Diana Kugel: Make midterms manageable with a fall break

Midterms are as much a fact of GW life as are Ramen noodles and impromptu political debates in the hallway during ungodly hours of the night. Even though we know that midterms are a necessity, it doesn’t make us any less willing to complain about them. If you look at the timing of the midterm season, however, our grumbling might actually have a valid basis.

As a freshman, I am just about finished with my first-ever round of college midterms. These past few weeks, I have observed my friends and classmates as they struggled with all-nighters and multiple exams in one day. While midterms are always going to be fueling the coffee market, they do not have to be as stressful as they currently are at GW. The University should institute a fall break, or some kind of officially designated midterm period to alleviate this tension and stress during this demanding period.

Midterms are just as difficult as final exams, if not more so. At least when you take the final, you already know the professor’s testing style and how to study for each particular class. That brings about the question of why we aren’t provided with the same preparation period for midterms that we receive for final exams.

After classes end and before finals, students are granted several reading days during which people can study in peace without extra readings and papers looming over them. However, with midterms, quite the opposite occurs. Instead of having even a day or two of uninterrupted study time, students are burdened with the usual unceasing onslaught of readings, papers and projects from other classes. Add up sports practices, club meetings, rehearsals, work, a feeble attempt at a social life and countless other commitments, and it’s enough to make anyone just want to go to bed and stay under the covers until the whole midterm mess blows over.

While we are left to our own devices to find time to sit down and study, we are provided with yet another huge distraction at the height of midterms session: Colonials Weekend. As much as I’m sure everyone loves and misses their families and welcomes the influx of groceries and dorm supplies that come along with this event, it is difficult to enjoy with so much going on. This weekend can become a nightmare when you feel your precious study hours slipping away as you have three exams the following week.

Some universities have come up with a solution to this dilemma in the form of a fall break. Students can either stay on campus, free from other obligations while they study, or they can go home for a couple of days to get away from all of the distractions. It’s understandable that GW probably does not want to give up instruction days, but I think such a break would make a world of difference. I also probably would not be alone in saying that I would gladly start school a week earlier in exchange for this much-needed break. As it is, GW began its fall semester later than many other colleges.

If this strenuous interlude only lasted a week or two, it would be fair enough to tell students to just suck it up, and go with it. However, midterms seem to start the third week of school and they still aren’t over for some people. This means that students could potentially be facing a midterm or two each week for a whole month.

The fact that the tests aren’t all at the same time may be because professors do not know what is going on in any their students’ other classes. They therefore wouldn’t think twice about assigning a paper or project the same day as a midterm is happening in another class. If the University could designate a one- or two-week period, then students would know exactly how long crunch time would last, and that would make a world of difference.

I understand that we are all now adults – or are at least pretending to be adults – and that we are responsible for our own time management and studies. But if a few small policy changes could lead to a happier, more productive student body that earns better grades and ultimately learns more, it is at least worth the consideration. Until then though, I guess all we can do is fill up the coffee cups, crowd into the study lounges and hit those books.

-The writer, a freshman majoring in criminal justice, is a Hatchet columnist.

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