Skip to main content
Northwestern University

Student Designed (Ad Hoc) Majors

Students pursuing a degree in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences are required to complete a Weinberg College major, a demonstration of competence in a coherent field of study. Standard Weinberg College majors, including departmental majors and interdisciplinary program majors, sometimes combined with a second major and/or minor, serve the needs of most students. They have the advantage of following an established curriculum designed by experts in the field with the aim of building your expertise and depth of knowledge. Anyone who needs more information about a Weinberg College major can find details documented online in the Undergraduate Catalog.

However, a student in the College who has developed curricular interests that might not match the standard majors can consider designing a customized (ad hoc) major under the guidance of faculty, using already existing majors as formal models.

Except in very rare circumstances, students pursuing an ad hoc major must be in Weinberg College as their home school.

How to apply for an Ad Hoc Major

A student who wants to develop an ad hoc major will need to take the following steps.

1. Discuss your idea with your Weinberg College Adviser and with a professor with expertise in at least one of the disciplines included in your prospective field.

Before putting together a proposal you must determine that no existing major and no combination of major(s) and minor(s) can accommodate your special needs and that Northwestern has the courses and the faculty that your alternative major requires. You may need to consult with a number of faculty. You should base your plans on courses that you are confident will be offered on an ongoing basis, and not on the expertise of a single professor, or on the prospect of a string of independent studies. Your program should reflect existing and continuing curricular strengths. It should also be robust enough to survive the departure of any one professor.

Once you have consulted with a Weinberg College faculty member who supports your proposal and is willing to serve as your adviser, you should write a first draft proposal following the requirements below. Once you have a draft, you can schedule a meeting with Assistant Dean Ricardo Court ( to allow him to see and respond to your proposal. He will be able to provide you with feedback that might result in further revision, and additional information about the process as it goes forward. After meeting with a faculty member and your Weinberg adviser, you can also meet with Dean Court at the beginning of the process if you want to discuss your initial thoughts about a possible student designed ad hoc major.

2. Petition the Curricular Review Committee for approval in a letter.

Petitions supported by faculty advisors are not approved automatically. They must be convincing in content and presentation to show that your proposal is intellectually rigorous and practically feasible.

Your ad hoc major proposal should have several sections:

More advice for a strong proposal:

Back to top