January 14, 2014

Tough Questions to Ask When Choosing a College: Can I Create an Independent Study?

Admissions letters are rolling in and hopefully that means a lot of good news. It also means it's time to make some tough decisions that will impact the rest of your life. When you take a tour of campus you'll inevitably hear all of the most attractive facts about campus and see all of the newest buildings. But if you're going to commit to spending the rest of your life as a student then proud alumnus of that school, you need to get to the real essence of what it's like to be a student there and get a degree with that college's name on it. So, yes you want ask the usual questions and look at the dorms, and see the classrooms, and learn about the clubs they offer. But asking the right questions will help you learn the information you might not think about that can make a difference in your success and happiness both on campus and after you graduate. This is the second in our new series aimed at helping you do that. Today, we're talking about a lesser known way to get academic credit for an internship and how it can help you. 
Stilfehler at wikivoyage shared [CC-BY-SA-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Can I Create an Independent Study if A Subject I Want to Study Isn't Offered?


Independent studies are an often overlooked but incredibly useful tool for getting exactly what you want out of your college education. Essentially, they allow you to create a course studying what you want overseen by a professor of your choosing (if they'll agree to it) and get credit for it. Why is this so important. Well, for one thing, it means if you have a professor who spent some time working in an area you are particularly interested in them, you could use it to set up a class to spend time working one on one with them to learn more. It may mean getting credit for booking a tour for a band managed by one of your professors or getting credit for time spent doing working at the recording studio another professor manages. It's fantastic and extremely invaluable. Still, there's another fantastic use for independent studies and it relates to something we talk about pretty frequently. See, one key requirement for most internship programs is that you get academic credit for your internship. The problem is that, as we discussed before, many schools actually have limitations on when and how frequently you can do an internship. This is where an independent study can be especially helpful. If you really have your eye set on an internship that requires college credit creating an independent study can create a loophole in your college's usual internship system (assuming they'll be willing to approve it). You would need to find a professor willing to oversee this and check in and be sure you internship is going well and set up a system with them to get evaluated and earn a grade, but it can really be a great way to earn college credit for completely an internship without getting official "internship credit." In fact, a friend of mine used an independent study to get academic credit for going on the road with a band as a tour manager and managed to pursue that goal while still staying enrolled in school as a result. So, it's definitely worth asking about when you're choosing which college to attend!
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