What is Independent Study?

You may have heard the term independent study during your college journey. Another name for this is distance learning.

This is a program where you do all of the studying and homework at home. You are given a set amount of time to complete specific classes and you can go as fast or slow as you want.

Every school has a different program, but their main aim is to be flexible and work around any student's busy schedule.

These kinds of programs take self-motivation. Since you don't have a class that you meet at regularly, you'll need to plan accordingly.


Independent study programs are self-paced. This makes them very convenient for the student who is already busy with a full-time job or raising a family.

Most programs have several (sometimes hundreds) of classes that you can take. You'll have a set amount of months to complete the course. But, you can usually get it done quicker if you'd like.

Some independent study programs are not tied to a semester. You can enroll in them whenever is most convenient for you. Convenience is the name of the game.

You will most likely have the option of having your class internet or textbook based. This means that you will either do the whole class online or out of a book. Some might use both.

Tuition Rates

Tuition can vary from school to school and depend on the classes you take. This is something you need to double check before you register for any independent study courses.

Since the distance learning program is essentially for anyone, no matter where they live, the tuition and fees can be the same for in and out of state students. No out of state tuition is a great benefit.

Check with the cashier's office at your school to get the full and complete details concerning your distance learning program. You will also have to check with the continuing education department.

Your Situation

Are you in a situation where you are considering independent study? Probably yes, or you wouldn't be on this page.

Most people will enroll in these distance learning programs when they want to finish a degree, do some continuing education for their job, or because it is most convenient for their life.

If you are trying to finish a degree, there are a few things that you'll need to do:

1) Find out if you have any credits from previous school(s) you've studied at.

2) Call the transfer office at the school you want to go to and see which credits they'll accept as transfer credits toward the degree you will be doing


3) Request an official transcript from your old school to be sent to the new school so that the credits will transfer.

There are specific requirements to request a transcript. This usually requires filling and out an official transcript request form with your name, date of birth, student number or social security number, and a mailing address.

Independent Study

An official transcript usually can't be ordered over the phone. But more and more schools are allowing you to order them online or by faxing in the form.

If the school has a way to order transcripts online directly through the school's website, then use that method. Otherwise, you can try the National Student Clearinghouse if you're attending a participating school.

How to Succeed with Independent Study

You can succeed in any class if you just learn good time management and goal setting skills. Have a goal each week to complete a specific amount of work.

This can be adjusted to your busy life. I would recommend setting aside a half hour or full hour everyday (or more if necessary), at the same time each day, to do your school work.

Giving yourself a daily dose of homework and study will help you learn and retain material better. You will complete your assignments well before due dates. Pressure to finish assignments will be minimized.

As I mentioned before, self-discipline is required for any distance learning or independent study program. Make sure to set achievable goals, and then make plans to do them! Then, stick to your plans the best you can.

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