Surviving midterms: How to embrace setbacks

“Midterm season” is a time for any student that, more often than not, can induce instant worry. Once the season hits, it’s not unusual to see students camping out in campus libraries with a coffee in hand, surrounded by cue cards.

Homer Simpson with a stressed expression flipping through a book.It’s no secret that midterms can be a stressful time, especially for those who feel insurmountable pressure to ace them. That burden of trying to reach perfection can feel even more unbearable when things don’t go according to plan.

It’s normal to want to excel and be the best in whatever you do. But when it comes to reaching your goals and succeeding, failure is part of the process. When we fail, it can be difficult to see past the initial disappointment, but remember that with great failures come great learning opportunities.

Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts.

- ANONYMOUS

Here are a few tips to help you face your academic challenges one step at a time during midterm season:

1. Be honest with yourself

Hannah Montana dancing and singing “Everybody makes mistakes, everybody has those days.”Avoid denial at all costs and acknowledge your own shortcomings. When falling short of our goals, it can be tempting to place the blame on others or become overly critical of those around you. But taking responsibility for your actions and recognizing where you went wrong is the first step to learning from your mistakes.

At the end of the day, everybody makes mistakes and has off-days, so don’t be too hard on yourself either!

2. Ask for help

If you start to feel unsure, confused or extremely worried about your upcoming midterms, it doesn't hurt to speak with your professor. Don’t feel like you need to keep your questions to yourself and struggle alone. Pick a reasonable time before your midterm to visit your professor in person and ask for more clarification.

There are also a number of services on campus that you can visit if you are feeling overwhelmed, including the Student Success Office. You can book a 1-1 Peer Success Coaching appointment, or attend a workshop to improve your study skills.

When you start to notice the signs of stress and anxiety creeping up on you; it can also be beneficial to talk to someone about it. Some common symptoms of anxiety are feeling nervous and tense, having a sense of danger or panic, breathing rapidly, and trembling.

3. Seek resilience

Change that outdated mantra in your head that tells you “Once you fail, you can never come back from it.” Instead, replace it with the 5C’s: confidence, coordination, control, composure, and commitment.

  • With confidence, begin by viewing yourself in a positive light. Challenge yourself to break free of those negative intrusive thoughts that negatively impact your well-being.
  • Use coordination to plan ahead for next time and be prepared to tackle the task at hand.
  • Develop a sense of control by moving forward and thinking ahead. This can be done by setting up a to-do list daily and checking off the boxes.
  • Composure and resilience go hand-in-hand to keep you calm and collected. Meditation and organizing what your month is going to look like can give you that much-needed break.
  • Lastly, enhance your commitment to learning and developing your skills. Recognize that everything takes time to achieve, but that it’s attainable.

4. Practice self-care

A blond woman taking a deep breath in and out.Stop what you’re doing and take a deep breath. It’s important to practice mindfulness and take care of yourself during this time. Make sure to treat your body right by eating healthy snacks and keeping the caffeine to a minimum.

If you feel yourself getting distracted, take a few minutes to relax, close your eyes and give your mind a break from constant thought. Taking a few minutes to collect yourself and work through your feelings is significant to your well-being.

5. Try again

Once you fall down, the only thing you can do is get back up. Some people may think that once you fail, there is no way for things to change. However, you can create a healthy perspective on failure by changing your perspective from this fixed mindset and leaning toward a growth mindset. This means realizing that failure is not the end and being open to learning from past slip-ups.


When the time comes to take your midterms, all you can do is try your best. Review your notes, study and prepare. But most importantly, remember that life is about putting in the effort no matter the outcome!

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