A senior project is something that was always kind of an enigma to me. Up until the beginning of my senior year, I didn’t have any real understanding of what exactly it was. It always lurked just outside of my line of sight, far enough that I couldn’t see it, but close enough that I could feel it breathing down my neck.
My first real experience with a senior project was my brother’s film. He was a film student at Drexel, and during my sophomore year, he was directing his own film for his senior project. I, of course, had no real impact upon it, but being that we both lived in Summit at the time, I witnessed much of the work and planning that went into the film’s creation. From a distance, it didn’t seem like too bad of a process, but that was mostly because I was on the outside looking in. Every time I have talked to my brother about it, he’s always told me about how complicated a process it was, and rightfully so. Directing a film is a tricky business, but good planning and communication were his best tools in that project.
Those two things can be applied to pretty much any senior project, in my opinion. I also think that this is especially true if your project is in anyway self-directed. Your senior project is, in a sense, the culmination of all your time at Drexel and a unique opportunity to show off some of the most useful skills that you have developed.
There is no doubt that this can be somewhat intimidating, but you can make it less so by really embracing your project. From the talks that I’ve had with other people about senior projects, the one piece of advice that has been most consistent is that the senior project is something that you should treat as your own personal project as much as possible.
Initially, I thought that my senior project would just be a 20-page research paper about some book that I was interested in, but it’s become much more than that as I’ve continued to develop it.
Normally, I don’t like telling people what to do in these articles, as I’m more of a suggestion kind of guy. But this time, I am stressing to you that your senior project should be an exploration of a topic that you are interested in and preferably one that you don’t have a full grasp of. It’s an exercise in exploration if nothing else. And to be honest, the most fun assignments that I’ve had at Drexel are the ones that let me develop my own question and then attempt to answer it. Being that this is essentially what senior project is, it would be easier for some and more difficult for others.
One major upside that, I think, some people may forget about at times, is the lack of surprise that comes with it. The general structure of the assignment is typically laid out well in advance of the start of the actual project. You know what you need to do. The difficulty is execution. And, to me, that is preferable in comparison to many assignments I’ve had where executing it is easy, but the guidelines are so confusing or convoluted that I don’t even know what I need to be doing.
A senior project is the king of self-directed learning in academia, and it is something that is worth you putting some significant effort into. With that said, I’ll also remind you to not stress about it too much. Yes, it is arguably the most important assignment you will do in college, but it is still an assignment nonetheless. You will lose sleep over it, stress eat, get stuck, temporarily run out of ideas, question if you’re actually doing what you originally set out to do, question whether it is even good and most likely have some mental breaks along the way. However, these things will only happen if your mentality toward your project leans more toward it being the final product you are producing for your degree and less as a personal project that will ideally serve you later on in life in some capacity.
If you approach your senior project from this second frame of mind, not only will your project ultimately turn out better, but the process of creating it will also be far less stressful overall. Save yourself the pain of comparing your project to somebody else’s, because that will most likely only discourage you. In my opinion, there are some works that can’t be judged based on the impact that they have on the audience, and your senior project is one of them.