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A Week in the Life …finals edition!

Emma discusses her first-ever finals at Carleton as a freshman.

Emma discusses her first-ever finals at Carleton as a freshman.

So I’m finished with my first term at Carleton and… whew. I had no idea it was possible to learn so much in 10 weeks. Yes, to be completely honest with you, the trimester system is pretty fast-paced. But it was also insanely rewarding and I had so much fun during the term. 

So, how do finals work at Carleton?

This past fall term, the last day of classes was on a Wednesday in mid-November. Reading Days— which are days with no classes to give students time to study before exams— were on the following Thursday and Friday. Then (after the late-night breakfast), the exam period began and finals were held from Saturday to Monday (not every term follows this exact schedule, and you can see a more in-depth calendar here). 

Reading Days Commenced!

Day 1

By this time, I was (thankfully) already completely done with my A&I course, Data Visualization as Activism (IDSC 100). Instead of a traditional final exam, we got the chance to present our statistical findings projects to representatives of the Northfield Public School District, which was a really cool experience. What I really needed to focus on during reading days was my take-home exam for Political Philosophy (POSC 160) and my final project for Intro to Computer Science (CS 111). 

My take-home exam was going to be posted Saturday morning, so a lot of my day was spent reviewing. I found this giant, empty ballroom-esque classroom in the Weitz, and had a very productive study sesh for a few hours before dinner. 

weitz classroom
Peep the stack of philosophy books on the table…


Day 2

Today, my goal was to start feeling confident in my final computer science project, so I spent most of my day writing out programs in Python.

One of Carleton’s many traditions is the late-night breakfast. Every term before finals, breakfast food is served at 10 pm at LDC. If the pastries and waffles are not enough to relieve the pre-finals stress, at one point during the breakfast, the entire dining hall collectively starts screaming for a few seconds, so that was an experience

emma late night breakfast
Live footage of President Byerly (in the back) about to hand me waffles

In the line that I got in, President Byerly and Dean Livingston were serving plates of food to hand to students!

late night breakfast
The best part of finals week

The Exam Period Commenced!

Day 3

It was finally the Saturday of exams starting: friends everywhere were wishing each other luck and the time was coming soon for me to submit my finals. My Political Philosophy final was posted on the 19th and I had until the end of the exam days period to turn it in (using no notes!).

emma's laptop
The page that I refreshed every 2 seconds to see if my Poli Sci exam was up…


Day 4

T-minus a full day before needing to submit both of my final exams. I felt semi-confident in Computer Science and had a functional program to build off of, but I still needed to write up my reflection to go with my code. The Poli Sci take-home was also not too bad, just a lot of essay writing and analysis of the philosophers we discussed in the course.

(Caffeine was an essential element of finals.)


Before locking myself into a study room at the Libe and working on my essays, I made much-needed coffee for some friends on my floor in Cassat Hall!


study group
Hiding our stress for the photo


Day 5

Meaning my last day on campus, and the last day I had before finally turning everything in. I finished my Poli Sci final earlier in the day, got one last Sayles melt, and turned in my CS code and reflection in the evening. And then literally leaped around my dorm floor with joy afterward.

em's CS code
My lovely CS project


Finally— it was time for some much-needed break. Until next time, Carleton final exams!



Emma (she/her) is a first-year student from South Florida. She is interested in Cognitive Science, Psychology, and Gender, Women’s, and Sexuality Studies. Em is a member of TRIO and also works as an Event Manager at the Weitz. When not in class, she enjoys going to the Rec, riding her bike around campus, and drinking coffee.