College Women On How They Survive Exam Season

It’s  easy to tell when exam season is upon you: you’re suddenly overloaded with homework and tests, you struggle to cram free time into your schedule, and getting eight hours of sleep is just a distant memory. If you’re anything like me, this time of the semester can be extra hard. Amidst all of the chaos, it can become hard to properly manage my time and get my work done, all while making sure I’m still taking care of myself. That’s why I talked to a few fellow college women to hear their go-to tips and tricks for surviving these stressful weeks.

  1. 1. Find your scheduling method

    woman in front of a computer

    Scheduling might seem like a no-brainer, but it’s vital to find a schedule method that works for you. English literature graduate student Claudia Colón knows how important it is to plan ahead. “Two weeks before deadlines, I map out my weeks and sort out the days I’ll be working on one project and the days I’ll be working on something else.” She also acknowledges when she needs to stop planning, though: “I don’t schedule a time for each work or study session cause it stresses me out whenever I get distracted and realize the remaining time I have; I’m more task-oriented on that matter.”

    Sometimes it’s all about what you use to maintain your schedule. “I started a bullet journal and it really gave me a sense of structure,” says Adriana Ortiz, a creative writing major. If bullet journaling isn’t for you, maybe to-do lists are more your speed!

    In my case, I need to make detailed daily schedules to keep myself on track, because I’ve learned that it’s easy for me to lose track of time, and even easier to forget everything that I have to get done. That’s why I use daily planning apps, like Tiimo, which lets me quickly plan everything to the smallest detail, and gives me gentle reminders that don’t stress me out. There are dozens of ways to plan out your days, so if one method fails, don’t give up! There’s always one that will work for you.

  2. 2. Know when to take a breather

    woman sitting inside bathtub

    We’re not work machines, so knowing when we feel burnt out and giving ourselves the time to rest is a must. Especially during the pandemic, when most of us are still taking classes online, English and journalism major Allie Leeds makes sure to take a step back from the computer. “I swear by taking digital breaks — put all of your electronics down for an hour or two at a time and go for a walk or do some yoga. Movement is key in keeping stress down during midterms.”

    Undergrad senior Claudia Martinez also finds taking breaks outside incredibly helpful. “I always try to go outside and get some sunlight and fresh air at least once a day. I feel like it helps clear my head when I’m feeling blocked or I feel like I can’t concentrate on anything. I make sure to move, stretch and get a change of scenery — even if it’s just going to my backyard.” She also loves using her essential oils diffuser when she needs to calm down: “My faves for when I’m super stressed are eucalyptus oil and tea tree oil!”

    Sometimes, we may not get everything done in the day, and that’s okay! “I force myself to stop working when I know I’m not going to be productive anymore, and I remind myself that it’s okay to stop for the night,” journalism student Kassandra Cintrón says. “I can always keep working the next day.”

  3. 3. Create a good workflow

    woman reading book in bed

    When it’s time to get down to business, though, it’s important to set up a good system that allows you to work at your best. This is something marketing student Laura Rodrigues has been working on: “I’ve been trying to work in timelapses. Plus, I’ll always take one day out of the week where I won’t do any work, or I’ll work a lot less hours than I usually do. I’ll take that free time to meditate and relax.” She also talks about the Pomodoro technique, which she saw worked for her friend. “It consists of taking a five-minute break after every 25 minutes of work.”

    Creating a personalized workspace, whether physical or virtual, can help you stay focused. Freshman and visual arts major GeorgieAnn Pacheco found a way to recreate the environment that used to help her focus before the pandemic: “I use StudyStream, which has 24/7 Zoom calls you can enter at any time. It feels a little bit like studying at the library. They also offer tutoring services, which is great if you need the extra help.”

  4. 4. Reward yourself

    Woman meditates with her eyes closed

    If you’re dreading having to work on a particularly boring project or study for a rather dense exam, give yourself something to look forward to! “I like to reward myself after studying or working on a project for more than an hour, so I engage in mentally healthy activities or hobbies that I really enjoy, like exercising, playing Animal Crossing, or watching anime. I want my brain to take a break,” says Colón, and I couldn’t agree more. All of those things you’d usually use to procrastinate, take them and make them the prize you receive at the end of your sprint. 

Exam season can be tough, but if you take the time to plan out your days and remember to have spots open for relaxation and self-care, you’ll most likely feel that everything will become a bit easier to handle.