Senior Reflection Essay Papers

Reflective Essay Component of the Senior Thesis Exhibition 2018

Guidelines for Seniors

The capstone experience for the studio art major is the Senior Thesis Exhibition (STE). For the exhibition, each senior major selects and presents a body of work representing the culmination of study in the studio arts. Effective with the class of 2012, the department has added a writing requirement to the STE and thus to the major: a short essay.

The process of formulating the essay will encourage each student to reflect upon their experiences and growth as a studio art major and provide a means for them to think seriously and communicate effectively about their own artwork as they prepare for their exhibition. The essay will be used, in coordination with the exhibition of work, as a tool for evaluating the student’s capstone experience.

Content. Artists’ writings cover a wide range of styles and intents including a cryptic stream of consciousness, a politically charged manifesto, a delicate poem, a humble statement of intent or a scholarly essay.  In art, writing may be highly structured–as in a theoretical paper–or much more informal. Members of the art department agree that the reflective essay is seen as a culmination of the writing experience in the major and may take many forms. Throughout the studio art major students may write statements of intent, critical evaluations, analytical papers, response papers, journals and/or descriptive or expressive essays.  Because there is no standard convention of writing within the arts, students may explore a broad variety of writing in context to their work, including, but not limited to the following examples:

An artist statement explains, justifies, and contextualizes an artist’s work.  Artists often maintain and revise these statements throughout their career and may be required to submit the statement to apply for graduate school, residencies, exhibitions, or grants.  An artist statement is not a biography but might include biographical information pertinent to the concept/process of the work.


A self-reflective essay critically analyzes the experiences of why and how:

  1. the student’s choice of classes or faculty has influenced or impacted their artwork.
  2. the student’s ideas may have changed over the course of four years due
    to exposure to new tools, mediums or ideas.
  3. the influence of art historical perspectives, information and ideas are manifested in the student’s work.


A process essay may focus on the tools, processes and/or techniques a student has chosen and the impact those choices have had on the student’s work.

It is expected that students will write papers that are well-crafted, concise, clear, consistent in style and grammatically correct. The Writing Center is available to students for help with these issues and students are encouraged to take advantage of this service.

Length. The essay should be 100 to 1000 words on one or two sheets of 8.5 x 11-inch paper, typed, and in 12 pt. legible type. This format requires that you be concise with your thoughts and words.  (for example, this document is approx. 1200 words.)

Timeline. During the first senior meeting in the FALL the faculty will present and discuss the reflective essay component of the capstone experience. Within the two weeks following the meeting all senior art majors must confer with a potential faculty advisor for the essay.  Essay Advisor Forms will be available at the meeting and must be returned to the art office with the faculty member’s signature (by the date specified at the meeting). Faculty are advised to work with no more than five seniors each year. The faculty member’s primary role is to help students with content and effectiveness. Meetings between advisors and students will be dictated by individual progress and requirements. The department recommends that outlines are completed by the end of the fall semester and first drafts are completed by February 23.  The final essay is due to the faculty advisor by April 23.  Students should make use of the Writing Center for help with structure and grammar. Label information is due to the Art Department Office April 30.

Grading. A single grade of pass/fail will be assigned for both the essay and the exhibition since the STE is a noncredit bearing requirement for graduation. Essays will be read and evaluated by the faculty advisor. Any essay considered failing would be discussed with the student in time to rework and improve it. If a student is unsuccessful, the advisor will notify the department Chair by April 30. All pass/fail essay grades will be documented during the grading of the Senior Thesis Exhibition.  Some essays may be discussed at the grading of the STE.

START YOUR ESSAY AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.  As you make your work take notes, write outlines, do research, keep a journal.  Allow yourself time to develop, alter and correct your writing as your work changes and progresses.  Your Faculty Essay Advisor will advise on content.  Mechanical/structural problems should be discussed with the Writing Center.

Consider the following rubric as you work:

                    FOCUS, PURPOSE, THESIS - The essay should contain:

                  - a major, easily identifiable and sophisticated idea that relates to your art

                  - in-depth understanding and thoughtful, unique explorations of the topic

                  - inventive, original content which is colorfully and thoroughly articulated

                  -  a strong voice which demonstrates a full understanding of the ideas and    how they are essential to your work              

                  - evidence of research that is integral with the student’s own interests

A problematic essay might be confusing in its major ideas, lack insight, clarity or originality.  Ideas may be general, not explored to full potential or predictable.  There may be a simplistic view of the topic, be difficult to understand and lack effort or comprehension.

                   STRUCTURE AND ORGANIZATION of the essay should:

                  - be evident, understandable and appropriate for the thesis

                  - set up an introduction and bring thoughts to a conclusion

                  - move logically from idea to idea and point to point


A problematic essay might have passages that are unclear or lacking insight.  There might be too much or too little information.  The structure may wander, jump around or be non-existent.

                   SUPPORT AND DEVELOPMENT of the essay should:

                  - use examples to support ideas without factual errors

                  - clearly synthesize knowledge from other fields into studio practice

                  - carefully document ideas and quotations


A problematic essay might only refer to sources common to studio arts and      use weak or too few examples. Documentation of ideas and quotations may be lacking or only occasional.  There may be no references or examples to support opinions and ideas.


                  MECHANICS AND PRESENTATION of the essay should:

                  - use appropriate and sophisticated vocabulary and terminology

                  - have correct grammar, sentence structure and punctuation

                  - show evidence of editing and proofreading and formatting

                  - use active voice where possible


A problematic essay might use limited and inappropriate vocabulary. 
There may be errors in grammar, spelling or punctuation.  There may be run-on sentences. 

This article was written by Estefania Maldonado, Class of 2013. Stef will be attending Hofstra University in the fall and majoring in Business.

Finally, the year we all had been waiting for had arrived: senior year. Besides keeping up with the school work, a part-time job and other miscellaneous tasks, most of us added another To-Do list to our agenda, which included applying for college, committing to college, going to prom and graduating.

Consequently, after the first weeks of school, I started to feel the stress and anxiety that came with the tedious, nerve-wracking task of filling out the various college and Financial Aid applications. But after finally completing all of them, I, happily, checked it off my senior list and moved on to the next task. As I got the many acceptance letters, as well as the many painful rejection letters, in the mail, I made up my mind and chose the college that best fitted my needs. Committing to college: Check! Soon enough, the hallways were full of seniors wearing their college sweatshirts, including myself. Our feelings of satisfaction and happiness after finally knowing where we were going were blatantly written on our faces.

Then came May, and with it, prom. All of us were excited about what dress we were going to buy, what heels would match the dress, and of course, who would be the guy, or girl, that would ask us to prom. Finally as that special day arrived, we all had expectations of how the night would turn out, for me, it was awesome! Even though I had gone to prom in 2011, this year’s prom was way better. Not only because it was my graduating class, but also because of the great venue.

After that night, I realized there was only one thing left in the list: graduation. It was unbelievable how fast this year had gone by, and now, we were just weeks away from graduating. But the closer we got to our last day in school, the more it started to hit us. We were finally leaving the one place we had spent so much time of our lives in. It had almost become a second home for us. Walking everyday to my next class, I started to realize that this would be the last time I was going to roam the hallways of North Penn High School as a student. And as the days went by, the day of Reflections arrived and I was, once again, struck by feelings of nostalgia and melancholy, stirred up by the performances, especially their last song of the amazing, talented students of our class. I still, vividly, remember seeing my friends on stage performing “It’s Time” by Imagine Dragons, one of my favorite songs, and it almost brought me to tears. That night made me think of all of the people I had met in the past three years and all of the great memories we had made. However, although I knew I would miss everyone and everything, there were also mixed feelings of joy and anticipation for what was and is to come next in my life.

Wednesday, June 19th. That morning seemed like any ordinary day. But at 6:00 pm, everything changed. It was finally happening. We were led outside and into Crawford Stadium, which was overflowing with proud family members and friends of all of the graduates. After sitting down and hearing the moving speeches from our valedictorian, Lijia Xie, our salutatorian, Jeanne Shi, and our Class President, Alexandra Simon, names started to be called out. Then, as my row started to stand and line up to get the diplomas, it dawned on me that all of the hard work had paid off and I was overcome by a great feeling of accomplishment. As I took my diploma, and went back to my seat, I couldn’t help but smile. We, the Class of 2013, had finally graduated.

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