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Independent Study

An independent study provides students with the opportunity to work one-on-one with a faculty member on a particular topic or creative project. Often the idea for an independent study arises in a course; for example, in a seminar on early 20th-century American history, a student may develop an interest in the Harlem Renaissance and ask the instructor to supervise an independent study focused exclusively on this topic during the next semester. Students may also develop creative projects in areas such as, but not limited to, music composition, filmmaking, or fiction writing.

Below is an outline of the process that students follow to set up an independent study.  Because the student and the instructor are designing a course, students must begin this process a full semester in advance.  Students can refer to the Student Checklist to investigate the planning timeline for these steps: 

  • Students should discuss with their faculty adviser the possibility of conducting an independent study.
  • Generate a basic idea: a problem or a question, a time period, a literary genre, a natural phenomenon, a philosophical theme, or a creative skill.
  • Identify an appropriate instructor: the student's faculty adviser or Gallatin class adviser; a member of the Gallatin faculty or other NYU faculty; and with special approval, a professor from another university or college. Contact the prospective instructor to propose the study and to discuss the plans for the work.
  • Complete and submit the Independent Study Proposal form for review and approval by Gallatin's Faculty Committee on Individualized Studies. Please note that submitting a proposal does not guarantee approval.
  • Identify an alternate course to take in case the proposal is not approved.

Policy for Undergraduate Students

  • Generally, the work for an independent study should be comparable to a Gallatin classroom course.  The specific format of the work will be determined by the student and the instructor who will evaluate it. They may choose several short papers, or a longer paper written in sections as the work progresses and depending on the nature of the study, video productions, paintings or music productions may be appropriate. 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.
  • Independent studies may be taken for two, three or four credits.  The number of credits is determined by the amount of work to be completed.
  • 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). Contact hours for an Independent Study which is less than 4 credits should be prorated accordingly (e.g., a 2-credit independent study should meet for a minimum of 3.5 hours).
  • 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.
  • While students are encouraged to engage in independent work with University faculty, the Gallatin program is designed for a careful balance between independent and classroom experience.  Undergraduate students therefore may register for no more than 8 credits per semester in any combination of independent study and/or tutorial.  
  • While independent study provides students with the opportunity to work one-on-one with an instructor, in general, long distance independent studies are not permitted. (NOTE: Students who will be studying at one of the thirteen NYU global locations may not enroll in the standard Gallatin Independent Study option (INDIV-UG 1901).Students are permitted to take only the courses listed in the NYU global site course offerings. Please consult the specific site course offerings by linking to the site page from the Studying Abroad website.)
  • Students enrolled in another NYU school are generally not permitted to apply for a Gallatin Independent Study.  In rare instances a student from another NYU school might be able to take a Gallatin Independent Study with a Gallatin professor. In all cases, students should contact KatheAnn Joseph for more information.
  • Students are expected to adhere to the proposal submission deadline. The completed independent study proposal consists of:

 adviser’s approval

instructor’s approval

completed proposal form

description of the study



  • Please note that independent studies do not fulfill any area of the liberal arts requirement or the historical and cultural requirement.



Students interested in pursuing an independent study should review the Independent Study Proposal Guidelines and the Student Checklist.

Instructors for a Gallatin Independent Study should read the Instructor Guidelines.