Early Exams Reduce Stress

Students appreciate classes that wrap up before reading period

Students who have already begun worrying about the stress of reading period and finals might be a bit jealous of Mauro C. Braunstein ’06.

“In January, I am doing one paper and one take home final. And that is it. Teeheehee,” he said, chuckling.

But Braunstein is not a slacker. Instead, he is one of a fairly large number of students who will leave for winter recess with at least one class finished for the semester.

For Braunstein, this class is Earth and Planetary Sciences 132, “Introduction to Meteorology.”

Other classes that end before the break include Economics 1035, “Policy Applications of Psychology and Economics,” Economics 1542 “International Trade Policy,” English 10a, “Major British Writers” and Chemistry 285, “Human Disease.”

Final exams in these classes are not technically finals because they are not cumulative and are not worth more than any other test administered during the semester. But for students, one crucial detail makes them final—the fact that they will not have to think about these classes upon arriving back in Cambridge.

Students are generally in favor of these final exams before reading period.

“I think it’s a very neat thing because it’s going to give me the opportunity to have at least one class off my plate over winter break,” said Ryan D. Hughes ’06, who is taking Economics 1035. “Although it’s a lot of work now, I think it will be worth it to have the winter break free.”

Alexander N. Chase-Levenson ’08, an English 10a student whose final paper for that class is due the Monday before break, agrees.

“It’s a definite relief not to have to think about it over break or reading period,” he said.

For some, knowing that they would finish a class mid-December provided an added impetus to take the class.

“It certainly wasn’t the deciding factor,” said Hughes, “but it was on my mind as I was shopping for classes.”

This system, however, is not without its flaws.

Alice R. B. Cullina ’08, another English 10a student, said that while she was glad to have a lighter load in January, she felt pressured for time because a major assignment is due in class next week.

“It’s kind of stressful because we have a final paper that we have to write before we leave,” she said. “I’d probably rather write that paper during reading period.”

Nevertheless, students appreciate exams before break not only because it provides them with a more stress-free holiday, but also because this gives them more time during reading period to study.

“If they shoved everything before break, there could be a stress problem with everything piling up,” said Chase-Levenson.

“I like having some of my classes out of the way, but I also like the cushion of reading period and the cushion of intersession,” said T. Riya Sen ’07, an Economics 1035 student who is taking five classes this semester, echoing many others’ sentiments.

But even with the extra time, many of these Harvard students will still be found amidst the stacks at Widener.

“I’ll be finishing my thesis, as well as all the other term papers I have to write, said Malini P. Daniel ’06, a student in Economics 1035. “I’m not going to New York or Jamaica or anything awesome.”