Lauryn’s Declassified Midterm Survival Guide

*snaps for you if you got the early 2000s TV reference in the title

I’ll be honest, when I first started at Wash U, I approached midterms with a healthy dose of nerves and a knack for hurriedly cramming in the material the day before. I figured these exams would be pretty similar to the AP exams I had taken in high school. Long story short, they are not.

The first aspect of midterms that alluded little freshman me was how many I would be taking. I assumed that each class would have one midterm in the “middle” of the term as the name implies. However, most classes actually have multiple midterms through the semester, leading up to the big final. Additionally, these exams don’t all occur in the same week, lined up one per day for you to conquer in one fell swoop. No, midterm week is a lie. What we have is midterm SEASON. Over the course of about two weeks, almost everyone is dealing with papers, presentations, case competitions, tests, and more. I quickly found that the “down five cups of coffee and cram everything in the night before” method cannot be carried out for two weeks straight (If I want to leave this place with my health and sanity, at least.) See, getting through midterm season is an art. While, I haven’t perfected it quite yet, but here are a few things I’ve learned along the way.


Okay, Wash U is a fantastic school with stellar programs and high expectations. If you’re here, then you must be pretty smart. Do NOT let this get to your head. Sure, you know how to study effectively and efficiently. But, all the solitary studying in the world won’t tell you which readings to pay extra attention to or which formulas to memorize like a TA will or tailor practice questions to your needs like the tutors at Cornerstone. There are so many wonderful resources on campus designed to help us do well, so take advantage of them!

Switching It Up

Avoid making the rookie mistake of burning out in Olin, the main library on campus, after days of studying in the silence of the third floor. Get creative and find new places to work! If it’s nice out, I recommend the pavilion in Brookings Quad.

You can enjoy the fresh air and beautiful view from a secluded spot in the shade. If I’m feeling more indoorsy one day, I like to find an empty classroom in the basement of Simon Hall. This is great for studying for STEM classes because I can write out formulas or diagrams on the white boards. The Einstein Bros. on the first floor is also a plus. (It is also where the majority of my meal points go every semester…)

Support System

WUSTL resources and study spots aside, what you’ll need most in order to survive midterm season can’t be found in a textbook or a Quizlet. At the end of the day, what you really need is other people, comrades in this battle of intellect and perseverance. You will spend many nights in a corner booth of BD (aka Bear’s Den) with an array of review packets, scattered coffee cups, and empty Insomnia Cookies boxes in front of you, flanked by companions, fighting alongside you. I won’t lie. Wash U is a tough school. But, these are the moments that remind me why I love this place so much. It’s these moments when you think there is no way you can write a fifteen page paper, study for two exams, prepare a presentation in a foreign language, edit a magazine, write a blog post and make it out alive. Then, you talk to your suitemate or classmate. You realize that they know exactly how you feel, and, together, you rally. For a few weeks, everyone is trying to do it all, to be their best self. At the end of the day, that is a beautiful thing.