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Okay, girl bosses, we have all seen a million and one posts, articles, TikToks, Youtube videos, and infographics about studying, especially around finals. I don’t want to be just another voice heaping onto the digital media pile. But I want to share my favorite hacks for the end of the semester and dreaded finals. 

If you’re in a degree (English) like mine, most of your “finals” are likely papers intended to showcase all of your course knowledge. Whether you have to turn in a project, essay, or sit down for a traditional two-hour final, all of these hacks should be relevant.

Put EVERYTHING in your calendar

When I say everything, I don’t mean just the time of your final. 

Make an event on your phone’s calendar -and your physical one- with the name of the course, the time, the room number, or Zoom code. And put in the notes what the format is, whether it’s “paper due by 5pm” or “online testing for a period." Give yourself that note, so you don't have to refer back to the syllabus or university finals schedule because this will take a lot of the stress of uncertainty away from the situation.

In addition, if you have a paper that needs more time, or a group project meeting, or a review session solo or in a group, put that into your calendar. Even if it’s just 11am-12pm “work on final paper”, it will give you an outline of when to start each task. And an end time so you know when to take a break.

Clear your desk/study space

Because of the independence that each professor has over their class, final assignments can vary drastically. Some courses don't even have one. Because of this, it’s crucial to keep your space organized by only keeping around the materials you still need. If your French class doesn’t have a final, you don’t need to take up valuable study space with your notes and textbook. If your English paper doesn’t have any association with the one book you read at the beginning of the semester, get rid of it! Clearing clutter is not only good for your productivity once you get into the work. But I personally believe that cleaning a space is the best way to ease into any task, whether it’s schoolwork or making dinner.

Make time to do something else (but not nothing)

This one may seem more cliche, like, yes, we should take breaks when studying. MIT says to do 50 minutes of work followed by 10 minutes of break if you like numbers. But it’s crucial to also decide how you’re going to spend those breaks. 

Some of those study breaks will need to be life stuff, like getting groceries, showering, eating, or laundry, and these fit well into the shorter break format. Other study breaks should be longer and should be about stepping away from the textbooks and laptop for an hour or two. If you’re like me, it’s hard to resist just grinding through it. In the long run, though, is your studying going to be as productive, or is your paper going to turn out as well if you don’t step away for a bit? No! 

The easiest way to force yourself to take a break is to make casual plans. Grab a meal out with a friend, go to the gym, spend some time outside on a walk or a bike ride. Just do something that involves getting up and away from your study area and materials. While watching TV or scrolling through TikTok can be amusing, it’s often hard to stop that distraction when it's time to get back to work. But if you text your friend to have lunch from 1-2:30 and tell them you have schoolwork to do, you are not only taking a break but also giving yourself an accountability buddy.

If you have a group project, set clear expectations and mini-deadlines for the assignment

I don’t have to tell you that group projects in college are one of the most grueling experiences for any major. It’s just the truth, but we still often find ourselves with the final grade of the semester being some form of group work. Not everyone is a great group partner, but implementing this structure makes it a little less stressful.

Of course, assign each person a part of the project. If you weren’t doing this already, I am a little concerned. But also create deadlines within those parts of the project. If your assignment is due on one day at midnight, ask that the group complete their part the day before or the morning of the due date. Another way to ensure that people actually hold up their end of the deal is to set up meeting times to just work together. You don’t have to talk or collaborate. Just set a time where all meet to make progress on the project. (Are you all seeing a theme yet?)

Remember that one grade below your standards is no one’s business, and it will not lessen your worth

This is the hardest piece of advice. I know for me, a lot of my identity is wrapped up in my academic success. When I don’t meet my personal standards for the grade I want to get on an assignment or a course overall, it can be genuinely devastating. While I know that often, my final result will be an objectively “good” grade, letting yourself down is often hard to get past. I cannot make you believe this of yourself, but your grades do not define your worth, your hard work, or even your intelligence. A grade is just a number that another person has picked out based on their own standards and judgment. Two classes taught with the exact same material, methods, and assignments but taught by different instructors could result in two different grades for the same level of the student. That’s hard to sit with sometimes, but it is okay. 

Lastly, I just want y’all to know that undergraduate is only a few years in your life, a small fraction of your story of which finals make up a mere sliver. The stress of finals at the moment is real and palpable, but like many difficult things, this too shall pass. Treat yourself with kindness and respect as you wrap up this semester, and know that I am rooting for you.

For scientifically proven study tips, click here. And for a great Youtube channel for study background, click here.

Your favorite Aggie English major <3 Howdy! I'm Michaela Rush, a sophomore English major from College Station, Texas. I'm a lifetime band nerd who plays flute well and several other instruments poorly. I love to bullet journal, and I definitely have more stationery than you. I'm obsessed with HerCampus and always being busy.
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