The Joint Degree Programme has many nuances that are not immediately recognisable to the prospective student eye. For example, JDP students don’t have to take COLL100 or 150 their first year at William & Mary; the Programme seminar run by Professor Liz Barnes covers both writing and research requirements. JDP students also have different general education requirements than a regular William & Mary or St Andrews student; our major requirements are also slightly modified to fit both universities better.
The way the Programme is designed it enables students to explore as many academic options in Scotland as well as Williamsburg. There is leeway in almost everything; if you want to pursue the five year Master’s in primary or secondary education from William & Mary, if you want to minor in religion, take an independent study while abroad, there are ways to do that within the Programme, you just have to ask! I was afraid I would miss out on these opportunities by joining the JDP, but I have learned I can do any of them if I truly wanted; I just have to be a self-starter.
However there are some things you can’t do in the Programme, for example, double majoring or doing your first two years at the same university. The specifications of the Programme are both strict and lax. I wanted to pursue a double minor and I only just found out that W&M doesn’t accept double minors, only a double major or a major and a minor. St Andrews doesn’t actually even have minors! If you graduate with a minor from William & Mary, your diploma from St Andrews will say you have an International Bachelor’s of Arts in your major and an additional note of your work in the minor, though they don’t recognize it as such.
Because the Joint Degree Programme is still fairly new, there are some specifications that need to be ironed out to its completion. So far, there are still a lot of firsts to be had, and it may surprise you to find that you are one of them within the JDP. Back in my first year, I was looking at the five year Masters of Education and I learned I would’ve been the first from the JDP English department to do so, had I continued. With the minor I am interested in, it turns out it’s brand new to William & Mary and I want to finish it within one year so I have to find ways to work on it while abroad. There are lots of moving parts in the JDP and students willing to grow with the degree have a unique chance to experience university.
Even if you’re not interested in the Programme, don’t be afraid to push boundaries. Obviously don’t try to break laws, but the boundaries of your academic journey, your comfort zone, your interests, they all can be tested and explored. You may feel like everything is moving around you, and you are trapped in the confines of your label, your major, your minor, etc. But you have the ability to run and dance just as quickly through your college experience. Do what makes you happy, rule number one. There is something for you. Find it!