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Independent Study, Graduate

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 should:
  • Obtain faculty adviser approval: Students should discuss with their faculty adviser the possibility of conducting an independent study.
  • Carefully read the Independent Study Proposal Guidelines to learn about requirements and how to develop a proposal.
  • Refer to the Student Checklist to investigate the planning timeline for these steps.
  • Generate a basic idea: Identify 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 contact the prospective instructor to propose the study and discuss the plans for the work.
  • Complete and submit the Independent Study Proposal form for review and approval by the student's adviser, the independent study instructor, and 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 Graduate Students

  • Students are required to submit an Independent Study Proposal form by the published deadline listed for each semester. Students who cannot meet this deadline are advised to register for a classroom course in place of the independent study, and may submit the proposal for a future semester.
  • Individualized projects (Independent Study and Tutorial) may be conducted during the Fall, Spring, and Summer terms. No individualized projects are allowed in January term.
  • The Gallatin Independent Study course (INDIV-GG 2901) is offered at the Washington Square campus only.  Remote independent studies are not permitted. 
  • Generally, the work for an independent study should be comparable to a graduate-level classroom course. See the Independent Study Proposal Guidelines for specific instructions regarding requirements. 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 units. The number of units determines the number of readings and amount of work assigned. See the Independent Study Proposal Guidelines for specific requirements.
  • Only instructors employed by NYU can be the instructor for a Gallatin Independent Study. All instructors must be located at the Washington Square campus.
  • Independent studies are graded with letter grades (A through F).
  • The independent study proposal cannot duplicate an existing class, nor can a student take a course as an independent study, unless there is a valid exception. If an NYU course exists that covers the content of a student's proposed independent study, the student is expected to enroll in the NYU class.
  • Meeting spaces for an Independent Study are identified and secured by the student and/or instructor. Please note that personal spaces (i.e. an apartment or dorm room) are not suitable. It is recommended that the instructor or student book an NYU space through Bobst Library.
  • The Gallatin program is designed for a careful balance between independent and classroom experience. Graduate students may therefore take a maximum of 12 credits of Individualized Projects. This includes any combination of Independent Study, Tutorial, Internship and Private Lesson credit. If a student receives credit for Course Equivalency, this will decrease that graduate student's allowance of Individualized Project credit.
  • 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:
  1. Adviser’s Approval
  2. Instructor’s Approval
  3. Completed Proposal Form
  4. Description of the Study
  5. Readings
  6. Written Work to be Evaluated
  7. Syllabus


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

If, after reviewing the proposal guidelines and checklist, you need further information about independent study, please contact Kathe Ann Joseph in the Gallatin Office of Student Services: (212) 992-9822 or

Guidelines for Instructors of Independent Studies

Faculty who agree to be the instructor of a Gallatin Independent Study, can learn more about this role by reading the Independent Study Instructor Guidelines.


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