Next year is my last year of university and I’m excited to say that I will be taking not one, but two (!) Independent Studies.
Independent Studies are courses which allow students to explore a topic of their own interest, usually under the guidance of one specific professor. Personally, I’ll be taking two Independent Studies next year (one in Political Science, one in Sexual Diversity Studies) where I’ll be exploring topics of my own interest. For both Independent Studies, I was able to design the course I was going to take: I chose what professor I wanted to work with, what topic I wanted to study, and what assignments I wanted to complete.
Though Independent Studies may seem intimidating and a lot of work to apply for, I think they’re an incredible opportunity that many students don’t know about. When deciding whether to take an Independent Study or not, a couple factors really pushed me to do it.
- Working on something that interests you: Though I didn’t have very specific interests in the first few years of university, by third year I started to understand what I was interested in studying, especially after taking a couple impactful courses with my favourite professor. Once I narrowed my interests to a specific area of study, other classes in different topics didn’t seem so appealing. An Independent Study will allow me to spend my year studying exactly what I want to study.
2) Getting to work with a professor closely: I also wanted to take an Independent Study because it’ll allow me to work one-on-one with a professor I respect. Though students can work one-on-one with professors during office hours, learning independently with them is a different and fantastic opportunity! It’s also a great way to form connections with professors that may come in handy down the road if you need a reference letter or other form of support.
3) Trying out graduate research: Finally, I was drawn to Independent Studies because they allow me to practice skills useful for graduate school. As an undergraduate, it can be hard to imagine what it’ll be like to write a big thesis or work in an important lab during your graduate studies. So, an Independent Study is the perfect opportunity for me to practice writing a thesis and sharpening my analysis skills.
To apply for my Independent Studies, I went to my program of study’s website, where I found an application form. I filled out the application form (which asked me to detail the course I was proposing), asked my professor if they would supervise my Independent Study, and submitted the form to the department for approval. Overall, it was a bit of work but definitely worth it!
Due-dates for Independent Study applications vary per program but many are still open for the upcoming academic year!
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