College of General Studies

Self-Designed (BA or BS)

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An individualized course of study allows students to market themselves as “entrepreneurs and self-starters.” “If you have a company or nonprofit, you are looking for employees who have an interesting collection of skills and who can shift gears quickly between tasks, and individualized majors often fit the bill. Particularly in a tough economy, employers are trying to make sure that they get a bang for their buck, and they want versatile employees.”
— Trudy G. Steinfeld, executive director, New York University’s WassermanCenter for Career Development, as quoted in “Newly CustomizedMajors Suit Students with Passions All Their Own,” The Chronicleof Higher Education, September 5, 2010

Note: This program is not currently accepting students.

The self-designed major enables highly motivated nontraditional students to pursue a unique program of study for compelling professional or academic reasons. The self-designed major must be multidisciplinary, including courses from more than two departments or schools. It must have the same academic quality as existing College of General Studies majors, and it must be substantially different from current College of General Studies majors.

A minimum total of 120 credits is required for the Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science degree with a major in self-designed studies. Of this total, the major consists of at least 36 credits (12 approved courses). Eighteen of the 36 approved credits that constitute the central theme must be at the 1000 level. The remaining credits for the degree are outlined on the Requirements for the Bachelor’s Degree information sheet.

A College of General Studies faculty committee grants approval for all self-designed major proposals. Students considering this major should schedule an appointment with an advisor.

Characteristics of the Self-Designed Major

  • It must be multidisciplinary (from more than two departments or schools).
  • It must have the same academic quality as existing College of General Studies majors.
  • It must be unique and differ significantly from standard College of General Studies majors.

Faculty Sponsorship and Advisor Responsibilities

  • The major will be designed in consultation with one or more University of Pittsburgh faculty members.
  • In special cases in which the student has research interests for which there are few available courses, the faculty member(s) may agree to serve on a continuing basis in an advisory capacity, directing independent study or an undergraduate thesis. Faculty sponsorship is terminated when the student changes to another major or completes the requirements for graduation.
  • College of General Studies advisors will monitor the progress toward the degree for the student.

Student Contract

  • After consulting with a College of General Studies advisor, the student will identify a faculty sponsor to provide advice on the academic plan of study. A student who requests guidance in identifying a sponsor (and those students pursuing sponsorship) will be assisted by the College of General Studies faculty committee.
  • The student must submit a written proposal to the College of General Studies faculty committee outlining the purpose, rationale, and courses for the self-designed major.

Written Proposal

Title Page

  • Title of proposed major and degree sought (BA, BS)
  • Student contact information
  • Name, department(s), and contact information for faculty sponsor(s)
  • Signature of approval by faculty member(s)

Content of Proposal

  • A clear statement(s) of the purpose(s) and rationale for the major must be made. Include the scope of the program of studies and relevance of the courses proposed.
  • List the courses: course numbers, titles, and number of credits.
  • A minimum of 36 credits (12 courses) in the central theme is required, with 18 of the 36 approved credits at the 1000 level.

Final Approval

The College of General Studies faculty committee will grant final approval of the major in a letter to the faculty sponsor, the associate dean of the College of General Studies, and the student. Any changes to the major must have approval from the dean.

Requirements are subject to change. Check with an academic advisor before registering.

An internship program is available through the College of General Studies. Please see your advisor for additional information.