Taking A 199 Class To Prepare Your Thesis

Visa requirements for J1 students force you to take at least 12 credits every quarter. This means that you usually have to take three classes per quarter. Depending on your ability, your major and your extra activities, this can allow you or not to prepare your thesis in the meanwhile.

If you want to work on your thesis and have your work recognized at UCSD, you should think about taking an Independent Study.

An Independent Study figures in your transcript exactly like a normal class (it's usually numbered 199) and can only be taken with a PASS / NO PASS grade. It can be of 1 to 4 units, so if you take a 4 units Independent Class you can fulfill your visa requirements with that and two other courses.

These are the main steps and information to enroll and complete an Independent Study.

Find an advisor

In your Independent Study you have to be advised and followed by a UCSD professor. He or she will also grade your work at the end of the quarter. To find an advisor, you should definitely look among the professors you had a class with (unless it is the first quarter).

If you write them and fix an appointment, they can usually provide you a list of topics you can focus your research on. They will probably ask about your previous results, interests and abilities, especially if they didn't have the opportunity of grading you in an exam. Be ready to talk about the topic you're interested in, describe your previous career (even with some "GPAs" or "rankings", if you have any).

Once you start to work with your advisor (or with a postdoc / PhD student or similar he can assign you), you can think about asking to enroll in an Independent Study with him/her.

Filling the Independent Study form


The form is made by 4 carbon copy sheets, you have just to fill in the first one and then give the different copies to some recipients:

  • the white sheet is for the Registrar office
  • the canary sheet is for the Department
  • the pink sheet is for the students (that is, you)
  • the goldenrod sheet is for the instructor

There are for different sections that have to be completed (see the example in the figure, click to enlarge)

I. To be completed by student

Here you have to fill in the following data about you:
Name, PID, Current Address, College, City, State, Zip, Local Telephone, Email address - it's just your personal data
Quarter - the quarter during which you want to take the 199 course
Major - EAP students officially don't have a major, but it's easier if you just what you think is your major. Maybe add an "EAP student".
Special Studies Course Information - a part from the number of units, that depends on the time you want to spend on this study (from 1 to 4 units), the other field will be completed actually together with the department undergraduate advisor, after you already talked with your professor.
Current Quarter Schedule - just list all the courses you are going to take together with the independent study
No. of Units previously received for this project - zero if you never applied for an independent study, the correct number if it is the second quarter you're working on the same project

II. To be completed by instructor and student

Name of Instructor - your advisor will fill in with his/her name
Teaching title - generally professor
Prerequisite course work or knowledge - if the professor can think of some prerequisites, he/she can list them here (for example, a previous course that you took with him/her)
Nature and frequency of contact - the number of hours that you'll spend meeting with your advisor, something like 3 is ok for a 4 units Independent Study
Means of evaluation - as the Independent Study will have a PASS/NO PASS evaluation at the end, it's a good idea to decide with the professor what will be considered satisfactory by him and which will be the way your work will be evaluated (paper, report, test, ….)
Proposed plan - a brief description of the project (not really needed)
This section has to be signed by both student and professor.

III. To be completed and verified by Department

The department should write here your current GPA and the number of units you completed (see credit and grading system). You have to leave the form to the Department Undergraduate Advisor and in a couple of days the Department Chair will sign and stamp it.

IV. Exception only

Your college has to fill in this section only if you need a particular approval. That is if you fall in one of these categories:

  • you want to take more than 4 units of special studies in one quarter
  • you don't have 90 units of previous work completed
  • you GPA is less than 2.5
  • the forth week of the quarter already passed

Of course *ANY* international student doesn't have 90 units of previous work completed, because he/she is at UCSD by max 2 quarters. There are two solutions: if you or your department already wrote in section III that you only have TOT units, less than 90, you should go to your College Undergraduate Advisor and they should approve your form in another couple of days (they will probably require a letter from your professor saying that he knows that you don't have 90 units, and it can be quite embarrassing going to your professor and ask to answer to this question, when he perfectly know that you arrived at UCSD a couple of month before…) The other, highly unofficial solution, if not to cross anything in section IV and bring the form to the Registrar office with the first 3 sections completed. They will take it, and you're enrolled. I know it's not the best thing to do, but I hope everybody understand that something is wrong in enforcing the 90 credits rule for international students.

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