Major & Concentration

The American Studies Major and Concentration

Students may choose American Studies as an undergraduate major or a concentration. A minimum of 9 courses is required to complete the major, 7 courses to complete the concentration. Coursework for both consists of a combination of required courses (see degree requirements below) and an individualized program of study.

Although students generally declare their major or concentration in the spring of their sophomore year, you may want to take electives early on in areas that interest you but that will later connect with the American Studies major.

The Major

A minimum of 9 courses is required to complete the major:

Two American Studies Core courses. The following courses are ordinarily required: 

  • Introduction to American Studies
  • U.S. Intellectual History, 1865-Present or Freedom & Citizenship in the United States

Two seminars in American Studies

Four courses drawn from at least two departments, one of which must be in History and one of which must deal primarily with some aspect of the American experience before 1900 [A course on U.S. history before 1900 would fulfill both requirements].

Senior Research Project 

The final requirement for the major in American Studies is completion of a senior essay, to be submitted in the spring of senior year.

Alternatively, students may fulfill this requirement by taking an additional seminar in which a major paper is required or by writing an independent essay under the supervision of a faculty member. Seniors who wish to do a senior research project are required to take the Senior Project Colloquium the fall of the senior year. 

Download Major Planner

The Concentration

A minimum of 7 courses is required to complete the concentration: 

Two American Studies Core courses. The following are ordinarily required: 

  • Introduction to American Studies
  • U.S. Intellectual History, 1865-Present or Freedom & Citizenship in the United States

Five additional courses drawn from at least two departments, one of which must be history.

Download Concentration Planner



Because we offer an interdisciplinary curriculum, students design their own courses of study. Students work with our advisors to develop programs tailored to their particular interests. Advisors approve Plan of Study forms and provide general guidance regarding the major and concentration. Each student is expected to meet with an advisor at least once a semester.

Please arrange a meeting by Sept. 22, 2023.


Any grade lower than a C minus cannot be counted toward a degree in American Studies. A grade of C minus can be counted only with the approval of the director or associate director of the center. Pass/fail courses will not count toward the major unless the course was taken before the student declared the major.


Students with a 3.6 minimum GPA in the major and an outstanding senior project will be considered for honors. By College policy, no more than 10% of majors are permitted to receive honors in a given year.

We encourage our students to study abroad and to take courses that examine America in an international context. With careful planning, you can both study abroad and fulfill all the American Studies requirements. You should consult with your advisor early on about how to integrate study abroad into your program, and you should keep in mind that syllabi from courses taken abroad must be reviewed by your advisor to determine whether they count toward American Studies requirements.


A major in American Studies can open doors to many careers as well as to graduate or professional school. A number of our students, for example, develop a thematic concentration centered on the media that can take them into journalism, publishing, and other related areas. An interdisciplinary major like American Studies, in combination with your general education through the Columbia Core Curriculum, can also lead to opportunities in nonprofit organizations or public affairs. Over the last few years, our majors have gone on to graduate school, law and medical school; business, government, and public-service organizations; as well as other post-college programs such as Teach for America.

Best Senior Thesis in American Studies

Shenton Award; Outstanding Community Service