Freedom from another semester at college. It is so close you can feel it in your bones. You can smell it in the air outside. You can taste it on the tip of your tongue. Only one thing stands between you and your freedom: Finals Week. Those two words alone are enough to make any person who has ever attended college cringe. The color fades from your face as you think about the week in front of you. Test after test after test, seemingly only in existence to make each day more miserable than the last. You start to sweat and a feeling of intense anxiety takes over your body. You become more aware of your breathing as it becomes increasingly more rapid by the second.
Relax. Take a deep breath.
Finals week does not have to be 5 straight days of agonizing torture. Here are 5 tips to keep yourself healthy, sane, and at your best.
Most of you are probably thinking I am crazy for making such a ridiculous suggestion. We all know that finals week is fueled by an excess of coffee and energy drinks as we stay up all night reviewing the same material over and over and over again hoping that something, anything, sticks in our minds long enough to survive the next exam. You’ve been told before, but I’ll tell you again. You MUST let your brain be fully rested before a big exam. Sleep deprivation can affect how well your brain can recall information, which can be extremely detrimental in the case of an exam that is based off of your ability to recall information. In more basic terms, if you are sleep deprived the chances you are going to remember details you studied the night before are very low. If you have trouble falling asleep, The American Academy of Sleep Education offers a variety of sleep guides and information to help you get the most out of your zzz’s.
2.) Be cautious of when and what you are eating.
What does your refrigerator have in it during the last week of the semester? If you’re anything like me, probably close to nothing. Grocery shopping seems futile when break is so close. Most of us will open up our wallets and eat fast food and pizza for a week straight, while consuming only fatty foods and caffeinated beverages like coffee and soda. Try not to let this happen to you! Your body needs proper nutrition just as much as it needs sleep. Also be aware of when you are eating. Eating nothing all day and then binging at night is not going to help you feel your best. Instead, space out your schedule to include at least 3 meals, if not more. Eating nutritiously will help fuel your body and give you the energy you need to continue studying and working towards your goal.
3.) Determine what study strategies are most beneficial to you.
If there’s one thing I have learned through-out all of my years at college, it is that I use different techniques than my colleagues to help me learn important or tough material. There are several strategies that have been identified as learning techniques. They include linguistic (people who are good with words), logical (those who learn by creating charts and graphs), spatial (people who learn by using images and diagrams), kinesthetic (those who learn by using their bodies, i.e. acting out situations), musical (those who learn by using their sense of hearing, not necessarily just music), interpersonal (those who learn best by working in study groups, or talking about what they’ve learned), intrapersonal (those who learn best by being alone and reflecting and thinking about what they have learned). There are several guides available on the internet to help you determine which study strategy is best for you, though most can figure it out by reading the description. Finding out how you learn and retain information can not only help you pass your exams with ease, but will also shorten the amount of time you need to spend studying.
4.) Take study breaks.
Don’t forget to take breaks! Your brain needs a rest after taking in 100’s of pages worth of lecture notes or textbook information. I recommend taking 10 minute to every hour. Do something productive around the house, have a snack, play a round in a video game, just something that does not require your brain to work. It will help you space out information and also will keep you from going completely nutty. However, don’t make the mistake of taking too many breaks, or too long of breaks, this can have quite the opposite outcome.
5.) Plan ahead!
The best way to survive finals week is to plan ahead by dispersing your studying through-out the semester. Waiting until a week before an exam to learn 16 weeks’ worth of information is enough stress to drive us all a little crazy. Multiply that by 4 or 5 classes, and I can guarantee no matter how much studying you do the outcome may not be pleasant. Do yourself and your body a favor by preparing little by little over the course of the semester. Cramming may seem like an efficient way to memorize information, but once the exam is over so is most of the knowledge you had on the topic. Spacing out your studying will help you to remember concepts and information for extended periods of time long after the exam is over.
Now that you have these 5 tips for making finals week manageable, use them to your advantage! The rest of your life depends on how well you do in college, and why not do well and make the most of it? Freedom is so close! Give yourself something to be proud of during your break. While you’re on break, relax and feel free to break these rules.
American Academy of Sleep Education
WebMD – Eat to boost your energy
Jamie Littlefield – Study Strategies