How was everyone’s Thanksgiving? Mine was fun, but I also spent a lot of time getting ahead on final projects. I have six this year, which is the most I’ve ever had. It’s just that time of the semester — no doubt you’re swamped, too.
When life gets this overwhelming, it’s hard to know how to navigate without getting too stressed out. However, with some planning and time management, you can make sure the end of your semester goes as smoothly as possible. Whether this is your first finals week as a college or high school student, you want some improvement over last year’s, or you know it’s going to be your hardest yet, I bet you can take something out of this post in order to make it a little bit easier.
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Related: Dining Hall Survival Guide
The weeks prior
Figure out your finals week schedule
This information can probably be found in your course syllabi or in your school’s scheduling system. However, make sure you look over it carefully — I usually have a lot of courses with university-allocated finals week times that actually have final projects or presentations the last week of classes instead. This may not be as common with more typical majors, but always check the syllabus to make sure. If you’re unsure of any of the details of the final exam, definitely ask your professor or TA, but only after triple-checking that it isn’t in the syllabus.
Once you’ve found all of your exam times, make a schedule for yourself. This way, you’ll already know where you have to be and when, which will alleviate stress when finals week rolls around.
Make a list of the rest of your exams and projects
Yes, all of them. This may seem overwhelming at first, but the goal here is to not forget anything. Include the exam days or project deadlines, then arrange everything chronologically and start tackling the soonest things first. This will help you visualize what you have left on your plate as you start to cross things off.
…if you haven’t already. I mean it when I say that finals week will be 10x easier if most of your studying is out of the way going in. Not only will you be less stressed, but you’ll do better because you’ve had more time to master the material.
Get clarification on anything you’re uncertain about
This is what office hours are for. If there are any concepts you’re still shaky on, you want more details on the format of the final exam or you have questions about your final project, now’s the time. Your professor will sure admire your willingness to ask for help, and you’ll feel much better going into finals week knowing what you’re doing.
The week before
Turn everything in
All of those projects on the list you made last week? Turn them in as you finish them off. After checking all of the projects off of your list, you’ll be left only with your exams to focus on, which will feel really, really good. Then you can devote your attention to those exams because all of your other stressors will be out of the way.
This applies to all other outstanding assignments, too. Remember that paper that was supposed to be due a month ago? Oops. If you have any previous assignments you didn’t get turned in, and you need to raise your grade, ask your professor if he or she will accept them late for partial credit.
Go to review sessions
If one or more of your classes have a review session for the final exam, take advantage. Even if you’re feeling pretty strong on the material, you’ll get a feel for what types of things might show up on the exam. Sophomore year of high school, I went to a review session for a history exam, and I kid you not, the teacher went over most of the exact questions that showed up on the exam. Seriously, it’s worth taking an extra hour or two out of your day.
Take study breaks
Assuming you took my advice from the last section, you should already be studying. It’s important to remember to give yourself mental breaks. This will keep you sane and help prevent you from getting overwhelmed. I like to take a ten minute break every hour and listen to music or catch up on social media. How you use your break is up to you, but make sure you’re not focusing too hard on anything.
Take care of yourself
If you only do one thing from this post, do this. You can’t focus at your best when you aren’t taking care of yourself. Make sure you get a full night’s sleep every night, and eat a good breakfast the morning of your exams. It’s worth so much more than that extra time spent studying would be.
Trust in yourself
This goes along with the first point. If you’ve been studying the past few weeks as I recommended, you should know the material pretty well by this point. Thus, you won’t need to pull any all-nighters — trust in your past few weeks of studying, and spend the extra time to make sure you’re performing at your best.
Try not to stress too much, either. I know this is easier said than done, but having studied all along will put you in a good place. Try to keep that in mind, and you’ll probably feel a lot better.
Whether or not your grades are quite where you wanted them, you made it through. Take some time to do something for yourself. Listen to your favorite album, do a face mask, paint your nails or go out to your favorite restaurant (or all four!). Finals week is over for another semester!
By doing some or all of these things, you can make your finals week a lot easier to get through. How do you survive finals week? Let me know in the comments below!