Breaking that problem set lest it break you: a guide

Problem set got you down? Integrating got you procrastinating? Deriving got you barely surviving? Chemical equations got you wanting a vacation? Are you constantly wanting to pull your hair out one strand at a time because the supply and demand graphs do not make sense? Well, worry no more! After many long nights of struggling with many multi-page problem sets over an array of different subjects, I have finally completed the ultimate guide to conquering a difficult problem set.

I refuse to tell you not to wait until the night before the assignment is due. It is impractical with the copious amount of reading, coding and/or other problem sets you’re also avoiding. Will you really be any more productive if you start your work early anyway? So, if it is 12 a.m., and you still haven’t opened your textbook, just tell yourself this is what God intended.

The questions will almost always be in order of difficulty. Don’t think that the first one, “Name_____,” is a trick question. If you answer this correctly, reward yourself with a Nilda’s brownie cookie or a two-hour nap.

Next, get in the habit of writing the assignment name on the top of your paper. It makes it look like you put effort into your work. Furthermore, when you’ve finished the first few ridiculously and unfairly easy questions, it’ll serve as a reminder of how many more you have left.

Then come the moderately challenging questions. At this point, you’ll start biting the end of your pen and sinking your teeth into your bottom lip. You could start answering the question, but I recommend opening Yik Yak and scrolling through some Yaks instead. You may also try tweeting or posting a Facebook status that says, “Ugh [insert subject here] is killing me [sobbing emoji].” Then, when you feel up for it, continue on with the problems. If that time never comes, remind yourself that failing is never an option.

Now, get ready for the really difficult problems that you know you can’t solve (even with the help of Google or WolframAlpha). You will probably read the solution sets online, tears falling ever so gently on your paper. This is a really good time to check on your recent social media posts that definitely got no love. Don’t feel degraded, there is a delete button for a reason. If you’re searching for validation (face it, you are), go ahead and copy the contents of that post into a new Yak. The other sad Vassar students in the 24-hour room will probably sympathize. If not, at least no one will know you posted it. Then, once you’ve lost hope entirely, write down a random assortment of your favorite symbols, numbers and capital letters. When this is finished, reward yourself with leftover take-out and a Natty Ice.

The last question or two will most likely ask you to explain the space-time continuum and the logic behind infinity in Old English, Latin and Japanese. At this point, your paper has probably been crumpled and uncrumpled a million times, and your trash can is probably filled with the tissues you used to dry your tears. Strands of your hair are probably strewn all over your floor or the 24-hour space rolly chair, and you are starting to crash from your recent caffeine high. It will be okay (haha). Check your last Yak one more time. Remember that even though your professors and social media followers hate you, your anonymous fellow Yakkers all feel your pain.

Everyone in class understood this, you’ll think, but the answer will haunt you on your deathbed. You begin to question not only why you took this course but also your existence on this planet. The best move is to steal bits and pieces of solutions off of Google. Copy them verbatim. If caught plagiarizing, you may be expelled, but at least your troubles will be gone!

Don’t get too excited when you finish. Happiness is not meant for you. You still have to turn the damn thing in, so double check your work. Everything’s wrong and you have to start from scratch? Hey, you accomplished something.

Given your mental state, it won’t hit you until right before the assignment is collected that your work is a mess. But, hey! It has character. Who cares that your letters don’t line up on the blue lines? Blue lines are just limiting our freedom of expression, and we should not let them confine us. There may be coffee or grease stains, but those only point to your can’t-stop-won’t-stop work ethic.

And there it goes. You can finally rest easy. Take a nap (even if you’re in class), order some breakfast at the Retreat and latch onto your Netflix for the next week. You did it!

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