The Starting Line: My Very First Midterm Season

[Meet Margaret, a freshman at Yale. We’ve been checking in with her every week to see what she’s doing, who she’s meeting and what new college surprises she’s tackling (or freaking out about) as she embarks on the journey we call college. Or as I like to call it, the best thing since Trader Joe’s Honey Greek Yogurt. That is, until midterms season hits, of course.]

So I’m new at this whole midterms thing. The idea that I’ve been more or less lounging around for the past 6 weeks and then – wham! – I’m hit with a test that’s worth 40% of my grade…that’s kind of crazy.

Needless to say, this past week has been an acne-inducing, sleep-lacking, chocolate-eating cram week. But, terrible as it was for my complexion and caloric intake, I have to say that this week has definitely taught me some things about studying.

First, it’s much easier to not stress about midterms if you actually know what’s going on in class. I’ve been going to class, but this was definitely problematic for a lot of my classmates. In a lecture of 400 people about something as non-stimulating as econ, it’s easy to doze off. But unfortunately, while you are dreaming about your next Halloween costume, your professor is actually saying important things. Even though my professor puts his notes online, so many of his notes are things where you have to fill in graphs and equations that you learn about in class. Bottom line, try your best not to fall asleep in class and then have to teach yourself everything the week before the exam.

Second, if you’re like me, you need to switch up your study places. The library treats me nicely – it’s quiet and there are comfy chairs – but after a while, I start losing focus. I find myself stalking my friend’s older sister on Facebook rather than studying the marginal revenue of labor and that’s when I realize that it’s time for a location change. Colleges have tons of other places to study besides the library and your dorm — common rooms, unused classrooms (the dry erase board makes them perfect for group study sessions), cafes. Sometimes all I need to do is find a place where there is no risk of running into someone that I know.

Third, sleep is actually kind of important, as are pre-sleep rituals. So this only sort of has to do with studying, but you know how you always are able to concentrate better when you feel refreshed? Studying’s the same way. You can’t focus well if you’re not well rested and in the same line of thought… while it’s so tempting to crash without washing your face or brushing your teeth, you feel so gross when you wake up. Push yourself to go spend 10 minutes in the bathroom to get yourself ready for bed.

Fourth, exercise outside, or at least go submerge yourself in nature. After 5 hours holed up in a library staring at a computer screen and your notebook, you are lacking some serious fresh air. There’s even this thing called the “biophilia hypothesis” that speculates that humans need nature and greenery in order to be happy. So tear yourself away from the computer screen, go outside, and take a walk.

And lastly, do the practice tests, problems, essays that your professors give you. Pretend you’re in test taking mode, too. It’ll really show you what you need to study and what you already know. Then, look at your notes. If you look at your notes for too long, there’s a tendency to fall asleep. And then you’re not studying.

Midterm season is a stressful time for all of us, do you have any tips to relieve the suffering?

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