Finals. Oooooooh, finals. Sorry, high schoolers, but you don’t understand the true weight of them until you hit college. Granted, I was in International Baccalaureate in high school and had to take five IB exams my senior year, but we’re going to move on for the sake of this post, since college is a whole different beast.
I’m in my fourth round of semester finals, and this is what I’ve picked up. (This might seem strange, since I’m blogging instead of working on my take-home final, but just wait until you see step three.)
Author’s note: this are also applicable to midterms and life in general.
- Everything is going to be fine. I know that it doesn’t seem like it when you’re up to your elbows in calculus derivatives or audio editing, but it’s going to turn out alright. Even if you completely bomb a final and the future seems completely bleak and lacking in job offers, I promise it won’t be. One bad grade is not going to ruin the rest of your life. You know why? Because you can’t let it. Work hard in all of your other classes and remember that if you let one grade dictate the rest of your life, it will. Make the best of your circumstances. I have faith that you will still make it work.
- Caffeine. I’m sorry, but it’s just a part of finals. Trust me. I know there’s all the jazz about sleep (whatever that is), but get comfortable buying coffee or sugar-free Red Bull fairly regularly. If you’re sleepy, you won’t be able to focus on anything except how sleepy you are and you won’t absorb what you’re studying. It’s okay to need a little help, and a venti iced red-eye with sugar-free cinnamon dolce just might be exactly what you need.
- Don’t be afraid to take a break. Write a blog post (told you it was fine). Watch an episode of Adventure Time on Netflix (not more than one. If you don’t have self-control, skip this step). Call your grandparents. Read two chapters of a new novel. It’s okay to step back every few hours and take a breather. Avoid Facebook or Twitter, since those won’t rest your brain as much as you would think. Plus it’s way too easy to get worm-holed into clicking through profile pictures of your crush’s best friend’s sister. Not that I’ve done that.
- Find a study haunt. Find a spot that probably isn’t your room to move into for dead week and finals. For my friends and me, it’s the Student Center or Memorial Union on campus. We can find a big table to spread out on and, if we’re lucky, a close-by outlet. Some study better by themselves in tiny coffee shops. Some need to be in the quiet room on the top floor of the library. Everyone studies differently and works best in different settings. Figure yours out and try to stick to it. Unless a cute boy wants to study with you at a busy coffee shop – say yes to that one.
- Snacks. Snack and finals food are both super crucial to good studying. As tempting as it is, try to stay away from cookies, cake and the like. It’ll only bog you down after your blood sugar plummets. My favorites are: mixed nuts, Naked Juice (specifically the Green Machine), salt and vinegar chips, carrots, popcorn and pretzels. Pro tip: snacks late at night can also help keep you awake. Pro tip 2.0: snacks are not just limited to finals and are highly encouraged at all times.
- Find some good study music. I could write an entire blog post about study music because I just have that many feelings about it. The key: matching your music to what you’re doing. If you’re writing a story for an English class, you can probably get away with soft indie music. If you’re reading a textbook (especially if you’re reading a foreign language), then soundtracks without lyrics are probably best. I made a Spotfiy playlist called Hell Week Jamz, which includes my favorite not-too-crazy tracks from Daughter, Pearl and the Beard, The National, The Avett Brothers and more. 8tracks is my go-to website for study music. I have some pretty solid choices I’ve collected under the name Study Grind. My favorite indie playlist is Indiemotional, and my favorite OST/instrumental is Speechless 4.0. I encourage everyone to poke around 8tracks and find what music fits you best.
- Don’t forget to sleep. Believe me, I wouldn’t sleep if I didn’t have to. I am so much more productive with 24 hours to spend, but I just can’t. If you’ve ever pulled multiple all-nighters or slept for less than three hours a night for a few days in a row, you know what I mean: your body aches, your calves knot, your head hurts and you just can’t keep your eyes open, not matter how much Red Bull you inject into your system. You also run the risk of getting sick because your body is so displeased with the lack of re-charge time. So get some sleep. Start your paper as far ahead of time as you can so that you’re writing and editing for three or four days rather than all the night before. Plan ahead and use your weekends And when you’re studying and you keep falling asleep in your notecards? Just go to sleep, honey. Pro tip: don’t be afraid to ask your friends and roommates to make sure you’re awake. Missing a test you spent all week studying for = not good.
A few more little tidbits: get outside a little each day, do as much as you can not on your laptop and don’t try to get through everything without help from professors, teaching assistants, classmates and friends.
I hope these tips help anyone out there who is pulling her or his hair out about finals…I tried to be as honest and not mushy as possible. I’d love to know what you do to make it through the week – leave a comment and let me know!
Happy Finals Week to all, and may the curve be ever in your favor.