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10:20 a.m. - January 08, 2007
Well, now that the Holidays rush is done (Epiphany is even over) it’s time to get back into the swing of 2007.

Here at the College, it’s back to business clothes (we had two weeks of jeans and Christmas sweaters or flannel shirts, tastefully (or lazily) un-tucked) and the start of classes.

Well, not quite yet.

Classes here at Wabash start on the 10th, but there has been a lot of hubbub around campus the past few days, and there is tension in the air today.


It’s time for senior comprehensive exams.

Yes, everything you leaned in four years (OK, 3 ½ years) is boiled down into two long days of examinations. And even if you are a science or mathematics major, part of the examination has to be a written essay. No fooling.

At least that’s what I recall when I took my mathematics written comps.

Seniors have been on campus for a while, and they haven’t been partying. No, they’ve been locked away in their study rooms and in the library, digging out all of the books from their major and trying to guess what is on the exam. Whether you are an English major, a Rhetoric major, a Physics major, or an Economics major, you’re digging stuff out from your freshman year on…no matter how many beer bongs you have consumed since then.

And seniors are rather much on their own. Normally, there’s a catalog of old exams that people in each fraternity (and perhaps in the dorms) can access to see how tests were given in the past for each class. However, for comps, there’s usually not a record kept. You turn it in and…you don’t see it again.

So today and tomorrow, seniors will be gathered in classrooms around campus, armed with writing implements, blue books, and caffeine, trying to remember their first course in East Asian religions or just what was Intro to Existentialism all about.

And pity the poor folks who are double majoring, since, yes, you have to take written comps in BOTH majors. (We had a poor schmuck that tried to triple major in Rhetoric, Theater, and History – he dropped the history major his senior year and then became a waiter and a bar manager in San Francisco.)

So after tomorrow (or whenever the double major folks finish their exams), do the seniors get to breathe easy and coast during their last semester?

Uh, no.

It’s time then for ORAL comps.

Yep. At the end of January and the beginning of February, each senior has to sit for their orals.

You get a panel of three professors for your orals, one from your major, one from your minor or area concentration and one wild-card from any department.

Now, the Rhetoric majors have this one licked, as do the Theater majors, but, I was a math major.

Yeah, oral comps in mathematics. That was like…um…bad.

It didn’t help that I had the most anal retentive, picky, uncompromising prof in the department administer my oral comps. Thankfully, the prof in the Teacher Education department helped, as did the visiting German prof that bailed me out. I passed.


All this for an Artium Baccalaurei, as my degree says. Yes, it’s in Latin. Yes, it’s actually sheepskin. Yes, we’re weird. But it’s from Collegii Wabashensis. Hah. Take that DePauw!

And yes, there are folks that fail their comps. They get another crack at it during their senior year, but, if they fail those, they don’t graduate. In fact, my senior year I had someone take their written comps that was *supposed* to graduate the year before. He DID finally pass, but that has to be a bit embarrassing.

Though I’d rather have that happen than fail a course that you need to graduate, then have to go to IU-South Bend (also known as I Used to Study in Bloomington) to get the course, and then march with the class after you.

So today and tomorrow, think of the seniors here at the College. It’s a big day for them – as many of them already have plans to go to grad school, med school, law school, or have jobs in the pipeline. But they need that big ol’ sheepskin saying they graduated.

Otherwise, they may be filling out your order at Hardee’s. That is, if you’d ever go there besides it being the only place open in a 50-mile radius.


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