Customized Academic Learning

What is Customized Academic Learning?

Customized Academic Learning (CAL) is the collective term used to encompass group and individual academic work outside of a structured class offering which can be completed for academic credit. CAL can be completed as an individual or as part of a group of two or more students.

Individual CAL

Independent Research

Planning and conducting experiments, collection and analysis of data, and the reporting of results.

Academic Internships

Practical work experiences which have an academic component as certified by a member of the faculty.

Independent Study

A program of study and reading under the tutelage of a faculty member.

Group CAL

Group Research

Conducting research within the lab group of a faculty for which there are regular lab group meetings that require attendance and participation by undergraduates.

Group Project

Two or more undergraduates simultaneously working on the same task (other than research) under the supervision of a faculty member.


To register for CAL, you will need to identify a position or project that is appropriate, and a faculty sponsor to oversee your work. You and your faculty sponsor need to discuss and finalize the academic details of your CAL including credits, grading method, course title, and assignments.

Faculty Sponsor

Your faculty sponsor must be a full-time Homewood faculty member.

The person who directly supervises your work may fit this requirement; for example, if you are working with a faculty member on research in their lab. Confirm with them that they will act as your faculty sponsor for this position/project.

If the person who will be supervising your work is not a full-time Homewood faculty member, you will need to identify one who can serve in this role. Your faculty advisor should be in a department that is an appropriate match to the focus of the CAL. Confirm that this faculty member will be able to act as your faculty sponsor before you register.

Academic Credit

For every one credit of CAL, you will work 40 hours over the course of the semester. How you and your faculty sponsor keep track of this time should be decided when you begin the experience. Students are limited to three credits per research or independent study experience and six credits of CAL in an academic year (running from the summer to the following spring). Please plan ahead if you plan to pursue multiple CAL experiences in an academic year.

Finding Opportunities

The Hopkins Office of Undergraduate Research (HOUR) can provide students with tips for securing research and other opportunities.

You can also connect directly with faculty members to inquire about research opportunities. Contact information can be found in the WSE faculty directory.

How to Register

How to register for CAL


In the Fall or Spring semesters, you may add Customized Academic Learning (CAL) in SIS Self-Service until the end of the 6th week of classes. The Registrar provides the exact date of this deadline for each term.

Submission Instructions

  1. Log in to SIS, then select Registration → Online Forms → Independent Academic Work from the menu.
  2. Fill out the form with the requested information.
  3. Select the Submit button.

The form will be sent to your faculty sponsor for approval. After they have approved it, it will show in your confirmed enrollments in SIS.

Summer and Intersession

Summer and Intersession terms have differing deadlines and procedures for requesting CAL. Find your term on the Registrar's Undergraduate Registration page and follow the instructions.

How to request an exception for a late CAL add

If an extenuating circumstance prevented you from submitting your CAL request before the deadline, you may request a late add of CAL with approval.

Submission Instructions

  1. Download the Undergraduate Research, Independent Study, Internship and Departmental Thesis form and complete the required information.
  2. Obtain an email approving the late CAL add from your faculty sponsor.
  3. Email your professional academic advisor. In your email, include
    1. the faculty sponsor approval email
    2. a detailed explanation of the extenuating circumstances that necessitate a late CAL add
  4. If your professional academic advisor approves your request, log into SEAM and open a ticket. In your ticket, include:
    1. both approval emails
    2. an explanation of why you missed the initial deadline

Summer and Intersession

Summer and Intersession terms have differing deadlines and procedures for requesting CAL. Find your term on the Registrar's Undergraduate Registration page and follow the instructions.

Additional Information

Read the full policies and procedures for Customized Academic Learning in the academic catalogue.