Special Majors

A student declares a special major by submitting the Declaration of Special Major form to the Dean of Studies (300 Mary Lyon Hall) by the end of the 8th week of the second semester of the student’s junior year. Students may discuss their plans for a special major at any stage of its development with the Dean of Studies.

Students whose interests cross department lines in an area for which no interdisciplinary major exists may plan a special major incorporating work in two or more departments. Students must work closely with faculty advisors to create a plan that is academically and educationally rigorous. A written plan must be submitted to and endorsed by two members of the faculty and the dean of studies. The plan must be submitted no later than the end of the eighth week of classes of the second semester of the student’s junior year. Students must earn a minimum of 40 credits in the approved major. At least 20 credits must be at the 300 level, divided between two or more departments. Students who declare a special major automatically fulfill the “outside the major” requirement.

The following timeline is approximate and intended as a guideline for students who are considering a special major:

  1. By the end of the second semester of sophomore year. Identify two faculty members who are willing to advise you—a primary advisor and an advising committee member who are from different departments. The primary advisor must be a permanent member of the Mount Holyoke College faculty, but the committee member can be visiting faculty or Five College faculty.
  2. By the end of the second semester of sophomore year or first semester of junior year.  Schedule an appointment with the Dean of Studies. At this meeting, you can discuss your plans for a special major and clarify the requirements of the major; the Dean of Studies, as necessary, can help identify faculty who can advise you.
  3. By the end of the first semester of junior year. Meet with primary advisor and committee member to discuss the Program of Courses for the special major. The program should include at least 40 credits (typically ten courses), 20 credits must be at the 300-level, divided between two or more departments. When compiling this list, you should include only those courses that are essential to the special major. For instance, some lower level courses (especially, 100-level courses) can be omitted. Bear in mind that some of the courses included on this list will be anticipated but not yet completed, and therefore you may have to submit a revised program before graduation. If you include study abroad courses or Five College courses on this program to be counted for 300-level credit, you must have your primary advisor initial the appropriate box on the form. Ordinarily, only one independent study (395) will be allowed to count toward the five 300-level courses required for a special major. (Students who wish to write a thesis to be eligible for College honors in their special major should consult the honors work page.)
  4. By the eighth week of second semester of junior year. Submit the completed declaration form to the Dean of Studies. (Previously approved special major declaration proposals are available for consultation in the Office of Academic Deans, 3rd floor Mary Lyon).

The declaration form includes the following:

  • Cover sheet; includes the title of the special major (please consider this title carefully and what it communicates to the outside world; it will appear on your diploma and your transcript); and names and signatures of your primary advisor and committee member indicating that they approve your proposed course of study.
  • Program of Courses. Check that you have included 40 credits (usually ten courses, five of which must be at the 300-level). Also be sure that your advisor has approved any off campus 300-level courses, as appropriate.
  • Written proposal. Your proposal should be about 2-3 pages (typed, double spaced), clearly written, and carefully structured and argued. Moreover, it should state clearly that the proposed academic program of study is coherent, academically rigorous and educationally sound, and that it is appropriate given your academic and career goals. You should submit the written proposal to your advisor and advising committee member for their feedback and suggestions before submitting a final version (free of typos, spelling errors, and grammatical errors) to the Dean of Studies.