A Midterm Monopoly
Published: Monday, October 28, 2013
Updated: Monday, October 28, 2013 23:10
Basketball season, holiday season and the beginning of spring are among the best times of year on campus. But there’s another, arguably more influential season that dominates the Hilltop for more than its fair share of time: midterm season.
It begins only several weeks into the semester and drags on, filling our lives with an endless flow of tests, papers and presentations until, somehow, we end up all the way at finals. Each weekend, it’s a good bet that at least one person in your circle of friends will be sitting out social events with the excuse of a midterm. It is inevitable, and even constructive, to have a midterm period in each semester to assess progress at a logical halfway point. But I believe that spreading midterms out over such a long period has a deleterious effect on student life.
Really, the strangest thing about our midterm season is that it is relatively unique to Georgetown. Whenever I compare curriculums with my friends from home who attend different universities, most of them describe one week-long period of midterms with no major testing after that until finals. They are shocked at how long ours spans over the calendar.
My main objection to midterm season is the campus culture it breeds. When midterms start, it can feel like everything else stops. Georgetown students are typically quite academically driven, so we allocate a lot of time and energy to earning good grades. Students often end up feeling nearly paralyzed by academic stress, cutting back on commitments to extracurriculars and friends. The refrain, “Oh, sorry, I can’t — I’m in midterms” can feel like the motto of the Hilltop.
Dedicating an occasional weekend to studying no doubt builds character, but I believe weekends should also leave space for relaxing, visiting the Smithsonian, watching marathons of “Game of Thrones” and sharing one — or three — Baked and Wired cupcakes with friends. In my experience, these times are more valuable to my education as a person than cramming for three separate economics midterms. Stress is unavoidable at a competitive university like Georgetown, but for our sanity, we must do our best to minimize it. And while condensing midterms might make a one-week period more stressful than it would normally have been, the resulting value for the rest of the semester would far outweigh this cost.
The root of the problematic midterm season is the way professors define a midterm. It has become typical for a course to have two or even three papers or tests designated as midterms. They are given this designation to emphasize their large percentage of the course grade, and to this extent the proliferation of midterms makes sense. But using the word “midterm” exponentially increases the stress we associate with it. Not only would it be easy to refer to midterms in classes with multiple assessments as tests to reduce stress, but “test” is a more fitting name anyway. If you have two in-class midterms, a paper midterm and a final, there is no mathematical way that each midterm is actually worth a percentage of your grade consistent with its name. I’m no psychologist, but I’m sure that just referring to all of these examinations as tests instead of midterms would diminish the frenzy of midterm culture.
Tests are an important part of college, but they shouldn’t be the only part. The university should shorten midterm season to allow us to enjoy the rest of the Hilltop.
Max Magerman is a sophomore in the School of Foreign Service.