Jun 15, 2024  
2022-2023 Academic Catalog 
2022-2023 Academic Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Independent Major, B.A.

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Most students choose an established major, but students who have demonstrated high academic achievement may, in cooperation with two faculty advisers, design an independent major. Applications and instructions for independent majors may be obtained from the Office of the Registrar or from the Registrar’s website. For initial advice concerning completion of the application, students should consult the Office of the Registrar.

An independent major is a coherent study program that cannot be pursued within the College’s established majors. The application begins with a purpose statement describing the major questions that prompt the proposal and the major themes that unify the proposed course work into a coherent body of study.

The quality of a student’s academic record may be a sufficient reason for turning down an application. To receive approval for an independent major, it is expected that a student’s cumulative GPA of all graded Grinnell College courses is at least 3.0 at the time the application is submitted for consideration.

The work of the major is divided into (a) the courses forming the methodology and subject matter core of the program, and (b) elective courses that supplement the basic core. The core program provides a solid foundation in one or more academic disciplines by the inclusion of those courses most fundamental to the theory and methodology of those disciplines. Students are required to complete the core program as approved. The Dean of the College must approve any change. Additional work for the major is chosen from an approved elective list.

Two faculty advisers are required for all independent majors to assist in planning the major and to supervise the thesis. One adviser must be a full-time faculty member. The other may be part-time. Advisers should be persons who expect to be at Grinnell in the student’s senior year to supervise the thesis planning, research, and writing. If one of the advisers leaves the College, on leave or permanently, the student is responsible for finding another faculty adviser and having the change approved by the Vice-President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the College.

Major Requirements: A minimum of 40 credits, including these requirements:

  • courses from not less than two or more than four academic departments
  • at least 36 credits of course work excluding independent work 297, 299, 300, 387, 397, 399, 499 and “Plus-2s.”
  • at least 8 credits of course work must be at the 300 level or above (excluding 499)
  • not more than 4 credits of work at the 100 level.
  • a 4-credit senior thesis in the form of a MAP (499) - All students pursuing independent majors must complete a senior thesis. The senior thesis is an academically demanding research project, and students applying for an independent major should be prepared to engage in a rigorous, self-guided research process that culminates in a high quality senior MAP. The independent major thesis in the form of a MAP (499) should utilize the ideas that unify the major into a coherent whole. The approval must follow the process for any MAP (499) project.
  • Students carrying an independent major may not carry a second or double major.


To be considered for honors in an independent major, graduating seniors, in addition to meeting the College’s general requirements for honors, must demonstrate, by consensus of their two advisors, superior performance in course-work and curricular breadth, combined with superior progress (to the date of consideration) on the senior thesis.

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