Jen Retter's planner, placed on a clipboard, hanging on a wall.

Plan A: Buy a Planner

“I think I’m going to buy a planner.”

The look on my mother’s face as we turned our cart into Target’s stationery aisle was priceless. “Really? Hey, maybe you’ll organize your room, too?”

Ha, ok, Mom.

But the planner that was necessary. Though I typically approach each academic year as a chaotic mess, this semester is different: It’s thesis time.  

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Senior thesis is an intense project that all students at Arcadia are required to complete. It varies among areas of study; some students publish scientific research, some perform concerts or theater productions, others present mathematics capstones. What we all have in common: a year’s worth of hard work, a few sleepless nights, and a healthy dose of fear.

For communication majors, thesis is a two-part beast. Our creative project can be any form of media — a book, film, newspaper, television show pilot, public relations campaign— while the written portion requires an explanation and application of a media theory. For instance, I researched French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu’s theory of cultural capital — which essentially posits that the members of society who have greater academic, social, and cultural opportunities are the ones who dictate taste, or tell us what to like and dislike — and am applying it to fraternity and sorority cultures (specifically, publications like Total Frat Move and Total Sorority Move).

For my thesis, I’m writing, editing, and designing a satirical college magazine…I couldn’t be more excited. But as a serial procrastinator and disorganized human, I couldn’t be more nervous.

But let’s be real, the creative project is much more interesting. For my thesis, I’m writing, editing, and designing a satirical college magazine. The goal is to address collegiate issues, trends, and stereotypes, to present a polished and visually engaging product, and to entertain my audience with 30-or-so pages of humor.

As someone who loves satire and has always wanted to explore this area of writing, I couldn’t be more excited. But as a serial procrastinator and disorganized human, I couldn’t be more nervous.

So I bought a planner.

What’s funny is that, as soon as you start to hash out your schedule, thesis seems a lot less daunting. My new calendar is already full, but giving myself deadlines has motivated me to take a headfirst plunge and push beyond my comfort zone. Each to-do I cross off brings me one step closer to completing a project that I’ll be proud to show my advisors, my peers, and potential employers.  

This semester, I hope to provide you a few tips for tackling senior year. The first, of course, is to choose a thesis topic that you’re passionate about — your entire semester will revolve around it, and your future career might be built from it.

The second: Buy a planner.