The midterm message by Marcia Cantarella, PhD, Author, I CAN Finish College: The Overcome Any Obstacle and Get Your Degree Guide. 

Seems like school just started, but midterm exams and papers begin to happen at around this time of year and they will be sending you a message. The message may be a very good one. You are doing just fine and studying well and thriving. Or the message may be a more scary one. You are not doing as well as you may have thought and the C or worse on the midterm is the signal.

The midterm message is one to pay attention to for many reasons.Midterm Message

If you are doing well then you may be in the field or major that best suits you and you should continue to pursue that. You may want to make sure your professors know who you are so that later if you need them for references they will know who that brilliant person was.

You may want to shore up your success by talking now about the next paper or project to be sure you stay on track.

Use the good news midterm message to your benefit and build more success on it.

For many students however, the midterm message is a wake-up call. It says that something is wrong.

However many, if not most, students do not take advantage of this opportunity in a constructive way. Do not drop courses, go into hiding, leave school or generally despair that your life is over.

Talk to someone first. Begin with the professor. If you did not do as well as you hoped ask what can do to improve. Be specific about things you may not have understood. The professors are there to see that you do learn and to help you do that.

They are happier to see a student who is interested in improvement than one who is just into grubbing for a grade at whatever cost. It may mean several conversations with the professor or s/he may guide you to other resources.

The midterm message may mean that you seek out tutoring from a tutoring center or from upperclassmen or that you form or become part of a study group. The point is to learn from others what you struggle with and share what may be your strengths where that is appropriate.

The midterm message may be that you are legitimately over your head in not having had the preparation needed for the course you are in. Talk to an adviser to see if you can drop the class and what the consequences may be.

It may mean that you can pick up a more appropriate course next term. You may have a learning disability that can be tested for that reflects that you learn certain disciplines or subjects differently and should be given more time to take tests for example. Use your campus learning center or advising office to find out about these resources as well.

Your midterm message may suggest that you are not studying properly and a learning center and some study skills workshops can help turn that around. Look at when, where and how you study and see if you may have been giving a tough subject less time and attention than it needed.

Not every subject can be approached in the same way. Sciences require both understanding and memorization. Literature requires close reading and interpretation. Social Sciences require appreciation of theory and outcomes.  

All require delivery of evidence in some way. But you don’t study for them all the same way and that may be the midterm message for you. Again getting help will put you on the right path before finals.

The point is that this is a fix-it time and all is not lost if you did not get it right the first time. Learn from this experience and move on to the next where you will be a winner.

Marcia CantarellaDr. Marcia Cantarella is the author of I CAN Finish College: The Overcome Any Obstacle and Get Your Degree Guide and a consultant on higher education, access and success.  Contact Dr. Cantarella at for more information on what the midterm message means for you.