Quintessential Kenyon: Student Life, Uncut

Comps: A Memoir

Mia Barnett
March 4, 2015

Something that you don’t really hear much about as a prospective student or as a first-year is comps. It’s a fairly daunting and somewhat grueling experience that takes place during your senior year, which seems way off in the future if you’re a senior in high school. Well, I’m here to give you the inside scoop of the comps experience: the good, the bad and the ugly. This way you’ll be more prepared when the inevitable time comes for you to participate in what is supposed to be the culmination of your educational experience at Kenyon. Sounds fun, right?

First of all, “comps” is shorthand for comprehensive exam or comprehensive exercise. It is a test, project, paper, presentation, or some combination of those, and it is different for every major. In theory, it is supposed to be the opportunity to showcase what you have learned throughout the various courses in your respective major. That sounds sort of pleasant, right? But in reality, it’s a bit less glamorous and a lot more stressful than that description lets on … so I’ll start off with “the bad.” 

“The bad” definitely was the hours and hours of studying. Hands down. I’m a terrible procrastinator and tests make me nervous, so studying for a five-hour exam on everything I’ve learned about political science made me want to crawl into bed and watch Netflix rather than crack open a book. But eventually, through the help of my study group (shout out to Madeleine and Devon, you guys rock), I began to review notes and prepare my essays. Slowly but surely, I became ready to tackle the exam.

“The good” came out of those hard hours of studying. Time spent with my study group was — wait for it — fun. We made nerdy jokes about political science, applauded each other’s good ideas, and supported each other through somewhat fearful discussions about failing. We collectively complained about comps. A lot. And while our other friends couldn’t wait for us to shut up about comps, we never grew tired of talking about how lame comps was because we were going through it together. (Maybe when I look back on the experience in the future I won’t think comps was so lame because the process did make me realize how much I’d learned through the years, but for now, three weeks out of the whole mess, I’m maintaining that comps was lame.) I found myself looking forward to our group meetings, because Madeleine and Devon motivated me.

I’m very happy to be done with comps, and I’m happy to say that we all passed. I don’t think I would ever want to go through it again, but I do think I will look back on the experience with fond memories. Sure we suffered, but we suffered together! (I’m just kidding! Sort of.)

Oh, and to round out my promise to give the good, the bad and the ugly … I guess “the ugly” might have been the night after the exam when we had a few slices of celebratory cake and a few glasses of celebratory champagne and then tried to do an intricate puzzle of a map of the world … a bit of a challenge, to say the least. The picture is from the next morning, when we finished the puzzle.