As the sky gets darker earlier, the leaves fall off the trees, and the snow starts to cover the ground, one thing is for certain: finals are approaching at the University of Michigan. Before we students can cross the finish line and enjoy winter break, we must take our exams, finish our papers, and hand in our projects. Regardless of your types of finals or whether they are in-person or online, here are a few pieces of advice to help you get through one of the most dreaded seasons of the year.
Study in new and different places
So much of your success when studying or working on a final exam or assignment is determined by how you prepare. One of the best things I’ve found one can do when studying is switch up the location. Ann Arbor has so many incredible places to get work done both on or off-campus that prevent you from feeling bored and distracted when attempting to do work in your room or on your bed. Some of my personal favorite places to focus on-campus include the Law Library, Blau Hall at the Ross School of Business, Maize’s Cafe at the Michigan League, the coffee shop at the University of Michigan Museum of Art, the Literature, Science, and Arts building, and the Biological Sciences Building. Off-campus, the lobby of the Graduate Hotel, Stray Hen Cafe, M-36 Coffee Roasters, and the multiple Starbucks locations in Ann Arbor are great places to grind. Even if you are at home, it is helpful to keep your work separate from your personal space to maximize motivation. Try going to a local coffee shop or just do work in a different area of your home. Wherever your location of choice is, changing up where you study makes a big difference in attentiveness and productivity during finals while allowing you to explore new places at home or in Ann Arbor.
Break up and block out your work
Another study-specific piece of advice is to space out tasks. We all know the terrible feeling of sitting down the night before an exam or deadline and realizing how much work lies ahead. To combat this, I suggest making a study schedule in advance and trying your best to stick to it. When planning out your finals week, attempt to focus on each assignment for a designated amount of time and then switch to another: write your history paper for an hour and then study for your economics exam for two. By blocking out your time to prepare for multiple deadlines, you can prevent boredom and stay on top of your work. In addition, making a schedule can help with setting realistic goals for how much time is reasonable to study each day. By planning out your week in advance, you can feel confident that you have time to complete every study session or assignment due, making finals week feel less stressful.
One message I think is important to reiterate during such an intense period is that you cannot achieve success academically unless you are taking care of yourself personally. While it might seem hard to accomplish, getting sleep is one of the most important things you can do for yourself during finals. I often find that it gets hard to focus when it is late at night, and I know that I am not producing my best work at that time. If you are in this situation, instead of pushing yourself to stay up, I would suggest closing your notes or laptop and going to sleep. By going to bed at a reasonable time, you are allowing your body to relax and refresh. As a result, you can a more productive next day and perform better on exams and assignments. Finals week is a good time to set a goal to both go to bed and wake up an hour earlier than normal in order to maintain a routine and complete your work to the best ability. I know, however, that it can seem difficult to go to bed early in college, especially when your friends might be up hanging out. One suggestion, though, is to set an alarm at night of when you want to start winding down at night and set a goal to adhere to it every day. Getting a good night’s rest is critical during finals to stay focused, alert, and ready to take on challenges.
Take time for yourself
One last piece of advice is to prioritize yourself and your wellbeing. Your physical and mental health is so much more important than your GPA or grade on an exam. In order to promote wellness and achieve better results on your finals, it is important to designate time to take care of yourself. Whether it is taking a yoga class or just a good nap, allowing yourself to do something that will make you happy unrelated to schoolwork completely changes your attitude. Even going for a 15-minute walk can help you feel more productive and positive. If you set and accomplish a goal to take a little time for yourself each day, then you have already succeeded at completing one of your daily tasks making your workload seem less daunting. With a happy and healthy mind it is so much easier to focus and accomplish your desired results on assignments, and taking a little time each day to do something for yourself is one way to cultivate the best possible mindset.
Finals may seem like one of the most stressful and difficult times of the entire year, but you can make it through. Yes, there might be a lot of studying, reviewing, and completing projects or papers, but it is the home stretch of the semester. To make the weeks a little easier, try studying in new places, scheduling your work in advance, getting sleep, and taking some time for yourself. Most importantly, spend a moment to be proud of yourself and your hard work as well as everything you have learned in your classes. You are so much more than just one grade.