The Graduating Warrior: Crunch Time!

Kevin Veloso - 4C Software
Posted on: March 13, 2013

It’s that time again in the term where you’re two months in and you realize that a lot of work has been poured onto your plate (or bowl, whatever). Midterms have been wrapped up and final projects and assignments are due. Whether you feel you’re behind on material after those midterms, or whether you’re caught up yet still working on all your projects, we can all agree on this: it’s crunch time! Whether you’re a graduating student or not, it’s possible that this term could be “the hardest term ever”, as dubbed by your upper years. For me, it was my 3A term, although after 3A, the difficulty of the term mostly depends on the Technical Electives (TEs) or Complementary Studies Electives (CSEs) you take. Some people take as many TEs as they can so that they can make room for easier courses in 4A and 4B. Some may have to spread out their TEs because they’re going for an option, but I digress.

What’s crunch time like for fourth years? Like their previous terms, they also have midterms and final assignments to finish up before the end of the term. A lot of upper year TEs tend to remove the regular assignments and labs and assign one or more projects to be completed throughout the term. Sometimes they come without specific due dates or deliverable dates, which makes it interesting when planning out when to do work.

One of the major things that make up the fourth year terms is the Fourth Year Design Project (FYDP), which isn’t quite the same across all engineering programs. Some programs have students start in 4A, while others start in 3B. Some programs have students work in groups to complete this project, while other programs have students do their final project individually. FYDP ends for some students at the evening of their Design Symposium, while other students may have to hand in final reports, either at the end of lectures or at the end of the term. With most design symposiums happening the week following this issue of the Iron Warrior, many fourth years find themselves crunching more than before, spending long hours in their fourth year rooms, borrowing more books from the library, getting acquainted with their lab equipment, or realizing that Mel’s is back and that they’re open 24 hours a day on Fridays and weekends! A lot of late nights can be had just to meet deadlines for deliverables, as well as accommodating for any group members whose work schedules are just as interesting as your own.

Even in 4B, it seems as if the stress that comes with being an engineering student never ends. The Dean of Engineering, Pearl Sullivan, has often used the word “suffering” when describing the struggle many undergraduate students face while completing their degree. No matter what the term is, there can always be things that can make the term a little more difficult. Maybe the interview process hasn’t been going well, and you don’t have a job yet (whether for full-time or for the next co-op term). Maybe all the deadlines and deliverables are all within a small amount of time, leaving you to juggle with scheduling. With fourth years, there’s all the additional planning that happens as their final term wraps up, such as planning the last set of class parties, organizing GradBall and grad trips, and dealing with the lease for the house or apartment in Waterloo where they might have lived in since second or third year. They have their project poster to print out, clients to contact (if their fourth year project relies on collaborating with professors or with companies in the industry), and rehearsals to arrange for their presentations. Some of these tasks can be put aside for later, but by doing so, sometimes you find that you have more tasks than you thought you did. It can be a mess!

When times get you down in fourth year, it helps to try to think about the positives. In less than a month, you’ll be finally rid of having to attend lectures and working within tight deadlines! I remind some students of this, but sometimes it makes them feel bad as they realize how little time they have to complete the rest of their work. There’s convocation to look forward to, as well as GradBall, the end of the design symposium, and a lot more! Spring’s also around the corner! (Hey, I’m trying to help here by looking at the bright side!) Go outside if you need to!

Sure, things looks difficult right now for fourth years. Someone out there might have two or more projects to work on, one of them being a group project, while trying to find someone to take over their lease, while trying to study for the upcoming midterm while having enough sleep so that you don’t look like a zombie during the interview you’re having tomorrow for a full-time position happening in another province. If this is actually you, it’s probably just a coincidence that I’m paraphrasing your current life predicament and that I’m not stalking you. If you remind yourself that you have a month left, and if you want to think positively and look forward towards Convocation, take the crunch time you have and just grind through the work. Grab an extra cup of coffee, and possibly go ahead and do an all-nighter for the umpteenth time this term (that is, if your body can take it — and please avoid doing one if you don’t think your body’s up to it) and get your work done. It’ll all be worth it in the end!

Just one quick note: don’t forget to take care of yourself during crunch time. Get as much rest as you can, take some days off if you’re not feeling well, and make accommodations for yourself if you feel you have absolutely too much work on your plate (or bowl, whatever). It’s sometimes easy to lose track of your health when so many things are being thrown at you.

I would like to thank the Student Relations Officer, Robin Jardin, for helping me come up with the idea for this issue’s article. She suggested that I talk about the “light at the end of the tunnel” where the tunnel is the crunch period that most students are in. She suggested writing an article that would pull people out of the sad slump that is the crunch period of the term, continuously reminding me about the “light at the end of the tunnel”. Although it started as her idea, I took the idea, changed it a bit (or a lot) and added as many words to it as possible. Robin will be on maternity leave again at the end of the month, and I wish her all the best. I also wish everyone else the best in getting through this crunch period. It’s almost over!

Fun fact: Cap’N Crunch’s full name is Horatio Magellan Crunch!