The Nine Stages of a Typical Semester
"I am going to ace this semester!" - Everyone
"I aced this semester!" - No-one ever
Phase 1: Initial Motivated Phase
(Week 1 or maybe even a week-and-a-half)
It's the first day of the semester. . Some of your classmates don’t even know about the subjects. But you do. Because you’ve already gotten hold of the syllabus.
You have fetched the necessary books from the library: the best ones (as suggested by the seniors) among those mentioned in the syllabus. And so, by the time the teachers mention the reference books, you already have them tucked away in your room.
You have watched videos on how to start the semester right and the new notebook in your bag is waiting for the first words to grace its pages. You are prepared, you are ready, and you are smug about it.
The plan is simple: study consistently throughout the semester at a good enough level and have no reasons to panic at any point in the semester.
This is going to be easy. This is going to go right according to your plan.
“I’m going to ace this semester.”
Phase 2: The Chill Period
The classes are gaining some order. The class routine has been settled on after some tinkering. And so has yours. The only problem is that your routine doesn’t have a study period. Or maybe it does, but you don’t actually study. Still, you attend the classes just to get a sense of how “strict”/serious each teacher is, if nothing else.
Phase 3: The Extremely Chill Period
(Week 4–7, 8)
Now that you know which periods you can strategically skip (*cough bunk cough*), you make use of your knowledge. Football games, tea sessions, traffic jams, or even “not feeling like it”. Any big or small reason you find works.
Studying is not even on your mind. You watch some television series, or a couple of movies every day. You binge watch the Hangover Franchise in one night. Sometimes you are hung-over yourself: birthday party, a competition-win, a competition-loss; anything works.
Basically, you are in the golden phase; the peak state of not studying.
Phase 4: The Rude Awakening
And then it all comes down to a screeching halt. The first of the assessments are here.
You look at the syllabus and everything is unfamiliar. You look at the mirror and curse your past self.
You begin watching videos/ reading articles on how to cram successfully. Focus on the core concepts and use the Pareto Principle they say. But what are the core concepts? You scratch your head, and just start studying. But then, you give up pretty soon as you submit to the fact that you will never finish on time. Besides, reading from the slides hurts your eyes.
"I'll do well on the second assessment."
Phase 5: Motivated Again
You are battered and bruised from those assessments. But, you’re motivated now. Again. This time though, you have the perfect opportunity to turn that inner fire into actual work: the vacations are here. (Or in case you are unlucky — that is, you have some re-exams — you have to be motivated but for a separate cause.)
Phase 6: The Break
15 days. That’s a lot of time to straighten things out. So you plan to complete some of those academic projects, study beyond the portions covered in class, and maybe one or two side projects. Heck, 15 days = 360 hours! You even fancy adding “Find a cure for cancer” to the list.
Two days into the holiday, you begin to slack off.
“This is a break! I should be relaxing before things get busy!”
You take it easy until you have only two days of that break remaining. It’s like someone slapped you out of a dream. You try to get things together, to be able to say that the vacation was fruitful. But, of course, it doesn’t work. Things don’t work that way. You have to do the work.
Phase 7: Final Everything!
Final submissions, final assessments, final project reports, final presentations…
You renew the books at the Library but a day later, admit to yourself that you probably don’t have the luxury to study “deeply”. The day after, you buy summary notes.
It gets pretty hectic in this part of the semester. Like fighting your way through a group of thugs at their secret base. You can’t help but feel how ridiculous it is that you are in that situation. Hell! You don’t even know what got you there. (The reports were assigned nearly two months ago!)
Still, the attacks are relentless. Mostly, they attack alone, but sometimes they come in groups of two or more. All you can do is throw the best punch you can while taking one on the chin. You then get a quick breath in before the next guy comes forward.
By the end of this phase, you don’t even care about your studies and consider dropping out. You look at all those successful dropouts.
Why am I studying? Does it even matter? What matters in life? What is life?
Phase 8: Calm before the Storm
A week or so before the finals, everything slows down. There’s nothing left to do except prepare for the final fight. After weeks of running around in frantic disarray, this feels weird.
It’s quiet. Everyone’s quiet. Perhaps, they are loading up their guns, sharpening their swords, or whatever weapon they plan to use. You? Well, you have stopped caring. You just sit there with a stick.
But then, the earth trembles and you hear the monster approaching in the distance. You sigh! After all, you know you have to begin caring. There’s no other way.
You look back at the start of the semester, at your hopes of fighting for glory at the finals; hopes that have been burned to ashes.
You, now, fight for only one thing — survival.
You pick up the stick with the thought of maybe turning it into a spear. It doesn’t work. As the monster approaches round the corner, you get rid of the stick and get into a fighting stance. Bare knuckles it is.
Phase 9: Exams — Laid-back Panic
The exams are a somewhat weird period. It’s not as frantic as the assessments (where you are trying to gobble up the whole syllabus in one night). There’s less of a reason to panic: you at least know the contents of the subjects. And, you have three days.
Unfortunately though, that three day period is a microcosm of the whole semester. But why wouldn’t it be: you are the same you…
The last of the exams are over. You are home, tired but glad that it’s over. You look back at the semester gone by and shake your head.
That night, as you fall asleep, you mutter:
“Next semester, I’ll do better. Next semester…”
A version of this article appears on our Medium Page.
First published on Aug 27, 2016.