Imagine it’s October, you have been in university for a month now, and you finally feel like you have the situation under control. You grab your planner, open it, and realize that you have five exams practically back-to-back coming up in two weeks…and some assignments to hand in on top of it all. Congratulations, you are about to experience your first midterm season!
Although midterms are stressful for everyone, they can be especially difficult in your first year as you may not know what to expect. Don’t worry; we are here to help. Here are our five best tips to survive your first midterm season.
Tip #1: Find a study spot where you can be your best productive self
There are usually tons of places to study on campus, and you should try as many as possible at the beginning of the year. Why? Well, your faculty coffee shop might be the cutest little spot, but if you keep running into people you know, it might not be the best place to get some work done.
Try out different libraries and cafés and see where you work the best. By the time midterms come around, you’ll know exactly where to go to be the most productive.
If home is where you get the most work done, try to make your study space as cozy as possible. Plants, candles, blankets are all great ways to make your study spot more inviting. Nobody likes to study when hungry and to prevent going to the kitchen every 20 minutes, fill out a basket with some of your favourite snacks and keep it near your study space.
Tip #2: Do not, and I repeat, do not pull all-nighters
Time management is a skill, and you might not be the best at it right away. As your to-do list gets longer and longer, you might think the only solution is to stay up all night to catch up on your work. Although this might seem like a good idea, all-nighters are actually terrible for the body and the mind.
Your brain needs rest to work properly. If you avoid sleeping for long periods, your productivity and the quality of your work will go down. Also, chances are that you will forget all the information you tried learning during an all-nighter. Can you imagine studying for a full night only to forget all the information on the day of the exam?
If you want to make the most out of your studying, make sure to get at least seven hours of sleep every night. You will be much better at memorizing if you are well-rested. You’ll also be sharper on exam day, and therefore less likely to panic, misread questions, or forget important details.
Tip #3: Do some exercise every day
It is no secret that physical activity is great for you. But, did you know that one of the benefits of exercising is improved concentration? In fact, physical activity is one of the best and easiest ways to improve focus, concentration, and mood.
If you are not a fan of the gym, do not worry. You do not need to spend two hours every day lifting weights to improve your concentration. An easy 30-minute walk is enough for you to feel the benefits of exercising.
A few lifestyle changes can also help you be more active. For example, you can bike to your classes, take the stairs instead of the elevators, or do a few push-ups while watching your favourite Netflix show.
Tip #4: Keep up with your nutrition
Cooking might not be your top priority during midterm season but living off instant noodles is probably not the best idea. Healthy food will give your brain the energy it needs to do well on exam day.
If time is an issue, make sure to have plenty of fruits and vegetables in your fridge. They are easy to snack on, quick to grab, and convenient to bring on the go. You can also freeze some healthy meals in the weeks before your exam season. Make a giant batch of chilli or soup and freeze half for later. This way, you will have easy access to healthy food without having to stress about cooking.
Tip # 5: Do not be afraid to reach out if you feel overwhelmed
Your first midterm season might be more stressful than you thought it would. If you feel like it becomes too much to handle, it might be time to reach out for help.
All universities have resources available for students in times of struggle. You can usually find them on your university website. For example, in Montreal, McGill University has a Student Wellness Hub for students. They can help you access the services of a dietitian, psychiatrist, sexologist, local wellness advisor, and more! Concordia University also has a website dedicated to students’ health and wellness. They list all the services students can have access to, but a few examples include psychologists, counsellors, and fitness coaches. If you feel like you can no longer deal with your stress alone, contact these services, and they will be more than happy to help you.
You do not have to go through this tough time alone. You can always reach out to friends and family members. They know you, and they might be able to give you great advice.
A final word. . .
Exams are difficult, and with all the pressure to succeed, your first “C” might feel like the end of the world. Rest assured, it is not, and you will have plenty of time to make up for it. Also, a bad grade does not mean you are a bad student or a bad person. Some professors will make their exams extremely difficult on purpose, and there is nothing you can do about it.
As long as you do your best, you should be proud of your accomplishment. Do not obsess over your grades, and do not forget to make the most out of your university experience!
Concordia University. “Health and Wellness.” N.D., https://www.concordia.ca/health.html
Harvard Health Publishing. “Exercise can boost your memory and thinking skills.” February 15, 2021, https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/exercise-can-boost-your-memory-and-thinking-skills
McGill Student Services. “Student Wellness Hub.” N.D., https://www.mcgill.ca/wellness-hub/
Suni, Eric. “How Lack of Sleep Impacts Cognitive Performance and Focus.” Sleep Foundation, December 11, 2020, https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-deprivation/lack-of-sleep-and-cognitive-impairment