This past week, inboxes campus-wide overflowed with e-mail invitations to senior comps talks. Much like sexier springtime traditions such as Mai Fete, Spring Concert and Rotblatt, comps presentations represent another—perhaps overlooked—feature of spring terms at Carleton.
Whether or not you plan to sit through your math major roommate’s talk on Soliton theory, we think all Carleton students should recognize the importance of these public talks—and the comps process in general—to life at Carleton.
Obviously everyone attributes different levels of importance to their comps. For some, it’s the culminating moment of their academic career. An opportunity to synthesize and put to use many of the skills and knowledge we’ve developed over our four years at Carleton in one final project. For others, it’s simply another hoop to jump through before graduation. A project that we need to do just well enough to pass.
Without romanticizing or dismissing comps too much, it is easy to see that comps is a rite of passage for all Carleton students.
It’s a symbolic culmination of our time at Carleton. Regardless of how well the finished product turns out, comps forces us to push our sense of personal limitations. Whether it’s a 40-page paper or a 40-minute presentation, comps is hard. And even if you don’t define yourself by your classroom accomplishments, completing such a difficult task should nevertheless be satisfying and fulfilling.
With few opportunities to share our academic interests during college, we naturally get excited to present our academic work. It’s fun to show off a side of you that is normally reserved for professors and classmates within your major. And as friends, we get excited too. We learn things about each other that we wouldn’t otherwise see every day, such as your freshman year roommate’s deep fascination with 12th-century monks. Now it all makes sense, you might think.
Perhaps all of this is why there’s something a little festive about comps talk season. Even if you don’t understand a word of that geology presentation, you can at least slouch in the back of Olin 102 noshing on cheese and crackers.