I have always heard people on campus complaining about reading period. I still remember freshman year when I first heard the term from a Tufts upperclassman. They talked about it as “exhaustive” and “unproductive.” But “what is this so-called reading period?,” you may be asking. The time between when classes end and all our written work, including final papers, projects, and exams, are due. That’s the reading period, a 4-6 day time frame for students to prepare for the end-of-semester assessments.
Before the pandemic, Tufts would offer students a set of initiatives and resources to take the pressure off finals. We would have extra advising and tutoring sessions available and, of course, one of my favorite Tufts traditions: “the primal scream.” At the end of every Fall semester, students from all classes would come together at the Tisch Library rooftop to release the stress of finals season by screaming from the top of their lungs. I miss this kind of collective support I would find in the Tufts community.
Another tradition that precedes the reading period at Tufts is Tuftonia’s Day. It marks the beginning of finals season in spring. It’s also a celebration of Tufts’ birthday that has grown into a massive campus carnival. Tufts puts together many games, food-trucks, and free cupcakes during Tuftonia’s Day. There’s even a fireworks show on campus open to students and members of the local Medford/Somerville communities. Traditions like this have become great resources to take the edge off finals season.
I know many people hate reading period because of how much work it entails, but maybe we should shift our mindsets and focus on why it’s important. Some of us don’t have a safe and quiet environment at home to deal with the intense study routine of finals season. Reading period is intended to be a time for students to reflect, review, and synthesize what they have learned during the semester.
Last semester, I had my first reading period at home. It was chaos. My home isn’t the best place to study, so I barely had a quiet time to go over the materials from classes. Also, I had to divide my attention between working to support my family, looking after my younger brother and sister, and studying for finals. I did have support from Tufts through initiatives like virtual academic tutoring. But by the end of the semester Zoom fatigue had already hit, so attending more Zoom sessions just didn’t sound appealing to me.
Of course, I would also get overwhelmed by so much studying, but now that I feel stressed about academic work at home, I have come to appreciate the reading period at Tufts. When I was on campus, I would study with friends at the Tisch Library, attend self-care study breaks and stay up late chatting with my study group. Tufts knows that students need a break to focus on their mental health and well-being before the marathon that finals season is. So, I’m looking forward to going back to campus, where hopefully I will get back to having the emotional and academic support of the reading period at Tufts.