…for some juniors, that is the question.

Of course, seniors have long since made their decision, and many spent Winter Study finishing up first drafts of their completed thesis instead of taking a winter study course (and the dichotomy between the fun of Winter Study for the many and the hard work of Winter Study for the few has been the subject of many a meme).

During his senior year, a friend of mine was halfway through his thesis, and was having a miserable time; he had a horrible relationship with his thesis advisor, who would shut down nearly everything he wrote, and though he still loved his department and the subject of his thesis, the actual experience was proving to be miserable. He ultimately quit his thesis and had a much, much better spring semester for it, but the process of giving it up was anguish.

While he was going through the worst of that decision, he expressed to me something quite surprising: that doing a thesis was, to some extent, part of his identity, or at least part of the identity he was hoping to form upon graduating Williams. When he was in high school, he’d always imagined doing a thesis; in fact, he’d almost chosen another school over Williams solely because theses were required there. As such, giving up his thesis was an absolutely enormous blow to his morale and sense of self.

This was utterly perplexing to me. As you can guess, I did not do a thesis, and I don’t really regret that choice; I’m pretty sure I had a much, much more enjoyable senior year because of it. But to some degree I understand; I sometimes wish I was able to say I was the sort of person who’d done a thesis, and when I was on campus, I felt that even more acutely–that I painted myself as someone more dedicated, more intellectual, if I could say I was doing a thesis.

Of course, if reasons of ego are the only thing fueling a desire to do a thesis, it’s a pretty sure sign you shouldn’t do one, just as it’s a good sign for anything fueled by ego. On the other hand, I know people who probably started their thesis for egotistical reasons; got beaten up by the grueling process; and were better for it. Certainly, completing a thesis is something to be proud of, and a mark of dedication for sure. But not doing a thesis certainly doesn’t mean you aren’t dedicated or a good student, either.

Did you do a thesis? Why or why not? Who should and should not do a thesis?

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