Finals week is undoubtedly one of the most frustrating and stressful times of college life. Right now, you’re probably feeling tired, overwhelmed, and decided to read this blog just so you wouldn’t have to go study. (It’s okay. I’ve been there.) But there is a way to survive finals, and it isn’t some impossible, intangible dream that comes to you after falling asleep on your textbooks.
Step One: Calm down.
It really is going to be okay! I promise. Any freaking out and panicking you do will not help you retain information or focus in on a paper you have to write. If you find yourself getting overwhelmed with what’s in front of you, take a break. Walk around the library or outside, and then look at your work again. You’ll be surprised at how helpful that is.
Step Two: Listen to good music.
I have my own playlist that I listen to every time I study. (Eddie Money’s “Take Me Home Tonight” is, for some reason, my go-to song.) Music helps block out any random noises that might distract you while you’re in the library or your dorm. If you get distracted by lyrics, listen to classical, jazz, or music in another language. Studies have suggested that you should avoid music with repetition. However, for me, I almost solely listen to rap while I study. Go figure.
Step Three: Don’t trade sleep for caffeine.
It’s easy to overdose on the coffee and Mountain Dew during finals week, but that usually comes with a crash that is really difficult to recover from. While you might think you’re sacrificing work time for sleep, it’s actually one of the best things you can do for yourself. Caffeine usually doesn’t help you focus in on what you’re studying, but after a quick nap, it’s a lot easier to pay attention to what you’re reading or writing. So put down the 2-liter of soda, and close your eyes instead.
Step Four: Use study groups only if they’re helpful.
It’s often the case that people use “study groups” to socialize, or they get stuck with people who don’t want to work and feel obligated to stay and help anyway. So if study groups really work for you, go for it. It’s a great way to share information and is probably the reason I remembered so much for one of my sophomore year finals. But if you’re with people who are constantly texting or on Facebook or distracting you, leave the study group. It’s easy to think you’re getting work done, but in an environment like that, you’re probably not.
Step Five: Eat well.
When I’m busy, I often forget to eat or inhale my food before running to the next place I need to be. During finals week, that’s not a good idea. Your body needs good, healthy food to keep itself running in top shape. While late-night pizza is sometimes a great reward for studying hard, make sure you balance it out with food that is good for you. I recommend fruit, juice, Wheat Thins, and at least one hot meal.
Step Six: Don’t let your study breaks last for hours.
It’s a great idea to balance studying with a short break, but don’t let it take so much time that you forget where you were in your essay or study session. Sometimes, it’s helpful to do a quick crossword puzzle, exercise for a short while, or anything else that will take your mind off of things. (I highly suggest coloring.) A lot of people will watch a quick TV episode to let their brain relax for a minute, but don’t let that turn into watching two whole seasons of Scrubs in one night or all three Lord of the Rings movies. Just like anything else, you need balance.
Step Seven: Review, review, review.
When writing an essay or studying for a major test, cranking out work in a short amount of time doesn’t mean you’ve done your job efficiently. Go back and read through what you’ve written or taken notes on to check for any inconsistencies or errors. No one wants to get to the test and realize they had been memorizing the wrong equation this whole time. One thing I like to do when I’m studying is pretend I’m teaching the topic to someone else. That way, I can tell if there are any flaws in my logic or I’ve mixed something up in my studying.
Step Eight: Don’t be afraid of emailing your professors.
If you really are confused, chances are you aren’t the only one who is. If you need clarification on anything, don’t be scared to ask your professor to explain something you learned. After all, it is their job to help you! If asking your professor really is terrifying to you, ask another classmate. The nice thing about small schools is that it isn’t difficult to find someone in the library who is studying for the same class you are and wouldn’t mind helping you out.
Step Nine: When finals are done, take a day off.
There are few feelings better than knowing your work is done for now. When you’ve finally sold back all of your books and are on your way home for Christmas break, take time to relax, sleep in, and do what you want to do. You’ll need that time to yourself before starting a new semester!