Independent Majors

An independent major is a coherent, structured plan of study consisting of introductory through advanced courses in a recognizable field within the liberal arts. It is not simply a combination of courses in several fields. An independent major must be constructed largely from courses offered at Bryn Mawr and Haverford. There should be a culminating thesis or capstone project that explores and critiques scholarly and/or creative work. Interested students should attend the information session and meet with Dean Michelle Mancini in the fall of the sophomore year.

In designing an independent major, students must enlist two faculty members to serve as advisers. One, who acts as primary adviser, must be a member of the Bryn Mawr faculty; the secondary adviser may be a member of either the Bryn Mawr or Haverford faculty.

Most students interested in this option submit their online application materials in the spring of the sophomore year,in order to meet the deadline for declaring a major.  A small number of students seeking to change to an independent major or to add a second, independent major apply in fall of junior year.

Students should keep the following in mind when considering an independent major:

  1.  Seek advice early in the process. Most students begin meeting with potential faculty advisers and Dean Mancini in the spring of the freshman year to discuss the feasibility of their plans. Be aware that faculty sabbatical schedules can complicate finding faculty members available to advise you for your junior and senior years. 
  2. Have a back-up plan. Students should enroll in one or two courses each semester that will go towards an established major in case they cannot find faculty advisers or their independent major proposal is not approved.
  3. Be aware of drawbacks. Students pursuing independent majors do not usually have a cohort of fellow students following the same pathway. Having an independent major can be a somewhat isolating experience, especially in the senior year. Students planning to incorporate advanced Swarthmore and Penn courses into their major plans should be aware that they may not get into those courses, as Swarthmore and Penn students have first priority.

Members of the Independent Major Committee:

  • Elinor Berger '22
  • Michelle Mancini, Dean's Office
  • Veronica Montes (Sociology) (2020-2023) (on leave Sem II)
  • Bethany Schneider (English)
  • Joel Schlosser (PoliSci) (2021-2024)
  • Irina Walsh (Russian) (2021-2024)