After a couple years on the Farm, my quarters have fallen into a familiar rhythm. The first few weeks are glorious: I see all my friends again, my classes are genuinely academically interesting, and I can even attend the talks, sporting events, and countless other events that make Stanford the place it is. Sadly, Weeks 5 and 6 always end the honeymoon. Time with friends gives way to time in the Lathrop 24-hour room. We here at the Duckstop would like to share a few tips to strike the balance between social time and library time as midterm season kicks into gear.
Organize your work. Working efficiently requires knowing your work well. When you’re feeling really stressed out, write down all your assignments, when they’re due, and how much time you expect each to take. Be generous with allotting time. Write down all extra-curricular commitments and minor tasks you have to do as well. Having all your various commitments laid out in front of you provides a direct reference for what you’ll have to do in the coming week. Starting from there lets you prioritize your work and fit it into your schedule. Don’t try to exactly plan every minute of every day. Rather, isolate large periods of time in which you can work in a distraction-free environment. In that space, focus in on your top-priority items. Tracking what you need to do and organizing the work and required time will help significantly boost your productivity. Want to see how it’s done? Check out this video.
Ask for help. Stuck on a problem set? Have writer’s block? Remember that you aren’t alone. Of course, work through the problem thoroughly yourself, and identify not only the issues in your approach, but the type of problem you face, be it conceptual, calculation-based, or whatever else. Then, go through the process again and try to think outside the box. Bouncing ideas off your friends, whether in the class or not, can provide a spark of inspiration. Even just talking through your logic out loud can show you an obvious issue. Finally, go to office hours! Your TAs and professors know the struggles of midterms, and they’re there to help you learn. Subject tutoring is offered for groups and one-on-one appointments. The HUME Center can help you with writing and presenting. Academic Skills Coaching can help you tackle time management issues, test prep, and more. Use the resources you have available.
Make time for friends. It can be hard to make time to see people during midterm season: it’s easy to shut yourself off in your room or the library and pore over your notes. Seeing your friends will provide fun time to look forward to and make studying far more bearable. More generally, make time to de-stress. Whether that’s hanging out with your friends, running on Campus Drive, or whatever else floats your boat, be sure to schedule time for self-care along with time for your work. It’ll only help your overall productivity and quality of life.
Best of luck with midterms! We know you’ll do great.