Monday, October 15, 2007

Exam craziness...

Something to think about when choosing a school: How much does the administration coordinate your exam schedules?

As an undergrad, I experienced the joy that was midterms and exams. I relaxed for the first few weeks of school, and then freaked out as the middle of the semester approached. If I was lucky, one or two of my classes would have 3 exams instead of two, so the spacing would be better. If I was unlucky, I would have one horrifyingly miserable week in the middle of the term, and another at the end.

As a medical student, this never happened. Because the curriculum at UMMS is organized into sequences, we always had exams every 2-4 weeks, but never more than one at a time. In some ways, this made every week finals week, and caused a lot of stress. In retrospect, however, it was fantastic to have everything coordinated so that you only had to focus on one particular subject area at a time.

Enter the School of Public Health doctoral program. Much like undergrad, I'm taking classes in several different departments. Much like undergrad, I feel like I'm learning incredible amounts about all kinds of things. And, unfortunately, much like undergrad, I'm coming up on what may be one of the craziest three days of my life thus far: Oct 23-25. I have two large exams, a research presentation, and a presentation of a midterm paper all within those three days. "Now," you may be asking yourself, "if I knew ahead of time that this week was going to be so bad, wouldn't I have planned ahead so that I could neatly budget all of my time?" I too, had such thoughts at the beginning of the year. Tragically, all of these plans for preparation and level-headed thinking were brushed to the side as I struggled to keep up with the day to day work for all of my classes. So now, here I am, with one 10-page reflection nearly complete, a professional portfolio all but done, and several more large assignments staring me in the face.

The bottom line, dear prospective students in any discipline, is to ask yourself how you function best. Do you prefer to have someone structure your life for you? Do you prefer to (attempt) to structure things yourself? Do you like having little bursts of stress throughout the year? Or do you prefer to have two periods of absolute insanity each semester? There are no right answers here, only important things to think about. Once you¿ve considered how you want things to go, talk to other students, and gather coping strategies like your life depends on it, because it will...