The following years of a student's undergraduate career continue to emphasize breadth of learning in the arts and sciences. At the same time, the student gives increasing attention to developing intellectual discipline in the systematic exploration of a major field of study and the design of a comprehensive academic plan. Grinnell offers three types of major programs:
- A major in one of the traditional disciplines such as economics, physics, or Spanish. The majority of students choose a departmental major program.
- An interdepartmental major, in which specified amounts of work are taken in more than one academic department. An example of such a major at Grinnell is general science.
- An independent major, in which the student pursues a program of study designed in consultation with two faculty advisers. Recent examples are international relations, human geography, and cognitive science.
When a student selects a major program, a member of the faculty engaged in that study becomes his or her academic adviser. Sometimes this adviser is the same person who was the student's tutor. Even if the student changes advisers, the principle that advising should be linked to teaching and learning continues to be followed. Both student and adviser share an interest in the objects of their study. As the student begins increasingly to consider a career or further study after graduation, he or she profits from the advice of a faculty member aware of opportunities in the student’s field of interest. Often, mentored advanced projects are important and appropriate capstone experiences. Preparing for such projects and working to disseminate their results help students gain perspective on the journey they have taken in their undergraduate years and the paths they will follow after graduation.