Midterms studying advice and self-care tips from upperclassmen

Story by: Maddie Lajewski, Izzie Pasciolla, Anna Konen, Becky Particka, Isabella Trujillo and Maddi Hill

Graphic by: Maddie Lajewski

Exam week is hard, no doubt about it, between the all-nighters and 7 cups of coffee a day, we often put caring for ourselves at the bottom of the list. The Grand Central Magazine Editors and Writers have compiled a list of our favorite self-care and study tips. Read below to learn how to best care for yourself.


Izzie Pasciolla

  1. Find a quiet place on campus to study: The library has always been my favorite place to study, especially the Copeland Suite. It’s quiet, they have comfortable places to sit and there are hardly any distractions. Studying at home is hard because there are a million other things you want to do and it’d be so easy to close your laptop and go do them. There are dogs barking, family members talking, a TV playing, a nice warm bed calling out to you. Studying someplace on campus instead will help you focus and you’ll get your work done knowing you get to go home to that nice warm bed after. 
  2. Give yourself rewards: Something I’ve always done while studying or doing homework is promising myself rewards. Once I finish this chapter, I can watch Tiktoks for 10 minutes or get a snack from the vending machine. It’s a good motivation for getting through the chapter or the writing exercise to know you can do something that you like to do for a few minutes afterward.
  3. Plan out what you are going to do each day: Every week I make a list of what assignments and projects I need to get done and then I plan what day I will do each thing. This may seem over-the-top but it has some wonderful mental health benefits. No one likes the feeling of things piling up and not having enough time to get it all done. By planning it out, you’ll realize that you do actually have the time to get it all done. And when you finish that last piece of work at the end of the day, it’s the most liberating feeling. Now you get to relax. Also, make sure you have one of day of rest. For me that’s usually Saturday. It’s the one day that I don’t do any homework unless I really want to. It’s good to know there’s one day when you can sit around or make plans with friends and have no worries. 
  4. Put your phone on do not disturb: For me, the thing that slows down my work the most is my phone. It took me four hours to read a chapter once because I kept waiting for a text from my boyfriend and would check every other minute for one. When your phone starts blowing up with notifications it’s hard not to check. It’s also hard not to check when your phone has no notifications and you’re overwhelmed with the feeling that no one wants to talk to you (when really they’re probably just busy studying themselves). Putting your phone on do not disturb means that you have no reason to check it; maybe you’re getting messages or maybe you’re not, but you won’t know until your homework is done. This will also give you a wonderful feeling when you eventually turn off do not disturb and you do find a message from that special someone or 55 unread messages from that group chat with all your friends.
  5. Understand it’s not the end all, be all: It’s just a midterm. Of course you should study your hardest and do the best that you can, but don’t stay up until 3 a.m. every day studying. It’s just a test or a project. It probably isn’t worth more than 30% of your grade, at the most. Even if you do poorly, you have 8 more weeks to improve. So study, do the absolute best you can, but don’t stress so much that you don’t sleep or eat for a week. It’s just a midterm and if you do poorly I promise the sky isn’t going to fall on you.

Maddie Lajewski

  1. Set a list of goals to accomplish each day. Rather than labeling it a “to-do list,” which I have found in my own experiences to be ineffective, the term “goals” sounds more positive. Add any assignments, reading, and notes you want to study/review per class. During times of high stress, it’s easy to forget things or get confused. Try to stay as organized as possible.
  2. Make sure to take some time to focus on yourself. If you aren’t getting enough sleep at night (chances are, you aren’t,) try to get a quick 20-minute nap in during the day if possible. The more sleep you can get, the more focused you will be during your exams. End your day with something that relaxes you and brings you joy instead of falling asleep on your textbooks. Again, during times of high stress, it is easy to forget to take care of ourselves.
  3. Reward yourself at the end of the week. No matter what your results are on your exams, you worked hard. Be kind to yourself if you don’t get the grade you wanted because you did your best. They’re only midterms. Another reason to celebrate, you’re officially halfway through the semester. Know that you’re doing great and keep up the good work.

Maddi Hill

  1. Take care of yourself. Oftentimes during exam week, we find ourselves overwhelmed, anxious, and spending all our time studying. Take some time out to care for yourself. Read your favorite book, have a cup of tea, do some skincare, or maybe even go for a walk. Make sure you’re eating and drinking lots of water. Your health and mental health are important. If you find yourself burning out, take breaks. It’s okay to take breaks. It’s okay to prioritize yourself. 
  2. Don’t be afraid to ask your professors for help. If you’re studying for an exam and are stuck on a question/confused about a concept, email your professors and tell them. Ask for some clarification. I promise your professors want you to succeed and will be willing to help you. 

Isabella Trujillo

  1. Create a certain routine that works for you in order to get your goals accomplished. Sticking to a routine like a set wake-up time and set bedtime allows you to plan your day accordingly. Even if you’re an hour or so off the time marks there’s at least a set list of daily to-dos your body already knows needs to get done.
  2. Take breaks when needed. Don’t take a cell phone break if you don’t have to, or you’ll go down a path of continuous scrolling. Go outside and take a stroll through a park or in your neighborhood. Connecting with nature is a good way to disconnect from continuous screen use and to give yourself a break. 

Becky Particka

  1. Start as early as you can. The sooner you start prepping for exams and projects, the sooner you know what questions you have and what assignments you need to spend more time with. 
  2. Do a little bit each day. Feeling like you need to complete all your projects and cram all your study sessions into one day is super overwhelming. That amount of pressure makes it really hard to focus and impacts the quality of your study time and assignments. Try to work a week or two before your exam or due date. Break your workload down into smaller chunks and set a goal for what you want to complete each day.
  3. Use the Pomodoro technique. Work for 25 minutes and then take a break for five minutes. After four cycles, take a 15-minute break. I find taking notes and studying super tedious. Breaking it up into intervals with the Pomodoro technique helps me stay focused and on task.

Anna Konen

  1. DO NOT wait until the very last minute. Let’s say you have a 5-page paper you find out about on Monday and it is due on Friday at 11:59 pm. Try writing one page each day and space out your work. This will help you be more productive and also use your time more efficiently. 
  2. Take some time away from your laptop. Yes, I am also guilty of shutting myself in the library every day leading up to midterms and finals and gluing myself to my computer. However, it is proven that taking 10-minute breaks every hour will help you to be more productive and keep your brain at the top of its game!