Demystifying the Individualized AOC
Building your own AOC is one of the little-known perks of attending New College, but the process can be confusing for many.

Demystifying the Individualized AOC

The New College of Florida’s undergraduate program offers 47 different Areas of Concentration (AOCs) for its students to receive a degree in. The College’s humanities, science and social science divisions are all exceptionally well-developed. The scale of the school, however, sometimes means it’s difficult to get the exact degree that a student may want. If a student is seeking a more specialized bachelor’s degree in something the school doesn’t readily provide, then it might seem like they’re out of luck.

While designing an individualized AOC is something that New College readily boasts about, most students have most likely never had the actual process explained to them. Creating your own AOC can seem like an exercise in futility—it’s hard to really even imagine where to start, especially for a first year or someone who has been online for the past few years. While the process is consistently daunting, there is a relatively simple (if somewhat intensive) way to design an individualized AOC.

The process is actually relatively easy to start. A student needs to know what they want their individualized AOC to be—Microbiology, for example. Then, they need to ensure that the school actually has the resources to functionally provide them with an education in Microbiology. One or two classes on Cellular Biology isn’t really enough, but considering the breadth of New College’s Biology curriculum, there’s no problem making sure that the school offers enough classes for someone to actually create this degree. 

Laura Perkins (’18), an NCF alumni with a Cognitive Science individualized AOC, recommends “[checking in with] the Office of the Registrar and asking to see their book of past Special Program AOCs.” 

“There you can see the documents that each student had to submit in order to get their own AOC,” Perkins explained. “It can save you a lot of time and effort because you might already have your part of or all of your AOC laid out for you.”

Then comes the most integral part—assembling a department for the AOC. New College is as of recently bursting at the seams with faculty, a fact you’ll need to take advantage of. To manage an individualized AOC, they need to find a sponsor and, as the New College website characteristically mentions in passing, two more faculty members to sponsor your AOC. One of the most important pieces of advice comes from Danielle Robbins (’19), another alumni. 

“Find trends within your coursework,” Robbins said in an email interview. “[Your advisors and professors] will provide the help and resources to ensure the process goes smoothly.”

Once they have all of this information, they need to write a proposal that will detail how, exactly, they are going to take the requisite classes to actually create an entirely new AOC, and how they’re going to do the work once they have it. Assuming all goes well, congratulations! An individualized AOC has now been created!

There are a few small pieces of advice for those trying to do this. When it comes to a more creative major, especially considering how little the school actually seems to offer in the way of the arts, or something more traditional to a larger university, like advanced business classes, then it’s important to remember the Cross College Alliance. If a class is not offered at New College, then University of South Florida (USF) Sarasota-Manatee campus, Ringling College of Art and Design or the State College of Florida (SCF) might offer a substitute.

It’s also important to note that although creating an individualized AOC is certainly a worthwhile endeavor, there are other options. Students interested in two different but at least somewhat related fields can look into a Joint AOC before going through the work of building their own AOC, and some fields of study will simply allow them to go more in-depth (like Biopsychology.)

New College has always emphasized the importance of a flexible and individualized education, but allowed the process of building their own AOC to remain utterly arcane to the vast majority of its students. If someone wants to emulate these Novo ideals to the highest and don’t see their major on the list of AOCs, then optimally this guide has given a mostly clear path to accomplishing that, and a good idea of the work needed to achieve it. 

As Robbins put it, “While this idea of creating your own AOC might sound complicated, it’s a relatively straightforward process and often worth it!”

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