Frequently Asked Questions for Individualized Plan of Study

  1. As an Interdepartmental Studies student, do I get any priority for the classes I need from different departments?
  2. What happens if none of the courses from my Plan of Study are available to me in a given semester?
  3. Can I take advanced-level courses that are not on my original Plan of Study and count them toward my plan?
  4. Can I use transfer coursework in completing this advanced-level coursework for my Interdepartmental Studies major?
  5. If I major in Interdepartmental Studies, am I required to be a full-time student?
  6. Can I get some help in writing my Plan of Study?
  7. Are Plan of Study ever rejected, and if so, on what basis?
  8. Can I revise a Plan of Study and then re-submit it?
  9. Can I major in Interdepartmental Studies and another major?
  10. Can I complete a certificate with Interdepartmental Studies?
  11. Can I earn a minor with Interdepartmental Studies?
  12. What appears on my transcript?
  13. If I major in Interdepartmental Studies, can I graduate with Honors?
  14. How can I describe this major on a resume?
  15. How do employers and graduate schools view this major?

 

  1. As an Interdepartmental Studies student, do I get any priority for the classes I need from different departments?
    No, but the Academic Adviser may write faculty members on a student's behalf, explaining the nature of the student's individualized Plan of Study.  Often departments give priority to their own majors before accepting others from outside departments or programs.  For this reason, the Interdepartmental Studies Program offers flexibility.  If one course will not work, the student’s Plan of Study has an approved alternate within that theme area that the student can substitute.
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  2. What happens if none of the courses from my Plan of Study are available to me in a given semester?
    A course planned for another semester, or a course listed as an "alternate" in the plan, may be taken.  In some cases, a related course that was not part of the original plan may be approved by the Faculty Advisory Committee.
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  3. Can I take advanced-level courses that are not on my original Plan of Study and count them toward my plan?
    Yes, but the course needs prior approval to be used as a substitute course.  This is obtained by submitting a request to the Academic Coordinator.  It will be approved or denied by the Faculty Advisory Committee. 
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  4. Can I use transfer coursework in completing this advanced-level coursework for my Interdepartmental Studies major?
    No. All coursework toward the major must be taken at The University of Iowa.
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  5. If I major in Interdepartmental Studies, am I required to be a full-time student?
    No. Students may be enrolled full-time or part-time.
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  6. Can I get some help in writing my Plan of Study?
    The program's Academic Coordinator is always willing to review plans in draft form and offer suggestions for possible revision.  In fact, many students take advantage of this help, and may write several drafts before submitting a final copy to the Faculty Advisory Committee.
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  7. Are Plans of Study ever rejected, and if so, on what basis?
    Plans of Study may be rejected if they do not meet basic program requirements, or if some of the proposed courses would not be available to the student.  Plans may also be rejected if the narrative lacks focus, or fails to explain why the student has not chosen a departmental major.  The members of the Faculty Advisory Committee may also reject a plan if they feel that the student's goals are unrealistic, or may be better served by a traditional departmental major.
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  8. Can I revise a Plan of Study and then re-submit it?
    Yes, if the Faculty Advisory Committee recommends revision, the student may revise and re-submit his/her Plan of Study.  Each student whose plan is rejected receives a letter carefully explaining why the committee made its decision and, if appropriate, listing specific suggestions for revision.  The Academic Coordinator also attends review meetings and can help clarify the requested revisions.
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  9. Can I major in Interdepartmental Studies and another major?
    Yes, students can major in Interdepartmental Studies and another major, as long as no more than six semester hours of coursework overlap between the two.  Most students who choose to complete a double major want to develop a second area of interest that either complements or contrasts with their first focus.  Some recent double majors have included biology and interdepartmental studies (with a women's studies focus) as preparation for medical school and a specialty in gynecology, and psychology and interdepartmental studies (with a focus in educational administration).
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  10. Can I complete a certificate with Interdepartmental Studies?
    Yes, and there is no rule about coursework overlap here. Students who exercise this option may expand on an existing certificate program.  Their final transcripts note the completion of the certificate as well.
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  11. Can I earn a minor with Interdepartmental Studies?
    Yes, but a particular course may not be used to meet the requirements of both the major and the minor.
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  12. What appears on my transcript?
    The designation "Major/Interdepartmental Studies" appears on a student's transcript. In parentheses immediately following the major designation is the specific title of the student's Plan of Study, e.g. "Sustainable Systems."
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  13. If I major in Interdepartmental Studies, can I graduate with Honors?
    Yes, but a student follows the honors requirements of the specific department or program most closely related to the Plan of Study. For example, an Interdepartmental Studies student with a focus in international development might work with the geography department, following the guidelines for honors already established by that department. Upon graduation, the student's transcript would include the designation "Major/Interdepartmental Studies; Honors/Geography."
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  14. How can I describe this major on a resume?
    A student often specifies on a resume the focus of the individualized Plan of Study.  For example, a student might write "degree with an emphasis in diversity studies; course highlights include …" and then list coursework related to the self-designed major.
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  15. How do employers and graduate schools view this major?
    It depends on the job or graduate program.  If a student wants to be an accountant, s/he should major in accounting!  But for many purposes, the Interdepartmental Studies major is an asset, because it allows a student to design an individualized academic program.  In part because of the Plan of Study requirement, students in this program tend to be very articulate about what they have done and why.  They explain their programs of study well either to prospective employers or to graduate school admission committees.  Indeed, some interdepartmental studies students have actually included part of their original Plan of Study in cover letters or in autobiographical statements of purpose when applying for jobs or graduate programs.  The Academic Adviser can provide suggestions about creating effective resumes to highlight coursework, goals, and aspirations.  The Plan of Study gives focus and expression to a student's individualized academic program.  Thus, although some students may find the process of writing a Plan of Study a difficult one, they see its value in the long run.


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