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Oh, finals week. It’s the week we all love to hate. With all the stress of studying, cramming, and worrying about our grades, it can be easy to forget that a world exists outside of school. But don’t worry, finals will be over eventually (even if it doesn’t feel like it). And once they are, you can finally (pun intended) relax and go on winter break.

Planning rewards for yourself not only gives you something to look forward to, but it can also help you stay motivated and crush it on all your exams! I like to say to myself, “If I study hard this week, then I can do [insert fun activity here] this weekend,” and I’ve found that it really helps. Here are six ideas for fun things you can do after finals to celebrate all of your hard work:

Get into nature

After all the time this semester that we’ve spent on our screens, take the opportunity to get out into the world. Spending time in nature can help you relax, unplug, and just get some much needed moments to yourself. Personally, I love going on hikes or walks. If you live in a warm climate, perhaps take a day to visit the beach or lake. Otherwise, don’t let the winter cold stop you! Bundle up and make a snowman or go sledding!

Spend time with friends and family (safely!)

Spending some ~quality~ time with your friends and family can be just the motivation you need to get you through finals week. Remember to be safe and follow COVID-19 guidelines where you live. Perhaps schedule a game night with your family or roommates? Or plan a Zoom get-together with your college friends! It can also be motivating to plan specific things with friends you share finals with — have a virtual coffee date with your bestie in that seminar class or a Netflix party with your study buds from bio, whatever it may be!  

Try out a new hobby

With so much going on in the semester and especially during finals week, it can be hard to find the time to try out new hobbies. So, if there’s something you’ve had on your “to try” list for a while, use it as a motivation to finish the semester up strong! This could be painting, baking, learning new makeup looks, playing cards, learning a new sports skill, anything really — get creative!

Read or listen to music

Okay, so reading may not seem like the most “fun” thing to do after finishing up your exams. But this doesn’t have to be reading a dense novel; it can be as simple as reading some cool articles you find online or flipping through your favorite magazine — or, dare I say, scrolling through Twitter (hey, it’s “reading,” right?!). You can also listen to a new Spotify playlist or album. Personally, I like to save or bookmark things I want to read when I want to motivate myself to get something done, so then afterward I have a full collection of things to read, watch, or listen to!

Have some holiday fun!

Along with finals week, the holiday season is also approaching! Go ahead and plan some fun wintertime activities — like watching holiday movies, baking cookies, listening to Christmas music, or drinking some hot cocoa. Get festive!

Watch Netflix

Okay, so what would this list be without Netflix? Of course, after a week of studying and taking exams, you deserve some time to catch up on your favorite show or even start a new one. Personally, I’ve been loving The Queen’s Gambit and think it would be the perfect show for a post-finals week binge-watching sesh. Some other recent internet favorites are Emily in Paris, The Crown, and The Haunting of Bly Manor. One word of caution here: I would definitely avoid the temptation to start a new show in the days leading up to finals week — it can be hard to stop watching!

These are just a few ideas for things you can do after finals — of course, there are always more! Whenever you need some extra motivation to get you through that last chapter or set of flashcards, just think about all the fun you will have during break! The studying is totally worth it. Also, don’t forget to take smaller, more focused breaks during your study sessions — that could mean taking a walk around the block, making yourself a cup of coffee, or writing in a journal. The Zoom parties and Netflix shows will be waiting for you on the other side. So, good luck on your finals (not that you need it)!

Kristin Merrilees

Columbia Barnard '24

Hey! My name is Kristin and I'm a current sophomore at Barnard College. I like to write about culture, tech, and anything cool I find on the internet! I also love oat milk, Twitter, and my pitbull mix, Kalvin.
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