Independent Study

It’s the culmination of your four-year journey to intellectual independence: a yearlong project that allows you to throw yourself into a topic you care about.

What exactly is I.S.?

It’s like being in a class of one – literally; I.S. takes the place of one of your four classes each semester of senior year. With the one-on-one support and guidance of a faculty mentor, you will plan, develop, and complete a significant piece of original research, scholarship, or creative expression – culminating in a major research paper, an art exhibit or a performance – that pulls together what you’ve learned and demonstrates the analytical, creative, and communication skills you have honed at Wooster.

J.C. Chandor '94 directing actor Robert Redford on movie set
J.C. Chandor ’94, writer and director of “Margin Call” and “All Is Lost,” wrote, shot, and edited a film for his I.S., which he now cheerfully admits was “a total overreach, too vast in scope and scale…but I got jobs right away after graduation based on it.”

How does it work?

In weekly, hour-long, one-on-one meetings, your faculty adviser will help you refine and focus your topic, suggest areas for exploration, ask questions that provoke your thought and creativity, and evaluate your progress toward the project’s completion.

Don Kohn ’64, former vice chairman of the Federal Reserve, whose I.S. was titled “Flexible Exchange Rates as a Means to Stable Markets: Theory, Practice and Evaluation,” says, “It has served me well because I have been thinking about closely related issues my entire career.”

You, in turn, will review and synthesize literature related to your subject, plan and conduct your research, or work to realize your creative vision in the studio, recital hall, or theatre. You will share drafts of your work with your adviser, who will offer thoughtful feedback as a close collaborator. Over the course of the year, you may make presentations on your work to other students in your major.

Through it all, you will be learning not just about a specific topic, but about how to break down any complex project into manageable pieces, develop a plan of action, and follow it through. You will learn how to analyze a problem, gather and evaluate information, propose a solution, test its validity, and communicate your results clearly and persuasively.

Does all that work pay off?

Your completed I.S. is tangible proof that you have developed key skills and abilities that employers and graduate schools alike value. As the president of the Association of American Colleges and Universities told a recent graduating class at Wooster, “Employers want employees who can write…who possess analytical skills, creativity…and a multidisciplinary perspective.” Most of all, they want people with the capacity for continuous innovation, which she likened to “an everyday exercise in I.S.”