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Gearing up for Comps

Aidan explains how he's preparing for Carleton's capstone: Comps!

Aidan explains how he's preparing for Carleton's capstone: Comps!

As a spring term junior, I am just beginning to see comps on the horizon. At Carleton, every person has to complete a “Comps” project within their major. Although we give it this fancy title, it is essentially just our version of a capstone project.

It looks a little different for each major too. Chemistry majors can do group research, English majors a creative project, but most just do an independent research project. The process for both of my majors (Religion and French and Francophone Studies) is starting very soon (this term!). I’m excited to share my process and what I am doing to prepare myself!

students present research
Some majors present their Comps projects at poster sessions like this one! By Kallie Rollenhagen

What are my Comps(es)?

In both of my departments, the Comps process is an independent research project. I get a lot of freedom to decide what exactly I want to do, but the infinite options are making it hard to decide! The process for both takes approximately one trimester in which I research, write, revise, and then present my paper. With two majors, I have to undergo this process twice, once for each major. The French Comps is a little bit shorter because it is written in French, but between the two I will have to do about 55 pages of writing.



To get a little technical for a second, I want to do my Religion comps on the intersection between modern capitalism and Christian church worship practices. So this term I am taking RELG 329 Modernity and Tradition and RELG 121 Introduction to Christianity to help me begin to grapple with these concepts. A lot of the time Comps projects are founded on a past class or research project. In my case, I took RELG 246 Christianity and Capitalism my freshman year, and I have known I wanted to do a bigger project on that subject since then!

student presenting fellowship research
Fellow Religion major Karina presenting her fellowship research! By Anwesha Mukherji, Class of 2023


Since Comps are usually focused on research, Carleton offers a lot of opportunities to do actual field research for your projects! For example, I applied for a Carleton-funded fellowship which would allow me to spend a month in Europe. While there, I’d be studying the interactions between church tourism and engagement with sacred spaces (AKA sitting in churches and studying people). Really, I’m excited about the possibility of going to Europe to do research. I know I wouldn’t be able to afford it on my own. With 5,000 dollars from Carleton though? It’s no problem! Fellowships are just one way that Carleton really tries to make sure your Comps is as good as you want it to be.

Potential Takeaways

I understand for some people, Comps might seem like a lot. Even though I want to go into academia (and about 80% of Carleton students eventually end up in graduate school), a lot of Carleton students won’t end up going to these places. For me, these projects allow me to dip my toes into real high-caliber academic writing. For others, it might just be a way to explore their interests. Not everyone at Carleton loves the intersection of church usage and capitalism, but I do. I am so glad I get to share it with the world.



Aidan (he/him) is a junior from Batavia, IL coming back to Northfield after a semester off-campus in Paris. He is a Religion and French and Francophone Studies double major with a passion for ceramics. Outside of class, he enjoys spending his time cooking, hanging out with his housemates in the Culinary Interest House, and performing in Carleton’s sketch comedy group. You can often find him at the campuses’ two dining halls chatting with other students while working as a student dining hall manager.