How to Survive This Finals Season

It’s finally that time of the year: finals season. The dreaded obstacle we must surmount in order to reach the sweet bliss of winter break. It may seem like you have way too many things to do and not enough time to do them (*cough, cough* less than a month). I have a mini heart attack when I look at my Canvas calendar. How can all these assignments and exams possibly fit into such a short time frame? 

Realistically, it is impossible to finish the year with no stress — it’s a part of being a student. But there are healthier ways to cope with this stress and minimize it by being more proactive. I don’t have any magical tips that will make you finish the semester strong, ace all your finals, finish all of your work or club activities and somehow still have time to start holiday shopping. If I did, I’d also be much less stressed. Instead, I can help with studying tips, self-care, and some tips on what to do when everything becomes too much to handle. Use these tips to help put everything into perspective this finals season.

Studying Tips

Use the Pomodoro Method

I often find myself in the library losing focus while trying to read a chapter in my textbook, opting for long breaks scrolling through Instagram. I have a bad habit of thinking that if I sit on the silent floor that I should be able to hardcore study the entire time. Unfortunately, it’s not how the human brain works. The average adult can only focus for about 30 minutes for optimal studying. It’s why I use Tomato Timer, which is a super easy timer that lets you start with 25 minutes of work time and five or 10-minute breaks in between. Assignments that used to take me forever now only take me an hour or two because I am actively focusing instead of passively focusing.

Don’t have too long of a to-do list

It’s shown that having too long of a to-do list actually decreases your productivity. Instead of writing every single thing you have to do up until finals week, break down your bigger assignments into smaller chunks, and make daily to-do lists. Assign priorities to the items that have to be finished that day, and put aside the ones that can really wait. By prioritizing what’s important, you will get more done and feel more accomplished at the end of the day. 

Maximize your time, and don’t waste it

Instead of just staring out the window on the bus rides in the morning, make flash cards for your classes, and do those on your morning and afternoon commutes. Instead of using that 10 minutes before classes to talk with your friends, read over your previous notes to prepare for that day’s lecture. Instead of watching Netflix for 30 minutes before class, use that time to get assignments done in other classes. These may seem like small improvements, but it can add up to less cramming later.

Self Care

Don’t stop exercising

It may be easy to let your workout routine fall to the side when studying takes up more and more time. Keep your body moving, even if you just take the stairs instead of the elevator or take walks during study breaks. Sitting for too long is bad for your health, and exercise helps increase your focus, making your studying more productive. Quantity does not equal quality, so taking that quick break to do some yoga will pay off more than the extra studying time.


I’m not sure why it's so popular to pull all-nighters, but it's actually one of the worst studying habits to have. Your brain needs a break in order to function, so by not giving it proper sleep, you are doing more harm than good. There is a certain point where you can’t possibly learn more, especially when you are sleep deprived. Try to set a steady bedtime each night, and always prioritize your sleep over unproductive studying. 

Keep up with your hobbies

It can be tempting to put your writing or biking on hold when there is so much to do, but don’t fall into this trap. By studying 24/7, you are going to burn yourself out and feel miserable, which may affect your grades. Prioritizing your well-being above all is your key to success, not killing yourself trying to be a study robot.

When it gets too much…

Hang out with your friends

Sometimes you just need to take your mind off of everything, and chilling with your friends can do that.

Take a 30-minute nap

Not long enough to make you sleepy, but just long enough to calm you down. Alternatively, if you can't take a nap, meditate for 10 minutes.

Cry it out

Sometimes it just bottles up, and you need to release it. It’s okay to cry when things become too much to handle. Trust me, I do it all the time. Sometimes nothing else will achieve the same release as crying will, and then I’m back to feeling normal afterward.

Talk to someone

If things become too much for you to handle by yourself and you need some support, turn to your family, friends, professors or the Counseling and Wellness Center. Just walk right in, or make an appointment if you need someone to talk to. 

Don’t let finals get the best of you. College is hard, especially during finals season. It’s normal to need breaks and some R&R to not drive yourself crazy. Don’t beat yourself up. Remember, school is important, but it is not worth risking your well-being. There is not a single thing you can’t bounce back from, including failing a class or doing bad on a test. Good luck -- I know you all are going to kill it!