Making my past into an honors thesis: The importance of passion in your research

Illustration of two hands in exchange, passing along a diploma and a graduation hat, with a clock in the background.
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I didn’t necessarily feel guilty when I decided to take the advice of my high school counselor to withdraw from traditional education. My attitude was hostile, my attendance was sporadic at best and homework assignments were neither logged nor remembered within two minutes of exiting class. High school was a bizarre environment that operated within a framework based almost entirely on what a student should be and what a student is supposed to do. As someone who has never quite mastered the art of fitting in, my high school career ended at age 15.

Over the years, my life has ebbed and flowed through trials and tribulations, yet I eventually enrolled at one of the colleges in the Peralta Community College District. In a choice that was initially motivated by my desperation to be accepted by my parents, an unexpected sense of joy and purpose was found as I was exposed to an exponentially greater world than my insular existence in Oakland had previously offered. With time, I gradually clawed my way into UC Berkeley.

Now that I have qualified for honors thesis preparation in my major, these experiences and lessons have not only inspired my research but have caused me to reflect with gratitude, rather than embarrassment, on my path as a nontraditional student at UC Berkeley and helped me handle the weight of an honors thesis program. I learned that there is nobody there to hold your hand — go figure out what you need to do and how to do it. Upon my arrival as a transfer student at UC Berkeley, I was completely uninformed about the possibility of graduating with honors. I took the initiative to research the required criteria and ensure my eligibility as an honors candidate, all the while knowing my success was completely dependent on my hunger. Use your own unique strengths and knowledge to motivate yourself. This drive will be necessary should you choose to pursue an honors thesis.

My research aims to challenge misrepresentations of transfer students, yet I am aware of the stigma and statistics. Rather than this being seen as a negative, I am nothing but humbled and gracious to have attended college with students who are facing incredible obstacles and still smile with you as you complete a project together. The incredible diversity of the students at a community college makes it impossible to generalize the population in any way. However, if I could suggest one common theme, it’s that a community college student is strong. This will be emphasized in my honors thesis. What has shaped your college experience?

I am planning to research the attitudes of transfer students regarding their community college experience and their transition to four-year institutions. In addition, I would like to examine the stereotypes faculty and traditional students may or may not embrace about transfer students and find out if any of these factors affect the academic performances of transfer students. My personal experience with the “transfer student” label has greatly impacted me at this school. I would like to know how other transfer students have responded to the UC Berkeley environment and how others have responded to them.

My honors thesis is personal to me, and yours needs to be personal to you if you choose to work on such a large and important project. This is my history; this is my passion. What do you want to specialize in and say to the world? Be honest, embrace your past, be reflective of your passions and let your own original identity inspire your research.

It is hard work, but we at the Clog believe in you! Check the prerequisites for your class, articulate your specific interest in your topic with your thesis proposal and the experience will surely be rewarding.

Contact Morgan Saltz at [email protected].