by David Hermanson, Staff Writer, May 2022

Along with the final quarter of the year comes a topic that many seniors hold dear to their hearts: the Senior Class Drop. 

Serving as a crutch for the infamous “senoritis” plague that bites nearly every member of Class I in the Spring, the class drop, as it is known to students, allows for seniors to walk away from the responsibilities of any class of their choosing so long as they are still fulfilling their graduation requirements. After years of hard work in the community, the drop provides students with freedom and a feeling of respect and authority. After all, who else in the community can simply drop classes?

Yet while this process is nearly ubiquitous amongst those embarking on their conclusion to their Nobles career, and amongst rising juniors and other classes there is a fair amount of confusion regarding the topic.

The first point of clarification (and sometimes the most surprising point) is that when dropping a class, seniors are expected to replace the missing time with a similarly rigorous academic activity. In the past, this replacement was referred to as a “Senior Project” but now it has instead become the “Senior Passion Project.” 

Prior to the pandemic, the senior project offered seniors an opportunity to dive in depth into their passions in exchange for the dropping of one, or even two, classes. It was a genuine challenge that seniors could take on if they felt inspired and one that garnered a lot of excitement from others in the community. 

In the past, the senior project was often an extreme point of pride for graduating seniors. 

Some examples of memorable senior projects include students who made their own skis or others still who designed their own dresses or other works of intricate art. 

Some, seeking to use their free time in a different sense, used their time to begin developing their own career, such as by participating in internships off campus or by engaging deeply in work that would benefit them later in life such as by diving deep into coding projects.

One memorable student, along these lines, went so far as to write his own stock-picking algorithm which went on to become extremely successful. Today, that student works on wall-street, demonstrating the impact the senior projects once had at potentially swaying a students future life. 

So what happened? Where did these projects go? 

In lieu of the COVID pandemic, which rendered many internships unavailable and made group projects and faculty support difficult to organize, the senior passion project was created so as to offer the same opportunities as the senior project however with several small differences. 

The most major of these differences included a lack of faculty advisor, lack of check-ins, and a lack of overall structure. Instead, students were entrusted with the ability to determine for themselves what level of rigor would be equivalent to whatever class they happened to be abandoning. 

The issue, it seems, is that there has been some conversation amongst the student body that the “senior passion project” has become more of a joke than anything else. While some do likely take the extra time given to them to pursue the creation of something wonderful, many others simply drop a class and do nothing to fill the time but go out to snack with friends.  

When commenting on these worries, Kimberly Libby Genecco, Senior Class Dean, defended seniors and explained what she hoped their logic would be, “The tuition here is not inexpensive, which means that your classes are not inexpensive. To take a class out of your schedule in order to do something you’re really passionate about. […] The hope is always that you’re doing something that equates to that class.” However, she continued, Ms. Genecco conceded that a certain level of relaxed focus was to be expected. “We understand what it feels like emotionally to be a fourth-quarter senior.”

Given the lack of forced accountability, it appears as if for most rising students, the decision as to what they will use their fourth quarter for rests on them. Especially given the fact that it is likely this system will only change, alongside the general schedule in September of 2023, rising juniors will have to reflect on whether they would like to take advantage of the more relaxed system offered to them now to simply relax, or whether they would like to endeavor to create or teach themselves something wonderful.