Your first semester at Columbia is almost at an end. One last obstacle to face before winter break: finals. If you’re stressed out about how you’ll be able to come out of it all unscathed, Spectrum is here to answer your questions and clarify what’s really in store for you over the next two weeks.
The reading week myth
The concept of reading week at Columbia is quite misleading. Technically, reading “week” only lasts a couple of days. On the official academic calendar, reading week starts Tuesday, Dec. 10, and ends on Thursday, Dec. 12, the night before the first final exams start.
While some see reading week as a precursor to winter break and spend their time doing everything but work, others see it as a 48-hour extended stay at Butler for some intense studying. Both are very extreme cases, and the best way to spend reading week is to be in the middle of the spectrum and to make sure you have enough time to study but also to enjoy the holiday season in the city.
Don’t let the great Columbia stress culture myth get to you; you will pass your finals without having to spend the night in Butler like some people enjoy bragging about. But you should also give yourself enough study time during reading week—planning out your time can be tricky, but with some organization, you can make the best out of it.
Study spot recommendations
Finals seasons at Columbia usually means struggling to find empty spots at hot libraries like Butler or Milstein. Columbia has an extensive system of libraries for every type of student, but it’s easy to feel pressured or overwhelmed in a library overflowing with stressed out students. Alternatively, instead of working at a library, you can try one of the many cafés on campus. Brownie’s Café in the basement of Avery Library is a hidden gem for fans of the coffee shop vibe. Liz’s Place in Diana is also another great option. It can get very noisy, however, so if you don’t like some light chatter and music as background noise, then it might not be the place for you. There is also very limited seating, so make sure to get there as early as possible.
Finally, if you’re looking for quiet, secluded spots that don’t necessarily have to be inside a library, academic buildings like Hamilton and Diana all have empty classrooms and seating areas where you can shut yourself off and study alone. The whiteboards and projectors may be helpful for group work, but classrooms might be reserved for review sessions, so try those out at your own risk.
Study break recommendations
Whether you’re want to leave Morningside Heights completely or just take a walk around Riverside Park, taking a break for some fresh air and fun can do wonders.
Plan out your study breaks! Organize an outing with friends and take advantage of all the festive events happening around the city. The Holiday Market at Columbus Circle can be a great study break if you’re not looking to go too far away from campus.
What to expect taking your first final
Rooms for finals are usually booked for two hours and 50 minutes. Depending on the professor and the course, your exam might be shorter than that. Nevertheless, spending time in a classroom for that long might seem mentally exhausting.
To calm your nerves, make sure to get to the exam room early enough to snag your favorite seat if you have one. Make sure you have water and enough pens to get you through the exam. If you have a 9 a.m. exam, make sure to get some breakfast before, or you’ll be hungry by the time you get out at noon.
Remember that in just a little more than two short weeks, you’ll be off for the holidays. You’ll get through it!