Skip Navigation

Independent Study Guidelines

Designing an Independent Study

Designing an independent study is an important part of the project, and together the student and instructor should discuss the aims and content of the study. The independent study proposal should include the study’s title, theme, readings, work to be submitted, and syllabus. While plans for the independent study may be tentative at the time the proposal form is submitted, students should fill out the whole form and not leave parts blank or “to be decided on later.” The Gallatin Office of Student Services will not accept incomplete forms from students. Projects often change but it is important to put the plan in writing at the beginning of the semester so that the student and professor have a clear understanding of the work involved.

Proposal Design Guidelines

Number of Credits and Meeting Hours

Generally, independent studies are two, three or four credits. Credit amounts outside that range require explicit justification and special approval. The number of credits is determined by the amount of work to be completed and should be comparable to that of a Gallatin classroom course. The number of credits also determine the meeting hours. While the days and times of the student’s meetings with the instructor are “to be arranged,” instructors and students meet for a minimum number of hours per semester: for a 4-credit Independent Study, the minimum number of contact hours is seven (7). In arranging contact hours, instructors and students may choose to meet every week for one-half hour, every other week for one hour, or less frequently, if appropriate, as long as they meet for a minimum of seven hours over the course of the semester. Contact hours for an Independent Study which is less (or more) than 4 credits should be prorated accordingly (e.g., a 2-credit independent study should meet for a minimum of 3.5 hours). As in any other course, the student should come prepared for these meetings by completing readings and written work on time

Credit Limitations

While students are encouraged to engage in independent work with the University faculty, the Gallatin program is designed for a careful balance between independent and classroom experience. Graduate  students are permitted to earn a career maximum of 12 credits in individualized projects (any combination of independent study, internship, tutorial, or private lesson credits.)

Title of the Independent Study

If a student chooses, the title of an independent study will appear on his/her official transcript. Please check the “Title On Transcript” box to indicate this. It should be a useful, descriptive title that reflects the unifying theme and content of the study. It should not duplicate an existing NYU course. The words “Independent Study” will appear before the title on the transcript: for example, “Independent Study (The Plays of Arthur Miller).” The title is limited to 26 characters including spaces and punctuation.

Description of Study

Like the course description in a college catalog, this part of the proposal essay should describe the general theme and scope of the independent study. The theme may be stated as a problem to be investigated, an issue to be explored, or an argument to be defended. The essay might indicate where the student is starting out and where s/he would like to get in terms of answering a question, exploring a phenomenon, understanding a theory, building a skill or other goal. It should articulate the theme and strategy of the study as clearly as possible within 250 words.


The student must provide a reading list with authors and titles, even of tentative, along with the proposal. The list should be comparable to a similar classroom course list (e.g., interdisciplinary seminars often assign 6 – 10 books, depending on length and complexity.) Readings may change during the semester as the study evolves, but the preliminary list should be appropriate for the number of credits, and should indicate the kind of works to be read. Proposals for creative projects should include readings, as well.

Work to be evaluated by the Instructor

The proposal should indicate the kinds of work (response papers, research essays, creative works, etc.) which will be evaluated by the instructor. Assignments should be comparable in extent to a similar classroom course (e.g., interdisciplinary seminars typically assign about 25 pages of writing over the course of the semester. Provide details about the work, including the number, length and type of work to be submitted (e.g., two research papers, once 10 pages and the other 15; a portfolio of 20 exhibit-quality photographs plus four reading response papers of 2 pages each). Ultimately, it is up to the student and instructor to determine the specific format of the work to be evaluated by the instructor. The work for the study should be submitted according to the schedule of due dates agreed upon at the outset, and as with a classroom course, late work may be penalized.


The student must provide a schedule of meetings which includes the topics, the readings, and assignments to be covered during each session. Students can revise and adopt their syllabus with their instructor once the semester begins.

Approval Signatures

Both the instructor’s and adviser’s signature are required on the attached proposal form. While the instructor may agree to supervise the student’s work, the student’s adviser determines whether it is appropriate for the student to undertake an independent study. Proposal forms submitted without these signatures will not be approved by the Associate Dean’s Office.


Fall and Spring Submission Deadline: the last day of the first week of classes

Summer Submission Deadline:  the first day of the session (Gallatin offers 2 six-week sessions)

Instructor's Credentials

An instructor for a Gallatin Independent Study should be an NYU faculty member. In rare cases a professor from another university or college might be approved to instruct an Independent Study.

The Faculty Committee on Individualized Studies strongly urges students to locate NYU faculty to direct their independent study. In rare instances a student may seek to work with a professor at another institution. There is no guarantee that a non-NYU faculty member will be approved as an instructor of a Gallatin Independent Study. Students seeking to work with non-NYU faculty members must attach the professor’s curriculum vitae (CV) with the proposal form for review by the Faculty Committee on Individualized Studies.

The Role of the Instructor

The instructor should meet regularly with the student to discuss readings and provide feedback on writing assignments or other projects. The instructor will also be asked to notify the Gallatin Office of Advising by the middle of the term if he or she has any concerns about the student’s progress and performance. At the end of the term, the instructor assigns a letter grade.

Designing an Independent Study

Designing an independent study is an important part of the project, and together the student and instructor should discuss the aims and content of the study. The independent study proposal should include the study’s title, theme, readings, work to be submitted, and syllabus. Please use the Proposal Design Guidelines section of this Web page as a resource for designing the independent study.

Confirmation and Payment

Complete the Instructor Information section of the proposal form. This information is needed by Gallatin in order to compensate the instructor supervising the student’s work, as well as to provide grading materials to the instructor. If the instructor is not an NYU faculty member, the instructor’s curriculum vitae should be submitted with the proposal form.

Payment for the Independent Study is processed after the student has officially registered. Instructors are paid per credit for each student. An email confirming student registration and the payment amount will be sent to all instructors the forth week of semester. To confirm student registration in advance of the email please have the student bring a copy of his or her schedule to the first meeting. If you have any questions regarding payment before then, please contact Kathe Ann Joseph,

*Please Note: Instructors should not begin working with students until the student is officially registered.

Limitations and Other Policies

Faculty (full-time and part-time) are limited to supervising no more than five (5) Independent Study courses per term. (Fall, Spring, or Summer). As with a classroom course, independent studies have a minimum number of contact hours (for more details, please see the “Number of Credits and Meeting Hours” section of the Independent Study Proposal Guidelines.

** If at any point a situation arises that may complicate or prohibit the completion of the independent study, even if it is a minor complication, please contact Kathe Ann Joseph,  212-992-9822, immediately.