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Independent Major

Make your education work for you

Some students have intellectual and professional interests that reach beyond the boundaries of a traditional major. You may have a clear idea of what you want to do in life and the self-discipline to reach your goals, but you haven’t found the right educational program to help you get there. You could be the perfect candidate for Elon independent major.

The independent major lets you develop your own path and coursework, with the direction of Elon faculty members. You create a unique degree, pulling together courses in ways that best suit your needs. The independent major is interdisciplinary in nature and suitable for highly motivated students willing to assume exceptional responsibility for their own education.

"By completing my independent major, I will be attaining proficiency in four major disciplines of neuroscience and have a much better idea of what I would like to focus on specifically when I go on to graduate school."

                                                                                        Graham Cochrane '15
                                                                                        Independent Major in Neuroscience

Innovative Curriculum

As an independent major, you can earn a Bachelor of Arts or a Bachelor of Science degree. Students must have a GPA of at least 3.0 and no more than 66 completed semester hours when applying for the program. Students contemplating an independent major should contact Dr. Matthew Buckmaster, coordinator of the independent major, for help in designing their programs at Elon.

An independent major requires the following:

  • An application for independent major, available from the coordinator of the independent major, must be completed before the student has earned 66 semester hours. This application also outlines the procedure for designing and declaring the independent major
  • An interdisciplinary committee of three professors, including one designated as the principal advisor, must be assembled
  • A curriculum must be designed with help from the committee. That curriculum must include the completion of general studies requirements.

An independent major includes the following:

  • a minimum of 48 semester hours
  • a minimum of 28 semester hours at the 300-400 level
  • a capstone seminar
  • a capstone interdisciplinary project
  • a plan for assessing the completed major.

The plan for the major must be approved by the curriculum committee. The independent major courses must come from at least three departments, and no more than half may be from any one department. No more than four semester hours of independent study may be included. This will usually be used for completion of the capstone interdisciplinary project.

Opportunities outside the classroom

Independent major students, like students in all Elon academic programs, are encouraged to build on their classroom knowledge by pursuing internships, service learning programs, study abroad opportunities and other experiential avenues.

You might put your learning to work in the real world by volunteering with community organizations such as Habitat for Humanity or at a soup kitchen. Study abroad experiences offered by the university are broad and flexible enough to fit into many major areas. And with the help of your faculty committee, you can pursue a unique internship that fits your specific needs.

At Elon, you will have the chance to conduct original research on your own as well as with faculty members. Independent majors can present their research findings at the annual on-campus Spring Undergraduate Research Forum (SURF).

"The classes I chose for my independent major shape my education so that I am prepared to increase the effectiveness of international aid in developing countries around the world through nonprofit organizations."

                                                                                  Sarah Harrs '14
                                                                                  Independent Major in International Development

Graduate education

Many independent majors go on to graduate school. These self-motivated students are driven to achieve specific goals and prepare themselves for lifelong learning. Others may go directly into the corporate world, governmental agencies or nonprofit work. Independent majors at Elon in recent years have designed their majors to fit into the following career fields:

  • International women’s health
  • Arts administration
  • Dance science
  • War and diplomacy
  • Psychology of coaching and leadership
  • Visual communications.

Expert faculty, individual attention

At Elon, classes are small and the low student-faculty ratio means that students enjoy significant individual attention and build close working relationships with their professors. Faculty members take a personal interest in each student’s progress. And that relationship doesn’t end at the classroom door. Professors are happy to meet with students outside class to answer questions, explore new ideas, offer advice or guide them in the right direction. As an Independent major, you will work with faculty members from a variety of departments. But no matter which intellectual path you take, you’ll find top-notch faculty members ready to guide you.

You will work hand-in-hand with your faculty advisor and the chair of your major committee to get the most out of your educational experience.

Fellows programs

Independent majors may qualify for Elon's Honors Fellows and Elon College Fellows programs. These programs offer scholarship support, study abroad grants and other special opportunities. Visit the Elon Fellows programs Website for more information.