March Midterms Madness

Students weigh in on an overwhelming extended midterms season



Midterm season has had less structure this year. Individual professors have largely set their own timelines for when to administer tests and projects, contributing to a midterm season that has lasted most of March and is still ongoing.


Midterms: one stress-filled week each semester filled with exams, essays, presentations and any other assignment you can think of to account for at least 20% of your final grade. In a normal year, these exams fall midway through the semester, and although they’re exhausting, exams are finished within about a week. 

But Fordham’s delayed start to the spring 2021 semester and continued remote learning environment forced some professors to break the old norms and administer midterms depending on their own class structure and timeline. Although these are “unprecedented times,” the unofficial schedule for midterms was there for a reason, and students are struggling with this stretched-out timeline. An extended midterms period during an already stressful semester has made this semester’s exam season more frustrating and exhausting than necessary.

Midterms Month?

Starting the semester in February caused concern among students and professors as to when they would receive a break. Would it be in the original middle of the semester based on the Jan. 19 start date, or in the new middle of the semester based on the Feb. 1 start date? Because of this confusion, there is little agreement among professors on when to test students. 

“Midterms have been going on since the last week of February. It feels like every professor decided to assign nine things due every week. It’s impossible to get them all done and just feels insanely overwhelming.” Caitlin Leib, FCLC ’23

Rather than spreading out students’ workloads and making deadlines easier to meet, this has put students on high-stress “midterms mode” for the past month. With the semester being shortened by two weeks and spring break only lasting one day, students are facing the same workload as a normal semester but with less time to complete assignments and almost no downtime to relax. In fact, many students used their one-day spring break to catch up on their midterm assignments. 

“Midterms have been going on since the last week of February. It feels like every professor decided to assign nine things due every week. It’s impossible to get them all done and just feels insanely overwhelming. It’s draining enough doing online courses, and the workload this semester is not helping,” said Caitlin Leib, Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC) ’23. 

Online courses unfortunately are not ideal for many students, and they create an unfamiliar environment for students with no separation of school and home. Given this, a shortened semester in which all professors expect students to do more work than usual is only increasing stress for students in an already difficult semester.

A minor two-week change has made major and harmful impacts for students this spring. With the added stress of the COVID-19 pandemic and an accelerated semester, students are facing never-ending exams and assignments with no time to relax and enjoy their college or local community.

More Tests Do Not Equal Less Stress

Professors in and out of the Fordham community have always noticed that midterms are a source of stress for students since they place high stakes and extensive studying on one exam or assignment. In response, some are administering midterms twice, in the first- and second-third of the semester. 

Although this does give students more opportunities to demonstrate their knowledge and requires them to study less information, it makes the overly stressful midterms season come more than just once a semester.

Not only do students face more exams under this model, but with a shortened semester, their exams are closer together. Students are given less time to relax between their exams and constantly need to prepare for the next one.

The Dreaded Finals Week

“Midterm exams for one class are sandwiched between essay due dates in every other class. And soon, it will be time for finals.” Maya Hurney, FCLC ’23

This year, I had my first round of midterm exams and assignments due in the first two weeks of March, with an exam and an essay due in mid-March. My second round of midterms will be held in the two weeks following Easter weekend. This leaves just three weeks of relative calm before final exams begin — and I’m not alone in my concern for the fast-approaching end of the semester.

“Midterm exams for one class are sandwiched between essay due dates in every other class. And soon, it will be time for finals,” said Maya Hurney, FCLC ’23. 

Since the semester is shorter this year, of course, finals will feel closer than they usually do. Still, with no agreement on when midterms should be held, no spring break for students to relax, and extra exams and assignments due throughout the semester, students have little time to finish studying for their midterms before they begin preparing for their final exams.

A Semester to Remember

College and midterms will always be stressful, and although there are different philosophies and approaches to these exams for every professor, Fordham should be trying to put less on students’ plates during this already stressful semester, not more. 

It is too late to change the spring semester schedule, but it is not too late for Fordham’s administration to support their students. Fordham should hold more events, virtual or in-person, to help students destress and try to enjoy themselves in a frustrating semester. Most importantly, there needs to be an emphasis on prioritizing self-care and taking it easy sometimes. Try to find time in your busy schedule to watch your favorite movie, hang out with your friends or spend a day in the park. 

It certainly hasn’t been an easy semester for anyone, and scrambling through exams and assignments through the majority of the term serves as one of the many trials and tribulations of attending college during a pandemic. A “normal” semester is just on the horizon, but students struggling to keep up with constant exams and assignments will always be one of the worst attributes of college in the era of COVID-19.