How do you go about designing your own major? What classes should you choose? In brief, it’s up to you. What are you most passionate about? What do you need to learn? What do you want to do after college? What type of person do you want to become?  What will you study when nobody tells you what to study?

You’re not alone

Before you arrive on campus you will be paired with an academic advisor: a faculty or staff member who shares some of your interests. You will meet with your advisor regularly to discuss course choices, map curricular trajectories, plan your internship, and so on. As your interests evolve, you can switch advisors or add additional ones. Many students end up with an advising team.

But advising at COA involves much more than discussions with your official advisor. Because we don’t have major requirements, students, faculty, and staff talk often about class choices, course sequences, graduate schools, and jobs. We think these questions are interesting and important.

Here’s a question you’ll never hear at COA: “When do you have to declare your major?”

Instead, you’ll get to think about much more interesting questions. Your advisors and classmates will ask you:

55% of COA graduates pursue graduate degrees

  • Are there any courses in the upcoming term that you feel you have to take, even if you can’t quite explain why? You should probably take those courses.
  • Are you interested in two areas and can’t decide between them? Don’t choose. At least not yet. Keep pursuing your interests. You will probably be able to do both at COA. And you may find that your interests connect—that what you thought were two different things (policy and science, or justice and education) are actually closely related.
  • Do you want to go to law school or vet school? Or pursue a Master’s degree in art history or sustainable development, or a PhD in wildlife biology or literature? You can prepare yourself to do this, but need to choose courses that will provide you with the necessary background.
  • Are you taking only classes in areas with which you are already comfortable? Maybe you should take something outside your comfort zone—something a bit daunting.
  • Are you a strong enough writer that you can express your ideas powerfully and clearly? Is your math background good enough so you can be a great conservation biologist? Are your drawing skills at the level that will allow you to make fantastic animated videos? Maybe you should take Advanced Composition, Multivariable Calculus, or Drawing.
  • What do you want to do you for your senior project? What classes do you need to help you prepare for it?

There’s not a one-size-fits-all answer to these questions. That’s the point. The degree requirements are a start; they’ll help you gain some breadth and basic skills.  But they don’t define your major. You could choose to:

  • Study theater and biology, write and perform plays, gain field research experience, and take courses that will prepare you for a PhD in ecology.
  • Take classes in mathematics, law, and environmental policy, and go on to law school.
  • Study literature, education, gender, and natural history, and pursue certification to teach high school biology.
  • Take film, documentary, and animation courses, study broadly in the humanities, and go on to an MFA in film.

All of these scenarios—and many more—constitute degrees in Human Ecology.