This past Friday, my senior-class colleagues in the Croft Institute for International Studies and I hit a milestone in our undergraduate education: We turned in the second drafts of our senior theses for edits and review.
After beginning the projects in August, it was a relief to turn in nearly finished products and see the hard work of seven months come to fruition.
While not all programs at Ole Miss require a thesis for graduation, the Croft Institute and honors college are two that do.
The freshmen in both programs are told by their academic advisers — and procrastinating seniors — to start thinking about possible topics early on, but most put it in the back of their minds until junior year at the earliest.
After all, graduation is years away!
The best advice I ever had in regard to my senior thesis was to choose a topic that interested me.
From experience, I can say that even though everyone gets frustrated with their research topic at least once during the process, having a real interest in the outcome of the thesis helped to propel me forward when the last thing I wanted to do was research or write.
Starting the project is a daunting task in itself, and many students end up with more than 60 pages by the time it’s all said and done.
After all of this work, is it really worth it?
A select few students in the Croft Institute and honors college from my year decided to quit the programs altogether in order to avoid the thesis. Other students who stuck through to the bitter end this year and turned in their second draft ask why it had to be a graduation requirement at all.
In my opinion, both of these groups of students fail to see how writing a senior thesis sets us apart.
This past fall, as the project hung on my conscience like a cloud, I found myself with the same doubts as my classmates.
The time and stress that went into the research and writing process was daunting at times, and I couldn’t see how the project was going to help me further my academic or career goals.
Instead, I thought it was distracting me from giving my classes the attention they deserved.
It was not until I started interviewing for jobs this winter that I realized how writing an undergraduate thesis set me apart from my competition.
Not only were interviewers impressed when I told them about the project, but the experience of writing the thesis actually helped me answer many of the interview questions they had. I came to the meetings able to talk about my time management, research and writing skills in a way that was much more ambitious than the typical undergraduate applicant.
In the end, I know it helped me get my job offer.
As daunting, stressful and frustrating writing a senior thesis may be, I definitely do not regret the adventure.
I know that I have grown as a person because of it, and the experience is something I will be able to draw upon for years to come.
Although an undergraduate thesis may not be comparable to a master’s thesis or dissertation, the importance of the project cannot be understated.
It remains a hallmark of programs like the honors college and Croft, and it sets the students apart from others across the nation.