A First-Year Survival Guide to Midterms: Zoom Edition

By Sonam Rikha ‘24

AHHHHHHHH! Screaming late in the night during the middle of the semester is definitely not ideal. Especially when your family members get out of bed to see why you’re shouting at your laptop and punching the air in frustration.

mug of coffee from aboveI’d always heard of all-nighters and the grave amount of caffeine that college students consumed to get through midterms, but I never really understood why people would go through those extreme lengths. It wasn’t until I had my first midterms that I understood why this time period is filled with sleep-deprived and stressed students. Although I didn’t pull any all-nighters or drink any caffeine, I was still quite the mess, if I do say so myself. Maybe it was the lack of social connection outside of my family or the fact that 90% of my days were spent staring at a computer screen, but my motivation and mental health plummeted.

As a stereotypical type A person, I’m very organized and am always on top of my stuff. So, when it took me five days to write a first draft of my history midterm, I panicked and impulsively went to my Instagram to complain about my laziness instead of actually working on a second draft. Even though I only had two midterms this semester that weren’t supposed to be very stress-inducing, my procrastination skills skyrocketed like never before, causing me to wallow in disappointment and guilt. Doing my first semester of college online was definitely more draining than I imagined and ultimately resulted in me burning out during midterms. As a survivor, I would like to provide some guidance to prevent you from becoming a distraught first-year who breaks down during midterm season.

  1. First, stay away from social media. I repeat, STAY AWAY FROM SOCIAL MEDIA. If you’re anything like me, you easily go down rabbit holes on social media, unintentionally spending hours that you could’ve used to work on or prepare for your midterm. Whether it’s scrolling through strange reddit threads, binge watching YouTube videos, or constantly refreshing your Instagram feed, there always seems to be something on social media that draws me into a cycle of procrastination. I would suggest deleting social media apps, imposing a time limit on those apps, turning off notifications, or hiding your phone. Personally, I let my phone die so if I really needed to use my phone I’d have to search for my charger and wait for my phone to be charged. If you are one of the lucky few who don’t get distracted by social media, or your phone in general, then congrats! You’ve defied the stereotypical norms affiliated with Gen Z.
  2. loaf of banana breadSecond, take smart breaks. You’re probably wondering what a “smart break” is. Don’t worry: it doesn’t mean your break is related to anything academic. It just means being smart about how you use your break. If you’ve spent the past three hours staring at a screen, use your break to do something that doesn’t involve staring at a screen. You can read a book, go on a walk, knit, make a snack, paint, etc. Although many of you may gravitate toward watching Netflix during your breaks, trust me, spending time away from technology will help a lot with your mental health. Recently, I’ve been baking banana bread! Taking a break, especially during midterms, is so important and can help you be even more productive.
  3. Lastly, have a game plan. Plan out what you want to study or work on for your midterm. You can use a physical planner, an online app, or even a blank sheet of paper. I know planning can be tedious, but I highly recommend you plan everything out during midterm season; it can really make an improvement in your work ethic. I like using the Google Keep extension on Chrome to keep track of everything I need to do.
Sonam giving two thumbs up

Taking care of your mental health and physical health is super important during midterms and college in general. I hope these tips helped and, instead of punching the air in frustration, you’ll punch the air with the joy of surviving midterms.