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Four-Year Progression

Many colleges want you to choose a major as soon as possible. They’ll guide you into a specific major path, with lots of fixed courses and degree requirements, right away. Once you’ve started down a path like that, it’s hard to change direction and still graduate on time.

Marlboro is different. Our curriculum is designed to let you follow your academic interests wherever they lead you—with a promise that you’ll graduate with the core skills that you’ll need for success in whatever you decide to do. We can deliver on that promise because of the unique combination of structure and openness in our curricular model.

Here’s how it works.

Year One: Laying the Foundation

In your first year at Marlboro you’ll get everything you need to make the most of your college education. Your faculty advisor will help you understand how Marlboro works, academically and in our approach to community governance. You’ll learn about resources like the Center for Experiential Learning and Global Engagement and travel or research grants that can help you make the most of self-directed learning.

You’ll be part of a First-Year Seminar with training in collaborative practice, presentation skills, and time management; you’ll sharpen your writing skills in preparation for the Clear Writing Requirement; and you’ll make connections with all the faculty and staff who will support your academic journey.

We encourage our first year students to study as broadly as possible; beyond the seminar, you can take courses in anything that catches your interest.

Year Two: Finding Your Place

By your sophomore year, you’ll be working with your faculty advisors to narrow your focus. And at the end of Year Two you’ll choose your “field of concentration.”

You can call that a “major” if you want to, but we don’t; your field of concentration can be as specific or general as you like, and it can evolve as your interests do. And you get to name it—you can get a degree in Biology or a degree in Performative Sociology (whichever you think suits your career path better) as long as your advisors approve it.

Toward the end of the year you’ll write your Sophomore Review, a reflection on your Marlboro education so far. You’ll also start developing the ideas that will form your Plan of Concentration and share this preliminary outline with your faculty sponsor.

Year Three: Becoming an Expert

The final two years at Marlboro put all of your independent learning and thinking skills into action. In your junior year you’ll take courses that sharpen your understanding of research methods, work with your advisors to explore the boundaries of your field of concentration, and select (and refine, and refine, and refine!) the topic for your Plan of Concentration. You’ll submit your Plan proposal at the end of your junior year and be ready for the deepest dive of your life. (Intellectually, at least.)

Year Four: The Plan

You’ll spend senior year researching, creating, and revising your Plan. You may take a regular class or two, but most of your work will be done in one-on-one or small-group tutorials with your Plan advisors. You’ll create a timeline for each component of your project, building toward the final version you’ll present to a Marlboro faculty committee, an outside reviewer, and (for many students) the Marlboro community. Once you’ve completed 120 credits and successfully defended your Plan, you’re ready to graduate.

No matter what you’ve studied, you’ll graduate Marlboro with the most important skills you need for success, no matter where your path takes you. You will be a clear, precise writer and a strong communicator; you’ll be able to work effectively in small groups with a diverse range of people; and you’ll just have proven your ability to lead an ambitious project from idea to execution. Those skills will prepare you for literally anything, whether it’s graduate school, an artistic practice, or directly into a career.


(a mostly random selection of Marlboro microdestinations)