I am a family and human services major, which means that a year of my college education was spent completing senior seminar. This is a class in which you either write a book or produce a thesis of original research.
You probably already knew that a significant amount of headspace and conversation was occupied by this project.
Here are a few things I learned in the last year, which may be especially helpful for senior seminar students, but I think it could potentially be good for others
- Senior seminar matters so much. Completing a project of this scope has the potential to bring lots of things to the surface, to solidify passions, to increase confidence and to make a healthier and more balanced person. We can choose to get serious about our academic work at any point, but completing a project of this scope is an obvious time to really buckle down. I walk away from the experience deeply grateful for the opportunity to study seriously something I care about and also with a renewed sense that studying, writing and discovering gives me life. I gain incredible fulfillment from learning, and that realization will help guide me through my next several years.
- Senior seminar doesn’t matter most. Senior seminar is an undergraduate research project, and it will not be the most important academic work I will ever complete. When I look back in 10 years, it won’t be the thing that I will be most proud of. Hooray! It is a good and exciting thing to be able to place senior seminar in its proper context‑as a stepping-stone to future opportunities. Because of this, I can work hard and strive to do well without attempting to attain perfection. When I turned in my thesis, I did it with the conscious awareness that my literature review could have been significantly better. But I also didn’t pull a single all-nighter. I’m pleased with my end product, and I’m also pleased with the health and balance I maintained throughout the process.
- You’re not the only one doing something hard. I went into the year with the resolution that I would not, as long as circumstances were manageable, complain about senior seminar. This resolution can be applied to anything, though. I did this because, before I even started my project, I had already grown weary of the talk that surrounded senior seminar. The truth is, people don’t love hearing about how stressed you are. Ours is not the only major that does something hard. Art majors have galleries and portfolio shows. Cinema majors make actual movies. Have you ever actually talked to a business major about strategic management? Do you realize how hard the MCAT or LSAT are? There are lots of people in different fields doing incredible, academically rigorous work. In fact, there are a lot of people doing things that are way harder than senior seminar. Put your small and momentary pain of academic rigor (which is really privilege) in perspective (read: get over yourself).
Talk about how much you’re learning, or growing, or finding your passion, or the fantastic poem you read during your study break, or the fantastic pint of ice cream you somehow ate during your study break or the playlist you made to help you write. Train yourself not to use the word stressed. Frankly, it’s boring and unoriginal.
School is awesome, because, when we pay attention and take advantage of the opportunities afforded to us and listen well and study hard and care about what we’re learning, we become better intellectuals and better humans.
Guy is a senior majoring in psychology. She can be reached at GuyLN@jbu.edu.