Fresh Perspective | Preparing for midterms

Fresh Perspective is a biweekly blog about typical college experiences made strange by the COVID-19 pandemic.

By Julia Smeltzer, Staff Writer

Leaves are changing colors, the temperature has finally cooled down and the first hints of autumn have finally arrived on campus after a long and hot summer. Fall has officially begun, and while fall break for students is just around the corner, so are midterms.

Whether you are a first-year student experiencing college midterms for the first time or a seasoned veteran at this time of year, midterms can seem daunting and make you feel overwhelmed, stressed and anxious. However, there are ways to set yourself up for success for your upcoming tests and assignments.

The first tip is to speak up if you need help. Something I realized early on in my first year is that despite what you think, professors are not getting paid to make you fail. They are here to help you learn and grow as a student, even if it is in a general education class and not a class tailored to your major. Yes, we might have some tough professors, but it is okay to ask for help if you are having trouble with a certain topic in your class. Ask them what is going to be on your midterm, or how to properly study the material, so there are no unexpected surprises on test day. Doing this will not only make you more confident going into the midterm season, but also show your professors that you care enough to understand the material they are teaching you.

Second, design a study schedule that works for you. I am someone who learned the hard way that I can’t get everything done in one night. Cramming all your assignments and study material into a short window of time will not only make you feel burnt out, but it also won’t prepare you properly for exams. Designate a couple of hours a day to focus on the material you need to know to maximize your time and energy. Midterm exams cover half of our semester, which means they cover about seven to eight weeks of material. So cramming all of that into one or two days is not an effective way to review the proper material you need to know. It might seem daunting blocking out time every day to study, but you will leave midterm season feeling more confident than if you crammed everything the night before.

Next, understand that it is okay to not be perfect. My very first test in college was a developmental psychology test that I thought I did so well on. I studied for hours every day to go over the dense material, and I felt confident going into the test. However, that feeling went away after my test grade was released the day after. I remember sitting at my desk and seeing that I got a 60% and being confused and sad. I called my mom on the verge of tears asking if I was going to fail out of college. Yes, that was a little dramatic. But coming from high school where I didn’t get anything lower than a B+ on a test, I was shocked. I doubted myself and questioned whether or not I was going to be successful in my academics if I performed so poorly on my very first test. Now, I know that it is okay to not do well on an exam. College is a learning curve, and you will have tests where you do amazing and others where you have the same reaction I had my first year, and that is okay. Don’t beat yourself up or doubt yourself over one test.

Most importantly, make sure to take care of yourself and your mental health. Whether you have midterm exams or just big assignments due in the next couple of weeks, it is important to constantly check in with yourself and assess how you are doing. You will have days where you feel defeated and overwhelmed, and that is normal to experience, but there are ways to prioritize your well-being. Take time away from studying to do what feels right for you. If that’s going on a walk, ordering food from your favorite restaurant, hanging out with friends or having a movie night by yourself, then great. Take time to decompress from this hectic couple of weeks and make sure you are in the right mindset to do your best. Always take care of yourself first.

No matter if this is your first midterm season or your last, we all get stressed out and overwhelmed in this environment. But if you follow these steps, it can help alleviate the anxiety that you might feel coming up in the next couple of weeks. Set yourself up for success and take care of yourself. We can get through this together.