How to Make it Through College Finals Week in One Piece
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By now, you’ve hopefully prepared yourself for finals week. If not, there’s still hope! Here’s why:
I’m not going to pretend I’m perfect and always stay on top of everything, because that’s just not who I am. I’ve spent most of my college career putting things off until the week of finals. Yes, that includes learning a whole semesters worth of material in the matter of a few days.
Do I regret this? Probably. But have I gotten through it all and felt the weight of the world lifted off my shoulders? Heck yes I have, time and time again.
So today I’m going to teach you my tricks for surviving college finals week, whether you prepared beforehand or not. Because let’s face it: most college students aren’t prepared for finals until they’re staring them dead in the face.
College Finals Week Tip #1: Take a Deep Breath
The first step to surviving college finals week is taking deep breaths. You just have to make it through one week and then it’s all sunshine and rainbows. But until then, you need to take deep breaths. There’s no other way to make it through all that studying and crying.
College Finals Week Tip #2: Schedule Your Days
In order for everything else to work, you need to schedule your time wisely. Without keeping track of everything you need to do and when it needs to be done, it’s going to be difficult keeping up.
Hopefully at this point in the semester, you have a planner. If not, that’s okay; all you need are a few pieces of paper and pencil.
To setup your finals week schedule, you first need to know when and where each of your finals are. Once you figure this out, write them down on a piece of paper.
From here, you can determine what subject needs to be studied when. For example, if your math final is on Thursday and your physics final is on Saturday, it makes sense to study for math first.
You should also note which classes you struggled most with and section off more time to study for those than you would need for other classes.
College Finals Week Tip #3: My Top Study Tips for Exams
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you actually need to study. There’s absolutely no way around it.
You’ve had the whole term to relax so now’s the time to buckle down and study your butt off. Otherwise, you’re not going to do well. But the best part is you only have to study for a week and once each final’s over, you’re done with those classes! But that will only happen if you study, so here are my top study tips for finals.
1. Leave Your Room
Yes, you need to get out of your room no matter how much you don’t want to. Being anywhere other than your room or apartment (or friend’s apartment) means you can’t just lounge around on your bed and binge watch your favorite Netflix shows. Want to know how I know this? Because I used to do that, and it’s safe to say I didn’t do too well on my final exams.
Now when I have to study, I go to the library or some study spaces on campus. One thing I make sure to do is switch up where I’m studying so I don’t feel trapped and like the library will be the last place I ever see. I also make sure to take everything I need, including my Hydro Flask, some snacks, and headphones (because Netflix breaks are okay). This eliminates the need to spend money at the vending machine and waste precious studying time.
2. Find a Study Buddy
Studying with a friend makes the whole process significantly more bearable. For starters, you’re not alone during this dark, dark time. In addition, your friend may be able to help you understand something you’ve been struggling with and vice versa.
I first started studying with a friend my sophomore year for my Differential Equations and Laplace Transforms class. Let me tell you now that’s the first class I ever studied with a friend for, and it certainly paid off. I got a 90% or above on every test and quiz (except maybe one I got an 88% on) and I got like a 97% overall in the class. I had never done so well in any class my entire life until this one, and I owe it mostly to studying, especially with a friend (and the rest to my awesome professor).
So instead of sitting in the library with your headphones on trying to figure everything out on your own, find someone that’s in your class and study with them! You’ll have an easier time working things out and understanding what you’re doing when there’s two of you.
3. Use a Whiteboard
Notebook paper only has so much room to fit your problems on. When you make a mistake and have to erase it, your paper gets ruined, forcing you to start all over again. That’s where whiteboards come into play.
Since I’m an engineering student, I do a lot of math. Like, probably too much….. For anyone that does complex math or needs to draw out diagrams, a whiteboard will become your best friend.
For starters, they have so much more space on them. Therefore, you can easily work out problems without worrying about running out of space. It also makes it easier to identify where you made a mistake (since the writing isn’t so cramped). This can definitely save you from insanity.
So if it’s an option, I highly suggest using a whiteboard.
4. Think of Real World Examples
One thing I’ve found that really helps me understand concepts and materials is figuring out how I can relate them to the real world. For example, picturing a hot bowl of soup just sitting on the table helped me relate different types of heat transfer taking place. There’s conduction between the table top and the hot bowl of soup, and if you blow on the soup, there’s then convection taking place.
Something as simple as that relationship can help you really understand what it is you’re learning about and will make understanding exam questions that much easier. It’s like putting a name to a face, really
5. Use Chegg Tutors
If all else fails or you’re stuck on anything, give Chegg Tutors a try. Chegg is probably my favorite college resource and their Tutors are excellent. Whatever you’re having trouble with, they can help.
All you have to do is submit a topic or question and you’ll be paired up with a tutor to help you. You can even get your first 30 minutes free here.
I highly suggest using a tutor if you’re struggling with something. They are highly knowledgeable and can be the difference between you getting a C or A on your final exam.
College Finals Week Tip #4: Don’t Forget Your Breaks!
It’s extremely important to take breaks, not only for your sanity but also for your learning retention. Without breaks, your mind gets bogged down with so much information, making it difficult to retain it all. This is especially true when you’re cramming a whole semesters worth of material into a few day’s learning.
Because let’s face it: that’s exactly what you’re doing.
I’m without a doubt guilty of taking too many breaks, especially ones that are way too long. However, they help keep me sane. If all I did was study without taking time for myself (that will never happen but let’s just pretend, okay?), I wouldn’t be able to comprehend even half of the information I’m trying to take in.
Your brain needs to rest, even if it’s just for 5-10 minutes.
Something that can really help keep you on track so your breaks don’t end up too long is the Pomodoro Technique. What you do is set a timer for 25 minutes and work on one task until the timer goes off. Then you take a short break for 3-5 minutes. Once the break is up, do the same thing 3 more times. Once you’ve completed this 4 times, you reward yourself with a longer break of 10-15 minutes (or whatever works best for you).
Many people live by the Pomodoro Technique and can accomplish so much when following it. Once my classes start in January I’m going to give this technique a try and see how it goes.
Whatever you end up doing, just remember to breaks. They may seem inefficient, but they most certainly are not.
College Finals Week Tip #5: Make Sure You’re Eating Healthy & Drinking Lots of Water
Our bodies need proper nutrition in order to perform at their best. That’s why fueling your body with whole, natural foods is important, whether you’re studying for an exam or running a marathon.
Instead of reaching for that 4th bag of Cheetos or grabbing another Mountain Dew, eat some fruit or trail mix and drink some tea or water. Not only will you feel better for choosing healthier options, but your body will feel more energized and capable of whatever you put it through.
What I’ve found that helps me drink more water is always having cold water. If it’s warm, it’s just not refreshing and I find I don’t drink as much. I used to use my Nalgene all the time and would hate how warm my water would get, even if it’s inside.
That’s when Ian introduced me to his Hydro Flask his parents got him for Christmas one year and I’ve been hooked ever since. I drink probably 3x as much water with my Hydro Flask than I did with my Nalgene. And it’s simply because the water stays cold all day.
If you’re like me and don’t drink enough water (or pay for bottled water), make the investment in a Hydro Flask. Trust me, you need ALL the water you can get after all those tears you produce during finals week.
College Finals Week Tip #6: Get Plenty of Sleep
I remember my freshman year of college when I told myself I’d stay up all night studying for my IME 101 final exam. Then I got tired so I went to sleep with an alarm set early so I could study before my exam. I don’t know who I was trying to fool because I certainly did not wake up early to study.
But guess what I got on my exam? I have no idea, but I passed the class with a B- and I’m okay with that. Especially considering I barely studied my first semester.
My point here is that there’s only so much studying you can do. Your body needs to rest and recover.
I study to the point where I feel like I know the material, or at least enough to pass. Once I hit a roadblock and can’t think anymore, that’s when I pack everything up and call it a day. I have never pulled an all-nighter, nor have I ever stayed up past 10pm studying. And guess what.
I’ve never failed a class.
The worst grade I’ve gotten is a C- my first term and I’ve only had one other C.
There really is only so much your brain can take in before it’s just a waste of your time and sanity. Once you feel you’ve hit that wall, take a break. If that break doesn’t seem to help, then call it a night and start again tomorrow.
Your rest is important, not only for retention but also for your health. You can’t run on Red Bull and coffee without sleep and expect a miracle on your finals.
College Finals Week Tip #7: Make Time for Yourself
With all the stress of college finals week, it’s easy to neglect taking care of yourself.
*cue the pizza, Red Bull, and all-nighters*
Making time for yourself sort of goes hand in hand with taking breaks and getting sleep, but it deserves its own spot on this list. It’s very important to make your health a priority, whether it’s through eating healthier or knowing when to stop before you have a mental breakdown.
Something as simple as hanging out with friends after studying or sleeping in an extra 30 minutes counts as making time for yourself. Yes, studying is extremely important but making sure you put yourself first is even more important.
Grades are important, but your health is 1000x more so.
I hope my college finals week tips are helpful and aid in your success. Good luck and happy studying!
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