As the end of the semester is upon us and final exams and project deadlines are rapidly approaching, there are many strategies and coping mechanisms that we can use to help us manage our time, studying, and stress. Finals season is commonly considered a stress-inducing time in college, but with a little organization, effective study strategies, and attention to your health and well-being, it doesn’t have to be this way. Here are some tips to keep in mind as we head into finals season!
1. Schedule and plan
First and foremost, create a schedule for your finals studying or final project work time. Planning when you want to start studying for each final exam and how much time you want to dedicate to that exam will help you avoid cramming, pulling all-nighters, and feeling underprepared! With multiple final exams, it can be tempting to put off studying for your later exams. Starting your studying for an exam earlier rather than later is always the best option and making a study schedule can help you do that. Take a pen to paper and actually write down your study schedule or put it in your Google calendar, but just make sure to hold yourself to it! Set specific goals for each block of studying, like “Monday evening, I will review chapters 14-16, go over my class notes for these chapters, and do 10 practice problems from these chapters.” This will help ensure that you’ve allotted enough time for reviewing all the material you need to study. If there were concepts and chapters that you didn’t quite understand at first, allow yourself more time for studying those sections. Creating a schedule for finals studying is a great way to stay organized and better prepare for your exams.
Make a detailed study schedule and stick to it for finals! Image via Pinterest.com
2. Maintain balance in your life
Studying isn’t the only thing you should include in your schedule when planning your time for final exam season! Carving out time for exercise and connecting with friends is important to maintain your physical and mental health. According to this Active.com article, exercise signals the release of several key hormones which help us focus and feel better, thus improving our memory, attention, and accuracy over time. Of course, getting sleep and eating should not be blown off during this time in the semester. If you want to retain information and perform your best on your finals, getting enough sleep is vital. According to this PsychCentral article about improving your memory, eating healthy and getting a good night’s sleep are essential to improving your memory. Eating meals can also serve as a time to take a break and socialize with your friends. Finding time to spend with friends is a great way to reward yourself by taking time away from studying in order to stay motivated during finals season.
3. Utilize good study strategies
Utilizing study strategies can be very helpful if you want to study for long periods of time. Try studying in intervals by setting a timer for 25-30 minutes where you focus fully for that period of time, then take a five-minute break when the timer goes off. This is referred to as the Pomodoro technique, which you can read more about here. When there is a lot of material you want to review, making study guides and summarizing your notes for each chapter is a great technique. Form study groups to make studying for final exams a little less painful. Your study partners may be able to help you understand topics that you struggle with and vice versa. Explaining concepts and topics to others will reinforce your knowledge of the material.
4. Minimize distractions
Minimize distractions like the TV, your phone, and music that you like to sing along to while studying. Having your phone nearby can affect your focus and productivity if you are tempted to constantly check your messages or go on social media. Try putting your phone somewhere out of sight when you’re studying. If you have to check it, try to avoid opening social media because scrolling through social media feeds can suck you in, consuming more time than you might have anticipated spending on your phone. Listening to music helps a lot of people focus while studying, but try to avoid songs and artists that will make you want to sing along rather than focus on your studying. Opt for music that is more lowkey, soothing, and maybe doesn’t contain lyrics, like classical or instrumental music. Recently, I’ve been searching “study” on Spotify and there are a lot of playlists that people have created with non-distracting, chill study music that helps you focus!
Find a good study music playlist that you like and isn’t distracting! Screenshot via Allison Desantis
5. Alternate your study space
Another tip for studying for long periods of time is to switch up your environment. It is easy to lose concentration when you’ve been in the same room or spot for hours. If you’ve spent a lot of time studying in your dorm or apartment, change up your environment by studying in the library, an academic building, or a coffee shop. Tidying up your study environment in your dorm or apartment is also a great way to feel refreshed and de-clutter your mind in preparation for your studying.
Squires is one option for a finals study space and is offering free coffee, snacks, and de-stressing activities like yoga and playing with therapy animals during finals week! Image via Student Engagement and Campus Life at Virginia Tech
These tips might seem basic, but they are important to keep in mind as you start thinking about final exams. Stay positive during this time of year and remember that your grades and GPA are not the only things that define you. Good luck finishing up this semester; I know you are all capable of conquering finals!