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How does picking a major at Dartmouth work?

A: Image of Gabriel Gilbert '23; he is wearing a black aloha shirt with a red leaf pattern that runs from his shoulder down the left half of his shirt.

As a sophomore nearing the end of my fifth term as a Dartmouth student, it's just about time for me to pick a major. Let me explain how majors work at Dartmouth!

The liberal arts school that it is, Dartmouth allows for a ton of flexibility as to your course of study. We're allowed to choose from a ton -- and I mean a ton -- of different programs of study, with about 60 different majors available among Dartmouth's various departments. These majors largely consist of eight to ten courses in addition to required prerequisite classes. For myself, as a prospective Linguistics major, I just had one prerequisite to take -- LING 01, or Introduction to Linguistics. Different majors have different numbers of prerequisites, and prerequisites tend to be classes with a broader focus that give you the foundational skills and knowledge you need to take on your major classes. For the Linguistics department, for example, you learn all of the essentials so that immediately after you take LING 01, you're able to tackle most of the intermediate classes that the Dartmouth Linguistics program offers. 

At Dartmouth, you can double or even triple major. Additionally, Dartmouth makes it possible for you to create a modified major, combining different fields into a single academic program customized for you. This is done with the advice and insight of the faculty of the departments you're interested in. 

When the time comes for you to pick a major, you typically have to create a plan that factors in all of the requirements that a department might have. Every department has its own required courses and specifications, so usually you'll create a plan with the guidance of a faculty advisor within the department. Once you've got a solid plan, you can get it approved and you're good to go! 

There's definitely a lot of flexibility in regards to major choices. Some of my upperclassmen friends chose a major and stuck with it for the rest of their Dartmouth career, while others have made the choice to declare several different majors over the course of their time at college before finally settling on a field of study they want to graduate with. Dartmouth is flexible! That's part of the beauty of being at school where the liberal arts reigns supreme. I fully expect to add a different major and probably a few minors before settling on something (but the Linguistics major definitely won't be changing). And that is perfectly normal!

In the meantime, though, I can safely say that picking a major hasn't been a stressful experience so much as a really good time. Getting my plans finalized and everything worked out has actually been a really exciting time, and it's honestly amazing to think that I'm nearing the midpoint of my time as a Dartmouth student by finally making my major official. The reason Dartmouth makes us pick this far into our academic careers is, I think, because the College wants us to be able to try so many different things before we finally (if tentatively) decide on our trajectory. Where I am now is nothing like the academic career I imagined for myself as a high school senior, or even as a fresh-faced first year student waiting to choose my first college classes -- and I wouldn't have it any other way!

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