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Plan of Concentration

The Plan of Concentration is Marlboro’s term for the biggest idea you’ll have in college. For most students, their Plan comes to define their time at Marlboro.

Every Marlboro student is required to complete a Plan, a two-year exploration on a theme of their choosing, and to produce a substantial research project that supports that work. (It’s more than an undergraduate thesis or a senior project, but those are good concepts to keep in mind.)

Your Plan can be written, visual, or performance-based—or a combination.

On Plan you’ll take Marlboro’s self-directed learning model to the next level. You will take advanced classes and do your own research through study away, internships, or grant-funded academic exploration, while working one-on-one with professors. Every Plan is unique; you can take inspiration from anywhere, but you’ll be charting a new academic path. And we’ll make sure you’re ready: by the time you start your Plan work, you’ll have all the skills you need to bring a big, ambitious project from conception to reality. (And that is a superpower you can use in almost any aspect of post-college life.)

At the end of senior year, you will present and defend your project to Marlboro faculty and an outside reviewer who is an expert in your field of concentration.

Explore Plans

How does it work?

Let’s take a closer look at a Plan in action. There are hundreds of amazing plans to choose from, and we encourage you to explore our Plan Gallery to find projects that seem similar to your interests. But here’s an example from a few years back: Anna Goren’s project “Visualizing Data: Maps, Graphs, and the Coffee Industry.”

Anna took a class about the history of map-making, and she loved it. So she decided she wanted to include GIS mapping technology in her Plan.

In her junior year she chose her theme—how mapping software can help the coffee industry become more sustainable. Next, she refined her focus with help from faculty advisors in math, environmental studies, and history, the academic areas that best related to her plan.

Anna’s advisers helped her select classes in anthropology and cartography that dovetailed with her theme. They also worked with her in one-on-one classes, called tutorials.

Anna’s tutorials, “Remote Sensing and Agricultural Production” and “Intermediate GIS,” helped her understand the data tools she used for her Plan. She also turned her independent, hands-on research into a map portfolio included in the final Plan.

By studying history and anthropology, Anna was also able to zero in on cultural inequalities and sustainability issues in the coffee industry. Focusing on coffee production in Indonesia, she wrote two in-depth papers that examined how remote-sensing and map-making technology could shift the power balance toward native coffee growers and make them less vulnerable to weather-related catastrophes.

About a month after successfully defending her Plan, Anna got a job with the Vermont transportation department working on a GIS-mapping project.

Read Anna’s full plan


(a mostly random selection of Marlboro microdestinations)