The interdisciplinary environmental studies major usually accepts applications from sophomores in February, but this year it is offering an early December application deadline for students who already wish to apply.

This is the first time the major is allowing students to apply early, said Paul Sabin, director of undergraduate studies for environmental studies. Early admission, he said, will allow students to choose their spring classes with environmental studies in mind. Students who apply by Dec. 21 will learn if they are admitted by Jan. 11, while the regular application deadline is Feb. 24.

Sabin added that the major is not capped and that applying early or later will not affect a student’s chance of admission. The major — which combines coursework in the natural sciences, social sciences and humanities — requires an application so that faculty can ensure students are prepared for the “special challenges” posed by the mix of disciplines and have a plan for what area to concentrate in, he said.

“Two application dates allow students who are ready to apply in December to know whether they have been accepted prior to finalizing their spring classes,” Sabin said in a Wednesday email. “Students who are still figuring out whether environmental studies is the right fit for them, or who are still completing coursework towards the prerequisites, may benefit from applying in February.”

The early application option comes as the major has seen increased student interest in recent years. In 2009, 14 seniors graduated with environmental studies degrees, compared to 27 that will graduate in 2012 and 31 majors in the class of 2013, Sabin said.

He said he attributes the increase to “growing interest in studying complex environmental problems” and a rising awareness of the major as more students take courses in environmental studies. To accommodate this interest, the major has created new course offerings, including new junior seminars, and intends to develop new field courses in the next year, he added.

Students who apply to the major must submit a resume, transcript and statement of purpose.