most recent edition of this catalog at the time a student completes the second semester of his or her sophomore year. These requirements may be altered as necessary in individual cases by the departments or programs. All majors consist of no fewer than 24 hours.
Individual Major Program. Students wishing to pursue an Individual Major design their own program of study focusing on a particular topic of interest which cannot be studied through a single department. Such proposals are normally submitted at the end of the sophomore year, together with the approval of two or more advisors, each from a different department. The program must consist of at least 30 hours with no more than 12 hours at the introductory level, must include courses from more than one department, and usually must not have more than two-thirds of the total hours in any one department. Furthermore, the proposal must include at least 12 hours of work not yet begun at the time of the submission of the proposal; and if there is an off-campus component to the major, including courses taken while "Enrolled-Not-in-Residence," the number of hours involved in this component shall not exceed one-third of the total hours of the major. If a student has a second major in addition to the Individual Major, no more than 15 hours may be double-counted between the two majors. The student is advised to keep in mind the general education guidelines and Oberlin College's institutional requirements when designing an Individual Major. Each proposal is evaluated and either approved or disapproved by a faculty committee established for that purpose. Requirements and guidelines are in the Individual Major Handbook available online through the Office of the Dean of Studies web site (www.oberlin.edu/dstudies/im).
Honors Program. Through the Honors Program, students of proven ability and independence may extend their competence in their major field of study or in related fields. Honors projects are designed with the student by departments, by programs with majors, or (for students having individual majors) by the Individual Major Committee. Departments and programs may, if they desire, open their Honors Programs to students other than their own majors. An Honors candidate whose project demonstrates the requisite degree of excellence is awarded the Bachelor of Arts degree with Honors, High Honors, or Highest Honors.
Honors projects vary but always involve independent work. This may be done in seminars or private readings, in research, in the preparation of a thesis, exhibition, or performance, always under the supervision of appropriate faculty advisors. Students in the program are eligible for certain academic privileges such as release from tests and examinations and access to special library and laboratory facilities. At the end of the senior year, Honors candidates may be excused from final examinations in the department in which they are doing Honors work and, at the discretion of the instructor, in courses in closely related subjects. Every candidate for Honors must pass a special examination at the end of the senior year (written or oral or both). Outside examiners may be invited to conduct the final examination of candidates.
Recommendations for the award of Honors are made to the Committee on Honors at Graduation by departments, by programs with majors, or by the Individual Major Committee. A department or program may recommend any student for Honors if that department's criteria are met, regardless of the student's specific major. The Individual Major Committee may make such recommendations only for students whose Honors work is in the field of their individual majors. The Committee on Honors at Graduation makes the final decisions on all recommendations for Honors, maintaining reasonably uniform standards for the award of Honors at graduation.
Students wishing to enter the Honors Program should consult the chair of their major department by the beginning of the second semester of the junior year or earlier.
Senior Scholars. Exceptional students who wish to pursue independent study and research during their senior year may apply to the Committee on Honors at Graduation for Senior Scholar status. Successful candidates must have an outstanding record during their first three years and an unusual capacity for independent work, including a 3.5 minimum GPA, and a strong endorsement from at least one faculty member familiar with their work. Senior Scholars must have completed all requirements for a major unless waived by the relevant department or program or by the Individual Major Committee. Senior Scholars are subject to the normal graduation requirements, and must have completed the following requirements prior to their senior year: 9-9-9 distribution, writing proficiency, quantitative proficiency, and cultural diversity. Candidates are selected in the spring of their junior year on the basis of applications submitted to the Committee.
The designation "Senior Scholar" on the diploma shall be granted by the Committee on Honors at Graduation when the quality of work merits graduation with distinction.
Students wishing to be considered for Senior Scholar status should consult with the chair of the Committee on Honors at Graduation by the beginning of the second semester of the junior year or earlier.
Many departments offer a minor that consists of at least four courses totaling at least 15 hours of work in that department, and including at least two components of work at the non-introductory level. Students pursuing minors declare the minor with the Office of the Registrar prior to graduation. The completion of a minor is noted on the transcript.
Students may choose to pursue a concentration in addition to a major. A concentration is an integrated, interdisciplinary program of study. Fields which suit the concentration model do not have a single methodological or content base in a traditional discipline; thus they are not housed in existing departments or programs as are majors and minors. There are concentrations in Cognitive Sciences and International Studies.
A concentration may complement or strengthen a traditional major by extending some of its content or methodology across other disciplines. Students may, on the other hand, choose a concentration unrelated to their major. Students graduating from Oberlin must fulfill the requirements of a major; if they choose, they may also complete a concentration, but it does not substitute for a major. The completion of a concentration is noted on the transcript.