As the sweet taste of freedom we've felt over Thanksgiving break ends and we are faced with the last few weeks of class, I am here to give you a few tips on how to make it through finals week alive. Just remember: there is a light at the end of this tunnel, and it involves holidays and not having to pay for your own groceries for three weeks. Woo!
1. First, check the dates of all your exams.
If two exams fall on the same day, pick the one that will be the toughest for you and start studying now. Like, now now. It's not 'nerdy' to be prepared! Look over the chapters that will be on the exam, especially if it is a cumulative one, and assign a few for each day until the exam date. No need to wait until the last minute to cram when you have 3 weeks to teach yourself all of the material slowly but surely. If you do this, you will review the night before the exam instead of cramming. And how much better does that sound? Studying a little of the material each day eases the stress and will usually produce a better grade.
2. Then read and re-read the parameters for any final papers.
As an English major myself, I find that I have more papers than exams. And while this is precisely the reason why I love my major (I'd rather write than study), it is overwhelming that I could possibly have a total of 25+ pages due in less than 3 weeks. If you're someone who procrastinates until the last minute because you think you 'work better under pressure' (I'm one of these people, no judgement), take a few minutes today to outline each paper. No need to log onto your university library website and start compiling resources -- just give yourself a bare bones outline of what you will need to find when the time comes to research. Use the guidelines provided by your professor to create an outline that includes every single thing that he or she is looking for to ensure you get the grade you're aiming for. And if you find something within the parameters of the paper that you are unsure about, this gives you ample time to email and ask about it. You don't want to ask 3 hours before the paper is due, don't be that student.
3. Don't calculate the grade you need to get the final grade you want.
This will give you an added, and unnecessary element of stress. I know you think it will motivate you to get the grade you need, but if that grade seems unattainable you won't study as hard as you should. You'll set yourself up for a failure because it seems unreasonable to get an A on a final. But you can do it! Don't give yourself any more of a reason to stress.
4. Try not to overdo it on the caffeine.
I know, it's tempting. When else can you justify 3 trips to Dunkin' in one day? But don't overdo it. Coffee from places like Starbucks or Dunkin is loaded with not only caffeine, but also insane amounts of sugar. And while caffeine does of course simulate concentration, overdoing it with those sweet drinks will result in an overload on sugar -- not energy. Your brain will be frazzled and all over the place, not to mention drinking coffee late at night is not good for your body or your already messed up sleep cycle. Find another way to get a caffeine boost late at night (hello people, dark chocolate has caffeine and you deserve it this week). Plus, you can't accomplish ANYTHING with the coffee shakes. Friends don't let friends get the coffee shakes.
5. Find some time to relax, even if it's only for 10 minutes.
Staring at a computer screen for 13 hours isn't good for anyone. Find some time for yourself during finals week. Or, make some time. If you prepare using some of these tips, you should find yourself with a couple of minutes to spare. Lay in bed and do nothing for a little, or treat yourself to an episode of whatever you're watching at the moment (only one!). You deserve it. Plus, bribing yourself with rewards always works. Two hours of work in exchange for 20 or 30 minutes of relaxing sounds like a fair trade to me.
As this semester comes to a close, try to remind yourself that bad grades aren't going to ruin your life. Everyone runs into a few classes that are hard for them. It's okay to feel stressed but don't let it engulf you. You'll get through it and have a winter break full of relaxing at the end of it. Stay positive, good luck and happy studying!