Independent Studies: A Unique Learning Opportunity

by The Cowl Editor on January 25, 2018


A Providence College professor and student collaborating in an independent study.
Ceramics professor Judd Schiffman and Da-Neil McFarlane ’19. Kristina Ho ’18/The Cowl.

by McKenzie Tavella ’18

Opinion Staff

It is hard to believe that I have gone nearly my entire college career without taking or even knowing about one type of course. My friend changed the course of my college career when she turned to me and uttered two words: “independent study.”

Providence College defines an independent study as academic work chosen or designed by the student with the approval of the department concerned, under an instructor’s supervision, and usually undertaken outside of the regular classroom structure.

After learning more about independent studies and personally experiencing them, I truly see the value in this alternative to a regular course. Independent studies should be a part of every student’s college experience.

There are many reasons why each student should take an independent study while attending college. It is typically one-on-one—just the professor and the student. For some, this may seem intimidating;  however, it is also extremely beneficial because this structure is more reflective of the real world. When you are going on a job interview or having a weekly meeting with your boss, the skills you learned in your independent study will come in handy. Additionally, the focus will be all on you at all times, therefore there is no dawdling or “zoning out;” you must be attentive and alert constantly.

Beyond the one-on-one set-up, the independent study is also very representative of how a student’s life will be outside of college. There are no rubrics or guidelines in the real world. Rather, you simply get an assignment from your boss, and then must carry it out as you see fit.

In an independent study, you have a weekly meeting with your professor, where you typically give them an update on your progress and discuss the next steps. It is your vision driving the progress, not your professor’s. Similarly, in a professional environment, once your assignment is finished, you will either pass or fail. Either your boss will like it, or he or she will not.

Ultimately, an independent study is a practice run for your career after graduation. As a senior, I am immersing myself in an environment that can only help me.

It is more “outside” work, but it is less time inside a classroom, providing for a more open schedule. This effort spent on going to class is used for more productive reasons, such as making progress on your semester-long, in-depth assignment.

If there is anything you can take out of this article, it is not only an awareness of independent studies, but also an amazing opportunity to further your knowledge, and gain practical experience.

Therefore, I encourage everyone to try and take an independent study on a topic of their choice with a professor who sparks their interest before graduating from Providence College.