I don’t know how many of you out there are working on a senior project, but let me tell you something: it’s hard. It’s really hard. On a scale of “ugh” to “I’m going to drop out of school and move into a forest to be a hermit,” I’m pretty close to the latter. For those of you who are going to wind up doing something like a senior capstone or a thesis (or for those of you who are in it and are suffering like me), here are some things you should keep in mind:
1. It’s never too early.
I so regret not starting my project half a year ago. You’re thinking, how can you plan a project or a paper or something half a year ago if you don’t even know what you’re doing? Well, that’s when you should start thinking about it! Spend your winter vacation or summer vacation reading up on what you’re doing your project on. If you’re a literature major, you can start researching authors, writing snippets, and outlining a draft. If you’re in the arts, you can start looking for influential artists and start messing around with various materials or techniques.
2. Talk to people.
Tell them you’re doing a thesis. Ask for their opinion. Be open to references or new ideas. I’m working on a photo thesis and a large point of it is process, progress, development. If you’re stuck with tunnel vision, your ideas or projects can’t really grow.
3. Try new things.
Another way to being open to ideas is gaining more experience. Go gallery hopping on the weekend with a friend who would appreciate contemporary art. Wander through a new section of the bookstore you never really thought you’d like. Wander around and study the architecture of your neighborhood, and stop by a cafe you’ve probably passed every day but never bothered to go into. If you’re stuck on an idea, a refreshing environment might help.
4. Be honest with yourself.
Is this project too easy? Is it too ambitious? Do I have the skills? Do I have enough information? Do I believe what I’m saying? Will I be willing to work on this for four months straight? Eight months straight? How much do I care about this? These are all important questions that you need to truly consider. Be brutally, objectively honest. You’ll save yourself trouble, embarrassment, and time if you admit to your weaknesses and find your strengths.
5. Don’t give up.
Now this one is important. Don’t be discouraged if things don’t work out the first, second, third, or fourth time (I’ve had to modify my idea that many times… ugh). Sometimes you’re just scratching the surface and you realize that after some trial and error. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes, but do try to learn from them. Keep going at it, you’ll definitely get it. Everyone works at a different pace, so just work at your own.
All of you out there working on your longterm projects, good luck. There is a long road ahead, but it will be rewarding. Have faith, don’t lose hope, and keep that chin up. See you on the flip side!