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Independent Study

Students in good academic standing may earn credit for an independent study or an internship that counts towards their major or minor at the School of Communication. 

You may choose to enroll in courses which involve independent reading or research projects related to your program of study under the guidance of a full-time faculty member. Independent study may be defined as a course in which a student, by arrangement with an instructor, reads a body of material with a minimum of formal instruction, or it may be defined as a course in which a student conducts research on a topic agreed upon by the student and the instructor. You may also be able to pursue other modes of education in consultation with and under the approval of your instructor. 

Registration for an independent study takes place during the regular registration period for a semester or any summer session. You may add one of these courses until the end of the add/drop period in the fall and spring semesters or until the end of the second week of a summer session. 

Students registered in independent reading courses or research projects may be assigned conventional letter grades or grades of Pass or Fail, according to agreement made at the time of your registration. If the independent study is undertaken for credit toward your major or minor, however, the course must be taken for a letter grade. Either way, the course will be registered as COMM-490 for undergraduates or COMM-690 for graduate students. 

How to Register

To register an independent study that counts toward credit at the School of Communication, you must follow the steps below. Please note that this process is only for independent studies undertaken through the School of Communication (the COMM course prefix). Independent studies through other schools at American University may follow other procedures.

  1. Decide on an area of concentration for your project. This may derive from a strong interest you hold, or perhaps you want to explore a course topic in more depth than what was covered in class.
  2. Ask a full-time faculty member to supervise your work.
  3. With your supervising instructor, document the title, objective, scope, grade type (letter grade or Pass/Fail), credit value (1 to 6 credits), and method of evaluation for your independent study. The assistant dean in the School of Communication must approve the independent study and your instructor’s involvement, ensuring that the independent study does not duplicate a course already in the school’s curriculum. To determine the credit value, you must determine how much work will go into your project. Credit value must be between 1 and 6 credits. 1 credit hour equals 40 hours of work over the course of the semester, so for example, a 3-credit-hour course would require 120 hours of work over the semester, or about 8 hours per week. Graduate students should submit the SOC Independent Study Contract before moving on to step 4.
  4. Submit the American University Independent Study Registration form.
  5. Once approvals are obtained, your academic advisor will submit the forms to AU Central for you to be registered for credit for your independent study.

If you earn credit for an independent study, you are considered to be registered for an academic course. Like any credit-bearing course, there is a cost. During the fall and spring semesters, if a student's total credit hours are between 12 and 17, the independent study will fall under the block tuition charge. However, if the independent study credits cause your total credit hour count to go above 17, there will be a charge for every credit hour over 17.

During the summer, students pay for courses by credit hour. Therefore, your total cost would depend on the number of credit hours in your independent study.

More information about tuition and fees.