Courses and Requirements

In designing an independent major, students may choose from any of the 1,000+ courses in the Vassar curriculum that are relevant to their proposed concentration.

View Courses from the Vassar College Catalogue.

Admission to the Independent Program

The Committee on the Independent Program meets regularly throughout the year to discuss proposals. Because the process of declaring an independent major generally involves several consultations and revisions (see below), students should expect to begin the process well in advance of the normal deadlines for declaring a major. Deadlines for submission of initial proposals are given below.

  • If the student plans to include courses taken abroad at an approved study abroad or Exchange program, the deadline is no later than the Friday following October Break of the sophomore year.
  • If the student plans to include courses taken at another U.S. institution, the deadline is no later than the Friday of the first week of the spring semester of the sophomore year.
  • For all other students, the deadline is March 1st of the sophomore year.

When considering an independent major, the student is encouraged to consult relevant faculty. The first step in the procedure is for the student to meet with the director of the Independent Program. The student then submits a written proposal.

The Committee on the Independent Program examines the proposal, paying particular attention to its coherence, the pertinence of the courses to be included, and the feasibility of the student’s plan. If necessary (and this is the usual case), the student then revises the proposal in close consultation with the advisors, secures their formal approval (conveyed by their signatures), and resubmits the proposal. Upon its approval by the committee, the student becomes an independent major.


Once the student is an Independent Major, the advisors assume the responsibility of guiding the student’s program until graduation. In deciding upon advisors, the student should be aware of the faculty member’s future plans and should try to choose at least one advisor who will be on campus throughout the student’s work as an independent major. Should an advisor go on leave or leave the College permanently, the student, after consultation with the advisor, will recommend a replacement to be approved by the director.

The Proposal

The written proposal informs the members of the committee of the educational goals and plans of the student. It is important that the proposal is written clearly and that it defines the goals of the major. Every proposal, typed with double spacing, must contain the following elements, in order:

  • an IP cover sheet
  • an essay describing the major (1–2 pages)
  • a rationale for declaring this major rather than an already established major (1 paragraph)
  • a preliminary proposal for a senior thesis topic (1 paragraph)
  • a full description/justification of the courses to be included in the major (grouping courses where appropriate, 1–2 sentences per group or course)
  • the names of potential advisers (with signatures if this is not the initial proposal)

Exchange Programs

When appropriate to the major, a student may apply to study abroad or at another college in the U.S. during the junior year and may include all or some of this study toward the major. Choice of program and courses should be made in consultation with the Independent Program Committee as part of the proposal process (above).

Courses and Requirements

Academic requirements, courses, and the Independent Major are available in the Vassar College Catalogue.