This week marked the midpoint of the semester, and students are sleeplessly wandering the campus. Yes, the usual procrastination is partly to blame. But the main reason is that every class seems to have a midterm scheduled or a paper due.
As far as exams are concerned, it makes sense to place them in the middle of the semester. Professors want to divide course material somewhat equally between two tests, so that they are similar in length. This logical approach to timing midterm exams helps students gauge their progress and understanding of a course's material.
Most paper assignments, however, need not be scheduled for the halfway mark. The timing of papers is somewhat arbitrary, as they would provide the same intellectual challenge if they were assigned a week before or after the flurry of tests, exams and quizzes. Students would still have the chance to assess their performance with enough time left in the semester to turn things around if necessary, but without experiencing one week of major assignments due in every course.
If professors want to see their students' best work, they need to consider a system that will minimize the instances in which exams and papers coincide.