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Aerial view of McDaniel College campus athletic fields.

A Customized Curriculum

The McDaniel Plan is our version of a general education program. With the goal of equipping critical thinkers and excellent communicators, the McDaniel Plan is versatile and customizable while still ensuring that each McDaniel student graduates with a strong academic foundation.

The Foundation of Your Education The McDaniel Plan

Giving you the power to learn what you want and how you want, with countless ways to customize your experience. Build your education around your interests, talents, and passions in a way that’s truly all your own.

The McDaniel Plan will provide you with a liberal arts education that combines a comprehensive program of general education and a rigorous program in the major, complemented by electives and a range of special opportunities.

The McDaniel Plan is comprised of 4 parts:

The McDaniel Commitment

The McDaniel Commitment has four components—My Place, My Design, My Experience, and My Career—that provide students with a sustained, intensive, and scaffolded process leading to both the identification of career and life goals and the mapping of a path forward to pursue those goals.  All students must complete the four components of the McDaniel Commitment.


McDaniel Local is one of the college's signature McDaniel Commitment experiences. Serving as your first introduction to Westminster, Maryland, McDaniel Local is a mandatory two-day, one-night event designed to help you get to know your new community and make connections with fellow McDaniel students. McDaniel Local will hone your sense of purpose as you head into college and provide you with the opportunity to connect with faculty advisors and register for your fall classes. My Place counts as one of two required experiential learning (EXP) opportunities. 

Over the next four years, you’ll build on this foundation as you discover all the ways you can make McDaniel Your Place.


In this 2-credit course completed in the first year, students will identify their strengths, life goals, and areas for personal improvement, and learn how the liberal arts can help them identify and achieve their vocation.  Most students complete My Design during their first-year Jan Term and the course fulfills the Jan Term requirement when taken during that term.  My Design is optional for transfer students.

Upon completion of My Design, you'll be ready to complete Your Design, a personalized action plan that sets the stage for the rest of your time on the Hill.


Participation in experiential learning (i.e., courses, internships, independent studies designated as EXP) requires the application of classroom knowledge to experiences beyond the traditional classroom setting. Students must engage in at least two experiential learning opportunities and transfer students must complete at least one.  Completing additional experiential learning opportunities is encouraged.  Participation in McDaniel Local meets one experiential learning requirement. The second experiential learning requirement is typically fulfilled by an internship, study abroad, a course with a substantial experiential learning component, or other approved opportunity.

Your Experience collaborating with faculty on meaningful research, completing internships, and studying abroad, will provide you with the professional skills and knowledge you need to excel in your field.


All students must complete My Career, a one-credit online course typically taken during the junior or senior year. Honors students may take My Career during their sophomore year.  My Career guides students through the next steps for professional success by providing support as they research and identify their next pursuit after graduation (e.g., career, graduate school, fellowship), prepare for interviews, and learn to write resumes and cover letters.

In the culmination of your McDaniel Commitment, you’ll use everything you’ve learned to prepare for Your Future after the Hill.

Integrated Study in the Liberal Arts

With an academic foundation in the liberal arts, we help you become an empowered critical thinker, with the knowledge and adaptability to succeed no matter where the future takes you. 

A small seminar. A close relationship with a faculty member. Intense and challenging classroom debate and discussion. We often think of these experiences as ones reserved for college students in their senior year. But at McDaniel, your McDaniel Plan experience begins with this kind of challenging and rewarding classroom environment. It's all part of your First-Year Seminar.

First-Year Seminars are designed to develop a variety of skills including writing, speaking, critical thinking, and the ability to discuss and debate with others who think differently than you do. You'll walk away with lifelong friends, a close relationship with a faculty mentor, and the skills you need to be successful in future coursework.

Selecting Your Seminar

Once you submit your deposit to McDaniel College in the spring of your senior year of high school, you will be asked to review as many as twenty different First Year Seminar course descriptions. Taught by some of McDaniel's most compelling and beloved faculty, these courses are interdisciplinary, engaging and challenging. You'll identify 3-5 seminars that capture your interest and imagination, and will submit them through your New Student Academic Survey. Prior to registration, you'll be assigned to your seminar. Over 98% of new students are placed into one of their top three seminars of interest.

Here are just a few recent examples: 


Learn to Think Like A Computer

Students set out to discover technical knowhow through exploring and surveying popular technologies.


Shakespeare's Game of Thrones

Students discover the connections and similarities between the works of the renowned Renaissance playwright and the wildly popular HBO series.  


The Examined Life

Students will explore classic philosophical questions while developing the ability to think critically about their own lived experience.

Completing Your Plan Additional McDaniel Plan Requirements

Peterson Hall

Foreign Language

The study of other languages introduces important avenues of communication and promotes linguistic, cultural, historical, and international understanding. McDaniel students must demonstrate proficiency in a second language. Popular languages at McDaniel include Arabic, French, American Sign Language (ASL), and Spanish.

Elderdice Hall

Global Citizenship

To fulfill the Global Citizenship requirement, students must take one course with a multicultural focus, and two courses with an international or cross-cultural focus. Multicultural education will give students an understanding of the cultural pluralism of American society. International education is a critical component of global education.

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Introduction to College Writing

The U.S.-based National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) recently asked employers what they look for on a recent college graduate candidate’s resume, to screen for those they will interview and potentially hire. The results? Employers are looking for leaders who can work as part of a team and communicate effectively. In fact, 73.4% of employers surveyed sought written communication skills, and it was the third most-desired quality for potential employees. It's for this reason that we provide general and program-specific writing coursework for every student. All first-year students will be given introductory instruction in writing, and students further develop their writing through a department's writing-in-the-major plan.

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Departmental Writing

Students will further develop their abilities in writing through a program of departmental writing. Each department or major program at the College provides a course or courses or a strategy to develop writing skills appropriate for its majors. Students must complete the requirement in Departmental Writing as indicated in their declared major. In some cases, this is incorporated into the course requirements for the major; in other cases, it is in addition to the requirements for the major. For further information, see the listings for the individual departments and programs or consult with the chair.

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Critical Inquiries in the Liberal Arts

As part of your McDaniel Plan curriculum, you'll select Critical Inquiry courses. These courses explore vital areas of knowledge in ways that stretch your ability to inquire and imagine. They focus on key practices and methodologies that are central to the academic search for knowledge and are designed to advance the capacity for clear, critical, and creative thinking and communication across the breadth of the liberal arts. The areas of knowledge covered by these categories are important for the development of thoughtful, informed, and imaginative citizens. The Critical Inquiry Categories include:

  • Quantitative Reasoning and Scientific Inquiry
  • Textual Analysis and Creative Expression
  • Social, Cultural, and Historical Understanding
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January Term

January Term is a three-week term between the fall and spring semesters in which students and faculty explore new areas and expand their intellectual horizons. Students choose from specially designed courses offered on and off campus. Some students take advantage of January Term for independent off-campus study or join one of the popular study tours abroad. Examples of Jan Term opportunities include:

  • My Design
  • Jan Term Abroad
  • Stress Management 101

The Major

All students must complete a major. Each major offers a basic program, involving up to 50 credit hours of required course work within the discipline and sometimes from supplementary disciplines. The McDaniel Plan provides a liberal education that combines proportionate general education and major programs of study, in addition to complementary electives and a range of special opportunities. A double major, which requires the completion of all requirements in two separate majors, is allowed. Many departments offer students the option of combining work from two or more disciplines to create a dual major.

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Explore Majors

At McDaniel, your major doesn’t dictate what you learn — it starts the conversation. Combine subjects, follow interests, and customize a degree on your own terms.

Electives and Special Opportunities

In addition to completing McDaniel Plan required courses for Integrated Study and the Major, students are encouraged to take electives courses in departments across the College. Electives should be selected with care and imagination in consultation with the academic advisor to provide valuable perspectives, information, and skills.

The option of a student-designed major/minor is available to students whose academic interests and goals cannot be served by existing programs. Approved Student-Designed Majors have included such titles as Art in Deaf Culture; Bio-Cultural Anthropology; Classical Civilizations; Criminal Psychology; Medical and Biological Illustration; Public Relations and the Performing Arts; Sports Journalism; Theatre Arts Management; and Women’s Studies.

Many students have strong secondary interests and elect one or more minor programs in addition to their primary commitment to a major program. This option not only gives students a format for exploring secondary areas, it also gives recognition on a student’s transcript that the student has completed a significant amount of study in an area outside the declared major. Most departments offer minors, various departments cooperate to sponsor interdisciplinary minors, and some offer vocational or career minors.

Independent Studies

Independent studies provide students with the opportunity for individual study under the direction of a faculty member. The study, agreed upon by the sponsoring faculty member and the student, should be an experience not available within the regular college offerings.

McDaniel College conducts an active program of student internships through cooperative programs with government, business, industry, institutions, and individuals. An internship is an on-site work experience that can be paid or unpaid, held during the summer or throughout the academic year, and is often a student’s first experience in a professional setting. 

Continuing Education

The College encourages applications from adults who have not begun or who have interrupted their college educations. They may enter as either full- or part-time students. Full-time students are eligible for financial assistance. Annually the College enrolls a significant number of these nontraditional students and makes efforts to be sensitive and responsive to their unique academic situations and needs. 

Second Bachelor’s Degrees

The second bachelor’s degree program at McDaniel College is designed to meet the needs of students who have completed an undergraduate degree in one field and wish to become proficient in another. Students may elect any major offered at the College and must meet all academic requirements for that major as well as the general education requirements. 

"My time at McDaniel allowed me to gain a broader perspective on life and education. The liberal arts education gave me knowledge not just in my major, but in a variety of subjects providing me the ability to think outside the box."

Rebekah James, Class of 2013, U.S. Army of Medical Research Institute in Infectious Disease