The Case for Pursuing a Shaped Major

By: Aaron Shaykevich  |  February 11, 2022

By Aaron Shaykevich, Opinions Editor

For many students, the goal of college is to get good grades and major in a subject that directly pertains to the profession that they are interested in. For a pre-medical student, this typically means majoring in biology or chemistry. A person interested in social work may choose to major in psychology. For pre-law students, many tend to major in political science or English. While a general major may be enough for most students to satisfy their intellectual desires, as they feel the plan of study of their major covers what they are interested in, it certainly is not true for all. 

To those students looking for something more out of what they choose to dedicate their time and major in or those who feel their academic interests aren’t adequately represented, there is another way. You have a chance to focus your studies in a more particular field specified to your interests. There is a path that allows you to major in what interests you, even if it is not a major currently offered at YU. All that’s necessary is to shape your major. 

A shaped major is a course of study that you work with academic advising and the dean’s office to create based on your interests. For example, a student interested in becoming a psychologist who also enjoys biology can double major or major in psychology and (maybe) minor in biology or vice versa. Or, instead, the student can choose to shape a major in psychobiology (or something else!). The former traditional route permits the student a clear path toward graduating college, and it may be simpler to achieve. However, the latter shaped major allows the student to follow their interests and stand out among the many psychology majors when applying for the same positions at graduate schools or jobs. Like everything else in college, the more work you are willing to put in, the more possibilities you have to stand out. 

While shaped majors may make one more competitive for applying to jobs or graduate schools, that is not the only (or primary) benefit. Pursuing a shaped major will allow one to study what they are most passionate about. College doesn’t need to be just a necessary evil to achieve one’s future goals. It is actually possible to enjoy one’s academic studies! Furthermore, a shaped major doesn’t need to be a derivative of current departmental majors. If one is passionate, driven, and works with the university, their interests can become a reality. Sarit Perl, a former SCW student, majored in Theater and shared her experience saying that “not only should you pursue your passion — you can pursue it here. If YU is the right place for you, don’t transfer just because there’s no established department in your field.” 

I am not implying that pursuing a shaped major doesn’t require a lot of work. To apply for a shaped major requires lots of time and effort. The shaped major packet for Yeshiva College requires a 500-750 word narrative, at least 12 courses in your major (although the more the better), and a letter of support from a faculty member. For instance, for my major in Economics of Health and Science, it took me about a month to work out everything with my Economics professor and write a narrative I was proud of. At the end of the day, however, these requirements are beneficial as they allow one to be reflective and think on whether they genuinely want this shaped major. 

Of course, a shaped major is not for everyone. A student who is interested in chemistry does not need to make a fancy major in Neurochemistry just for fun. But, for those who are interested in a unique course of study, this is a realistic option to at least consider. The shaped major packet emphasizes that “like departmental majors at the College, the shaped major is meant to move beyond the shared ‘general’ education experience of the Core, and to provide students with in-depth, intensive work in a particular area of intellectual interest.” If this statement resonates with you, even just a little, then you may want to consider shaping your major. While it is a lot of work, and you will need to make a lot of effort to get it approved, it most certainly will be worth it.