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Independent Courses in College Studies

written by: Tia Ahmed•edited by: Elizabeth Wistrom•updated: 6/27/2011

Independent study college courses are very different from the traditional courses offered at most on campus type of college. This form of course can open a lot of doors for students who want to pursue a subject or topic that is currently not being offered to the student.

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    What are Independent Courses?

    Independent study college courses are offered at most institutions as an alternative to traditional classroom and lecture setting. These courses should not be confused with online courses. Even online courses have a professor who assigns topics following a certain criteria and limit a student's exploration. Although similar to online courses, independent courses do not have to follow a certain criteria or guideline. They are designed with the sole purpose to allow a greater exploration for the student, but they are still monitored and advised by professors. The only difference is the student is in charge of what they want to learn as opposed to following certain guidelines. Most institutes require a final exam or final presentation for credit. For instance, an independent art study will require a final presentation of all that the student has learned through a painting.

    How do you get an independent course? Ask your college advisor or counselor about the college's policies. Some colleges, sadly, do not offer independent study credits. Make sure to ask as this may differ greatly. Some colleges need a topic or subject to be approved by them before the student can pursue the independent course for credit.

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    The Pros

    The most important element is time. There is more time to work on studying for an exam or working on your presentation. There are no real due dates unless your proctor insists or your college has greater restriction. Time is invaluable when studying in college.

    Next is the freedom of topic, an independent study can be about anything and everything the student desires. The only restriction is that it has to be approved by the college faculty in order for it to count as credits toward the student's degree.

    And the registration process in most colleges can be throughout the year. Some traditional courses are only offered during the fall or spring semesters. Independent studies can be offered anytime and some colleges even allow students to begin an independent study in the middle of the semester.

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    The Cons

    Independent study college courses are not without flaws. For one, it is hard to complete a course that is an independent study because there is too much freedom. There are no designated assignments or guidance when it comes to a college level independent study. Another con for this type of course is the lack of student peers. Having student peers to form study groups or work on a presentation together helps allow a student to better understand the material and be able to work with others better.

    The last and most important con is that most institutes constitute their own policies into the independent study program and most of their studies are only offered if the student can find their own materials and topic of interest. There is usually no list of independent studies and so then only students who have a specific route or path in their academic career it isn't an open door for everyone.


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    Want to Take an Independent Study?

    As discussed before, independent study college courses can be gruesome if people don't know what they are in for. If you have a very tight schedule and cannot fit a course in, take an independent study. If you cannot stand sitting in a classroom for an hour, take an independent course. Remember, an independent course is still a college level course and should be treated as such. Also, not every college follows the same policies on independent studies.