Your perfect equation Major + Core Studies + ___________ = your unique academic path

Your perfect equation
Nearly every Calvin student has their own unique combination of majors, minors and pre-professional programs.

We say we have 100+ academic options at Calvin but the truth is, we have about as many options as there are students here: 4,000.

That’s because each student considers the majors, minors and pre-professional programs available and creates a combination unique to him or her. Don’t get us wrong—you should work carefully with your advisor to make sure you can fit your multiple programs, internships and study abroad programs into four years of study at Calvin—but there are students here making it work every day.  

Here you’ll find some of their stories—stories of students like Susan, who is fitting a Spanish minor into Calvin’s professional nursing program because she wants to work with Spanish-speaking populations. And then there’s Grant, who came to Calvin undecided and then shifted his path from secondary education to English late in the game. Brian, an engineering major, will illustrate why you might not want to consider a second major or minor if you’re interested in engineering.  


If you’re not sure about your major, you’re in good company—about 20 percent of each incoming class is undecided. And even some of those who think they have decided will change their minds once they get here.  

Thankfully, there’s time to do a little exploring once you get to college. Calvin’s core curriculum—a set of courses you take to build key skills and develop a broad base of knowledge—will expose you to plenty of majors. Choose to take core courses in your areas of interest and test out whether you really want to go further in them. For example, if you think you might want to major in psychology, choose “Introductory Psychology” in the “Persons in Community” core category. Even if you decide psych isn’t for you, you’ll have one core requirement under your belt and you can move on to dabbling in art history or geology instead.  


There’s more to core than meets the eye. It can help you find (or change) your major. It can make you a better person as it prepares you to be a thoughtful and compassionate member of society. And here’s the real silver lining: it can help you get a job. Believe it or not, taking classes in sociology, literature, biology and communications will give you that extra edge—an ability to think deeply about a broad range of topics—that employers love.  

It helped David, a senior economics and Spanish double major, get an internship that later led to a job offer: “Economics with a background in liberal arts allowed me to sell myself as a bit of a Renaissance Man; a little bit of everything, which is exactly what they were looking for.” 


Whether it helps you find your major or simply makes you a deeper, more knowledgeable person, let Calvin's core curriculum strengthen your academic life and future career. Here are some things to know about it:
 • Core is different for everybody; there are a few classes everyone takes (like philosophy and written rhetoric), but for most course categories, you get to choose from a group of options.
 • Entering a professional program like nursing, engineering or teacher education? Your core requirements will be modified.
 • You can either test out of or be exempt from some core requirements if you have AP credit, or if you've done extensive coursework in a subject in high school (such as science, or a language).


50% - Calvin students who change their major at least once in college.
124 - the number of credits you need to graduate from Calvin.
23 - Number of core courses you'll take at Calvin (if you have exemptions or overlaps from your major or minor, this number will be lower).
8 - Core courses that teach you essential college-level skills in technology, fitness, writing, communications and foreign language.
12 - Core courses that help you build a knowledge base in fields like theology, political science, psychology, geology and more.
300+ - Core courses you have to choose from.


 • How to beat your older brother in tennis. ("Tennis I and II")
 • Which bananas in the supermarket are grown by fairly-compensated farmers.("Intro to International Development")
 • The difference between a caucus and a presidential primary. ("American Politics")
 • How to get from Madrid to Rome without a car. (Semester in Spain)
 • How to obtain data from your own personal genome. ("Human Biology")
 • Why your grandmother's memory isn't as good as it used to be. ("Intro to Psychology")


Grant, English and Congregational and Ministry Studies

The "I had no idea what to study" major + minor


INTERNSHIP: Church ministry internship through Calvin’s Jubilee Fellows program at North Avenue Presbyterian Church in Atlanta, Ga. 

Grant is the first to admit he had “no clue” what he wanted to study when he started at Calvin. So he did what any self-respecting, undecided student would do: take core classes. The core helped Grant shape how he planned to earn a living and how he wanted to make a life. 

He was considering an English education major when one core class, “Church and Society”, made his heart skip a beat. “After taking this class, I fell in love with the church.”   

With a new love came a new direction. Grant declared a minor in congregational and ministry studies and completed a church internship through Calvin’s Jubilee Fellows program. And he found that his passion for teaching, originally slated for the classroom, was actually a passion to educate in the church.

Grant loves the connections he’s seen between his English major and CMS minor. “I’ve been able to think deeply about what the church can learn from reading, writing and education, as well as the opposite—what reading, writing and education can learn from the work of the church.” 

With seminary and pastoral work on the horizon, Calvin's liberal arts base will serve Grant and his future congregation well. “In order to minister effectively to a diverse group of people, you need to have a diverse range of knowledge and understanding.” 


Becky Kim '13

The complementary combo


 Favorite core course: “Biblical Literature and Theology” from the religion department. “I really appreciate the religion core courses because they give Calvin students a challenge to wrestle with tough questions about faith, the Church and God.”

 Why she chose her major: “I chose social work right when I started at Calvin because I knew I wanted to work with people and help address their needs. “

 Advice to incoming students: “Try to finish all of your core requirements in the first two years of college.”

 Internship: medical social worker on an oncology (cancer) floor at Spectrum Butterworth Hospital

 Becky could have gotten away with having only one academic program—social work—because as a professional program, social work has more requirements (like 400 hours of field work) than most majors. As an ambitious Calvin student, however, she wanted to add more to her academic repertoire.

 She considered a double major in religion, but ultimately chose a business minor because it made more sense for her career goal: to establish her own non-profit organization. As a social work major, she’s fluent in the language of helping people, but she knew it would be wise to speak the language of commerce, too.

I wanted to learn how to market my ideas related to social work, and establish a non-profit organization and manage its finances.

 Becky wants to start an organization that promotes partnerships between hospitals in the U.S. and around the world, with the goal of improving care for people in need. “I believe research and finding innovative, effective ways to serve clients and patients can be done by collaborating with people groups who come from different countries.”

 Becky’s unique combination of social work and business makes it much more likely that she will be able to follow her vision. Not only does she have the practical skills she needs to found an organization, but she also has the work ethic—and, more importantly, the heart to do so.

 “I believe the social work program at Calvin has prepared me by teaching me…how to be effective in a broken world that has real needs.” 


Susan, nursing major and Spanish minor

The “I made time for a minor” nursing major 


MAKING CORE WORK: Susan got her art fix by taking “Visual Culture” for her art core requirement. In this course, she learned graphic design skills that came in handy when she created health brochures for her research assistantship with two Calvin nursing professors.

TIPS FOR FUTURE NURSING MAJORS: Study abroad! Fit this in during a January interim, when you can choose from dozens of off-campus programs.

Coming to Calvin, Susan wasn’t sure if she wanted to study nursing or art. But she liked her options. “I chose Calvin because I knew I could pursue either major, no problem!”   

Calvin’s liberal arts foundation launched Susan into her major of choice—nursing—with a broad range of knowledge and skills.  

She spent a semester-plus-an-interim in Honduras—completing an OB-GYN practicum, living with a Honduran family and fulfilling core as she learned about international development. “The class encouraged my passion for nursing. I learned to understand justice in a developing country and how that affects the well-being of society, including health needs.” 

But Susan’s core knowledge and physiological know-how are not the only tools in her nurse’s bag. To her nursing major, Susan added a Spanish minor. The combination of programs allows her to communicate with her Spanish-speaking patients in their primary language.  

Susan knows her Calvin education has given her the tools she needs to be a competent nurse. But she also knows it has shaped her heart. “The semester in Honduras made me a more compassionate and empathetic nurse. I am excited to see how my Spanish minor will tie into my career of nursing in the future.”

Students with majors and minors



Rachel '14, business marketing and classical studies

The “old + new” combo 

BUSINESS (marketing concentration) + CLASSICAL STUDIES

Favorite core course:  her foreign language requirement, which she fulfilled by taking Ancient Greek. “I was ready to quit within the first week,but I talked to my professor and he really encouraged me to stick with it. Now he is my Classics advisor and my professor for my fifth semester of Greek!”

Scheduling tip: “Mix up your classes for different majors throughout the semesters.  I find it really valuable to have a variety of subjects within a given semester.”  

Advice to incoming students: “Experience your major through internships, traveling or mentoring. You need to make sure you still love what you’re learning when it is put into practice if you hope to be able to handle it all.”

When she enrolled at Calvin, Rachel knew she had a head for numbers and an aptitude for organization. What she didn’t know was how she could combine that business sense with her interest in the culture that surrounded Jesus and Paul.

Rachel found her curiosity satisfied as she sampled Calvin’s core classes. She enrolled in Ancient Greek to fulfill her foreign language requirement and wound up loving it, ultimately spending time in Greece and adding a classical studies major to her business marketing degree. 

“Greece is a beautiful country. The land, the people, the culture, the history. It all permeates so much of our modern lives.”

Now a Calvin junior, Rachel’s made lots of connections between her two majors. “Classics is the study of how societies operated thousands of years ago, and business is the study of how things operate today. Both are important for us to understand so we can realize how influential we are in our own communities.”

Rachel’s double major prompts her to ask good questions about marketing, ethics and human nature. She’s especially interested in corporate social responsibility and how the messages young women receive through the media affect their views of themselves. 

In addition to classes in her majors, Rachel knows her core classes have given her a solid context for her future career. “I have a lot more knowledge to form an opinion about things outside my immediate fields of interest, that I wouldn’t have learned otherwise. So many of my classes have interconnected, and that is due to the liberal arts foundation at Calvin.” 


Brian, engineering major

The “just” engineering major

ENGINEERING (mechanical concentration)

Favorite core course: “Introduction to Film and Media” in communication arts and sciences, which fulfills “The Arts” core requirement. “It’s not related to my major, but we got to watch some good movies.”

How he deals with the heavy engineering workload: good time management and taking summer classes to lighten the normal semester load

Do the math: 26 engineering major credit hours + 32 semester hours of technical cognates in math, business, chemistry, computer science and physics + 31 credit hours of core + 42 credit hours for the mechanical engineering concentration = 131 credits (+ 8 more if you didn’t take two years of foreign language in high school).

Internships: one developing brake calipers at TRW Automotive and one working with end-of-line automotive testing machines at Burke E. Porter Machinery 

No one can blame Brian for being “just” an engineering major. In fact, the majority of students in the engineering program choose not to add a minor to an already-intense academic repertoire. Why?

Calvin’s engineering program is well known for its rigor and excellent preparation for the workplace. This reputation is built on a curriculum that consumes most of its students’ academic schedules. While there’s a bit of wiggle room for an elective here or an interim in India there, Brian spends most of his time in engineering and related science courses.

But engineering students aren’t exempt from core classes. The number of core classes Brian has taken is slightly less than the average student, but you’ll still see him in that lit class or tennis interim course. In fact, he appreciates the chance to take some classes outside of his normal program.

“Core classes at Calvin have helped me to become a more well-rounded person. Through classes like English, literature, history and economics … I’ve built a wider base of knowledge.”

His advice to new students planning to tackle an engineering major? “Participate in extracurriculars. They can be a nice relief from a tough workload.”

For Brian, that means taking a break from studying the laws of thermodynamics to captain Calvin’s varsity tennis team. 

KARI '14

Kari '14, environmental studies and psychology

The classic Calvin interdisciplinary major

ENVIRONMENTAL STUDIES (geography concentration) + PSYCHOLOGY

What can you do with that major? The growing list of potential careers in environmental work includes law, urban planning, land management, international development and more. 

Pick a concentration. Environmental studies majors choose a concentration in economics, geography or political science, depending on what career path they're interested in.

Kari was convinced as a high school student that she would pursue a career in medicine. Then a biology class that fulfilled her “Natural World” core requirement changed her life path.  

"Biology 123 confirmed that environmental issues were more than just an interest for me. After taking that class, which deals with various health, environmental and biological issues in the form of group discussion and labs, I was confident that an environmental studies major was the right choice." 

This major, which has Kari taking classes in biology, economics, geography and political science, is the “perfect blend” of her interests in the sciences and humanities.  

And though the environmental studies program consumes more than 50+ credit hours in Kari’s academic program, she’s still found time for a minor and a semester-long study abroad experience. Thanks to the fact that her off-campus program in Europe fulfills requirements in her major, minor and core, she’ll graduate in four years.


Rachel '15, recreation and psychology

The career-focused combo


Advice to new students: “Make good connections with important people around you.Your professors, boss or mentors are all great people to look up to.”

Rachel loves helping others feel good in their own skin. And once she found out about Calvin and its versatile academic programs, there was no place else to go to college. 

When she was still in high school, Rachel’s dad recognized her gifts and suggested she consider a career in wellness coaching. So the search was on for a Christian college with versatile majors that could help Rachel focus on her interests. And after visiting Calvin, Rachel knew. “I didn’t even apply anywhere else. Calvin was a great fit.”

At Calvin, Rachel knew her program would prepare her to coach a wide range of women on a wide range of wellness issues—physical, mental and spiritual. And whether her clients are working on facing fears or training for triathlons, Rachel knows the liberal arts education she’s receiving will come in handy.

The liberal arts truly rounds out my education. I can incorporate more fields of knowledge than I ever thought I could. From philosophy to biology, these courses expand my knowledge and will help me advance in my career. I will be able to go deeper into the specific needs of each [client] to help them improve.

Rachel is entrepreneurial, but not individualistic. She values the guidance she’s received from professors—especially her advisor. Her advice to other students juggling programs? “Make good connections with important people around you. Your professor, boss or mentors are all great people to look up to and to ask for a great letter of recommendation.”

VERGE: spring 2013

First-Year Experience