Your Guide to Beating the Finals Week Frenzy
You know that finals week is around the corner when your stomach gets queasy and you catch yourself wondering if bone aches are normal at your age. No one in their right mind enjoys this time. This is the week that students (suddenly) realize they have 10 page papers to write, finals to study for, and, oh yeah, regular homework assignments to complete. It’s not uncommon to feel frustrated for only having completed every fourth reading assignment and for "borrowing" math answers from fallen angel friends. As far as finals go, you can't always get what you want, but if you prepare, sometimes you get what you need. Here are some tried and true ways of doing just that:
Get a Head-Start
The harsh fact is that even students who regularly do their work can find themselves behind during finals. Some professors will tell you that by working regularly, you can get plenty of sleep during finals. They’re wrong. Systematic work doesn’t guarantee an A, but it is still the best way to reach your goals (unless you have connections). Strive to set aside two to four hours each day to do some work. This is especially important in classes that require a lot of reading. Because reading is so time-consuming, it’s hard to make up for lost time at the last minute. There are only so many hours in a day, even during finals week.
Regular work will cut into your free time, and, unfortunately, you might miss out on some fun. At least befriend a highlighter. Highlighting sentences forces you to slow down and take in important information. When finals roll around, you can go back and quickly find important facts. If you highlight every third sentence, not that anyone would, you will be forced to review a good chunk of material. It will still be less than what you would have been stuck with otherwise. Selling neon books at the end of the semester may be embarrassing, but it has its benefits.
Don't Sweat the Small Stuff
The week of finals is the best time to let yourself get away with everything you would otherwise feel bad about. Let yourself eat too much junk food… especially chocolate. It’s only a week. It won’t kill you, in most cases. You don’t have to do your nails, fix your hair, or put on makeup (this is adaptable for both sexes). Pull a baseball cap over head, and don’t feel bad about wearing it inside the classroom…especially if your professor is nauseatingly old-fashioned. Don’t run or lift weights. Actually, don’t exercise at all unless it helps calm your nerves. Wear your sweats to bed, wake up in the morning, and then wear them to class (if you even decide to go). If you’re bold, you can even do this two days in a row. Don’t clean your dishes, and ignore your roommate when she pressures you to do so (but be sure to offer her the same leniency you expect from her).
There is a great feeling of relief that accompanies letting oneself go for a while. This is especially true when you have a great excuse for it. You need something to indulge in to balance out the frustration you are feeling. You don’t have to be a superhero all the time.
No Rest for the Studious
At some point or another you will probably have to stay up late to get enough studying done to feel confident you know the material on which you will soon be tested. Caffeine really is the best ingredient for getting through the week. Two others are isolation tactics and study guides. This is the one time I would advise you shut yourself off from the rest of the world. Close your room, go to the library, or hide in the back of the coffee shop. You can bring some music, but don’t let your friends tag along. Most people aren’t enthralled by the thought of studying, and they will respond to every distraction. A TV show you have never watched can be surprisingly captivating when you have work to do. Studying will be much easier if you go off on your own. Only you know what things you need to work on.
Self-created study guides are also great study tools. Coffee will help you produce them. Write down key facts, key formulas, key vocabulary words, odd exceptions etc. You will find that the creation of such guides can be more useful than reviewing them. Making a study guide requires concentration and time. It is just like studying, but it gives you something to look back on five minutes before the exam. So yes, coffee is important.
Finals don’t have to be so bad. They probably won’t be great, but they don’t have to be that bad. You can’t get around it; if you want to do well you will have to prepare for them. The hints above are common strategies for getting by. Once you have some experience you will find other tactics that work for you. I’ll let you in on a little secret: Once you get in the study zone, you might even enjoy it.
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