Stages of Graduate School Midterms

Midterms. Most of us have them, and have some idea of how to prepare for them based on our experiences in high school and undergrad. However, grad school midterms are an entirely different beast – particularly if you were a communication major in undergrad and all of your classes were "project-based."

The stages of grad school midterms, much like the stages of grief, go something like this:

1. Impending Fear

Right up front, during syllabus week (which in grad school is more like syllabus 30 minutes), professors tell you what to expect for their midterm. At the time, it seems so far away – but as the weeks go by, the fear becomes more and more real until suddenly you have a giant midterm-shaped raincloud hanging over your head.

2. False Hope

One or two weeks before D-Day, you may feel the urge to write a few flashcards or compile a note sheet. LEAN INTO THOSE FEELINGS. They may be the only thing that save you the weekend before midterms when you're too deceased to even know what to study. Don't be deceived though, as any sense of hope that comes at this time is false and will not be enough to carry you through. 

3. Panic

It's like those awful word problems from high school math class: Midterms are in a week. You have three classes, five weeks of material and six textbooks worth of things to learn. If you must sleep at least 45 minutes per day and attend class sessions in the meantime, how many venti iced lattes will it take before you have a complete meltdown?

4. Study 

Sleep? Friends? Family? Socializing? None of these things exist. The library is your home and your home is a distant memory of a place where you used to do fun things.

6. Panic more

The day of the test: Wake up, try to have a good breakfast, review a few more tear-soaked flashcards. Ignore your body's pleas to hydrate yourself, drink more iced coffee.

7. Acceptance

About an hour before the exam, a comforting feeling of acceptance washes over you. You've studied all you can, and at this point, there's literally nothing you can do to change your fate. 

8. Relief 

Hopefully, your exams are not the kind that are online and display your results instantaneously. Best case scenario, you can leave the classroom filled with a small amount of existential dread, but mostly, RELIEF. It's over, you're finished and whatever happens next week when the grades come out is a problem for next week.