Senior Thesis Survival Guide

My Google search bar contained the phrases “How to survive thesis” and “Is it possible to die from stress” far too many times last semester. I tend to put a lot of pressure on myself, and while everything turns out just fine in the end, in the midst of the craziness and stress I go a little wacky, so you can imagine my mental stability while working on my senior thesis last semester.


If you read this post, you’ve seen this photo before, but my face here perfectly sums up my fall semester.

Luckily, while it is possible to die from too much stress, I am only 21 years old and (to my disbelief) survived the semester essentially unscathed. Honestly, if I can do it, you can do it too, and I will tell you how and why.

  1. English majors: Read your text multiple times. This might sound like it’s obvious, but I’ll let you in on a little secret: I had read only one of my stories until a week into the semester. I know, what? How did I get away with that? I DON’T KNOW. But let me tell you, I spent that first weekend reading and re-reading my stories until my eyes felt like they would fall out of my head.
  2. Trust your professor. My professor was a godsend, and I honestly don’t know what I would do without her. I probably would have combusted. Trust your prof, because in the end, that’s the person who is grading you.
  3. Make friends with your class. This one is uber important. Start a Facebook group, make a group chat, stop each other in hallways to freak out before class. Whatever you need, your classmates will want to help, and if they ever need anything, you make sure to be there for them too. Everyone is stressing and freaking out, so please don’t feel like you’re alone.
  4. Invest in something decaffeinated.. I accidentally bought a box of decaf Early Grey tea, and it ended up on my shopping list for the whole semester. After you’ve been up for hours typing away, you don’t want to lie in bed completely wired from those 5+ cups of coffee you stress-drank. Whether you try your hand at flavored water, decaf tea/coffee, or another option, sipping on a comforting drink really helps you to keep your focus at 2:30 AM.
  5. Find a way to relieve your stress. So I’m not exactly the best at this, and because I know that, I can tell you how important it is. During my semester I was taking three other courses, one of which was a screen printing art class that I didn’t realize would be so much work. So, when I went to get a poster printed at Fedex for class the next day, I was praying that it would go smoothly…of course, it didn’t, and I ended up crying in my car in the Fedex parking lot and then I got Panera because, duh, soup fixes everything. Looking back, this was a good thing because crying it out totally relieved some stress, but word to the wise: find another way.
  6. Set aside time in a nice spot (preferably off campus) to do your work. I holed up in a cafe by my school for 6ish hours the day before my thesis was due. This was my time to do every last correction I had, read it over ten+ times, and drink good coffee with great food. I’m fully convinced that if I had tried doing this on campus, I would have gotten overwhelmed and given up. Healthy, made to order food and coffee/tea will make you feel way better and more productive than the same old staples from campus.
  7. When you’re finally finished, treat yourself. After my six hour stint in the cafe, I felt like I could finally breathe. My paper was finished, I would read it over the next morning and turn it in that afternoon. It was over. An entire semester of work finished. I drove back to school, parked my car, and started sobbing because I was so relieved I didn’t know what else to do (so I cried a lot this semester, give me a break). Then, I realized I was starving and ordered out for my favorite pizza in the area (wood burning oven, helloo), tiramisu, and got a bottle of wine from the grocery store. I watched some Netflix while I gorged myself and then I fell asleep until 8AM when I finally felt refreshed and excited to re-read and turn in my final thesis.
  8. When you turn your thesis in, it’s okay to be apprehensive. This is it. You waited 3 years to begin, spent a semester killing yourself over it, and now it will be out of your hands. That is terrifying! My thesis legitimately felt like my first born child (okay maybe not but it felt really important) and as hard as it was, turning it in was like a weight off of my chest. It was finally over.

Trust that you have learned enough over the past three years (or for Spring thesis students, 3.5) to make it through this final test. You’ve been conditioned for it every step of the way by some pretty great people (your department) and everyone wants to see you succeed. Sometimes it takes a cry in a Fedex parking lot to realize it, but you will get all the work done for this class and the rest of your classes.

If you’re in thesis, best of luck, and if you’ve finished, toast yourself, because it’s time to look forward to graduation.


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