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Dr. Kat’s List: Five Colleges to Celebrate Your Independence

It’s July and one of the US’s most treasured holidays, the Fourth of July, is upon us, and Americans across the country are celebrating their independence.

For high school students, the lure of independence is most closely associated with the transition to college, where they can break free of the traditional high school curriculum and explore their individual interests. Many colleges and universities let students do just that, with programs that give students the freedom to develop their own courses of study and command their own educations.

This Fourth of July, show your red, white, and blue by building a balanced college list including schools that allow students to have academic freedom. From customized majors and curriculums, to co-ops and work studies that let students learn independently and on their own terms, here are Dr. Kat’s schools to celebrate your independence!

Swarthmore College, Swarthmore, PA
In college, ultimate freedom can arise from the opportunity to create your own major, and at Swarthmore College in Swarthmore, PA, students get to do just that! In the school’s special majoring program, students have the independence to design their own course of study with the help of advisors from all departments.

Students pursing the special major track can design their own major in areas such as biochemistry, astrophysics, and psychology. For many concentrations, there are already curricula in place created by previous students that special majors can use to help design their own track, or students can start from scratch with faculty support.

Previous Swarthmore special majors include urban studies, technology and the human experience, behavioral economics, and sustainable development studies. Often students pursuing a special major must complete a thesis or other approved project in order to fulfill course requirements to graduate.

Located southwest of Philadelphia, Swarthmore’s 425-acre campus is home to over 1,545 students. This private liberal arts college offers more than 40 courses of study including the special major program. It is also a member of the Tri-College Consortium, along with Bryn Mawr and Haverford College. Students also have the opportunity to take cross-registered classes at the University of Pennsylvania.

In line with it’s creative majoring, Swarthmore students also get creative with their on-campus clubs and organizations. The school offers over 100 student organizations including Boy Meets Tractor, a sketch comedy group, and Knit-Wits, a club for knitting enthusiasts!

NYU Gallatin, New York, NY
New York University‘s Gallatin School of Individualized Study is the most well-known program for independent study and curriculum. Students have the freedom to design their own programs of study with very few requirements.

Students develop their courses of study with the help of a faculty advisor, and concentrations are usually based on a theme or central idea related to topics like a period in history or a current social problem.

The program has about 1,500 undergraduate students, studying anything from mathematical neuroscience to music business and community arts. Students take classes in related departments as well as in Gallatin, and can enroll in courses such as The Global Neighborhoods of Downtown Manhattan, Poets in Protest: Footsteps to Hip-Hop, and Narrating Memory, History and Place.

New York University, located in New York City, is a private research university organized into 18 schools, colleges, and institutes. With close to 40,000 students, NYU is one of the largest private higher education institutions.

Even though NYU is located in the heart of NYC’s Greenwich Village, NYU students are known for gaining international independence, due to one of the most active study abroad programs. NYU sends more students abroad than any other US college or university, with many students opting to “study away” at one of NYU’s international campuses in places like Prague, London, Paris, and Abu Dhabi.

University of Redlands, Redlands, CA
Another school where students can celebrate their independence, but also work collaboratively, is at the University of Redlands’s Johnston Center for Integrative Studies.

Established in 1969 as an alternative living and learning experience created by students and faculty, the Center for Integrative Studies is a part of the College of Arts and Sciences and allows the Center’s 200 students to not only create their own majors, but also live and learn together.

Students in Redland’s integrative studies program live in two residence halls in the Johnston complex, which also includes faculty offices, classrooms, community spaces, and a coffee house. Students design their courses of study in conjunction with the faculty, and write their own contracts for their courses. There are also no grades, only narrative evaluations given by the faculty.

Students have graduated from the Johnston Center at Redlands with majors like Astro-Politics, Approaching the Human Condition with Awareness and Compassion, and Race and Ethnic Studies, Identity and Media.

The University of Redlands is a private liberal arts university located in Redlands, CA, about 70 miles east of Los Angeles. Redlands has about 4,500 students, over 100 on-campus clubs and organizations, and 21 NCAA Division III teams.

While Redlands students get to celebrate their academic independence, they also recognize that others depend on their service. All Redlands students are required to participate in a community service learning activity. Students participating in a Community Service Activity Course (CSAC) can work at a variety of non-profits, hospitals, and schools.

College of Wooster, Wooster, OH
The College of Wooster in Wooster, Ohio, is known for allowing students to celebrate their academic independence though the school’s required independent study (I.S.) program.

During senior year, Wooster students delve into a topic of their choice and work one-on-one with an academic advisor to develop a thesis or project for the I.S. requirement. The I.S. projects range from lab research to creative visual designs, and even dance and theatre performances.

During the I.S., students meet with their advisors once a week for an hour and explore the possibilities of a particular topic. Faculty advisors review drafts of final projects, provide feedback and direction, and allow students to work independently while also acting as a resource. When students complete their I.S. projects, it is said that they feel they have “earned their independence.”

College of Wooster is a private liberal arts college with a heavy emphasis on undergraduate research. Apart from academic freedom in the I.S. program, the college’s 2,000 students have the independence to choose from various courses of study, including designing your own major, and over 120 students clubs and organizations.

Freshmen Wooster students are also required to take the school’s First-Year Seminar, a small, writing intensive class, that helps students explore the liberal arts and arm them with the necessary critical thinking skills to succeed in their courses of study.

Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA
Academic freedom doesn’t have to just refer to creating your own major or courses, it can also mean having the opportunity to work in a field of interest outside the classroom while also earning credit toward graduation.

Georgia Institute of Technology’s co-op program is known as one of the most robust and is one of the oldest in the country; the program is celebrating its centennial this year.

Since its inception, Georgia Tech’s co-op program has become the largest in the country, with participants earning $8,000-$10,000 a term. Students have the independence to gain experience in their field of study without financial concerns since co-op participants do not pay tuition for their 12-hour audit course enrollment while they are working.

While this university is the leading supplier of graduates to the aerospace and defense contracting industries, and specializes in co-op programs for engineering students, the school also provides co-op employment across various other majors in their five-year program.

Georgia Tech, located in downtown Atlanta, is a public research university with close to 22,000 undergraduate and graduate students. Georgia Tech students enjoy NCAA Division I athletics, with the Yellow Jackets in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC). The school’s location in Atlanta also offers students the opportunity to explore events, shops, and restaurants off-campus.

These colleges are proof that freedom and independence in college isn’t just about moving away from home; it’s also about having the opportunity to create the education that’s a best-fit for your goals!

Other schools that allow students to celebrate their independence through individualized study and other academic programs outside of the classroom include Northeastern University, Drexel University, Ithaca College, Michigan State University, and Indiana University.

For more guidance on what academic programs you should be pursuing, contact us today for more information on an Initial Consultation and on-going programs.


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