It’s that time of year again. Yes, the holidays are fast approaching, but before we can exalt in the splendor of the festivities, we have one last hurdle to overcome: dreaded Finals Week. It is the culmination to the semester, that special period when the amount of time studying escalates dramatically, sleep becomes a foreign concept, and tears are shed at alarming rates. Our collective weariness grows as we kick our academic preparations into overdrive. Although, there is solace in the fact that we are not suffering alone. No doubt Finals possess the potential to crack even the indestructible students, but there are ways to combat the mentally cataclysmic consequences that await unprepared victims.
It may seem obvious, but getting organized is a great way to keep on top of the heightened end-of-semester workload. Creating helpful resources and reminders for yourself using academic calendars and implementing “To-Do” lists will assist in managing test dates and study sessions. I’ve learned to embrace technology and have programmed all of my appointments, meetings, and exams into my smartphone so I have immediate access to the information right at my fingertips.
From an academic standpoint, consolidating notes into study guides and practicing beneficial study techniques will also get you closer to that A, or survival at the very least. By compacting pages upon pages of concepts and ideas into a singular, summarized document, you can effectively centralize the most important points into an easily understood source. You can even laminate the smaller, condensed packet so that if you do end up shedding a tear here or there, it will just roll right off and not damage your prized study guide.
Not to mention, there are certain behaviors you can begin implanting into your study regimen to possibly increase your retention rate. Thanks to my awesome Intro to Psych professor, Steve Robbins, I now realize that retrieval of memories is context-dependent. For example, if you chew a certain flavor of gum while studying, it may benefit you to chew the same flavor during the test. With the environmental stimuli, our brains can more easily find the hidden memories that we created while studying as opposed to hunting through the file-cabinets of memories that I imagine reside in some form of office-like expanse in my head.
Knowing this, modern-day psychology also recommends that you study in the same room you will be tested in. If it is impossible to reserve your classroom to study, trying to vividly imagine the setting where you studied for your test also has been shown to help memory.
Alright, enough about science. Once you’re organized, you can consider the next tip to effective studying, which believe it or not, involves giving yourself a break. Sometimes, in those last ditch efforts to study for a test the next day, locking ourselves in a quiet room and going to town seems like the only viable option. While I admire the dedication to studying until your eyes can only see the yellow from your highlighter, your brain needs some time to breathe too. Whether it involves simply walking around and stretching your legs, stopping by a cool campus activity for a bit, or occupying yourself with a series of adorable and funny YouTube animal videos, your brain will thank you for the much-needed mental reprieve. Scheduling specific times to partake in an enjoyable activity is a healthy way to reduce stress so you can recuperate and recharge for the next round of studying.
Finally, Arcadia students have some amazing resources on campus and a very dedicated Counseling Services office that actually hosts a “De-Stress Week” during finals to, well, help students de-stress. Some days staff walk around campus giving out free candy and aromatic, therapeutic, lavender-filled bags. Students are also offered professional services like free massages from a trained masseuse or, my personal favorite, a van-full of puppies that students can play with to “de-stress with pets”. I promise you, being surrounded by happy, energetic puppies is a sure-fire way to decrease the stresses of studying for exams.
After all is said and done, there is no escaping the fact that Finals Week will bring some extra stress regardless of what you do. While there may be times when you think about switching majors because of one test or perhaps even dropping out of school altogether, don’t succumb to the short-term pressure. As long as you work hard, study beforehand, and give it your all on the test day, you will do fine. With these tips and tricks, your Finals Week should be significantly less maddening and you can eventually bask in your long break afterward and de-stress for real.