Going into my first college final, I didn’t know what to expect. Everyone around me was getting coffee at 9 p.m. and leaving the library at 2 a.m., and I hadn’t even found my favorite study spot yet. The week before finals felt like chaos on campus: libraries packed to the brim with avid students, Starbucks lines out the door, and hours upon hours of exams. While finals may never stop feeling as overwhelming as they did when I was a freshman, I feel more experienced, organized, and calm going into my third finals season. I’m also better at prioritizing my studying, and I know finals season will not kill you! Whether this is your first year of finals or your last, it’s important to prioritize your health, both mental and physical.
- Start Early
If there’s anything I’ve learned about time management, it’s that it’s a lot easier when you have more time! Starting early leaves room to study for other classes, better retain information, and maintain a healthy schedule for sleeping and eating. Going to your professor or TA in advance with specific questions well in advance makes you better prepared to tackle what you need to do when you actually sit down to study. It also shows them that you’re on top of your studies and you care! Once you know what you need to review and how, it becomes easier to organize your information into study guides and concept maps. With study guides written out, printed, and accessible to you in advance, the information becomes less daunting and you may be able to avoid freaking out during the early stages of studying.
Although finals seems like a time to cram all night, sleep plays a critical role in the studying process. This may seem like obvious advice, but I’ve left the library many times to see people just entering, and I know many people who think pulling all-nighters before an exam is a good idea. Sleep is necessary for you to retain the information that you study, and if that’s not convincing enough, sleep is so important for your general health and wellbeing. Though caffeine may seem like your friend during finals, it can also negatively affect your sleep. At 9 or 10 p.m., it may feel like you have endless amounts of work to conquer, but most likely your body will want to shut down in a few hours – and you should listen to it. So maybe ditch the large 10 p.m. coffee unless it’s really necessary and get some rest. Staying up for an extra hour or two after you’ve hit a wall will not benefit you in the long run. Your studying will be more effective when you’re well-rested, and sleep will power you through the entirety of finals week.
- Take Breaks
While taking a break during the stress of studying may seem unproductive, remind yourself that time away from studying is important for your well-being and, honestly, your sanity. Unless you’re a robot, you simply cannot and should not study for twelve or fourteen hours straight – you’ll start to go crazy and you’ll just be unproductive! Whether a break means a ten-minute walk around the library to get some fresh air or taking a few hours to cook dinner or watch television, it’s important to take time to destress your mind; and in that case, it’s never unproductive. When I’m stressed out, making time to work out or spend a few hours with friends allows me to reset, and in the long-term, I am more productive and efficient.
You need time to eat, sleep, and decompress in order to function as a human being, so don’t feel guilty taking time away from studying in order to stay healthy.