College Four-Year Plan

A Four-Year Plan for Graduating from The Honors College


Professor Haugaard and the first class of graduates from The Honors College.

I developed this guide to help each of you maintain the momentum that will be needed throughout your four years at UAlbany to graduate from The Honors College. Graduation from The Honors College is not an easy task and is not one that will simply happen to students who stay with us for four years. Rather, it requires that each student know what needs to be done each semester and then completes the tasks that will lead to graduation.

It is important to note that, because students in The Honors College pursue many majors, and because the timing for initiating and completing an honors thesis/project varies from major to major (because of the specific demands of research in those majors), I can only provide general guidance on this page. You will see that I suggest that you meet regularly with your advisor, the Honors Program Director in your major, your honors thesis/project advisor, and others to ensure that you are progressing toward your honors degree.

Jeffrey J. Haugaard
Director of The Honors College
Professor of Counseling Psychology

General Principles

Here is my fundamental belief about all this:

I should provide good information to all of you to help you excel in your academic work and complete all the requirements for graduation from The Honors College.

I need to do what I can to help you understand the benefits of graduating from The Honors College.

I should be easily available to provide guidance, encouragement, and support throughout your time in The Honors College.

Professors, advisors, and others need to be available to guide you through your UAlbany education.

You, however, must do everything that needs doing. You need to know what you need to do, initiate meetings as appropriate, do the coursework well, and plunge into your senior thesis/project. We can help, and I and many others are eager to help you throughout the process, but you need to do it. When you do, it will be your honors degree.

Several general principles follow from my fundamental belief:

Meet often with professors, advisors, and others who can help you through the process.

It is your responsibility to initiate all meetings. I, your advisors, and your professors should be available to meet with you (but not, please note, at any time that you want to meet (the meetings have to be arranged at peoples' mutual convenience)). However, it is not our responsibility to initiate meetings. Talk with professors after class; email or phone me or your advisor. There are many ways to initiate a meeting.

Many people are here to help. Rarely do I hear professors, advisors, or others say that they have too many students asking for assistance (except right at the last moment (e.g., the day before an exam, the day that preregistration starts)). Many professors tell me that students rarely come by during their office hours. Advisors say that they enjoy having leisurely conversations with students, but that most students only come by right before preregistration, when leisurely conversations are not possible. I would much rather chat with students than do the other work I have to do. Take advantage of the assistance that those who have been in the academic world for years or decades have to offer.

Asking for guidance is a sign of self-confidence and determination.

"Reading ahead" is, of course, encouraged. For example, noting that thinking about internships is encouraged during your third year may encourage you to do some preliminary planning about possible internships during your first or second year.

Email is great for making appointments or asking quick questions. Important issues are best discussed face-to-face.

I am available to talk with any honors student about any issue. I want each of you to excel and I am available to help you do that. Email to make an appointment. If you see me eating in the dining room, come and have a meal with me. Come by my apartment in the evening (well, come by before about 10:30). If there is an emergency, contact me at any time. If you are struggling with a course; being driven crazy by a professor, your roommates or your parents; or having emotional problems that are getting in the way of your life; I'm available to talk.

Yes, Yes - I Know

This can seem a bit overwhelming, particularly if you are reading it all before you arrive here for your first year. You will have plenty of time to accomplish all of this, and every student admitted to The Honors College has all the ability needed to do it all. Thinking ahead and planning will get everyone through - that is the goal of this webpage. So, do not feel overwhelmed or worry that you will not be able to accomplish all this. It will be fine.

Most first-year and second-year students get pale and start to gag a bit when I talk with them about completing an honors thesis.  They cannot imagine that they will have the skills to complete a thesis and they cannot imagine that they will be able to complete it on time.  They are probably correct: during their first year, they probably do not have the necessary skills to write a senior thesis.  But, as  I try to emphasize, they WILL have the ability to complete a senior thesis when they are a senior.  They will be much more competent as writers in three years.  It will be fine (many are not sure that they can believe me, but they can).

I have had conversations like this with first-year doctoral students.  They cannot imagine that in four or five years they will able to write a 200-page dissertation.  I try to reassure them that if they work hard over the next few years, they will have the skills needed to write a dissertation.  Two years ago, I completed a textbook that was 1,035 double-spaced manuscript pages long (without the references!).  There is no way that I could have done this when I was an assistant professor a dozen years earlier.  But, I had progressed in my writing ability over those years and so was able to write the textbook. 

As we push ourselves to get better and do more, it always looks a bit frightening.  If you work on writing good papers over the next few years and continue to develop your skills in your discipline, you will be able to write a very good senior thesis.  Yes, you will.

FIRST YEAR

First Semester

Honors Courses and Other Courses

Look at the honors website to see what honors courses will be offered in the spring semester.  Typically, honors students will take three honors courses during each of their first two years.  Depending on how many honors courses you are taking during the fall semester, think about which course or courses you will want to take during the spring.

Before you preregister for your spring courses, there should be a list of the honors courses that will be offered during your second year.  It may be helpful to look at these courses to see which ones will meet general education and other requirements.  Knowing this may help you choose your honors courses for the spring semester of your first year.  Of course, you will not know for certain which honors courses you can take in your second year, since the times of the courses will not be known at this time.  But, you can get a sense of whether there are specific courses you should try to take during the spring semester, based on the requirements that the courses next year will meet (e.g., if several courses you might want to take next year meet the social science general education requirement, focus on meeting other requirements during the spring semester).

In the early part of the fall semester, we will have a series of meetings where second-year students can give advice on how best to deal with many of the courses taken by first-year students.  Attend one or more of these meetings to hear how to be successful in these courses.

Meet With Your Advisor

After the first few weeks of classes, make an appointment to talk with your advisor in the Advisement Services Center.  By this point, you will have a sense of what college courses and college life are like, so, you will be able to talk about your future in a more informed way.

Print a copy of the MAP for your major, or for an area in which you might major if you are still undecided about your major (e.g., humanities, social sciences).  Fiddle around with filling in the courses that you might take for the next four years.  Do not get anxious about this exercise.  There is no way that you are expected to know the courses you will take for the next four years.  But, creating a tentative schedule will give you and your advisor a starting point for your conversation (in the same way that writing an outline of a paper helps you organize the paper).  Leave areas blank if you do not know what courses you will be taking a few years from now.  The goal is not to have everything planned before the talk with your advisor.  Rather, the goal is to have something in hand that will serve as a starting point for your advising conversation.

Meet with your advisor during the third, fourth, or fifth week of the fall semester.  This will allow the conversation to take place well before the time that you and your friends will make appointments to talk with the advisors about preregistering for courses for next semester.  The preregistration conversations are always a bit rushed, since the advisors must limit their time with each student to be able to meet with all students about preregistration.  Meeting before the preregistration rush will give you a chance for a more leisurely and far-reaching discussion with your advisor.

Do not fall into the trap of believing that if you are a bright, serious student, you should be able to successfully plan your four years in college with no help from your advisor.  Spending a half hour with your advisor once a semester during your first year can give you many more ideas and options for your college career.  Yes, you can probably plan your college career without any help, but the career you have with occasional advice from your advisor may be much better.

Think About General Education Requirements

Meeting general education requirements seems to evoke more anxiety in honors students than anything else during their first year or two.  Try not to get caught up in the I have to finish all my general education requirements in my first year treadmill, or get stuck in the the best students finish their general education requirements first basket.  Neither of these is true.  Look at the MAP for your intended major and minor, or at the MAPs for the majors/minors that you may likely choose, and see which of their requirements meet a general education requirement.  You can do this by looking up the course on the web.  The general education requirements that the course meets will be listed.  Many majors and minors require that you take one or more courses from a list of courses (e.g., take two courses from among the following six courses).  Check to see which of the courses in that group meet a general education requirement - that may help you decide which courses to take and will help you recognize which of the general education requirements you need to meet from courses outside those that you will take for your major or minor.  Of course, your choice of majors and minors may change, and existing courses might be certified for meeting additional general education requirements, so you may have to alter your plans to meet the general education requirements as you go along.  But having a plan for how you will meet the requirements will give you a foundation that can be altered as need be.  That is preferable to not having a plan at all.

It is true that you have to meet all the general education requirements before you can graduate.  However, it is rare that a student who is paying attention to his or her courses and requirements is suddenly confronted with a requirement that must be met in the last semester.  Know that with some basic planning you will easily meet your general education requirements. 

Dessert

Come to one of the dessert receptions that Professor Haugaard has in his apartment each fall for new honors students.  This is a good way to meet Professor Haugaard and some other honors students.  Several dessert receptions are held during the fall semester.  Be sure to sign up for one of them.

Etcetera

Attend a Wind Ensemble concert at the PAC.
Visit the University Art Museum and see one of this semesters exhibits.
Walk around the whole campus on the perimeter road; explore that big pond by the baseball field.
Go on a tour of the State Capitol with The Honors College.
Take the bus to the downtown campus and walk around some.
Take the #12 bus to Lark Street and try one or two of the restaurants there.

Checklist
  • Think about which honors courses to take over the next three semesters.
  • Attend one of the meetings with second-year students to discuss courses.
  • Make a tentative four-year plan of courses and meet with your advisor during the third, fourth, or fifth week of classes.
  • Think about general education requirements and see which courses in your intended major and minor meet general education requirements.
  • Attend a dessert in Professor Haugaards apartment.

FIRST YEAR

During the Semester Break

Evaluate Your First Semester

At this point, you have several indicators of how well you did during your first semester, most notably your grades and your own appraisal of how hard and how efficiently you worked. How satisfied are you with your performance?

If you believe that your performance should improve, the best strategy at this point is to (a) identify the issues that impeded your performance in the fall and (b) identify how your behavior will change next semester to overcome these issues.

Your analysis should be as specific as possible. For example, I did not spend enough time studying is too general to be useful. Of more benefit would be for you to think about what it was that stopped you from spending more time studying. Did you not have enough energy? Was the material confusing so you avoided it? Were you watching too much television? Were you spending too much time talking with friends?

Your strategies for improving your academic performance should follow directly from the description of the impediments you faced. Again, general strategies will not be useful. For example, I will spend more time studying is too general. The statement sounds good, but what will you do, specifically, to study more?  How much time will you spend studying each day or week? How will you keep track of this?

You may want to talk with your advisor, Professor Haugaard, one of your professors, your parents, or others who can help you think through these issues and assess whether your expectations for next semester are reasonable and are likely to help you improve your academic performance.  Many people at UAlbany are eager to help students who would like to improve their performance.

FIRST YEAR

Second Semester

Meet with Your Advisor

One strategy would be to meet with your advisor after the preregistration period this semester.  During your conversation at the beginning of the fall semester, perhaps you were able to plan your whole first year or your first year and a half.  If you meet again after you have preregistered for your courses next fall, you can review your first year, see the track you are on, and then make basic plans about the next three years.

Of course, if it would be more advantageous for you to meet with your advisor before the preregistration period, do that.

Meet before and after, if that would be helpful.

Begin to Explore Research

It is never too early to consider becoming involved in research or joining a professor or graduate student in research lab or a studio.  Some honors students join a lab or a studio as early as their first year.  We provide a variety of strategies for finding out about the research/creative work being done on campus and how you could become involved with it on our website.  It would certainly be appropriate for you to make an appointment to talk with a professor or two about their research, and explore when they involve undergraduates in their work.  You could approach the professor in one of your honors courses if they teach in your intended major.  If you have no idea what your major might be, you could explore becoming involved with the research of one of your professors, and this research experience might help point you toward (or away from) a major.  Talk with Professor Haugaard if you are interested in getting involved in research early and would like some hints on how to proceed (also see information below aimed at second- and third-year students).

Etcetera

Attend one of the concerts by a faculty member at the PAC.
Find the New York State Writers Institute, pick up this semesters schedule, attend one of their movies.
Attend a softball or baseball game.
Go to the gym in your quad and also the one in the athletic complex, see whats in The Bubble.
When the weather is nicer, visit Washington Park (the #12 bus goes right by).
Take the #12 bus all the way to downtown and explore around some.

Checklist
  • Meet with your advisor after the preregistration period ends, to plan for the next three years.
  • Begin to explore joining a professors research lab or studio.Meet with your advisor after the preregistration period ends, to plan for the next three years.
  • Begin to explore joining a professors research lab or studio.

SECOND YEAR

First Semester

Honors Courses

By the end of your second year, you should complete the honors courses you must take (those admitted as incoming freshmen must take 18 credits of honors courses; those admitted during their first year must take 12 credits of honors courses).

In some circumstances where it will benefit your education plan, you can take an honors course during your third year (e.g., if you are going abroad during your second year, if you need to meet certain major/minor requirements during your second year). However, to take an honors course past your second year requires special permission. This permission should be obtained before the preregistration period of the second semester of your second year, so that it if is not obtained you can complete your honors-course requirement during your second year. You should contact Professor Haugaard if you want to obtain permission to take an honors course during your third year.

Also note that, if you take an honors course in your third year, you cannot preregister for that course until after all first- and second-year students have registered for honors courses.  Consequently, third-year students may need to take an honors course that (at least before the course begins) they do not find particularly interesting.  Since honors courses are supposed to be taken during the first and second year, students in those years get first chance to register for honors courses.

Honors in Your Major

If you are in a major with an honors program, you must complete that program to graduate from The Honors College. If you are in a major that does not have an honors program, you must meet with Professor Haugaard to discuss the requirements you will need to meet to graduate from The Honors College.

Check the website for your department/major, or the honors webpage, to see whether your major has an honors program.

If your major has an honors program, note the requirements and begin to integrate them into your education plan. Check with Professor Haugaard if you have questions or concerns about meeting the honors requirements in your major.

Students who double major only need to meet the honors requirements in one major.

If your major does not have an honors program, contact Professor Haugaard to initiate a meeting about your graduation requirements.

If you are still undecided about a major, contact your advisor, a professor you know well, or Professor Haugaard for some advice about moving toward declaring a major.

Research

The procedures for, and timing of, getting involved in research differs across majors and disciplines. In addition, professors within departments or majors may differ in how and when they involve undergraduates in their research. Consequently, it is not possible to have general guidelines about when students should begin their research involvement.

How to deal with this lack of certainty?

Students who know their major: Talk with the Honors Program Director in your major, or, if your major does not have an honors program, talk with the Undergraduate Program Director. Ask this person about the best time to get involved in research in your major. If this person suggests that you could become involved in research during your second year, check the honors website for strategies to locate a professor with whom to do your research. Start on this process.

Students who are unsure about their future major: If you have a sense of one or more majors that interest you, go to the websites of those majors, and then to the page that lists the professors and their research interests, and see if any of them are particularly intriguing. This might even help you find a major. Contact the Honors Program Director or Undergraduate Program Director in the major(s) in which you have an interest and follow the procedures just outlined.

As you will see later on this page, those in the social, biological, physical, or chemical sciences, or in mathematics or business, should begin looking seriously for a research lab to join next semester. Students interested in getting an early start on this process can begin to identify professors with whom they might like to work as a research assistant, and talking with some of these professor about their research and potential involvement with it.

Consider a Nationally Competitive Scholarship

Students who are highly accomplished academically (usually defined by these scholarships as those with a GPA of at least 3.8) should consider the possibility of applying for a nationally competitive scholarship, such as the Rhodes, Marshall, or Goldwater Scholarship (a few of the scholarships (e.g., the Goldwater Scholarship) are open to sophomores and juniors; most others are for graduate study and so are open only to seniors). Information about these scholarships can be found on the honors webpage, and this information includes the URL for each scholarships website.

These scholarships are highly competitive and are awarded to only a small percentage of those who apply. Successful candidates usually have a strong record of leadership, campus or community service, and excellent scholarship. Those who might be interested in applying later must begin to amass the types of experiences for which the scholarship committees will be looking during their first few years of college.

When you have some time, look through the scholarship websites and see if any interest you. If you are interested in thinking about applying, contact Professor Haugaard. Decisions about applying are not required at this time.

An interest is all that is required. Do not be shy or inappropriately self-deprecating. Many of our top-achieving honors students can be good candidates for these scholarships.

Etcetera

Attend a NYS Writers Institute talk.
Attend the holiday music festival at the PAC.
Visit the University Art Museum and see one of this semesters exhibits.
Attend another volleyball game.
If you did not go on a tour of the State Capitol last year, do it this semester.
Take a drive up to Lake Placid during the fall.
Have dinner at Café Capriccio.

Checklist

  • If needed, obtain permission to take an honors course in your third year.
  • Determine if your intended or declared major has an honors program.
  • If your major has an honors program, note when you should apply.
  • If your major does not have an honors program, consult with Professor Haugaard.
  • If your GPA is 3.8 or higher, read information about nationally competitive scholarships.

SECOND YEAR

Second Semester

Honors Courses

By the end of this semester, you should complete the honors courses that you must take (those admitted as incoming freshmen must take 18 credits of honors courses; those admitted during their first year must take 12 credits of honors courses), unless you have received permission to take a course in your third year (see the information about this in the previous semesters description).

Admission to the Honors Program in Your Major

If your major has an honors program, see when you should apply. Many majors allow you to apply to their honors program during the second semester of your second year. Some require that you be admitted before the end of your second year. Consequently, you should check the website for your department/major, or the honors webpage to see when you need to apply.

It is important to note that every major with an honors program requires that all students apply to it. Students in The Honors College must apply in the same way as other students at UAlbany, and must meet the same entrance requirements (entrance requirements usually include a minimum overall GPA, a minimum GPA in the major, and a certain number of courses in that major). Being in The Honors College does not guarantee admission into the honors program in any major.

If your major does not have an honors program (ie. if no mention is made of an honors program on your major/department website and if there is no listing for your major/department on the honors website), then you should schedule a meeting with Professor Haugaard to discuss the requirements that you will need to meet to graduate from The Honors College, if you have not done so already.

Make a Course Plan for the Next Two Years

Taking note of the various major, minor, and general-education requirements that you must meet to graduate with honors in your major (or to graduate in your major if your major does not have an honors program), create a tentative schedule for the next two years. Make an appointment with your major advisor if you have declared a major, or with your advisor in the Advisement Services Center if you have not declared a major, and discuss this schedule. It is far better if you do this before the meeting that you have about preregistration for the next semester. The meeting before preregistration is likely to be quicker and focus on your next semester. This meeting should be more in depth and should have a longer focus.

Some majors have specific courses for you to take during your third and forth years, if you are to graduate with honors in that major. Be sure that you have sufficient room in your schedule to take these courses.

Talk with the Director of Honors Programs in Your Declared or Intended Major

Make an appointment to talk with the Director of the Honors Program in your declared or intended major. It will be important to get to know the Director and for the Director to know you. If you have a friend or two in The Honors College and in your major, perhaps you could get together and have a small-group meeting with the Director.

  • Make sure that you understand the requirements to graduate with honors in your major.
  • Ask any questions you have about admission to the honors program in that major.
  • Talk about the process for completing an honors thesis in your major. When should you get started; are there specific courses you should take before beginning your honors thesis/project; how should you go about finding an advisor for your thesis/project?
  • Talk some about your research interests and ask for assistance in locating a professor with similar interests who can be your advisor.
  • If you have searched the department website for faculty research interests and have located one or more professors whose research interests you, and who you might want as a thesis advisor, ask the Director if she or he knows about these professors availability.

Find a Research Advisor (for those in many majors)

If your major is in the social, biological, physical, or chemical sciences, or in mathematics or business, you should be thinking about joining a professors research team by the end of this semester. We have some basic advice for how to do this on our website.

You may have already joined a professors research lab. That is terrific. If not, you should be talking with professors about their labs now, with the possibility of joining the lab when you begin the fall semester of your third year. Waiting until the fall of your third year to have these conversations may result in your learning that a professors lab is already at maximum capacity. So, get started this semester.

Students in the humanities or the arts may not begin the research process for another semester or another year. When to begin the research process is something that you should discuss with the Director of the Honors Program in your major (see above).

If you would like advice on how to find a research team or a research advisor, contact Professor Haugaard. Finding a research team or advisor will be a new venture for almost all honors students. As with many new ventures, joining a research team may involve some anxiety. You should be careful not to let this anxiety get in your way of finding a research team or advisor. Avoid putting this task off each month, so that suddenly you find yourself a year further into college with no research advisor. This may result in your not being able to complete an honors thesis.

Consider a Nationally Competitive Scholarship

Students who are highly accomplished academically (usually defined by these scholarships as those with a GPA of at least 3.8) should consider applying for a nationally competitive scholarship, such as the Rhodes or Marshall Scholarship. Information about these scholarships can be found on the honors webpage, and this information includes the URL for each scholarships website. (See additional information about this in the previous section.)

Etcetera

Attend a performance of one of the UAlbany jazz or percussion ensembles at the PAC.
Visit the University Art Museum and see one of this semesters exhibits.
Attend a track meet.
Go to the Tulip Festival at Washington Park (the #12 bus goes right by).
When the weather warms up, spend an afternoon in Saratoga.
If you havent done so already, have breakfast with Professor Haugaard at Deweys Diner one Thursday morning.

Checklist

  • Complete honors courses (unless permission to take one next year was obtained).
  • Apply to the honors program in your major, if required this semester.
  • Make a course plan for the next two years.
  • Meet with your advisor to discuss your course plan.
  • Meet with the Honors Program Director in your major (or with Professor Haugaard if your major does not have an honors program.)
  • If appropriate in your major, join a research team.
  • If your GPA is 3.8 or higher, read information about nationally competitive scholarships.

THIRD YEAR

First Semester

Honors Courses

Check your audit to ensure that you have completed all your honors courses (or as many as you should have completed, if you have received permission to take an honors course in your third year). Bring any discrepancies to the attention of Professor Haugaard.

Make a Course Plan for the Next Three Semesters

If you created a two-year plan and discussed it with your major advisor last semester, you may or may not need to complete this step. If you ran into problems meeting your planned schedule for this semester, another meeting with your advisor about your next three semesters may be needed. If you are on track, a meeting may not be needed.

If you did not create a two-year plan last year, or if you had not declared a major and so discussed your two-year plan with your advisor in the Advisement Services Center, you should schedule a meeting with your major advisor to discuss the next three semesters. Have this meeting before the meeting to discuss your preregistration for next semester, so that you have ample time to discuss your next three semesters. Before the meeting, list the various major, minor, and general-education requirements that you still must meet to graduate with honors in your major (or to graduate in your major if your major does not have an honors program). Then create your tentative schedule for the next three semesters.

Be sure to note that some majors have specific courses for you to take during your third and forth years, if you are to graduate with honors in that major. Be sure that you have sufficient room in your schedule to take these courses.

Admission to the Honors Program in Your Major

Most departments require that you be admitted to their honors program by the end of the first semester of your third year (some have an earlier deadline, and a few a later deadline). For information on when you must apply to the honors program in your major, see the website for your department or major, or see the honors webpage.

It is important to note that every major with an honors program requires that all students apply to it. Students in The Honors College must apply in the same way as other students at UAlbany, and must meet the same entrance requirements (entrance requirements usually include a minimum overall GPA, a minimum GPA in the major, and a certain number of courses in that major). Being in The Honors College does not guarantee admission into the honors program in any major.

If your major or department does not have an honors program (ie. if no mention is made of an honors program on your major/department website and if there is no listing for your major/department on the honors website), then you should schedule a meeting with Professor Haugaard to discuss the requirements that you will need to meet to graduate from The Honors College, if you have not done this already.

Join a Research Team

Students in the social, biological, physical, or chemical sciences, and those in mathematics or business:

If you did not join a research team last semester, you should begin to have conversations with professors with whom you might want to do research, or who might be the advisor for your honors thesis. There is a discussion of the process for doing this on the honors website. By the end of this semester, you should have joined a research team, unless there is a different timetable for this in your major (you will get this information from your conversation with the Director of the Honors Program in your major).

Students in the humanities or the arts:

Research teams, of the sort that are common in the sciences and business, are less common in the humanities and the arts. Consequently, the honors programs in some of the humanities or arts majors may assign students to thesis advisors during the students last year. Be sure to discuss this with the Director of the Honors Program in your major.

Even if professors in your major do not have research teams, you could still talk with one or more of them about being involved in his or her scholarly work sometime during this semester. It might be that you could join with a professor and a few other students in looking at some specific issue in your discipline, and that you could use this work as the foundation for your thesis during your senior year.

In some cases, it may be possible to do an independent study with a professor in your major during your third year, with this independent study starting you on the process of writing our honors thesis or doing your honors creative project.

Think About an Internship

If an internship is a possibility this summer, talk with advisors and others about the types of internships that would be useful. Start exploring where these might be. Information on internships can be gathered from your advisor, from people in the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education office, and in the career services office.

It is possible to get academic credit for some internships. However, this requires additional effort on your part to locate a professor who will be willing to support your internship. It will be possible to find a professor to do this, but it may take some looking. So, get started early.

Consider Summer Research

If you are involved in research already, talk with your professor or with graduate students who are working with your professor about the possibility of continuing your research involvement over the summer. Some professors have funding to pay research assistants in the summer, and you might be a good candidate if you show promise while working on the research. Other funding sources might be available to you for summer research, including the Losee Scholarship.

Etcetera

Attend a performance of one of the UAlbany choral groups (check the schedule of the Performing Arts Center).
Visit the University Art Museum and see one of this semesters exhibits.
Attend a field hockey game.
Visit the Corning Preserve and Riverfront Park (where Albany bumps into the Hudson River).
Visit the Adirondack Museum.
Eat at Jacks Oyster House.

Checklist

  • Check your audit to ensure that all honors courses are completed.
  • Make a course plan for the next three semesters.
  • Meet with your major advisor, if you have not done so, to discuss your course plan.
  • Apply to the honors program in your major, if you did not do so last semester.
  • Depending on your major, participate on a research team or contact professors about joining their scholarly work, if you did not do so last semester.
  • Consider an internship; gather information about possible internships.
  • Consider a summer research placement.

THIRD YEAR

Second Semester

Find an Advisor for your Honors Thesis

As noted several times already, majors in different disciplines have different procedures for completing a senior honors thesis. The information below provides general guidance. You should consult with the Director of the Honors Program in your major to get specific information about finding a thesis advisor in your major (preferably, this conversation occurred last semester, but if it did not, it should occur early this semester).

Unless your major has specific procedures that assign you to a thesis advisor at the beginning of next year, by the end of this semester you should have:

• Identified a professor who will be your honors thesis advisor.

• Identified the topic of your honors thesis. The specific question, focus, or thesis of your honors thesis may evolve over the next few months, but you should have an initial topic by the end of this semester.

This will be easier if you have had conversations with professors in your major department, and if you have had a conversation or two with the Director of the Honors Program in your major. You may still be in the process of talking with professors about being your thesis advisor. That is fine. But, by the end of the semester, you should know who your advisor is and the focus of your thesis.

If you have not talked with professors or the Director of the Honors Program in your major last semester, then you are a bit behind and need to catch up by focusing on this issue. See the discussion about talking with professors in the previous semesters description and see the honors website. If you are struggling to find an honors thesis advisor, consult with Professor Haugaard.

Plan Your Thesis Research for the Summer

The summer can be a time to begin important parts of your honors thesis/project. Even if you are away from UAlbany, you can begin to compile a list of articles, chapters, and books you will read by connecting with the UAlbany Library on the web. You could also begin to order interlibrary loan items (some of which are delivered electronically, so you will get them on your computer).

Check with the Honors Librarian, Jean McLaughlin, about the best strategies for doing this (jmclaughlin@uamail.albany.edu). Ms. McLaughlin can provide lots of useful advice about this part of your thesis project. You might organize a weekend trip or two to UAlbany to gather materials from the library or you may find the materials you need at a nearby city or university library.

If you are able to get a jump on the reading you will need to do for your thesis, by doing some of it over the summer, that will help to move your project along. At this point, it may seem as if getting started on your thesis is unnecessary, since it is not due for several months. But, as many seniors will attest, May of your senior year comes very quickly. To avoid panicked work on your thesis in April and May, you should get started on your reading this summer.

Think About an Internship

If you did not pursue an internship last semester, but it seems like a good idea now, work fast to find one. Talk with advisors and others about the types of internships that would be useful. Push ahead and see when applications for the internships are due. This is something to get started on early in the semester - most internships are settled by the end of the academic year. (See more specific information in the information for the fall semester.)

Consider Summer Research

If it is a possibility, talk with your research advisor or with graduate students who are working with your research advisor about the possibility of continuing your research involvement over the summer. This also should be done early in the semester, if you did not focus on this last semester, as professors and graduate assistants will be eager to get their summer research plans settled early in the semester.

Some professors have funding to pay research assistants in the summer, and you might be a good candidate if you show promise while working on the research. Other funding sources might be available to you for summer research, including the Losee Scholarship.

Etcetera

Attend a performance by one of the UAlbany music faculty (check the schedule of the Performing Arts Center).
Visit the University Art Museum at the end of the semester to see the exhibit by the UAlbany masters students (usually in late April or May).
Attend a womens lacrosse game and a mens lacrosse game. Try to figure out the differences in the rules.
Visit the New York State Museum (on the Capitol Plaza).
Visit Hyde Park and the FDR Presidential Library and Museum.
Have lunch or dinner at Guss Hotdogs in Watervliet.

Checklist

  • Find an advisor for your honors thesis/project.
  • Determine the topic of your thesis/project by the end of this semester.
  • Plan your summer thesis work.
  • If appropriate, pursue an internship.
  • If appropriate, pursue summer research.

FOURTH YEAR

First Semester

Graduation Requirements

Very early in the semester, check your audit to determine what requirements you still must meet to graduate: general education requirements, major and minor requirements, honors-course requirements, and total number of credits.  Be sure that any specific course requirements can be met next semester, or you may need to add and drop courses this semester to complete a requirement this semester.

Identifying a Thesis Advisor (if now is the time)

Some departments assign thesis advisors to their honors students at the beginning of this year.  If you have not been assigned a thesis advisor sometime very early in the semester, you should contact the Director of the Honors Program in your major and arrange a meeting to discuss this issue.  Contact Professor Haugaard early in the semester if you have problems with, or concerns about, this issue.

Start Writing Your Thesis/Doing Your Creative Project

Your thesis/creative project is a significant undertaking.  It is not simply a long paper or a more-involved creation.  Both the quantity and the quality of your thesis/project are significant steps up from what you have done before.  Here are two general thoughts on this process:

It will take you MUCH longer to complete your thesis/project than you anticipate.  This is true for almost everyone.  It will be true if you write a masters thesis or a doctoral dissertation in the future.  It will be true when you write articles as an assistant professor.  This type of writing ALWAYS takes much longer to complete than anyone anticipates.  The rule is to determine the longest that it will take you to complete your thesis and then double that amount of time (the same is true for masters and doctoral students).  Really.  You will not be the exception to this rule.  It will take you at least twice as long as the longest amount of time that you can imagine it will take to complete your thesis.

You have the intellectual ability to write an outstanding thesis.

Remember that most of you will be receiving three units of academic credit during the fall and spring semesters of your senior year to do your thesis.  That means that your professors anticipate that it will take you as long to write your thesis as all the time that you spend taking two courses - all the time in class, studying for exams, writing papers, doing projects, and walking to class.  That is a lot of time.  That is how much time that you need to spend on your thesis.  If you spend eight hours on one of your courses during the third week of your fourth year, then you should also spend eight hours working on your thesis during the third week. 

During our first year, I contacted all the graduating seniors to be sure that they were on track with their thesis.  One student reassured me several times during the spring semester that the writing was going well and that everything would be done on schedule and probably much earlier than the schedule required.  Here is what the student sent me the day after classes ended in May: 

As I'm sitting here frantically trying to finish my thesis before I graduate (don't worry, I will finish), I thought of something I wish I had thought of sooner.  Since I can't benefit from it, maybe my fellow procrastinators can.

It seems so obvious and simple but I think it could be very effective.  The semester during which a student is enrolled to work on their thesis, he or she should choose four hours a week which would be their "thesis class time."  During those four hours, the student must go to the library (or some other chosen place) and work on their thesis.  Also during that time the student should assign themselves homework for the week.  The two important parts of this plan are that, first, the chosen place is somewhere other than their apartment or dorm room, and, second, that they cultivate in themselves the same sort of guilt for skipping Thesis Class that they (hopefully) have when they skip their other classes.  Also, somehow conjure the pressure to finish the homework on time.

So, if anyone ever asks you about the advice that seniors give about their theses, there is something you can tell them.

It may also be worth noting that this student graduated with something like a 3.95 cumulative GPA, so obviously ability and a good work ethic were not issues that this student lacked.  Even very, very smart people need lots of time to complete a good senior, masters, or doctoral thesis. 

I have written several books in my academic career.  When I describe the process to students, I describe it as similar to running a marathon: it takes a very long time, but you can get there eventually by putting one foot in front of the other.  Think of your honors thesis as a 10K run.  Just as most of us have the ability to complete a 10K run (even if we have to walk all the way), we also have the ability to complete a thesis.  However, you have to start and then keep putting one foot in front of the other until the finish line.  If you want to make it to finish line before they take away all the banners, you have to start early. 

I just know that some of you reading this (maybe those in majors that require lots of papers) are sure that this does not pertain to you.  It does.  Really.  This is a new experience.  Give yourself the needed time to wander through the process.  Start writing your thesis by the third week of the fall semester (not just thinking about what you will write - actually typing the words into your thesis file). 

If Needed, Contact The Honors Librarian

 Ms. Jean McLaughlinis the Honors Librarian.  She is available to help honors students do the library research that will provide the information that will be at the foundation of their thesis introduction.  Ms. McLaughlin may be aware of strategies for finding information of which even your thesis advisor is unaware.  She would be happy provide individual or small-group instruction in the library.  Learning this information earlier rather than later will be a benefit. 

Make Your What To Do Before I Graduate List

What are the experiences on campus, in Albany, or in the surrounding area that you want to have available as college memories someday?  Start that list now, add to it as you go, and start doing all the things you want to do.

Check In With the Director of Your Departments Honors Program (or Professor Haugaard)

If your major has an honors program, you should have met at least twice with the Director over the past two years.  Schedule one more meeting.  Bring your degree audit and explain how you have completed all the requirements for honors in your major (or, alternately, which ones you are still working on).  Describe your honors thesis/project and briefly describe how it is going.  Ask any questions about requirements, when your thesis/project is due, or other issues about which you are wondering.  It is helpful to periodically remind the Director who you are and what you are doing.

If your major does not have an honors program, make an appointment with Professor Haugaard and go over all these issues with him. 

Etcetera

Attend a new type of music event at the Performing Arts Center.
Attend a soccer game.
Attend a horse race in Saratoga (must go early in the semester).
Visit West Point.
Try to find a good Mexican restaurant in Albany; if you find one, tell Professor Haugaard.

Checklist

  • Check to see that you have met, or are meeting, all graduation requirements.
  • Identify a thesis advisor if you have not done so already.
  • Start writing your thesis. 
  • If needed, contact the Honors Librarian.
  • Make the list of experiences you want to have before you graduate.
  • Check in with your departments Honors Program Director (or Professor Haugaard).

FOURTH YEAR

Second Semester

Work on Your Thesis

From the first week of the semester, write your thesis.  Write, write, write, write.  It is inevitable that, after you have completed your thesis, your advisor (and possibly another reader) will have many suggestions for changes and improvements.  So, you MUST get your thesis done in time to give them time to read it (about two weeks), then for you to make changes (maybe two more weeks), then for them to read it again (two weeks), then for you to make more changes (two weeks, maybe), then for them to read it (two weeks).  Even with my limited math abilities, I can see that you must be done with your thesis 10 weeks before the end of the semester - so that would be the beginning of March (yes, the beginning of MARCH).  It is not just a partial draft that needs to be done by the beginning of March, it is the whole thing.  If you only need to complete one round of revisions, then you will be done a month before you need to be.  But, you cannot plan on this. 

So, when you are planning your time remember two things (a) your thesis should be done at the beginning of March and (b) it will take you twice as long as your longest estimate to complete your thesis (as described above). 

Really - this is why you need to start writing by the third week of the fall semester.

Think About Your Life

As you get close to the significant event of graduation from college, take some time to think about the people who have been significant in your education over the years - parents, other relatives, teachers, friends, and others.  Take some time to call them, tell them about the important role they have played in your life, and thank them.  Even better, write them a note that they can keep and look at over the years.