The Five Stages of Surviving Finals Season

It’s here. The long-anticipated dread-inducing end-of-the-year-cram-as-much-information-into-your-brain-in-two-weeks extravaganza is here. It comes every semester, yet every finals season reminds me of the time I sat down to take my first college final. 

Over the years, I have successfully learned some tips and tricks to navigating finals season without losing my mind.

Here’s how to survive (and ace!) your finals. 

  1. 1. Study

    Do it ahead of time. Seriously. Do NOT wait until the night before and attempt to cram five chapters of Biochemistry into one coffee-fueled all-nighter. You won’t retain any important concepts, trust me. Studying takes a lot of energy and you’ll wear yourself out if you cram. 

    Make study guides. I love to rewrite my notes and color-coordinate them. I’m a visual learner so having highlighted notes helps me retain information. It also motivates me to want to study. 

    If you like to write out your notes but hate making study guides, flashcards are a great way to review important information too.

    Having the right location is super important as well. I avoid studying in the library during finals season because 1) it’s crowded and 2) I can never concentrate there. Over the past year, I found a few unexpected study spots on campus, but since I am home, my room must suffice.

  2. 2. Stress Bake

    Stress baking is the only aspect of finals season that I actually enjoy. There’s something soothing about making muffins at 1 AM and looking over your notes while they bake. Eating a freshly baked cookie that is still steaming as you try not to get crumbs in your textbook pretty much sums up my entire finals experience. Also, study snacks are the best snacks.

  3. 3. Panic. Calm. Repeat.

    You can’t seem to get this one idea down. It’s ok. Take a break from studying and take a short walk. Allow yourself to feel your feelings. By pushing yourself and your feelings down, you are only building up the stress and anxiety. If you take short breaks, you are able to reset and refocus yourself. It also helps to reduce eye strain, exhaustion and burn-out. 

    Of the five stages, this stage is the one that predominantly comes to mind when thinking about finals season. The endless cycle of stress, a breaking point and the eventual brief epiphany all define finals season. It’s also the one that students get caught up in the most. 

    You are in control of your study habits, so long as you study. Being stressed is a symptom of finals week but it is not what defines it.

  4. 4. Exam

    It’s the calm before the storm. Go outside, spend some time taking care of yourself, whether it is taking a walk outside (make sure to wear a mask if you do!), spending some time with your pet or going for a drive to clear your head. In such a chaotic time, it’s important to cherish the calm moments, creating your own if necessary. 

    Get some sleep the night before. Make yourself a nice cup of coffee, grab your notes and go rock that exam!

  5. 5. FREEDOM

    You did it! You finished all of your final papers, projects, and exams. It’s the end of another cycle and you are one semester closer to getting that degree! This is the time to destress and relax. Treat yourself to some takeout, remember to tip your DoorDash driver if you opt for delivery! Take a long, relaxing bath with extra candles and your drink of choice. You deserve this break. This was a tough semester and you came out on top. Take winter break to unwind and recharge. You deserve it! Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to take a nap.