Having a flexible and for the most part, a stress free environment is essential to your college experience. Almost all colleges have a graduation framework in place, with required credits in all major concentrations (science, English, math, social studies, foreign language). Some colleges have a rigid graduation pathway, like the Core Curriculum, in place which ensures that students learn holistically and have skills pertaining to fields outside their major as well.

However, this may not seem appealing to everyone. A student planning to pursue an English major may not want to take Advanced Calculus, when they could be taking a Creative Writing Course. An art student may not want to be forced to sign up for a Physics course – a Ceramics course may sound more appealing to them.

Anyone hoping to be in control of their pathway should consider the Open Curriculum. This curriculum allows students to develop their own programs of study. As architects of their college experience, students have the flexibility to undertake whatever discipline they want to, including being able to take plenty of courses outside their major(s) – a Computer Science student can take courses in Anthropology and Greek history; a student pursuing Chemistry could have music and art courses each semester, and hone in on their creative interests and skills. Of course, students will still be expected to take graduation and credit requirements that pertain to their major. For example, a Biology student can be expected to complete prerequisite courses in Math and Chemistry, and several biology courses, which is the standard for all schools. However, the Open Curriculum allows students to not feel compelled to take courses outside their field of study, or conversely, allows them to do just that, since having less graduation requirements frees up their schedules and enables them to explore other interests.

Arguably, the most renowned Open Curriculum program is that of Brown University. At Brown, students are expected to take 30 courses in total (any discipline, of course), complete a concentration (they offer over 80 different majors and even allow students to design their own concentration), and take a writing course. The Open Curriculum at Brown also expands to their grading system. Students can choose to be graded on a scale which includes A, B, C, or no credit, and are also offered the opportunity to be evaluated on a Satisfactory/No Credit basis.

Other colleges and universities known for this flexible pathway for their students include Amherst College, Grinnell College, Hamilton College, Smith College, and Wesleyan University.

Of course, the Open Curriculum may not be for and appealing to all students. Those who are indecisive and haven’t figured what career path is right for them may struggle with the freedom and ‘power’ that comes with the Open Curriculum. Nevertheless, it enables them to have freedom and control over what their college experience might be. If the Open Curriculum might be right for you, it is important to you research the college in detail and consider various factors before matriculating to one institution.