There is a reason Senior Comprehensives Projects (comps) are bemoaned and dreaded: they are so much more work than expected. While students can debate whether their major’s paper, presentations or test is the most difficult assignment, senior comps across the board are nerve-wracking, time-consuming, overwhelming and under-valued projects. Any senior seminar class should to be counted as eight credit hours, because four credits simply does not reflect the true value and the real amount of time, effort and energy it takes to complete a comps project.
Seniors work tirelessly on these projects, which have a large role in determining whether or not we will graduate on time. We slave over scholarly journals, spend overtime in science labs, overdose on caffeine to make final edits and burn our retinas staring at computer screens. It is not that we all have poor time management skills; rather, it is that we have too much to manage.
Over the course of a semester, seniors start and finish a project on any topic of their choosing. Each major has different requirements for what they consider to be a comprehensive assessment of the student’s work. A visual art major creates and presents an exhibit of their original works. History, American studies, English and Spanish majors research, write and present a senior thesis. Chemistry majors must complete a comprehensive exam and present current research in a particular field to the department. The work is extensive and exhausting, requiring dedication and a tenacious spirit.
Weighting the senior seminar more heavily in terms of credit hours would solve a variety of problems. Students would need only take two additional classes to maintain a full course load of 16 units, which would allow seniors to better balance their various class obligations and allow them to give significantly more attention to their comprehensives.
If we are to work on a paper for a whole semester, we ought to be proud of the final product and know we gave it our best. The current practice of stealing time away from other classes, exhausting ourselves by staying up until dawn and still trying to manage school sports, clubs and jobs is not conducive to generating academic prowess.
Eight-credit senior seminar classes could take additional time to review research strategies and techniques during class times, as many of the projects require substantial research. Currently, only a few departments offer in-depth research courses, but all students could benefit from more research instruction. This would not only increase the quality of papers, but would also be enormously useful for students considering graduate and doctoral programs in which further research skills are necessary.
It seems unreasonable that an introductory class is equally weighted to a senior comprehensives project in terms of academic credit. An introductory class failed is four credit hours that can be made up over the course of a college career; failing senior comps means another semester or even another year of college. The stakes are substantially higher for a senior seminar class, and yet the credit hours do not reflect this.
The senior comps project is the single biggest academic undertaking a student will attempt at Occidental. Four credit hours does not accurately display the taxing, demanding and confounding work seniors perform for their comps over the duration of a semester, and the weighting should be changed to reflect this.