Independent Study: Everything Your Need to Know

This refers to a path of study through which students can earn extra credit towards their degree when they complete specified non-classroom tasks assigned to them. A student pursues independent study with little to no supervision. A student and their professor will normally agree upon a topic for the former to research with minimal guidance and instruction from the latter for a particular number of academic credits.

For well-motivated students, independent studies offer a method to pursue a topic of interest that doesn’t essentially fit into a traditional academic curriculum. Thus, such studies help students gain research experience or learn specialized material.

With independent study, students get opportunities to explore their personal interests on a deeper level, which helps them decide where and how they’ll direct their studies in the future. To understand independent study, one can focus on the theory of learning from a distance where the student is at a mental or physical distance from their teacher. The thread that connects the student and the teacher is typically something like a research project or an essay.

In an independent study, students will essentially create their own course on a topic of their choice by working jointly with their faculty advisor. Students who’re seeking something different – an opportunity to research, have a unique field experience, or just explore a topic in more depth – should consider choosing an independent study under a faculty supervisor. In some cases, faculty members may be willing to have the students assist with their research projects or guide them for their study on a topic of mutual interest.

Students must invest a lot of effort into their independent studies, but they reap rich benefits too. These include a more focused exploration of a topic of interest, one-on-one attention, and a schedule that’s more flexible than the traditional curriculum. Some programs may even allow two or three students to conduct an independent study as a team if they prefer it.

Though faculty supervisors will differ in how they conduct the meetings with their students pursuing independent studies, most will expect students to lead discussions. They are likely to ask questions to help students spell out what they’re thinking and what types of issues they want to discuss or need guidance with. Thus, an independent study gives students an excellent opportunity to explore modes of learning that might differ from the established college  curriculum. This way, it complements and supplements what the regular college  curriculum already offers.

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