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How to Make the Most of Reading Week

Although not quite a full week (more like three days), reading week is designed to provide students with days to study and complete projects before facing an onslaught of finals. The objective sounds simple, though it can be difficult to emerge from these days feeling confident and prepared to finish the semester strong. Here are five tips for making the most of this allocated study time.

1. Find your best study space

As finals approach, I find it necessary to study in one or two comfortable spots, as opposed to periodically migrating from library to library. When I frequent a certain spot, I naturally feel more comfortable there, and can focus on the work I need to complete without distraction. Even if it sounds ridiculous, I would recommend thinking about your study location a few days in advance, taking into account which places will likely be completely packed (read: Milstein). Have a discussion with your roommates or suitemates and determine whether your dorm will be a quiet study space or a place for destressing between exams.

2. Take breaks, outdoors

Yes, Netflix breaks can be soothing after too many hours of mental stimulation, but nothing is better for the mind–or body–than taking your breaks outside. Studying means spending days without fresh air or adequate movement, and taking a quick walk to Riverside Park makes a big difference. Bundle up, grab some headphones or a book, and take some time to look out on the water and feel grateful for living in such a beautiful city.

3. Explore the city

Speaking of the city, take advantage of the days off by exploring! Perhaps you want to spend two of the three days studying, and one wandering the city, or you would rather split each day into halves. Whatever your strategy, fit in some time to see all that the city has to offer, especially during the holiday season. Some highlights include the giant tree in Rockefeller Center, holiday lights in Dyker Heights, and the many holiday markets, such as Columbus Circle and Union Square.

4. Find ways to be festive

My first two years of college, I focused so completely on my finals that by the time I arrived home for the holidays, I had missed the opportunity to engage in certain festive activities. No matter the holiday(s) you celebrate, make time to feel festive while still working through papers and projects. Take a study break to watch Elf, decorate your dorm room with some tinsel, or work on holiday shopping. Feel free to wear your ugly sweater to review sessions or to sip a peppermint mocha while annotating a text.

5. Make a (detailed) plan

A week or two before the end of a semester, I make my List: an enumeration of every single thing I must complete before I can consider myself done, from papers to exams to packing or laundry. I add all tasks to that list, no matter how small. Being a visual person, I need all of my responsibilities in one place to remain organized. Once I’ve listed everything I need to do, I start sorting these tasks by size and urgency, creating detailed plans of my days. I try to mix small and large tasks to keep myself feeling productive, and I am sure to allow multiple days for more intense projects or demands. When you have put so much time into planning a day, it becomes that much harder to procrastinate and miss deadlines.

Collier Curran

Columbia Barnard '20

Collier is a senior at Barnard College who enjoys brunch, playing with cats, and yelling at the TV during episodes of the Great British Baking Show. You can pry em dashes out of her cold, dead hands.
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