The Most Flexible Colleges

12/07/2010 04:30 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Do you wish you had been given the ability to design your own major in college? While there are colleges and universities that have rigorous curriculum requirements designed to cultivate well-rounded, knowledgeable students, there are other schools that operate under the idea that the most profitable education is one in which the student directs his or her own learning. These are the colleges and universities that fall under the "flexible" category, as they give students the liberty to design their own programs of study.

In an article for Her Campus, Patricia Ball explores nine of these "flexible" schools and discovers what kind of freedom is afforded to students at each of these colleges.

Have you ever sat through an Introduction to Statistics lecture in an auditorium replete with three hundred groggy college students, daydreaming about the incredibly fascinating course you would have enrolled in, had it not been for your university's math requirement? I've sure been there, picturing my hypothetical "Anthropology of Food" class in the midst of a riveting analysis of the cultural implications of crème brûlée. Meanwhile--back in reality--the ant-sized professor stands far away in the front of the auditorium, mumbling something or other about hypothesis testing.

Clearly, I am not a mathematically-oriented person (although cuisine is not exactly my forte either), but whichever your field of expertise, you can probably identify with the experience of being in a class that has absolutely no relation to your academic goals or interests.

That is, unless you are enrolled in one of those schools where the administration actually trusts that their students will have the capacity to design their own programs of study; where, if there are certain graduation requirements, these extend no farther than a writing requirement and one course in the humanities, sciences, and mathematics -- an interesting, engaging course that will somehow relate to your field and that doesn't include an "Introduction to" anything lecture; and where the main objective of the school is to cultivate curious students who will push the boundaries between academic disciplines.

Many of us associate the term "flexibility" with the mind-blowing physical abilities of Olympic gymnasts and not at all with our school's academic curriculum. But at these nine colleges and universities, this term actually serves as the core of their values:

1. Brown University

Perhaps the most renowned of the "flexible" schools (partly thanks to Emma Watson, aka Hermione Granger), Brown has absolutely no curriculum requirements (aside from a writing requirement). Upon arriving at the Providence, Rhode Island campus, students have the liberty to discern for themselves between the courses that interest them and those that don't.

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