James Mignano—As a freshman a few years ago, I remember being overwhelmed by all of the required courses I needed to take. Between my Communications major, Business minor and general education requirements, it didn’t seem like I would ever be able to finish them all.
As it turns out, I was wrong. I actually ended up finishing my major and minor and still had plenty of time leftover to take some additional courses that I was really interested in. One of the coolest experiences that this scenario has provided is completing an Independent Study.
I didn’t know much about these rumored independent studies before this year, so I’ll assume there are some of you who aren’t familiar with it either. Here are the basics:
- It’s a real class, for which you get real credit.
- The topic and requirements are completely designed by yourself and your professor.
- There is no formal “class time,” but you do need to meet periodically with your professor.
While on the surface, this sounds awesome because there is no course meeting time, there are two way more significant benefits to consider:
1. Get to know a faculty member at a much deeper level
Chances are, your topic of study will be shaped by the area of expertise of your independent study professor. The books that you read and papers you write will probably be centered on things that the professor knows very well. This is great, because it will lead to some great discussions on those topics when you do meet with your adviser.
Faculty members are often a great bridge between students and the professional community that they are attempting to enter. Working closely with a professor could ensure a great letter of recommendation or introduction to an internship hiring manager.
2. Have an individualized educational experience
The course catalog at Brockport is huge, and there is certainly an academic area of study to meet every interest. But of course, the classes that a school offers could never be perfectly in-sync with one individual’s career and educational goals.
An independent study, on the other hand, is built around your interests and goals. For example, I’ll be working with a local organization to conduct an in-depth communications audit this semester. As someone that hopes to soon work for a Public Relations agency, this is super valuable experience!
Key Takeaway: Work hard throughout your time at Brockport to complete the necessary classes mandated by your major/minor field of study, because completing an Independent Study is a unique and valuable opportunity.