By: Kaylee Salazar
With finals week rapidly approaching, it is all too easy to get caught up in the stress of papers, exams, presentations and exams. As a Junior, I have had three years of all-nighters and cramming sessions to get adjusted to this end-of semester routine. While experience has made managing the stress and workload that comes with this time in the semester a bit easier, it can still be incredibly overwhelming if you do not take the time to prepare and stay grounded. I understand how easy it is to let your academic life take over and get the best of you, but with some prior planning, finals will not seem so daunting anymore!
Figuring Out Your Schedule
For the 2023 Spring semester, reading days are on Tuesday, May 2 and Wednesday, May 3. Finals week itself will be from Thursday, May 4 to Wednesday, May 10. More detailed information regarding exam schedules can be found on MyCharger.
Since final exams are not held during a class’s usual meeting time, the first thing that I like to do is update my calendar so that I can keep track of my new schedule. This ensures that you know what time your finals are and where they will be held. Having a detailed plan of your finals week helps you decide what assignments and tests you should prioritize over others. It also feels productive to have your week planned out. This way, you can get a better idea of your time restraints and how to best balance the time you spend on each of your courses. A clear schedule also allows you to set aside time to study, work on a paper or take a break. Planning out your week in advance will ensure that you know what you are doing and will give you peace of mind that you will not forget anything.
As an English major, I have become quite familiar with working on a multitude of papers at the same time. Outlining has really helped me manage my different ideas and thesis. While it can be seen as tedious and unnecessary work for some, outlining can be extremely helpful, especially during high-stress periods such as final exams.
There is no right or wrong way to make an outline; they are simply there to help you keep track of your ideas and organize them. Outlines can be anything from a very detailed blueprint of your paper to something more abstract like a flowchart. Regardless of what they look like, outlines can be extremely valuable to get your thoughts out of your head and onto something more concrete. Personally, I like to use my outlines to play around with the structure of my paper as well as to map out where I will be introducing my sources. I also tend to treat earlier versions of outlines as a place to brainstorm my ideas. Outlines may not be for everyone, but I definitely recommend that you give them a try. You might just find that they make your life a little bit easier and help you stay on top of your work in the process.
For written exams, you might find that study sessions with friends or classmates can be helpful. If you are someone that can get distracted easily, group study sessions can help keep you accountable and on topic. Additionally, having other people with you as you study can be beneficial as you can work together to go over certain topics, vocabulary words or topics. They can help quiz you or go through flash cards. Being in a studious environment can also help make studying more productive and fulfilling!
If you find that being in a room with others will only distract you, you should plan out time for yourself. You can find a seat at the library or a cozy cafe to spend a few hours going over your notes and textbooks. The important thing to remember with study sessions is to be intentional with them and figure out what works best for you.
We have gone over methods to get work done, but it is equally important to know when it is best to stop preparing for your finals and just take a break. While this may seem counterproductive, studying and working for hours on end for extended periods of time may lead to burnout. Because of this, it is crucial that you take breaks every once in a while.
One of my favorite ways to take a break is to go for a walk. When I get frustrated with a paper and feel like a case of writer’s block is about to set in, I like to go take a ten- or fifteen-minute walk at a nearby trail. There is just something about being surrounded by nature that helps clear my mind. By the time I get back home, I will usually have a new sense of motivation to keep going. This is what works best for me, but you might find it better to take a few minutes to stretch, run an errand, take a shower, grab a meal or call a friend on the phone.
The stress of finals makes it easy to forget that you are not alone. On the contrary, there are many resources at your disposal if you feel like you need extra help or guidance. For example, it never hurts to reach out to your professors to ask for help or guidance. The university also has a copious number of programs and departments that can help you. We have the Math Zone, Writing Center, CLR and Career Development Center, just to name a few. It is important to remember that it is okay to ask for help. Even if you feel like you do not need extra help, getting a new perspective from someone else can only work to your benefit.
Final exam week is not a fun time, but it can be made more manageable with some planning. Hopefully, you have learned something new to make your finals season just a little bit easier. As coursework gets heavier and the semester starts to wind down, remember to check in with yourself, take a break and reward yourself where necessary. You’ve got this!