The Individual Major (IM) offers students the chance to focus their academic work on an interdisciplinary topic outside the framework of an existing department or program major.

In an Individual Major in the College of Arts and Sciences, you define your own major program of study, drawing on courses from two or more disciplines within the college. In certain cases, you might apply to work toward a degree with honors in your Individual Major.

If you are interested in pursuing this academic opportunity, send email to Daphne John, associate dean at Daphne.John@oberlin.edu.


Individual Major Deadlines for College of Arts and Sciences

  Proposals Due Committee Meetings
September 2019 September 13 September 20
October 2019 October 11 October 18
November 2019 November 15 November 22
December 2019 December 6 December 13

How to Apply for Individual Major in the College of Arts and Sciences

Application for an Individual Major (IM) is made to the Individual Majors Committee. In formulating the IM, the student should read the IM Handbook and should seek the help and advice of two faculty advisors.

Samples of previous proposals may be viewed in the Academic Advising Resource Center. Students may consult with the IM committee chair or other committee members at any stage in the development of a proposal. The student must consult with the IM committee chair before submitting a proposal. All IM proposal-related forms are downloadable. 

The usual deadline for declaring an IM is the second semester of the sophomore year (or before a student has completed 16 full courses or the equivalent (two half courses equals one full course), whichever comes first).

In practice, if another major has already been declared, the individual major proposal must be submitted no later than the second committee meeting in the first semester of the student’s junior year—or before a student has completed 20 full courses or the equivalent (i.e., for the meeting in October or March). An IM may be approved no later than the end of the student’s second semester of their junior year.

The IM committee holds regular monthly meetings. Any proposals, modifications, or other information for the committee should be submitted to the chair one week before the scheduled meeting. Materials received after that date will not be considered until the next meeting.

Committee action is taken ordinarily within a month of the receipt of the completed proposal. The student and advisors will be notified by letter soon thereafter, whether the proposal has been accepted, rejected, or granted conditional approval and returned for resubmission with suggested changes.

Please be aware that many proposals are returned for revision. Approved proposals will be filed by the committee with the registrar. This will serve as the basis for certification by the registrar of successful completion of the IM when the coursework has been completed.


Individual Major Advisors

The advisor-advisee interaction is a crucial facet of the IM program. The committee requires that proposals be carefully examined by the advisors and that they represent the best use of available time and resources.

Advisors are asked to work closely with the student in the planning process—offering suggestions and pointing out alternatives—and to continue to work with the student throughout their career at Oberlin. This will esure that on- and off-campus opportunities, changes in course offerings, or changes in the student’s plans and interests can be discussed and incorporated in the major.

The proposal must be discussed with at least two faculty members who agree to serve as advisors. Advisors will be from different departments within the area of the IM or, in the case of cross-divisional majors, from both divisions. It is necessary that advisors be on campus during the course of the major program, and if an advisor has to leave campus, a replacement must be found.

The student is responsible for notifying the advisors, the IM committee, and the registrar in writing of any changes in their IM program (refer to the relevant section in the IM Handbook and the relevant form you need to complete).

In order to ensure that programs are given the necessary time and attention, the two advisors are expected to meet at some length with the student. It is desirable for these to be joint meetings between the student and both advisors.

The initial meetings should be arranged by the student to discuss the preliminary proposal and to draw up the final draft. The student should submit a written draft to the advisors for evaluation.

Once a final draft is produced, the student should keep a copy for their own records, and supply a copy to each advisor.

Advisors’ recommendations are to be submitted electronically to the IM committee chair on the form provided, and should contain a detailed evaluation based on the final draft provided by the student. Proposals will not be considered until these recommendations have been received.


Documents for Individual Major in the College of Arts and Sciences

Handbook for Individual Majors
Individual Major Proposal
Faculty Recommendation Form

For Approved Individual Major in the College of Arts and Sciences

Minor Changes Form

An Individual Major in the Conservatory of Music focuses on an area or topic that cannot be studied adequately within an existing department or program major. 

An Individual Major leading to a Bachelor of Music degree may be designed with a concentration in a single conservatory department or among two or more conservatory departments. 

In some cases, arts and sciences courses may be an integral part of a student’s major.  Examples of possible concentrations include ethnomusicology, African American music, liturgical music, pedagogy, arts management, as well as interdisciplinary approaches to teaching in the arts, etc.

Oberlin’s diversity of departments and courses are rich and as a result, the proposal of an Individual Major is regarded as something extraordinary, more akin to an Honors designation. 

The Individual Majors’ Committee will apply the strictest academic standards to such proposals. The committee will be concerned specifically that an Individual Major draws together the strongest courses and resources that Oberlin has to offer into a curricular plan that is stronger than any of its parts.

Programs of study for an Individual Major must be based on teaching and course resources available at Oberlin. While a capstone or other special project might be best supported by a private reading, the majority of formal study for an Individual Major should be chosen from classes offered in Oberlin Conservatory and the College of Arts and Sciences.


How to Apply for Individual Major in the Conservatory of Music

Application for an Individual Major is made to the Conservatory Individual Majors’ Committee. In formulating the Individual Major, the student should seek the help and advice of one or more faculty advisors. 

Samples of previous proposals may be requested from the chair of the Individual Majors’ Committee. Students may consult with the chair or other members of the committee at any stage in the development of a proposal. The Individual Major Proposal forms and advisor recommendation forms are available from the Office of the Associate Deans, Bibbins 113 and at the link below.

The usual deadline for declaring an Individual Major is the second semester of the student’s second year.  In practice, the major must be submitted no later than the first semester of the student’s third year.  No proposals will be considered from seniors.

The Individual Major Committee holds meetings to consider proposals or changes to approved Individual majors. Any proposals, modifications, or other information for the committee should be submitted to the chair. 

Materials will normally be considered by the committee within two weeks following submission. The student and advisor(s) will be notified by letter soon thereafter that the proposal has been accepted, rejected, or granted conditional approval and returned for re-submission with suggested changes. 

Students and advisors should be aware that many proposals are returned for revision.  Approved proposals will be filed by the committee with the registrar. This will serve as the basis for certification by the registrar of successful completion of the Individual Major when the requirements have been completed.


Individual Major Advisors in the Conservatory of Music

Advisor-advisee communication is a crucial facet of the Individual Major program. The committee requires that proposals be carefully reviewed by the advisor(s) and that proposals represent the best use of time and resources.  

Advisors are asked to work closely with the student in the planning process by offering suggestions and alternatives. Advisors also continue to work with the student throughout their career at Oberlin. This ensures that changes in course offerings or in the student’s plans and interests can be discussed and incorporated in the major.

For a proposed major with a concentration in a single conservatory division, a student must discuss the proposal with a faculty member who agrees to serve as the advisor.  For an interdisciplinary proposal, the student must speak with two (or more) advisors: advisors will be from different divisions within the area of the individual major or, in the case of cross-divisional majors, from both divisions. It is necessary that advisors be on campus during the course of the major program, and if an advisor has to leave campus, a replacement must be found.

One advisor must be designated as the principal advisor, who will have the primary responsibility for maintaining regular contact with the student’s program.  (See the following section on changes.)

In order to ensure that programs are given the attention they need, the advisor(s) is expected to meet at some length with the student.  It is desirable for these to be joint meetings between the student and all advisors.

The initial meetings should be arranged by the student to discuss the preliminary proposal and to draw up the final draft.  As a basis for these discussions, the student should submit a written draft to the advisor(s) for evaluation.  hould it seem prudent, either the student or advisor may request that a member of the Individual Majors’ Committee participate.

Once a final draft is produced, the student should keep a copy, and give a copy to each advisor.

Advisors’ recommendations are to be submitted on the forms provided and should contain a detailed evaluation based on the final draft provided by the student. Proposals will not be considered until these recommendations have been received. 


Documents for Individual Major in the Conservatory of Music

Conservatory Individual Major Handbook and Proposal Forms

Significance of an IM

The committee will be concerned specifically that an Individual Major draws together the strongest courses and resources that Oberlin has to offer into a curricular plan that is stronger than any of its parts.