March Forward

Robertson Hall, the home of the Woodrow Wilson School.

In the Woodrow Wilson School, theses are always due the first week of April. Many other departments have deadlines in late April or May. Depending on who you ask, having an early thesis deadline is either the best or worst thing. But everyone agrees that it is a real thing – and it makes March pretty hectic for WWS majors like me.

I’ve noticed, however, that March seems to be pretty hectic for all Princeton students. Freshmen, sophomores, and juniors are looking for summer internships. Seniors are figuring out their post-grad plans. And everyone is gearing up for midterms… which seem to arrive faster in the spring than they do in the fall.

With all this in mind, March is a good time for tips on dealing with hectic moments.

Naturally, I’m borrowing these tips from the world of research – because that’s what we do around here. Two things are especially helpful to remember:

1) Set realistic goals – No matter what you’re working on, make sure you work with a practical set of expectations. Take time to think about your goal, how far you are from that goal, and how you can reasonably get there. This also includes revising your expectations if things go awry. For example, the recommended deadline for WWS thesis drafts was March 1. I’ve been working for months with the intent of meeting this deadline. However, at the last minute, I encountered some technical difficulties with my thesis experiment (which required several trips to the Data and Statistical Services lab). Rather than turn in an incomplete or subpar draft, my adviser and I agreed that I should hand in my draft a few days later, by March 5. Making a realistic assessment about how to proceed helped me to produce better work.

2) Don’t get tunnel vision – When you’re working against a deadline, it’s tempting to ceaselessly forge ahead with only occasional breaks for sleeping and food. Sometimes, however, it’s good to take a real break – not only for your personal sanity, but also to get other perspectives. Time away from your thesis can clarify what you want to write in your thesis. Time away from the internship hunt can remind you what you want out of an internship. Simply put, the moments in which you are not ‘working’ are not always a waste of time. Don’t be afraid to take advantage of them.

I know that these are far from earth-shattering revelations, but it’s good to reflect on them when things get busy – and it seems like, for most of us, they currently are.

— Melissa Parnagian, Social Sciences Correspondent