Individual Tutorial Courses

Sometimes a student may request that a department approve an individual reading, writing, or research tutorial course conducted by a member of the department’s faculty. This may be done under the following conditions:

  1. The material of the proposed course must be appropriate to the qualifications of the student.
  2. The student must secure not only the instructor’s approval of the work to be covered in the course, but the approval of the director of undergraduate studies as well.
  3. There must not be an existing graduate or undergraduate course to which the student has access in which the work proposed may be accomplished.
  4. The instructor must meet with the student regularly, normally for at least one hour a week.
  5. The course must have a “product,” such as a term essay, a series of short essays, laboratory or project reports, a portfolio, a performance, or a final examination.
  6. Students may not receive academic credit for paid research experiences.

Some departments limit such courses to majors, and some departments limit the number of tutorial courses an instructor may offer in a year. In any case, instructors should not feel obligated to overextend themselves by offering reading or tutorial courses to which they cannot give adequate supervision. If the instructor’s department has a course rubric for individual study, then such a course may be offered under the conditions set forth in the course description in the YCPS. If not, the student must apply to the Committee on Honors and Academic Standing for a Special Term Course, in which case the student brings a special form for the instructor and the director of undergraduate studies to complete.

The Yale College Faculty has established limits on the number of independent research or tutorial courses that a student may take in any term and, cumulatively, before the senior year. For a full description of these limits, see item 4 in Normal Program of Study under Course Credits and Course Loads in the Academic Regulations. A student who wishes, for sound academic reasons, to exceed these limits must petition the Committee on Honors and Academic Standing, with the support of the instructor and the director of undergraduate studies, for special permission.

The Yale College Faculty has voted that, beginning in 2014–2015, all independent study courses other than senior essays or projects shall be graded only on a Pass/Fail (“P”/”F”) basis with the additional expectation that the instructor of record submit a substantive report that describes the nature of the course and evaluates the student’s performance in it. A report template is available for online submission through the Faculty Grade Submission website (FGS).