The most wonderful time of the year can easily become one of the most stressful for college students. When all you want to do is drink hot cocoa and decorate your dorm in christmas colors, you are stuck in the library studying for finals or finishing all those endless assignments. Finals week can be tough, but it seems especially hard during the holiday season.
For me, I just got back from Thanksgiving Break and bam! finals, paper, projects all seem to have piled up overnight. I just want to be back home in my bed with Netflix and no work looming over my head. After talking to my friends, and working as a tutor at my college, I have found that I am not alone in this. So many students begin to feel rundown and burnt out this time of the year, and the excitement of the holidays is just another distraction.
So today, I am going to talk about all my tips for surviving the end of the semester and finals when all you really want to think about is the holiday season. This is a long post, but hopefully a helpful one!
- Remind yourself of how far you’ve come. Maybe this semester was really tricky, or maybe it was a breeze, but either way you’ve made it this far and that’s something to be proud of. You’ve already put in the work up to this point and it’s important to take a minute to recognize this, especially when it seems like there’s so much more to be done. This leads me to my next point…
- Make a thorough list of everything you have left do. You can write this on a sheet of paper or make a checklist or an excel sheet – it’s all about what works for you. I’ve tried each way and I am a big fan of excel sheets. I actually make one at the beginning of the semester for all my classes based on the information in the syllabus. This helps me to track my progress throughout the whole semester. But you can do the same thing just for finals. Once you have everything laid out in front of you and when it’s due, it should begin to seem a bit more manageable.
- Start working! Whether you want to start with the easiest assignment and get it out of the way or just tackle each little by little, you have to start somewhere! For me, I take one day where I get a head start on everything and plan out each project, paper, or study plan.
- For papers: I start by picking apart the assignment and making a list of all the aspects that I need to address. Sometimes my papers just flow and I can skip this step. However, often when I feel overwhelmed, I need to start tackling it piece-by-piece. I take the prompt and then make and outline. If it’s a research paper, I head straight for the library and take over a table with books and papers with colorful sticky notes. Then I feel that I can begin writing.
- For projects: I mainly do the same things as I do for a paper, but it all depends on the project. My big projects for this semester are: researching different financial indexes over the last few recessions and coming up with an art project (about my blog!). For the finance one, I start by figuring out what information I need and making a list (I love lists). Then I’ll start gathering the information and go from there. For the art project, I plan on making an outline of my presentation and the key points I want to hit and then incorporating it all together in Powerpoint.
- For exams: As a tutor, I get a lot of people coming to me with help for exam prep. Each class is different, so exam prep needs can vary. I find it especially helpful if the professor gives a list or outline of the information that the exam will cover. Some professors do and some don’t. I then take the list and mark everything I am completely confident on in green, the things I know a good amount about but am still unsure of in yellow, and the stuff I really don’t know or really need to review in red. This helps me to see what I should focus most on. (These Stabilo Pens are my favorite!) From there I’ll begin making a study guide. I like to handwrite mine on blank computer paper because it gives me complete freedom to put things where I want (I also like trying to make them as pretty as possible). I find that making these guides are useful because I am reading over my notes and the material again, but I am finding new ways to express the information. Make sure you fully understand what you’re writing or mark it to come back to again on your guide.*This is a very brief overview, feel free to comment below if you have any questions. Hopefully soon I’ll be able to come up with a better and more comprehensive guide you guys, so let me know if you have any suggestions*
- Set a schedule. Sometimes I do this before starting, sometimes I have to start my projects before I can even figure out how much time to devote to each. Try to set a realistic schedule for how much time you will have to work on each assignment and prioritize based on due date and difficulty. My paper is due last, but I know that I can’t save it for last because it is going to take me the longest to finish! Make sure to allow time for breaks and not to overwork yourself. It’s easy to say that you are going to spent 8 hours straight in the library, but it’s much harder to actually stay productive for 8 hours…
- Make time for fun! Yes, it’s finals week, but it’s also the last week of the semester which probably means that it’s the last time you’ll see your friends until you get back! Take time to do things you enjoy, college is all about balance. Plus, if you’ve stayed on tray with the steps above, you’re probably much farther ahead than you would have been anyway, so you deserve a little break. Go downtown and see the christmas lights, maybe go ice-skating. Do something for yourself!
- Speaking of doing things for yourself, make sure that you are eating and sleeping and drinking water. The first two aren’t issues for me but the last is my downfall. I am always forgetting to drink enough water, but it is so, so important! All three are. I have seen my friends pull all-nighters and be miserable for the rest of the week. I know everyone says it, but it’s true! Take care of yourself first, it’s not worth making your first trip home one to urgent care (like I did…sorry Mom).
- Finally, remember to breathe and have confidence. You can do this! And before you know it, the exams will be over, your papers and projects will be turned in and you can focus on relaxing and being with family and friends!
I hope this helped! I’d love to hear for you guys. Did you find these tips helpful? What are some of your favorite ways to stay sane during finals week? Feel free to comment below.