Let’s take a few moments to talk about the looming pressures of senior year, which almost always include the universally dreaded senior comprehensive exams. These exams are given to each senior in his/her respective major(s), and aim to make sure each graduate has a firm understanding of their major’s content.
The form of senior comprehensive exams differ, according to major. Some majors require a thesis paper, while others require a year-long research project or experiment. The format of the exam depends largely on the type of field.
My initial intention in investigating this topic was to slam senior comps, but the more I spoke to students about their exams and projects, the more I understand why they are a necessary part of graduation. I understand that comps are a lot of work and that they include many sacrifices from students, but the pros outweigh the cons in this situation. Through senior projects and exams, graduating seniors can know that they have mastered all the skills in their respective major and are completely ready to enter the work field.
Senior Jennifer Ferron is a history major at ENC who has recently finished her senior thesis. Ferron wrote a thesis paper on girlhood and childhood throughout Victorian literature and culture.
“Finding a thesis that was both interesting and beneficial to history was one of the toughest parts. I think that the thesis definitely does a great job at applying what I’ve learned throughout the years and what I would essentially do in graduate school,” Ferron noted.
Ferron also needs to complete a written test, present her thesis, and pass an oral exam for her senior composition requirements.
Senior Dan Cantrell is a music composition major with a focus on music performance. For his senior composition assignment, he has chosen to put together an album of 10-12 songs that he has both written and performed.
“This assignment will help me transition into a professional career. This album is a tangible piece of work that I will be able to actively show to future professionals,” Cantrell noted.
If you are a double major, you get the enjoyment of taking two senior comprehensive exams. Senior Leah Anderson, has found herself in that exact boat. Anderson is double majoring in Secondary Education and Literatures in English.
For her literature comp, she has to complete a 25-page analytical essay, a performance piece which is achieved through the Academic Symposium, and an oral senior exam. For her Education major, she must pass the Massachusetts Tests for Educators Licensure (MTEL), along with successfully acting as a student teacher for a semester, and complete a portfolio after her student teaching is completed.
Anderson commented that throughout all this added work and pressure, these senior requirements haven’t interfered with her school work too much.
“I have found myself using the knowledge from my education courses to build the materials needed for my senior thesis,” Anderson said.
Anderson also noted the positive outlook that comps have better contributed to her career.
“Doing [my] senior thesis paper will help [me] down the road and make [me] into a better teacher and literature reader,” Anderson said.
Student teaching holds the promise of being successful for Anderson. She said that she can better serve her students with the abilities learned in student teaching and loves the idea of being able to be in front of a classroom week after week.
Personally, as a junior environmental science major pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree, my requirements to graduate are quite extensive. I feel the pain. During my junior year, I started taking seminar classes that aim to push me towards a research topic. Literature reviews, a research project, an internship, and lastly, a written exam separate me from graduating. I am a horrible test taker. Just the mere thought of taking any written exam makes me cringe. ENC has done a good job at making senior requirements flexible for all students. We all learn differently; not all of us can sit down for hours and take an exam. Written exams are definitely not the only way to determine that we have actually learned something these last four years in college.
There are so many other creative and equally academic ways–in addition to formal written exams–to express how far we’ve come as students, and this is how senior comps can portray all that we have learned.
Senior requirements may be extremely stressful and time consuming, but I truly believe that the benefits outweigh the costs. They are a pain and require a lot of drive, hard work, and dedication. But if you think about it, are these not some of the exact characteristics that make us the passionate students that we are? Our unique experiences in completing our senior thesis papers, research projects, internships, and student teaching opportunities are the things that will make us stand out from others for years to come.
Virtually all schools require some kind of senior comp exams, so none of us are exempt from the pressures of senior year. The true message is this: senior comps are important for our success, and they really do benefit us as students.