In less than eight hours, my wonderful course on electricity and magnetism will come to a close, and so will my winter term. I'll be done before noon, spend a couple of days at home, and then finally fly off to Las Vegas to climb with the Mountaineering Club for a week, where I'll spend my time taking massive lead falls at Red Rocks. However, that's a story that I should wait to tell until I get back.
Reading period has been a long journey, and perhaps the weather has been as confused as I am while studying for Math 13. At the beginning of this week, there was no snow on the ground and it was 45 degrees outside, but things have changed radically since, and now the grass is blanketed in a foot of snow and temperatures have descended back below freezing. But if nothing else, the snowfall at least offered some spectacular views.
But what actually is this fancy-sounding "reading period"? Dartmouth allocates about five days for finals and studying, the first two being left open for everybody to hit the books, and you can head back home whenever you're done with exams. Since there's no classes on these days, it's easy to take over a classroom with your study buddies and work out some crazy vector calc on the blackboard. For the physics squad, this was an opportunity that we couldn't refuse.
Not all courses have exams; some professors opt to have final essays instead, and in fact, I've yet to have a term that doesn't have at least one course without any tests. There's a good balance of exams and essays on campus, and it all really depends on which classes you take. As a STEM major, I tend to have fewer writing assignments, but Dartmouth's distributives and the wide variety of interesting courses to explore here really help you step outside of your comfort zone. Plus, a required writing class and seminar really help to build up some invaluable essay skills, so even if writing isn't your thing, you'll learn to get good at it very quickly.
If I can offer some pre-exam prep advice, it's to get a lot of sleep (unlike me) and to grab breakfast beforehand if you have a morning exam. You'd be surprised how much a stomach full of Lou's can help your brain work. You'll be a professional at taking tests in no time. With the quarter system, it can sometimes feel like there's a major exam every other week, but you quickly learn what habits help you perform your best.
But ultimately, finals period is surprisingly fun; you can have a lot of free time to catch up with friends and hang out, and you just need to know to stay on top of your time management. Hopefully I'll catch you during reading period next fall!