By Simone Larson

College prepares you for the rest of your life.

Not only does it provide you with exponential knowledge on a variety of subjects, it teaches you how to think about, and interact with, the world you live in.

According to Forbes, 60% of college graduates can’t find a full-time job in the field they majored in. In this day and age, undergraduate training in one field of study may not be enough for employers and graduate schools to consider you a worthy candidate.

An increasing number of students from all across the country are creating their own major, a term known as individualized or integrative study, to cater to their specific academic interests and post-college goals.

Individualized study allows for extensive ownership over your education. Jake Boyle, a senior in the Johnston Center for Integrative Studies at the University of Redlands, explains, “(Integrative study) allowed me to dictate the structure of my education to fit the way I learn.”

Whitney Washington, another senior who created her own major, adds to Boyle’s comment, “It stresses methodology over concrete results and developed my frame of reference, the way in which I approach things. It’s more about how I look at things rather than what I look at.”

Early on in college, you develop a contract or general plan of study with a variety of faculty to establish what it is you want to be an expert in by the time you graduate. You can take courses in multiple, already established fields of study and in some cases, work with a faculty member to create a class that’s more specific to your concentration. Some examples of created majors include combinations of biology and anthropology, environmental studies and international relations, nonprofit developing and programming, and American history from literary, philosophical, and cultural perspectives.

While there’s some skepticism surrounding do-it-yourself majors due to their ambiguity or specificity in degree, many believe that employers and graduate schools admire students who have taken on the responsibility. Seattle University, Boston College, and Amherst College, to name a few, all offer programs of integrative study.

Denise Davis, the assistant director of the Johnston Center for Integrative studies at Redlands, says, “Faculty in graduate programs are looking for students who have a strong work ethic, think critically, and demonstrate an ability to focus intensively on their academic passions.”

It’s clear that employers also value this type of “experiential learning” and outside-the-box approach. MaryBeth Brown, a 2010 graduate from the University of Redlands with an individualized degree in Arts Administration, got her dream job as a public art project manager for the DC Arts Commission, explaining that if she hadn’t developed her own major, “I would’ve been an Art History major, which is a very singular way of looking at art.”

According to the College Board, 900 colleges and universities nationwide host a program for individualized study. If you have a clear focus of what you’re passionate about and don’t want to settle for one field of study or another, look into creating your own major.

Simone Larson is a senior at the University of Redlands studying sociology, anthropology, and creative writing. She enjoys live music, bike rides, and watermelon gum.

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