Self-Designed Honors Major

Students at NYU Shanghai can apply to craft and complete a Self-Designed Honors major, rather than one of the existing majors at the campus. This major enables a small number of very capable and highly motivated students to pursue a plan of study that brings together courses from more than one NYU department or program. During their sophomore year, students compose their academic plan for the major in consultation with their two faculty advisers for their self-designed program of study as well as with the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs. Their two faculty advisors have to be from different majors and one has to be from a relevant department in New York if more than three of the required classes are from a major that exists in New York but not in Shanghai. By the spring of the sophomore year, the plan of study must be submitted to and approved by the Academic Standards Committee. This NYU Shanghai major serves students who can realize their interdisciplinary goals within the Global Network University drawing on courses from any of the study away sites and portal campuses within the existing NYU Shanghai study away limitations. It is an honors major, which has prerequisites for entry (3.75 Cumulative GPA; students must maintain a 3.65 GPA to remain in the major) and entails a heavy commitment to honors-level work, including independent research under faculty supervision.

SDHM Proposal Deadline: April 1

What can I do?

Students interested in any form of interdisciplinary study may apply. You may work alone or in a group, in traditional or new inter-disciplinary fields, in lab or studio courses – it’s up to you.  All you need is an idea and two faculty advisors willing to supervise your major.  While you can work alone or in a group, you must apply for the SDHM as an individual.The Student Defined Honors Major adheres to a broad definition of scholarship – including research, scholarly, or artistic activities that lead to the production of new knowledge; to increased problem solving capabilities, including design and analysis; to original, critical or historical theory and interpretation; or to the production of art or artistic performance.  The proposed major must be inter-disciplinary, it cannot be a set of courses that a student could complete within an existing combination of majors and minors, or a copy of a major offered elsewhere in the GNU.

Am I eligible?

You are eligible if you are:

  • An NYU Shanghai sophomore student

  • Have a 3.75 GPA at the time of application and after spring sophomore semester

  • In good academic standing (not on probation, leave of absence or suspension).

When should I apply?

The deadline is April 1st.  You should meet with your faculty advisors and the Associate Provost, Academic Affairs to review proposals no later than March 25.

The process?

Before the deadline, you should do the following things:

  • Ask your faculty advisors for letters of support

  • Draft your proposal based on the guidelines in "Writing Your Proposal" (If you will work with human subjects, please pay special attention to "A Note on Human Subjects")

  • Meet with the Associate Provost, Academic Affairs

  • Submit your proposal to the Academic Advising Office

What are the Student Defined Honors Major requirements?

By submitting your proposal, you are agreeing to:

  • participate in all required SDHM events and meetings
  • meet with your Faculty Advisors on a regular basis to talk about your major
  • complete all courses and assessments connected to your SDHM including a capstone project
  • present your work for the capstone project at the Undergraduate Academic Symposium
  • follow human subjects guidelines if applicable
  • submit a senior thesis paper related to the capstone project
  • Maintain a 3.65 cumulative GPA

Failure to satisfy these requirements will result in ineligibility to graduate with a Student Defined Honors Major.

How to apply?

The Application

Your application is your chance to tell us about your proposed studies, why it's significant, and how well you are prepared to undertake such a project.

Eligibility Requirements

  • Minimum 3.75 GPA in the preceding fall semester.
  • Enrollment at NYU Shanghai as an undergraduate with sophomore standing during the academic year of application.
  • Two NYU Shanghai or other Portal Campus faculty advisors.  At least one of the advisors must be NYUSH faculty.
  • Conduct courses and research on campuses and Global Centers within The Global Network University (the SDHM is not intended to support coursework or research at other institutions).  Travel for specific and limited research purposes is allowed with prior permission from the Assistant Provost for Academic Affairs.
  • An approved realizable four year course plan for the major.  The overall requirement must be for 128 credits, at least 48 of which must be within the major proposed.

​Components of Application

  • Proposal: 8 pages maximum.
    Please follow the guidelines for Type I and Type II proposals. You may submit either type, but you must follow the structure laid out for SDHM.  If asking for a grant, the proposal should include additional page or pages outlining the budget.
  • Biography: 2 page maximum.
    A one-page biography is required for all proposals: tell us about yourself; your story; about who you are; where you come from; what you have done at NYU Shanghai; what interests you; why the SDHM is important to you. This should include relevant facts, but it should allow the Committee to get to know you better, and interest them in your story.  We do not expect or want you to "sell" us on your candidacy.
  • Applicant’s college transcript
    Please include an official or unofficial transcript.  The overall GPA is one of the factors, although not the most important, that we will consider.  
  • Resume: 1 page
    If you do not have an updated resume, please see the Career Development Center for advice on resume writing.
  • Letters of Support written by Faculty Advisor
    A SDHM requires full-time attendance over eight semesters within the GNU working under the direct and regular supervision of an NYU Shanghai faculty member/researcher.  The Letters of support comments not only on the student’s abilities but also on how the advising relationship will work.  The Letters of Support tells the Committee about the academic expectations for the student and how the relationship between advisor and student will be structured and defined, for instance: how often advisor and student will meet; if there are graduate student advisors involved; who will take over if the advisor unavailable; the timetable for the courses; and the nature of the student’s contribution.
  • Completed List of Major Requirements and Four Year Schedule of Classes
Information for Self-Designed Honors Major Advisors/Administrators

Every student who applies for an SDHM must have two faculty advisor to oversee his or her major.  We expect that advisors of SDHM students will have substantial contact with the student during the course of their major. Please note: the SDHM is highly selective, the letters of support from the advisors can make an important difference.


  • give feedback to the student as she or he drafts the SDHM proposal

  • write a letter of support to the SDHM selection committee to accompany the student's major proposal.

The letter of support comments on the student's abilities but also the specifics of the faculty advising process.  This includes the academic expectations for the student; how the relationship between advisor and student will be structured and defined; how often the advisor and student will meet; if there are graduate student advisors involved; who will take over if the advisor is unavailable; the timetable of the courses; the feasibility of delivering the courses, and the nature of the student's contribution.

The letter of support also states that the proposed major is feasible and worthwhile and that the student is capable of pursuing the major.

The advisor will also sign off on the Final Report Form upon completion of the major.

Committee Review

SDHM proposals are read and rated by a selection committee of faculty with representatives from all the disciplines on campus.  Proposals will be read by at least one faculty member within the proposed major’s disciplines, and by faculty who are not trained in that academic field.  For this reason, we advise faculty advisors to write their support letters in a way that an educated reader outside their field of study can understand the inter-disciplinary question and the significance of the proposed major.


Students and their advisors are notified of the selection committee's decisions by email within a month of the SDHM proposal deadline.

Disbursement of Funds

If a student is awarded an SDHM grant, he or she will be issued a check, in his or her name, by Academic Affairs. By accepting the check, students are agreeing to the conditions listed in the Funding Agreement form. Students are expected to manage the money, with advice from the faculty advisor.  Many students have the check deposited into the advisor's discretionary account and access the funds this way.

Final Report

Upon completion of the major, students must submit a Final Report Form, which is available from the Academic Advising Office.  The advisors must sign this form indicating that the major was completed.

Contact Us

If you have any questions about these expectations or anything else about the SDHM, please feel free to contact the Academic Advising Office at