• Self-Directed Learning

  • The New School’s Self-Directed Learning (SDL) program reflects the commitment of the Bachelor's Program for Adults and Transfer Students to experiential learning that is rooted in praxis (the production of new information or insight through the iterative relationship between action and reflection), promotes social justice, and involves creative practice, intellectual inquiry, and civic engagement. 

    SDL enables students to connect their learning with the world outside the classroom through applied, experimental, innovative, and practical projects as they consider the following questions:

    • What does it mean to make something?
    • What theories of experience and learning guide my project?
    • What contributions does my project make to existing work or fields of practice and inquiry?
    • What role does reflection play in ensuring excellence and rigor in my work?
    • What does it mean to be both a learner and a practitioner?


    All students are required to commit to two semesters of coursework. Students earn a total of three Liberal Arts credits - two credits for SDL Fundamentals and one credit for Reflections - as well as project-based credits. Students are strongly encouraged not to  apply for more than four project-based credits in their first program year. No student may earn more than six project-based credits per semester. Students may earn a total of 12 project-based credits over multiple semesters.


    Students participate in SDL Fundamentals, a ten-week, two-credit liberal arts course. During the semester, students focus on creating a proposal that clearly defines the rationale, learning outcomes, and scope of the project. Students gain the skills necessary to determine not only what they will do but also what they will learn, how they will learn it, and what resources they will need along the way. Students also begin to understand how their work relates to other work and to established fields or disciplines and identify a content specialist or faculty mentor who will provide expertise in relevant areas. To complete the course, students produce a final project proposal that includes a proposed number of project credits, a clear rationale, learning objectives, a work plan, deliverables, and forms of evaluation. Once their project plan is approved and a content specialist or faculty mentor is confirmed, students can move on to the spring semester.


    • SDL Reflections, a five-week, one-credit liberal arts course in which students focus on building skills in reflection, support, documentation, and assessment as they carry out their projects
    • Project-based credits, reduced-cost credits students earn as they carry out their projects (the number of credits earned depends on the number of credits approved in the project proposal)

      Post-Coursework for Continuing SDL Students

      After completing the two semesters of coursework and the initial project, students can further develop their project or embark on an entirely new project. In either case, a new project proposal is required, as is the confirmation and approval of a content specialist or faculty mentor.

      Deadlines for Continuing SDL Students

      Summer project proposal deadline: May 3
      Fall project proposal deadline: August 15
      Spring project proposal deadline: December 10


      The three Liberal Arts credits are billed at the regular price. Project-based credits are billed at $415 per credit.

      How to Apply

      Please complete an application. Applications for new SDL students are reviewed in the spring semester. Once admitted to the program, students are provided with registration information for the fall SDL Fundamentals course. A key part of a successful application is a concrete idea for a project—something more than an abstract concept like “gentrification” or “racial justice.” The project idea is developed during the program year.

      For more information, please contact [email protected].

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    • Contact Us

      Admission Contact
      Office of Undergraduate Admission
      72 Fifth Avenue, 1st floor
      New York, NY 10011
      [email protected]
      212.229.5150 or 800.292.3040

      Program Contact

      Joyinn Paulin
      66 West 12th Street, room 918 
      New York, NY 10011
      [email protected]

      Laura Cronk
      66 West 12th Street, room 503 
      New York, NY 10011
      [email protected]
      212.229.5611 Ext. 2435

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    To apply to any of our undergraduate programs (except the Bachelor's Program for Adults and Transfer Students and Parsons Associate of Applied Science programs) complete and submit the Common App online.

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    To apply to any of our Bachelor's Program for Adults and Transfer Students and Parsons Associate of Applied Science programs, complete and submit the New School Online Application.


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