Frequently Asked Questions
How do I know the Whittier Scholars Program (WSP, or “Scholars”) is right for me?
You are guided through a process of discovery in steps. First, meet with either our Program Director or Associate Director to discuss your individual interests and goals. You are also encouraged to meet with your advisor or mentor for additional insight. Then, if you are interested in learning more about the program, enroll in the first course in the program, WSP 101. In this course, you will develop further understanding of your individual educational and career goals and whether the program can help you accomplish these goals. If you perceive yourself to be someone who has a diverse array of interests, you are an independent learner who enjoys being intentional about your studies and you want to articulate that intention, you will thrive in the WSP. For a brief overview of the program, please watch this video.
What are the benefits of WSP?
There are many benefits to becoming a Whittier Scholar! We are passionate about creating a tight-knit community that supports each individual’s learning and growth. Students have access to a wide range of faculty members who work closely with our program and mentor students throughout their Scholars experience. Additionally, the benefits vary widely for each student because all students in the WSP partake in an individual and unique educational journey. If you are interested in learning about some of these benefits and the ways in which Whittier Scholars students have found their own pathways in the WSP, take a look at this list of more than a thousand senior projects that Scholars have completed in the past 40 years.
How will employers look at a graduate of the WSP?
Because of the distinctiveness of the WSP experience, Whittier Scholars graduates are quite successful post-Whittier College. WSP alumni include professionals in many industries, as well as doctors, lawyers, judges, professors, writers, filmmakers, teachers, artists, business owners and entrepreneurs, and more. A majority of our graduates matriculate into a graduate program within five years of graduation, which is significantly higher than the college norm. Since Whittier Scholars also complete an Off-Campus Experience connected to your academic interests, you not only graduate with a specially crafted degree but you also have relevant practical experience, which makes you much more likely to have the edge on the competition. As a WSP graduate, you will become part of a vast network of WSP alumni who are interested in learning about your studies and your career goals. We encourage you to reach out to this network and build relationships that will last a lifetime.
What are the requirements for the Whittier Scholars Program?
You will be guided through these requirements in our courses. The six courses in the WSP sequence are the only courses required for all our students. The rest of your requirements will be crafted by you during the Educational Design process (see below.)
You complete a series of six classes that support the development of your studies and continued progress toward the completion of your degree. Please visit the WSP website to learn more about the required sequence of courses.
Educational Design (ED) Meeting
This meeting is a one hour discussion between you and a group of faculty known as your Scholars Guidance Committee. The committee is composed of the WSP Director or Associate Director, a Member of the Whittier Scholars Council, and your faculty advisor (optional). In conversation with you, the Scholars Guidance Committee will review and approve the Educational Design that you developed while completing the WSP course, “Designing Your Education” (WSP 201).
Progress Review and Senior Project Meeting (PR Meeting)
You meet a second time (typically in your junior year toward the end of WSP 301) with the Scholars Guidance Committee (Director or Associate Director, a Member of the Whittier Scholars Council, and your sponsor) to review the progress you made since your ED meeting, discuss your plans for your senior project, and finalize the title of your major. Upon successful completion of the PR meeting, you officially advance to senior status in the WSP and crystallize your individualized major and coursework as they will appear on your official college transcript.
Off Campus Experience
The purpose of this requirement is to “test drive” your Educational Design by engaging with entities outside of the Whittier campus community. Such experiences provide you with a type of learning and a widening of perspectives beyond what you can achieve in any classroom. Students often describe their off-campus experience as transformational, and many students engage in more than the single one required.
This will be the capstone experience of your college education, and it should demonstrate your achievements not only to your classmates and professor, but also as a portfolio item for graduate school applications or job interviews. You will begin thinking about it from the time you enter the program, so that you can choose courses that develop the proficiencies that prepare you to complete an extended, faculty-guided individual project of your own design. The only requirement is that the project be research-based. Will you produce a film? Undertake genetic research in a lab? Prototype and build a prosthetic device? Stage a fashion show or stand-up comedy performance? Propose a change in the practices of a local government or business? Craft a proposal to launch your own enterprise? Rigorously analyze a historical or cultural artifact? Take a look at our list of more than 1,000 such projects that alumni have completed and begin to dream about creating your own. Once complete, you will then present your project to the campus community. Watch one recent (virtual) presentation here.
Do I still have to complete Whittier’s Liberal Education requirements?
No, Scholars do not have to complete Whittier’s liberal educational requirements since they craft their own individualized requirements. In the WSP, you must ensure that the course of study you design has breadth (includes courses across the social sciences, humanities, and natural sciences) as well as depth (a major that progressively deepens your knowledge in specific fields). By ensuring the depth and breadth of your studies, you are able to graduate not only with a deeper knowledge in what you are passionate about but also ready for life as an educated member of society. (Note: transfer students may bring completed general education requirements to WSP and complete just the major.)
What are the first steps to enroll into the WSP?
The first step is to schedule a meeting with either our Program Director, Dr. Andrea Rehn or Program Associate Director, Dr. Kay Sanders. To schedule an appointment and learn more about how the program can support your Whittier College journey, visit our website: https://scholars.domains
What does the WSP look like for a 1st year student?
Most often, first-year students enter the program in the winter or spring term. During fall, entering students take courses such as a college writing seminar, and other introductory courses in areas or topics of interest. If you are highly interested in the Whittier Scholars Program and have an idea as to what you think your course of study may be, upon approval by the Program Director or Associate Director, some first year students take WSP 101 in the fall semester.
Transfer students who have earned at least one year’s worth of college credits, after consulting with the Director or Associate Director, usually jump straight into the program their first semester at Whittier College. Please see the FAQ section pertaining to transfers, “Can transfer students join the WSP?” for further details that are specific to the transfer student experience in the Whittier Scholar Program.
When can students join the WSP?
The Whittier Scholars Program understands that you continue to grow and refine your interests throughout your educational experience and aims to be flexible with the time frame of admitting students. Once you enroll in WSP 101 (after consulting with the WSP Director or Associate Director) you will embark upon an exploration of your interests and how they fit with the Whittier Scholars Program. This is the first step toward becoming a member of the program.
Can transfer students join the WSP?
Yes! We are delighted to welcome transfer students into the Program and encourage transfer students to contact us directly to learn more about their options for an accelerated process based on their individual experience. As a transfer student, you will be on an accelerated track through our introductory courses, WSP101 & 201. Then WSP 301 will need to be completed by the spring of your junior year. Because transfer students enter Whittier College with a varied number of credits and with other potential experiences that may be important to your interests, meeting as soon as possible with the WSP Program Director, Dr. Andrea Rehn or Program Associate Director, Dr. Kay Sanders is an important first step. To schedule an appointment and learn more about how the program can support your Whittier College journey, visit our website: https://scholars.domains
What is the latest semester/year I can join WSP and create my own major/minor?
The latest you can join the program is the first semester of your third year. Put another way, you can complete the WSP program in as little as 4 semesters if you have the supporting coursework in progress already.
Who are Advisors and Sponsors?
“Advisors” are Whittier College faculty member who supports your development of your Educational Design and advise you on other academic questions that may arise. It is helpful if the advisor is familiar with the WSP process. The advisor can participate, if you want, in the ED Meeting. If you do not have an advisor, the WSP can help you select one so that you can benefit from that faculty member’s input into your Educational Design.
“Sponsors” are Whittier College faculty members who guide your work on the senior project. It is important to choose a sponsor who has disciplinary expertise in the main discipline included in your senior project so that you can benefit from that expertise. You will be guided through selecting your sponsor during WSP301. Sponsors are part of the Scholars Guidance Committee during the PR Meeting. (Your Sponsor may be the same person as your advisor if you choose.)
We encourage you to connect often with your Advisor and Sponsor in order to get the support you want and need. In addition, the faculty leaders of the WSP function as secondary advisors for all WSP students, so you always have a faculty member to turn to for advice and support.
What are the Off Campus Experience options?
Off-campus experiences can vary widely and depend upon your interests and initiative. An off-campus experience can be wide-ranging in that it can include a study abroad experience, working in some type of organization through an internship, engaging deeply in a research project off-campus, or volunteering in the community. It is called “off-campus” because your experience needs to be that, off-campus. The idea is that engaging with entities outside of the Whittier campus community provides you with a type of learning and a widening of perspectives beyond what you achieve by being solely on-campus.
How do I find an internship?
One of the first steps toward finding an internship is to make sure that you have prepared yourself fully for the internship application process and the actual work experience. Early in your academic career, research what types of internships there are and what looks attractive to you. Find out what the qualifications are and make sure you have them prior to applying for the position. Discovering a rewarding internship may mean planning a year or two in advance for it. Be prepared to take the long view and be intentional and realistic about what is desirable and feasible for you. Once you do your homework and are clear about what you want, the WSP works to connect students with various resources on campus including the Office of Career and Professional Development and the Center for Engagement with Communities. Both of these campus resources have current internship opportunities as well as support to assist you with finding your ideal placement. We also have a network of WSP alumni that present internship opportunities to our current students.
Can students create any type of major?
Our students take pride in curating creative majors that incorporate their various interests and passions. The Whittier Scholars Program works hard to facilitate the development of these unique majors. Students are encouraged to transfer course credits from either studying abroad or at another institution to incorporate courses that may not currently be offered at Whittier College. Although this allows for maximum flexibility and opportunity to create a major that truly speaks to the interests of our students, we must ensure that the basis for any major created through the program is rooted in the courses that are available through Whittier College.
Do any self-designed majors get denied?
Denied is too strong a word to describe the WSP educational process. Rather, the development of your course of study, from the ED Meeting to the approval of the senior project, is a collaborative process. As long as you work closely with your faculty advisor, and prepare for the ED & PR meeting diligently, the Scholars Guidance Committee will be able to effectively discuss your educational plans with you and coach you through any suggested or required revisions. If you are not prepared for the ED or PR meetings, it is difficult for the Scholars Guidance Committee to do its work. The role of the committee is to ensure that you have a robust educational plan and/or capstone project that achieves your intended learning goals. In the event that you are not prepared by the time you have your meeting(s), you may have the opportunity to revise your work and try again (if feasible). The WSP is invested in your success and we work diligently to help you achieve your learning goals; we hope that you will also!
Can students still double major or major/minor while going through the WSP?
Yes, you are able to pursue a double major or a major and minor should you choose to do so. This will be part of your planning as you develop your Educational Design in WSP201 and then review and refine it for your Progress Review meeting during your junior year. You also have the option of either designing your own double major/minor or pursuing any existing major/minor at the College.
Do I have to take science and math courses, or upper division writing courses, even though my major may have nothing to do with these subjects?
Yes, you do! The WSP faculty work with students to ensure that they are pursuing a well-rounded education. The WSP process helps guide a student’s journey through an interdisciplinary education, which includes ensuring that math and science, and the arts of effective communication, are a part of that well-rounded education.
Can WSP be combined with pre-med, pre-law, PICES, or other pre-professional programs?
Our alumni include doctors, lawyers, judges, filmmakers, business owners, teachers, professors, and many more. Many WSP students have designed courses of study that is heavily scientific or pre-medical. For PICES, we suggest you speak with the PICES advisor and a WSP representative to discuss your course of study and why you want to combine a self-designed major/minor with the PICES program. The only program on campus that is not a good fit with WSP is the 3/2 Engineering program. If you plan to pursue that program, we advise you to follow the liberal education requirements instead of WSP.
How does WSP work when wanting to study sciences?
WSP can work well when you have a strong interest in developing a major with natural science as a main focus. For pre-health students, WSP’s Off Campus experience requirement dovetails nicely with needed internships and research. A unique aspect to courses in the natural sciences is that many of these courses require lab courses and prerequisite sequences that will take up much of your time each semester. It is important that you work closely with your advisor and the WSP to design a schedule that maximizes your ability to remain on track with such sequential courses requirements. In terms of majors, there are many different routes WSP students have taken and each is unique to a student’s interests. Some students have created majors that combine multiple natural science fields, or they have combined one science with one or more humanities or social sciences fields. For examples of how former Whittier Scholars’ students creatively designed majors with a strong emphasis in the natural sciences, take a look at this list of majors that WSP students have created in recent years.
What is a “methods” or “theory” course & why do I need one?
All academic disciplines are part of a tradition of inquiry. Knowledge is generated within an academic discipline by adhering to a set of principles as to how to generate or obtain knowledge. For example, how does a psychologist understand human behavior or a writer interpret a classic text? In both instances, the psychologist and the writer use tools to interpret and investigate their interests. “Theory” is the lens that helps them interpet knowledge and “methods” are the tools you learn to use to generate knowledge. In the social sciences, these tools may be statistics and one of a variety of research methods courses. In film, the methods most likely are an advanced cinema production course or a critical theory course. In the humanities, upper-division theoretical courses, advanced writing courses, or a historical methodology course all serve different disciplines. Which “methods” or “theory” course will serve you best depends upon the focus of your senior project. When you design your major, it is important to ask yourself: In what way is knowledge generated in this discipline(s) and which course or two must I take to make sure I have these skills before I complete my capstone project? To complete your capstone project, you need to understand your primary discipline in terms of the lens (or theory) a discipline relies upon to interpret knowledge and/or the tools (methods) used to obtain valid and reliable knowledge. A good start toward finding these courses and getting a handle on why they are important is to have regular and detailed discussions with your academic advisor.
Will I do more work as a Whittier Scholar because I am designing my own major?
If you identify as a passionate and hard working self-starter who wants to take control of your education, Whittier Scholars will be a great fit for you. Our students take pride in the work they put into developing their major and educational design. Through the Scholars curriculum, students are supported as they grow and continue to develop the skills of being mindful and intentional with the courses they select, the projects they complete, and the overall major they develop.
How long will it take for me to graduate?
It all depends on how many units you have coming into the program and how many units you will be taking each semester. Most students graduate within the average four years. Some students even opt to graduate a semester or year early. Please consult with the Director or Associate Director to discuss your specific situation. Planning your coursework around your anticipated graduation date is a key element of the Educational Design process in WSP 201.
What if the classes on my Educational Plan are not available or I cannot get into a course?
The Whittier Scholars Program understands that even the best plans are subject to unforeseen circumstances. In the event that this happens to you, reach out to your advisor and discuss an appropriate alternate course that can achieve the same or similar objective. When you meet with the Scholars Guidance Committee for your Progress Review Meeting, you will present to them any changes that occurred since your Educational Design was approved and the courses you have taken and the courses you plan to take during your final year will be evaluated holistically to ensure that you graduate with the breadth and depth that warrants a Whittier College degree.
I have questions about signing up for classes & specific concerns about transfer or AP credits?
For questions about registration and other questions or concerns about the registration process or College policies on registration and course credit, please review the information from the Registrar’s Office. In the event you have specific questions about how a course will transfer in for credit for a similar course offered at Whittier College, please contact the Chair of that academic department for further information about AP score course credit or transfer credits.
I have more questions?
The Whittier Scholars Program is here to assist you also. Please reach out to the Program Director, Dr. Andrea Rehn, or the Program Associate Director, Dr. Michelle Chihara, for specific questions or concerns about your academic progress in WSP.