Frequently Asked Questions

Q1: What is a Self-Directed Major?
A1: Self-Directed Majors are designed for students who wish to construct their own major programs of study in accordance with their needs, capabilities, and interests. Self-Directed Majors provide an alternative for students who have unusual interests or talents in a single field, or an unusual combination of interests or talents in several fields.

Q2: What are the advantages of offering Self-Directed Majors?
A2: Self-Directed Majors allow and encourage creativity for both students and departments. As such, they provide more flexibility for both students and departments and enhance the intellectual environment on campus.

Q3: Who would likely use a Self-Directed Major?

A3: Self-Directed Majors are for those students who have educational goals which cannot be satisfactorily fulfilled by traditional majors, majors and minors, or double majors. In selecting a Self-directed Major, students accept the responsibility of designing and adhering to their own individual program of study toward their major. Participation requires students to take a high degree of initiative and seek significant challenges.

Q4: When would a student declare a Self-Directed Major?
A4: Students would more or less follow the same timeline as those students declaring a traditional major. They would be expected to complete the same general required foundation courses as those pursuing a traditional major. Students would not declare their Self-Directed Major before the second semester of their sophomore year, nor later than the first semester of their junior year. Since their proposed plan of study must be approved before they can declare their Self-Directed Major, students will need to have their proposal ready for review the semester prior to declaration of major.

Q5: How many credit hours would be required for a Self-Directed Major?

A5: The number would be similar to the number required for traditional majors. At least 30 credit hours would be expected, but a student may propose as many as 45 credit hours. 100 level courses do not usually count for the major. At least half of the credit hours toward the Self-Directed Major must be from 300 or 400 level courses taken at Gallaudet with no more than 6 credit hours being independent study. The remaining credits would most likely be taken through the consortium, but we are not ruling out other options the student may be able to justify.

Q6: What does the application itself require?
A6: The application consists of two parts. The first part is an essay. This is the applicant's chance to communicate her or his educational goals, explain why traditional majors, majors with minors, or double majors will not meet these educational goals and justify the selection of courses, internships, and other components used to fulfill them. The essay should demonstrate how these courses from various departments are integrated into a cohesive program. The second part of the application would be a course plan. This lists the courses and establishes the sequence of the applicant's self-directed major. In proposing a sequence of courses, the necessary prerequisites must be taken into account.

Q7: What happens if a student wishes to change a Self-Directed Major or drop it completely?
A7: Students who decide to make changes in their Self-Directed Major, will need to have those changes approved before they will be counted toward the major. Students who wish to drop the Self-Directed Major would face the same situation as those who wish to drop traditional majors.

Q8: Could students declare a traditional major and then switch to a Self-Directed Major?
A8: Yes, and also switch from a Self-Directed Major to a traditional major. The consequences would be the same as switching between traditional majors.

Q9: Could Self-Directed Majors lead some students down an academic path fraught with pitfalls and "false starts" which may delay graduation?

A9: Yes, but not necessarily any more likely to do so than traditional majors.

Q10: Is there a required "special culminating experience" for Self-Directed Majors?
A10: Some kind of major research project, paper, or thesis would be expected as a final project. This would serve as a way for the student to integrate the major's various components.


Q11: Can students take courses through the consortium for the Self-Directed Major?
A11: Students may attempt to take a maximum of two courses through the consortium for the Self-Directed Major. Consortium courses are often difficult to get into and students cannot depend on these for the major. This is why we require that the majority of planned courses be taken at Gallaudet.