Independent study can be a rewarding and enriching experience. It is an opportunity to work one-on-one with a professor to explore a topic that you are passionate about. An independent study course will allow you to design your own approach to the topic, in consultation with the faculty member, so that you can get the most out of the experience.
It is important to have a realistic attitude when deciding on and preparing to undertake and independent study project. First of all, it is essential that you be open minded and willing to explore the topic in ways you may not originally have anticipated. That is the wonder of indepedent study: it can open new doors that are just for you but unexpected and therefore extra-enriching. Secondly, it is vital that you be realistic and grounded in desiging your course of study and setting expectations for yourself and the faculty member you will work with on this adventure. If you try to do too much, you will likely be disappointed and end up not getting the full benefit of the experience. On the other hand, if you don't include enough in your plan of study you will miss out on an opportunity that might not present itself again.
That brings us to the third and probably most important pice of advice: plan well, follow your plan, and be open to revising it if needed. Any independent projeft such as this must be well planned. You cannot "wing it" or make important decisions on the fly over the course of the semester. For accountability, both for yourself as well as for the professor and department sponsoring the course, you must present and agree upon a plan in advance so that expectations and responsibilities are clear and everyone involved will remain accountable to each other.
For more information or to get started, visit your professor during office hours (check the department website and/or the professor's office door, or email for an appointment). Discuss your ideas, take the necessary time to write them out, then submit the plans and get registered. It's that easy!