Independent Study

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Sometimes gifted students want to learn about topics that are not offered at their own schools. Fortunately, these students do have an option when it comes to their studies. Independent study is a great way to shape a program to your own personal needs.

What Is an Independent Study?

An independent study is a course of study that a student pursues... well, independently. Students plan a course of study in cooperation with a willing advisor who also sticks around to make sure that the student stays on track and completes assignments and tests.

Students pursue independent study for a variety of reasons. Usually, students look to independent study when they have an interest in a special topic that’s not offered at most high schools. Some examples of special topics would be courses like Asian-American history, British Literature, or Chinese language.

Beware! There are a few things to consider before you begin. First, you must be sure that you have space for an elective course in your diploma program. Don’t attempt an independent study if there is a chance that it will send you off your diploma schedule!

Secondly, you want to make sure that any pre-packaged course you choose is sponsored by a reputable institution. There are some seedy programs out there.

How Does It Work?

Generally, there are two types of independent study programs: pre-packaged courses and self-designed courses. You will find that there are many pre-packaged online programs available from colleges and universities around the nation.

While independent study courses have been a part of college studies for a long time, high schools are just getting around to offering independent studies for students. As a matter of fact, if you attend a small high school you may find that there is no policy at all. You may be the first student to ask, which means you’ll have some work to do.

Check with your counselor to make sure that an independent study will fit in your diploma program. Of course, you want to graduate on time!

Once you know it’s feasible, you can initiate the process of independent study by asking a teacher or counselor to serve as advisor. You will work with the advisor to decide the type of program to pursue.

Designing Your Own Independent Study

If you decide to develop a program, you may need to come up with a proposal package that you will submit to a panel of teachers, the guidance counselor, or the principal. Again, every school will have its own policy.

In your proposal, you should include a course topic description, a syllabus, a list of reading materials, and a list of assignments. Your advisor may or may not choose to test you on the material. Often the final research paper will suffice.

Pre-Packaged Independent Study Programs

Many universities offer high school-level online independent study courses or courses that you complete through the mail.

University programs have many advantages. The programs have been designed by university staff, and quite often they are monitored by staff as well. They are less work for you and your advisor.

However, they do have one big drawback. You guessed it—the price! Individual courses normally cost a few hundred dollars.

You can sample a few programs that are available through Brigham Young University and the University of Oklahoma.

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Fleming, Grace. "Independent Study." ThoughtCo, Feb. 16, 2021, Fleming, Grace. (2021, February 16). Independent Study. Retrieved from Fleming, Grace. "Independent Study." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 30, 2023).