The Collegiate’s Guide to Surviving Midterms

As wonderful as autumn is, sometimes I can’t help but dread the middle of the fall semester. While I love the crisp weather, midterms are a different story. In the last seven days I’ve written three papers, one of which was in Spanish. There were also two exams, which I had to study for on top of my typical homework. Oh, and I can’t forget the Sigma Tau Delta induction! This week, my planner is overrun with even more exams, not to mention my Shakespeare comparison paper. To top everything off, I’ll spend the weekend running homecoming events as a Presidents Ambassador. Even though actual midterms are a week or two away, this is basically the first crunch week of the fall semester — it’s all about not sleeping and keeping Starbucks in business.

Since I’ve been fighting to stay ahead of the game, I decided to write a post about how to survive midterms.

A Collegiate's Guide To Surviving Midterms (2)


Keep your planner clean and organized. Yes, your kitten stickers are cute, but it’s better to keep your midterm week(s) uncluttered. Also, you’ll need plenty of room to ensure you can manage your time and “to do” lists. If you’re not someone who keeps a planner or likes to organize things, now is a good time to start.

Make a running “to do” list. Include everything for the week: assignments, meetings, review sessions, study groups. Break everything down into detailed steps that you might not include in your planner. For example, under “Shakespeare Comparison Paper” I’ve included “find significant quotes” and “schedule peer review”. This will help ensure that you don’t miss important details, especially when everything is due at once.

Prioritize assignments and create a study schedule. This might sound awful, because every midterm is important. However, some exams will involve more studying or effort. Make a schedule that will focus on the most important aspects of midterm week. For instance, I spent last week focusing on my postmodernity English paper, because it was four pages longer than my Shakespeare paper. It was also 20% of my final grade instead of Shakespeare’s 10%. Now that my big paper is out of the way, I have more time to focus on other classes and exams.

Review notes and focus on key elements. If you’re like me, your notebooks are already overflowing. While we don’t all have time to go through and re-articulate everything written down, it is important to outline the key aspects of an assignment, lecture, or class. Organize any class handouts and review any powerpoints.

Make sure you sleep and eat properly. Getting sick during midterms is hellish. Weather is changing, everyone is stressed, and the cafeteria food isn’t exactly nourishing. While you might get away with substituting coffee for another food group, now isn’t the time to rely on caffeine alone. Keep healthy snacks in the dorm and make sure to eat fruits and vegetables. On the other hand, sleep is also a necessity. You might stay up into the wee hours of morn’, but be sure to give your body plenty of time to rest and recuperate from stress. It’s hard to write an epic essay exam when you can’t keep your eyes open.

Make sure your dorm room is clean. Use the weekend before midterm madness to organize your desk, closet, and room. Make sure your laundry basket is empty and clean out that sink full of dirty dishes. If your humble abode is in working order, it’ll help lower stress levels and make it easier to function!

Choose your wardrobe for the week and dress for success. There’s nothing more stressful than waking up late for a midterm and not knowing what to wear. To keep all the awful debating to a minimum, plan what you’ll wear for the week and layout your clothes and shoes the night before. If you have it ready to go, you might even get an extra five minutes of sleep! Furthermore, dressing for success is a great confidence boost. This doesn’t mean going all out in business suits. Simply wear something that you feel nice in. Don’t show up to class wearing pajamas, even if they feel comfy.

Plan to procrastinate. Even the most dedicated students find themselves procrastinating. Take me for example: I should really be finishing my paper, but I’m stuck and frustrated. My form of procrastination? Writing a blog post. Honestly, it’s nice having a blog sometimes. Work can be avoided while I still feel productive. Anyhow… plan for a few hours of procrastination. It’s inevitable.

Take some time to relax. In spite of the stress, you still need to breathe. Take a (procrastination) break to clear your head and grab dinner with friends. Listen to uplifting music. Enjoy a beautiful sunset. Those few minutes where you just focus on enjoying life will keep you sane. So breath, lovelies. Breathe.

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