In Defense Of: Midterms

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The dream life.

The dream life.

In honor of today officially being the midterm–the true mid-point of the semester, as officiated by the registrar–Midterm Maven Britt Fossum defends the bane of your existence.

I’m a little concerned that midterms need defending at all. What happened to the enthusiasm for learning and that high school grind to excel? What did you think you were getting yourself into? Don’t you know Columbia is the most rigorous school in the galaxy?

But even if you don’t take masochistic pride in the sheer number of exams you can force yourself to sit through, a little perspective might make the entire process a bit less painful. First of all, thank your lucky stars that many classes offer several midterms, spread out over at least two months. Giving a person more time in a state of midterm malaise may increase the total amount of despair and worry–but on average, every day is less awful than if all that studying was compressed into a single week.

Midterms don’t necessarily murder your social life. Around the time of the first exam, something magical starts to happen in the previously frosty and competitive classroom environment. It’s probably the only acceptable time to turn to the person next to you and strike up a conversation, although usually about just how screwed you are. You may be bonding over mutual confusion and terror, but at least you have one more person to awkwardly wave at as you walk across campus.

Even your professors can be your friends around midterms, as long as you don’t spam them with complaints about your grade or attempts to tease out exam questions. After all, they’ve probably taken the very same class you are in and know how terrifying exams can be. Sometimes it can be a little scary going to their office alone (especially if it’s in the maze that is Schermerhorn), so bring one of your new class friends as backup.

Once you’ve buckled down to study, found the perfect playlist and a caffeinated beverage of your personal preference, it isn’t so bad. Can’t you take pride in surveying the stack of books you at least skimmed through? Take on the honorable challenge of doing an entire month’s worth of problem sets to make up for skipping that chemistry lecture every morning. And nothing beats having a sudden revelation at 2 am on your English midterm paper only to realize in the morning that you mistook exhaustion for genius.

You will test your limits and push yourself. You may or may not neglect other class work, friendships, and even personal hygeine. That type of commitment is one they write epics about, my friend.

But when you emerge from your den of crumpled up notes and tear-filled tissues to take the exam, remember that one test does not actually mean too much in the grand scheme of things. Maybe the midterm goes well, or maybe you have to do breathing exercises to keep from freaking out at that one problem that looks nothing like anything you’ve ever seen before. And once you’ve showered off the sweat of mental exertion, the relief of being done is almost worth it. Just make sure to party it up before the next midterm.

Yes. via Wikimedia

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  1. Anonymous

    I puke on your head with your romanticization of exams. I PUKE ON YOUR HEAD, SIR. All of my midterms weren't scattered over a month. They were scattered over TWO DAYS. I almost had a "School Ties" French class poem recitation level breakdown in the middle of my third exam but instead just stared into space while pinching the skin around my eyebrow for a solid 20 minutes. Do you know how weird it feels to go from touching thin eyelid skin to pinching the hunk of meat above it?

  2. Blunts in Butler  

    Fuck it, I'm gonna go hotbox the 6th floor.

  3. Alum

    Everyone, just chill!

    You are some of the best and brightest students in the country. It is all going to be ok. You just don't need to be so concerned about your grades.

    Relax a bit. It will all be good.

    Trust me.

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