Semester Wrap Up: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

By Nelia Perry ‘24

With the semester coming to an end and finals fast approaching, I thought I could shine some light on what the end of a (virtual) semester looks like at Pomona. There are good things, bad things, and maybe a few ugly things thrown in as well.

While “the good” comes first in the saying, I like to save the best for last, so let’s start with “the ugly.” Finishing up a semester can be a bit messy. With final projects and exams looming, you are also still expected to do your normal weekly assignments, attend class, and wrap up loose ends. This mix can get complicated. How do you balance the larger projects you know are due in the near future with all of the everyday tasks you still have to complete? I will oftentimes find myself procrastinating one assignment by doing another (at least I am still getting stuff done, right?). But procrastinating can mean putting off larger projects (that will take more time to complete).

desk crowded with laptop, binders, papers and booksOn top of that, my physical space might get a little “ugly” too. With all the work to be done, organization—which should actually become a bigger priority—gets pushed to the back burner. All in all, things haven’t gotten too ugly this semester, but a summer cleanout is definitely in my near future!

What about the “bad”? The end of the semester means lots of high-stake assignments. While it varies by class, you will likely have some sort of final assessments. In my natural science courses that looks like a traditional exam, although my professors have been very supportive and opted to make these final exams noncumulative (whew!). In my humanities courses it means final papers and presentations. These assessments are often worth more points than regular assignments throughout the semester. At the end of the semester, when you are tired and in need of a break, it can be hard to concentrate on these hefty projects.

The end of semester also means you are done with the class. While for some that might fall into the “good” category, it is actually rather sad to wrap up a class you really enjoyed and bid farewell to your professors and classmates. In high school, most classes are yearlong. For example, I took the same classes junior and senior year in the IB curriculum, so I had the same classmates and teachers for two whole years! Having to say goodbye to my little college classroom communities after only a few months is rather sad. The great thing about Pomona, though, is that you are likely to be in classes with the same people again and can definitely get together with your professors even if they aren’t teaching you at the moment.

two bags of coffee
fresh coffee/fuel

And lastly, the “good”! It is definitely a big push at the end of a semester, but I haven’t found endings too grueling at Pomona. I know some universities weigh their finals upwards of 40% of the final grade, so having it stay closer to 20% in most Pomona classes is definitely a treat. It all depends on your course, but I appreciate that my Pomona professors give plenty of other opportunities throughout the semester to demonstrate your knowledge and boost your grade. It can be really stressful for everything to rest on an assessment you take at the end of a long and tiring semester, but my experience with finals so far has not been too bad.

Santiago, Chile from Nelia's window
A gorgeous view for my study sessions

And of course, the end of a semester also means a break! College is no joke: it is tiring, hard work, and often emotional. While it is also incredibly enjoyable, I do not think anyone is complaining about a little time off. It has been super fun to plan for my summer internship and talk to my friends and classmates about their plans.

I know this past year online has looked a little different. Nonetheless, it is important to emphasize that with every experience—final season included—there is always a balance between the good, the bad and the ugly. While it is easy to sugar coat things and only emphasize the good, it is better to understand how everything balances out. Pomona professors, students, and other faculty members are an incredible support system. I rely on classmates for study sessions or peer review on papers. I go to all of my professors’ office hours and bonus review sessions. I attend my class dean’s mindfulness and de-stress events. It is okay to struggle through these moments, but it is better to lean on your community for support.

And lastly, finals aren’t everything! Getting a lower than expected or lower than hoped-for grade, while sucky in the moment, will not be a defining moment (at least in a bad way). In fact, a piece of advice I received heading into college was to get a bad grade. Pomona students are high achievers and often perfectionists. Learning to bounce back from a set-back is an important skill for us all to learn.

Now let me get back to my studying!