College midterm survival guide for freshmen


Were you one of those students who could put in minimal effort and still ace your exams in high school? Well, let me be the first to warn you that those habits will not serve you well in college. I was among those who thought that college midterms and finals would be a breeze, especially since I was doing well in all my classes. As my fellow students gave up sleep and stressed about upcoming tests, I went to the movies, did a little shopping, and left my books on my desk. I was confident that I knew what would be on the exams and had retained everything I needed to pass with flying colors. Looking back, I don’t know how I could have been so stupid. Needless to say, my midterms left me scrambling the rest of the semester to get my grade point average back up to a suitable number. My first college semester taught me a valuable lesson; a well-designed study plan is a must, even for the top students on campus. If you want to not only survive, but also thrive during this semester’s midterms, follow these simple tips.  

1. Calendar Everything!

With everything going on, it can be easy to forget all those deadlines coming up. You’ll no doubt have assignments and projects due, as well as upcoming exams, so do yourself a favor and make a note of everything and everywhere you need to be over the next few weeks. Put a large calendar on the wall in your dorm room, carry a pocket calendar or download one for your phone. Be sure to schedule time for personal and groups study sessions, and don’t forget to stop by and chat with your professor. You never know what tidbits of information you might glean from a quick conversation about class and what you can do to improve your grade.

2. Utilize Study Tools

There are tons of cheap (or free) apps for your phone, tablet and laptop that can help you make the most of your study time. Some of my favorites include:

Evernote: Take notes, capture pictures, create to-do lists, make voice reminders, and so much more! Best of all, you can sync your information across all your devices and share files with others. Available for Android and iOS.

inClass: This app will actually keep a history of all your classes, so you can go back and review whenever you want. Take notes, record lectures, organize your schedule and even set up reminders. You can even share your notes with your classmates or join a study room to prepare for upcoming exams. Available for iOS.

Flashcards: Using index cards is so outdated, plus you have to remember to bring them with you. Instead, considering downloading gFlash+ for Android. Not only will you be able to create notecards for any subject, but also track your progress when quizzing yourself. If you need an app for iOS, Flashcards is free and easy to use, but it doesn’t have as many features.

If you have an upcoming group project, be sure to check out’s list of 20 Collaboration Tools for College Students.

3. Reduce Distractions

One of the quickest ways to lose focus is to try to study someplace where you’ll be constantly interrupted. Find a quiet place on campus to review your notes and prepare for upcoming exams to get the most out of your study time. If you must study in your dorm room, be sure to eliminate distractions by shutting off your phone, logging off social media, and letting others know that you are unavailable for a few hours. This includes your roommate, who may show up with an uninvited guest(s) if he/she in unaware of your schedule. If all else fails, use your bed sheet as a curtain and put in some earplugs!

4. Stay Healthy

Nothing can derail your plans like a nasty case of the flu or simple exhaustion. To ensure you are at your best on exam day, make sure you are getting plenty of sleep in the days leading up to your tests. You should also avoid munching on sugary snacks and drinking excessive amounts of energy drinks. Instead, fuel your brain with healthy treats and make sure to start each day off with a good breakfast. Your mind will focus better if it gets a break every now and then, so be sure to schedule time for a quick walk/run or other exercise, as this will actually help you concentrate better when you get back to studying. A sharp mind starts with a healthy body!

Don’t buy into the myth that an all-night cram session will help you ace your exams. In reality, your body will be more stressed from lack of sleep and you’ll find it harder to focus on your tests. Think of your midterms as a delicious piece of cheesecake. If you inhale it all at once, it might taste great for a few moments, but you’re likely to feel sick and forget the flavor soon after it’s gone. Instead, take the time to enjoy each bite, paying close attention to the texture and flavor bursting in your mouth. It may take longer to eat, but you’ll feel more satisfied and remember how good it was long after the last piece has passed your lips. Smaller bites over a longer period of time will always win out over stuffing your face.

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