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Freshman and Sophomore adjust to their first post-COVID in-person prelims.

Updated: Oct 23, 2021

Erica Yirenkyi for WVBR News

An image with a scantron exam and student studying with the text, "it's prelim season!"

It is that time of the semester again when all students start going through it— the infamous prelim season is here at Cornell University. Now that classes are mostly back in person, many students like myself are experiencing a tough transition. Some students are taking their first in-person college prelims after spending the end of high school or freshman year of college online. This prelim season definitely hit us all hard and stress levels are through the roof, which could certainly take a toll on mental, emotional, and even the physical wellbeing of students here at Cornell. Students might be sleeping less due to staying up extra late, or waking up extra early to study, or sometimes forgetting to take care of themselves because they are so immersed in their school work. Prelim season can surely affect how we feel inside and out. ​​

To understand how students are feeling about exams, I got some student perspectives. I got a chance to talk to two students— a freshman like myself and a sophomore who is also an international student. I interviewed them on their different perspectives regarding the prelim season, as well as how they felt overall in regards to their mental health and stress levels.

Kemba: “My name is Kemba and I am a computer science major in the College of Arts and Science. For my first ever prelim, I was a little bit nervous but I did adequately prepare for the test.”

Erica: So that was Kemba Yeboah, a freshmen and CS major here at Cornell who says that for his first ever prelim. He studied, he worked hard and while he was nervous, he did prepare for his test and that really helped him succeed. Let’s listen to more of what Kemba has to say regarding his stress levels and mental health.

Kemba: “oh my stress level was indeed very high. I had a lot of assignments piling up on eachother, having to study for prelims but Thank God I was able to manage everything.”

Erica: While Kemba was able to handle everything going on, he was still very stressed due to the fact that he had a lot of assignments piling up, on top of having to study for prelims. This resonated with me because you have to turn in assignments before the due date, but you also have to study for your prelims and balancing that can be hard so, let’s turn it back to Kemba one last time to see what advice he might have, or what he has to say about balancing all that and succeeding in future prelims.

Kemba: “Don’t study at the last minute. I feel like you should break up your study sessions, for like a week in advance. I wouldn’t say go too crazy. For me, I feel like it is better to study little by little. So during or in between your assignments, review your answers, review how you did. Over time you solidify your skills while also completing assignments."

Erica: You guys heard him, don’t study last minute people! Kemba’s advice for acing prelims is to study between assignments, use your homeworks to guide you, and study with your homework so that over time, you have solidified your skills and when prelims come around you are not super stressed. So thank you so much Kemba, it was lovely getting to speak with you and you gave great insight as a freshman.

I also spoke to Jessica Okruw, a sophomore and international student. The sophomore perspective is really interesting because current sophomores experienced their entire freshman year of college mostly remotely. So, let’s hear what she has to say.

Jessica: “I’m Jessica, I’m a sophomore as you said, I am in the College of Arts and Sciences and I’m majoring in Government and International relations. So with taking my prelims online, there were more accommodations, since I’m doing government, I take less tests but for the test I did have, we were given like a week of no classes and we got to take the prelims and it was like there was time to study, time to like relax but then in person, it was like we have prelims so go, go, go”

Erica: So, based on what Jessica said, she felt as if taking prelims in person was more of a go, go, go culture compared to last year when things were online and students were given a week to prepare for prelims and this year, we have classes on top of having prelims. With that being said let’s dive into how Jessica felt, her mental health, her stress, being away from home and doing things online.

Jessica: “I miss the time that we had to study but I came into this semester trying to be on top of my game. It was nerve wracking a little because you had to study a lot in between classes but it's doable. I think they made a mistake putting the prelims right before the break because the anticipation for the break makes the prelim more annoying. The stress is high because you want it over and done with, the stress and the pressure to overperform is really really big but I was managing”

Erica: Fall break definitely made things a bit weird— some students had prelims right before the break and others who had their prelims right after the break. For example, I had my prelims before the break which was great in the sense that I get to take my prelims and destress during the break. At the same time, it places that extra stress on me to just get it over with and I think that Jessica touched on those points quite well. Now that we've heard about the online-to-in-person transition, let’s hear some advice from Jessica about how to face future prelims and to succeed here at Cornell in general.

Jessica: “I would say that always be prepared. I think now they record lectures for some classes. Rewatch them, remake notes, ask for help when you need it, and don’t be scared of the prelim because the moment you start getting nervous, then you start making mistakes”

Erica: Alright so like Jessica said, always be prepared. No one really knows what could happen and it’s always good to be prepared whether that’s watching recorded lectures or going to office hours or whatever you need to do to succeed. Anyways, thank you so much Kemba and Jessica for all your time and all the great insight you gave based on your experiences.

I hope that after hearing what they had to say, it helped, or encouraged someone out there. It's always great to hear other points of views other than what you are used to and interviewing them definitely gave me a better understanding on succeeding in future prelims and I hope it did for you, who is listening right now.


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