Independent Study

Independent Study is a creative option for students wanting to explore an area in more depth. The provisions for Independent Study are intended by the faculty to foster students’ intellectual development. It is hoped that students will develop the capacity to plan and execute projects of their own conception and will acquire a competence in original research and writing beyond that required by the regular courses of instruction.


Independent Study is a way of exploring an area in more depth between a faculty director and a student who already know one another or when the project falls in an area with which the student has had some prior familiarity.

Low priority should be given to requests that duplicate existing courses.

Academic Components

In order to receive course credit, independent studies and internships must contain an academic component. Merely completing hours at a placement or in an extracurricular activity is not sufficient to gain academic credit.

The independent study form should clearly give a detailed description of the study, the academic work to be completed and how it will be evaluated. For example, faculty directors and students should specify reading lists (or at least the first set of assignments if the remaining readings are to be determined at a later date), the project to be completed (e.g., paper, video, artwork) and frequency of meetings with the faculty director. All Independent Studies must be approved by the Curriculum Committee.


No more than three different independent studies should be offered by a faculty member each semester and no more than five in the summer.

Independent study credit may be given only for work accomplished during the semester or summer the student is receiving credit.

Students cannot take more than two course credits in independent studies in any one semester, unless approved by the faculty adviser and the Academic Standards Committee. Descriptions should show a clear separation of content when two independent studies are arranged in the same semester. An independent study normally carries one course or half-course credit. A quarter-course independent study may be approved by Curriculum Committee, but only once per student.

A proposal for an independent study (I.S.) that involves more than one course credit in a single semester or over multiple semesters must be approved by the Curriculum Committee. The Committee’s decisions in such cases will be governed by the educational merit of the proposal and will be consistent with policies governing regular courses. For example, since most courses cannot be repeated for credit, the Committee will not approve a second semester I.S. in cases where the second semester I.S. replicates the work of the first semester. A second semester I.S. that is the part of a sequence such as Chemistry 14 and Chemistry 15 may be an exception to this rule. Normally, the Committee will not approve a third semester of course credit.

Field of Study

An independent study is given credit only in the field(s) of appointment of the faculty member offering it and should reflect the teaching or research interests of the faculty member.

An independent study cannot be used to fulfill the Educational Objectives of the College, unless approved by the faculty adviser and the Curriculum Committee. In the case of the Natural Sciences objective, approval must also be given by a faculty member in Science.


Independent study forms must be submitted no later than one week after the last day of pre-registration prior to the semester when the independent study will be conducted. Summer independent studies must be submitted no later than the deadline specified in the academic calendar and grades for Summer independent study projects are due by the seventh week of the Fall semester unless an earlier date has been set by the instructor. Any independent study forms received after the last meeting of the Curriculum Committee must be approved by an associate dean or dean of faculty.

Any independent study forms submitted late must include a completed “petition to add” form with evidence that the independent study has been in progress.

Approval from the Curriculum Committee to add an independent study after the last date to add courses is subject to an assessment by the Committee that the goals of the study can still be achieved in the remaining part of the semester and have not been affected by the late start. Consideration of a late independent study by the Curriculum Committee should not be interpreted as a preliminary statement of approval.

Students will be notified of the status of their independent study via their Pitzer e-mail address.