Checking in After Midterms

Midterms are an excellent checkpoint for students to stop, reflect, and evaluate the first half of the semester to increase their chances of success in the second half.

By Xavier Royer — November 16, 2022


Checking in After Midterms

How're we feeling, team? Midterms are stressful. If a course has very few gradable assignments, midterms may make up a quarter or more of a student's grade. If a course has many assignments that dilute the midterm's grade impact, the midterm is still one more big assignment on top of other assignments. There's no winning.

Thankfully, most universities plan a fall or spring break immediately after midterms, which gives students a few days off. Break is an excellent opportunity to rest and refuel for the second half of the academic year, which should be the student's priority. It is also an ideal time to take a few minutes to evaluate performance and identify areas of strength and weakness. This article will provide students with a guide on how to take stock after midterms.


The Numbers

The easiest place to begin when reviewing a semester is with quantitative information. Often, seeing info on a page will correct an incorrect assumption. While many students do not feel they skip that many classes, numbers do not lie. It may reveal that a "few" classes were, in reality, a third or half the term.

Grades are also an area where students may correct assumptions. This is often a positive experience. While expected that students' grades are lower than their impression, students frequently are more successful than they initially perceived. This is often because challenging courses cause students to work harder. Working hard is often associated with struggling, but the reality is that the work can pay off, and students find success.

Connecting the dots between the information and a student's behavior is more important than just the numeric information. High marks are excellent and may suggest that the student should treat the second half of the semester the same way as the first. It is also essential to understand the story behind the result.

As a student, I often made the mistake of interpreting early positive performances as evidence that I did not need to continue at the same level of rigor. This assumption was not always the case, as my initial positive performance resulted from the hours I put in, not the natural talent or aptitude for the subject I perceived I had. A more effective interpretation of a midterm GPA is what exactly feels most beneficial and what feels like a waste of energy. If some study methods work better than others, now is an excellent time to change the study routine.

Turning around a poor performance can also be tricky and requires more creativity. Drilling down to the root cause of poor performance can be a test of personal accountability and honesty. Often there are legitimate reasons outside of a student's control for poor grades. However, it is always better for students to take responsibility for their actions and responses to those unfortunate events. It takes tremendous character to admit one's shortcomings and earnestly change their habits.

The Vibes n' Everything Else

The second part of a midterm check-in is attempting to account for intangible factors over a semester. In other words, how does the semester feel? This sentiment comes up in the earlier example of a course that feels draining despite the on-paper performance of the student being excellent.

One example of a "feel" factor is the learning environment. I hear a lot from young women about extra baggage from working in a male-dominated STEM field. Often, learning cultures can be toxic for those who are traditional outliers from the field. Overcoming these challenges can be difficult. Doing so requires acknowledgment.

Midterms are a great time for students to identify those instances and address them with faculty or other resources. If students have cultivated a great support system on campus, then midterms are a good point to express gratitude to those groups and strengthen those connections even more. A further step might be to identify what makes those groups or organizations helpful and actively pursue those positive influences in other areas.

Check-In for Success

Midterms are an excellent checkpoint for students to stop, reflect, and evaluate the first half of the semester to increase their chances of success in the second half. Rest is the primary goal in the immediate days after. Taking even a half hour to consciously review the semester so far, both positively and negatively, is an often overlooked step. Failing to do so can keep students from addressing problems before they become too unruly to handle healthily or cause them to miss strengths to explore further.

Xavier Royer

Xavier Royer

I am currently a full time instructor at a William Penn University, a small private university in Iowa. I am the lone political science faculty member there. In my time teaching, I have already connected with an incredible cohort of students in ways I could never have expected. Partnering with SAGE will allow me the opportunity to help even more students across the globe navigate those tricky questions.
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