The scene plays out the same way in most classes.
It starts with a chorus of moans across the room as the professor sends their assistants out in a flurry of papers. The first wave of students bolts to the front, indulging in a frenzy of awkward shoving and edging. Maybe you joke a little with the people around you—but internally, you’re crossing your fingers.
You glance at the montage of forlorn faces passing you by as you trudge forward to grab your own results, each frown making your stomach drop lower and lower. It wasn’t that bad, was it? You knew most of the material, right? But when you finally get your hands on your test and flip it over…. Yikes.
You might have experienced this within the past week or so. Welcome to midterms.
Maybe it’s a freshman thing, or maybe it’s the dread you feel all four years here—but at a high-achieving school like Case Western Reserve University, it’s hard to not get caught up in the whirlwind of panic over grades. If you’re here, grades mean something to you—and their meaning probably has something to do with your future.
And it’s even more difficult to not fixate on comparing yourself to other students. It strikes when you least expect it. You study like hell for a test and earn a disappointing grade, while the people that never pay attention in class whip out A’s without breaking a sweat. You complain about how difficult an exam was, only to hear someone say, “Wait, that was hard for you?” The comparison game is easy to play and hard to escape.
You worry that you’re stupid. That you’re going into the wrong field. That despite all your effort, your best simply isn’t good enough.
Compounded with the fact that there’s a whole month of solid work until the next break, the weight of all the things to feel bad about is pretty astounding.
Thus, the dreaded midterm blues are born. They hang over campus, adding premature winter gloom to the air.
So how do we go about escaping the blues?
I can’t say that there is a magical cure that will suddenly make you no longer care about your grades, or help you instantly learn all the material and become a test master. That would be hypocritical—I’m still pretty bummed, myself.
But I can say this: Do something.
Only you can break yourself out of the cycle of blues. Staying stagnant and moping accomplishes nothing. Take some sort of action, no matter how small it seems.
Maybe it will be stepping back, taking a deep breath and telling yourself to put things in perspective. A bad midterm grade doesn’t mean your whole life is down the drain. Or perhaps this is your wake-up call—if you can’t imagine yourself enduring a certain class required by your major for any longer, it could be time to reassess what you want to study.
Maybe it will be recognizing your own weaknesses and working on them: Was your cram session less work and more Netflix? Are your study habits ineffective? Can you earn any extra credit points?
Or maybe it will be distancing yourself from school for a moment. Shut the books for once this weekend. Go do something fun with your friends. Curl up with a good book. Marathon that show you’ve been wanting to watch for a while. This is the lull period of the semester, so take the chance to breathe before life gets chaotic again.
Yes, midterms are depressing—especially when you don’t do as well as you had hoped. It feels like a break is never in sight.
But you’ve gotten over the metaphorical hump, and you’re more than halfway done with this semester. Breathe, then finish strong.
Besides—shouldn’t you be more worried about finals?
Bio: Sarah Taekman is a first-year student planning to major in Biology.