Once Upon a Midterm: Sage Advice from a First Year Student

Once upon a time, you decided you were going to go to U of T. Maybe your parents took you to an information evening, and you briefly heard the speaker mention how your 90 average was probably going to plummet, but you were distracted uploading a picture to Facebook of you in your new, complimentary U of T baseball cap. Maybe your guidance counsellor warned you that U of T was a really tough school, and you really considered what they said, and decided you could handle it. You’re a good student. Sure, your marks might drop a bit. But you’ll get back up there.

So, you went to U of T. It was great. The classes were really stimulating, you made lots of friends. Or maybe you hated all your classes and completely overhauled your schedule. Either way, some time in late October or early November, it was time for your first set of midterms.

You were going to be fine. You studied for hours in Robarts. You could practically give the lectures for this course.

Fast forward to today, two weeks later. The midterm marks are up on Blackboard and you’re making a safe bet on an 80. But guess what foreign number greets you when you turn on your screen: 60.

Huh. Never seen that grade before. It’s kind of nice. Very… round.

First year students (with the exception of geniuses, which there are many of at U of T), it is my distinct honour and pleasure to welcome you to the First Midterm Reality Check Club! Yes, it’s true, your 90s have literally FLIPPED OVER into a fabulous new number!

As you embark on the new and exciting numeric journey that is your first midterm grades, I would like to offer you a few reasons why you should NOT panic:

  • If your mark is floating somewhere in the realm of the 60s and 70s, and you studied a lot and felt prepared for the test, the odds are that the class average (which you will likely learn in the next lecture) is somewhere around your grade.
  • The first midterm marks in any first-year class are often low. Students are still adjusting to the new amount of material and the new way to study it.
  • If you feel like you bombed the midterm because you are genuinely struggling with the course material, seek extra help. Tutorials, the prof’s office hours, and the department office all offer resources for you to get the support you might need to do well.
  • You may also consider forming a study group (with friends or through the course discussion board on Blackboard) so that you have the opportunity to work through the course content with other students.
  • If you are taking a course to fill your breadth requirements that is outside your comfort zone, don’t worry that your mark is going to be lower than your other grades. I can accredit my membership to the club to the U of T breadth requirement which forces me to take a science course, in spite of the fact that I am an arts student.  I won’t rant on with my opinions on this policy, but I will say that for myself and for many of my friends, this requirement has been a serious detriment to our averages. For this specific matter, if you are an arts student like me, fill your requirement in first or second year and do the best you can. Don’t worry that one bad mark in a course which completely stands out from the rest of your schedule will be the deciding factor that disqualifies you from graduate school. It will be self-evident that this particular course is an anomaly.

Not only should you not panic, but you need to shake it off and keep moving forward. Doing poorly on a midterm is a really disappointing and frustrating experience. Nonetheless, don’t spend days mourning that 20% of your mark that just flushed down the toilet. It’s over. The best thing you can do now is to keep studying to protect your GPA as best you can, and not beat yourself over your grade to protect your mental health as best you can.

Once upon a time, all U of T students were first-years, and had the experience of bombing a midterm. The moral of the story? You’ll get back up there. You were a great student before and you still are one. Although it’s likely that your marks will suffer a bit at first, you will learn how to navigate this new system in due time.

7 comments for “Once Upon a Midterm: Sage Advice from a First Year Student

  1. November 16, 2010 at 9:48 am

    Omg, my first semester of university, I failed or almost failed practically all of my midterms. I was so down on myself that I was convinced that I didn’t belong in university.

    Many of my friends also failed many of their first year courses. They are all very smart and are doing well now, but they were simply not prepared in their first year.

    • John Pierre
      November 4, 2014 at 2:38 pm

      Yes you are right it happened with me at summer semester i got 3 D’s my GPA is under 2.0 its 1.7 and before it in spring it was 2.0 as a freshman right now i’m sophomore i’m studying way harder than before also to success in university courses is to be serious careful little worried focused and think of the future way more so don’t worry or let they worry soon as u guys look forward u see success don’t look back only if u forgot or u missed out something important life is difficult god is with us and he is watching over us

  2. November 16, 2010 at 7:51 pm

    Ohhhh this brings back a flood of memories!! I remember freaking out so hard and like Lori, telling myself that university just wasn’t the route for me. But I got into my groove quickly enough and once that happens, you’re pretty much good to go. And I think another important thing is to realize that this isn’t everything. I’m pretty sure 10 years down the road, we won’t even remember that 60 we got in whatever exam/course…and if we do remember, it’s just funny. I know I laugh at the fact that I used to spend an entire week working on a single essay…that’s changed so much. I’m in fourth year now and Lord knows how many essays I’ve wrote just hours before they’ve been due. AND I’M ALIVE!! Weeeeeee!!

  3. danielleklein
    November 16, 2010 at 7:53 pm

    Hours for an essay??! I spend so much time working on essays! I feel like I’m wasting my life away in Robart’s on the weekends!
    I hope you’re right though!!

  4. November 18, 2010 at 10:38 am

    80s Mike Tyson, yeah, I can agree with that. Although… Tyson is more technically skilled than most people realize, and has a great defense, so I think I’d rather go for David Tua.

  5. Andrea
    November 20, 2010 at 2:16 am

    I remember getting my first essay mark back: 63. I got perfect scores on all of my essays in 12th grade, so I was kind of like “What do you say? I am NOT perfect anymore?” but I never freaked out. I, for whatever reason, stress way less now that I am actually in UofT. Go figure.

  6. May 5, 2011 at 2:32 pm

    i remember taking mat102, it was horrible, class average was 55%. I decided to drop and got 80% during the summer session. Apparently it was the weeder course, to weed out people during the first year.

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