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Tips and Tricks for Surviving Finals: Winter Break Edition

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Tips and Tricks for Surviving Finals: Winter Break Edition


The word “finals” strikes fear and anxiety into the hearts of university students everywhere. It’s the dreaded conclusion of coursework. While winter break is only two long weeks away, these two weeks will be filled with trepidation and exhaustion. As a four semester survivor of finals myself, here are a few tips and tricks to make it through the end of the semester.

Tip #1 Stay calm

We’re stating the obvious here. Finals are stressful, and the influx of assignments seem to add up with no end in sight– it will be okay! Take a deep breath, calm your mind, and simply do one thing at a time. The worst possible thing anyone could do is go into a panicked frenzy and subsequently miss assignment details,  miss deadlines, and even receive poor grades. None of this is a reflection of a lack of intelligence on your part, it’s simply the product of taking on too much, too soon due to anxiety. Once you’ve mastered the art of not panicking, the second step is essential for your survival and success.

Tip #2 Ask for help 

If you’re anything like me–a burnt out almost senior–you’ve probably taken a class that feels too difficult to complete. Math courses have always been my greatest enemy, but with some help from the professor and the TA, I managed to not only survive the course, but finish with a stellar grade. There is no shame in asking for help from your professor, TA, or even another student. This is the part that most students get hung up on. Once you’re in college then you don’t need help, right? Wrong. The more you ask for help, the more you will understand the material, and the higher chances of success you will have in the course. Now comes step number three!

Tip #3 Be prepared

The more prepared you are for an exam, the more likely you will succeed. I can count on my hand how many times I’ve entered an exam not feeling prepared and didn’t do well because of it. This is not to say that preparing means stressing and overdoing it. Remember, stay calm, ask for help if you need it, and relax. Preparedness comes with learning the material instead of just memorizing it. Being prepared is different for everyone so find what works for you. Flashcards are a great way to study and for stem majors who need to memorize key terms or anatomy, flashcards will do wonders. For students who don’t have exams but papers, keep in mind that starting the paper is the hardest part. Just write down your thoughts, do an outline, and then go back and write the paper. 

Before I unveil the next tip, here’s a neat little study trick to help you. Have you ever heard of the 20-20-20 rule for studying? Every 20 minutes take a break, look at an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds. According to Central Michigan University, this neat trick will help alleviate strain on your eyes and improve your overall wellbeing as you prepare for your exam.. Give this tip a try during your next study session! Onto the next tip! 

Tip #4 Rest!

This seems counterintuitive, but having good sleeping habits will allow you to remember what you’ve studied. Relax your mind and your body. I know this tip is difficult to follow with the backwards college sleeping schedule. I’ve been there, going to sleep at four in the morning and then waking up for my 8:30 am class. Friends, this is not conducive–I was dead on my feet and didn’t remember anything that I had studied the night before. Sleep is an important part of everyone’s life. It allows you to recharge and be the best version of yourself (the version that actually remembers test material). Try to start sleeping a little earlier each night. Instead of going to sleep at three in the morning, try two. Put a cap on your studying. Pick a certain time every evening to go to sleep, watch tv, or do anything that’s not studying. When you hit that time, don’t study anymore. This will force you to realize that after a certain amount of studying, you’re not actually retaining any information, so sleep is really the only option. Hopefully after a long night’s rest and hardy breakfast, you’ll be ready for the next step.

Final Tip: accept the outcome

Even if you follow all of the tips, you could  still make a bad grade. Don’t worry. It happens like that sometimes. Perhaps you couldn’t remember anything or you didn’t sleep well, whatever the scenario, just know that even if you get a bad grade, it will be alright. Once this semester is over, it’s over. Learn from your mistakes, move forward, and enjoy your experiences in college. Bad grades happen to everyone, even the students who have always had A’s. Just keep in mind the tips and tricks to prepare yourself for your exams. Do the best you can, and don’t sweat it!

Finals are a stressful time for everyone, but following these tips will help alleviate some of that stress-induced anxiety. While finals are truly the worst part of the semester, you will come out of it stronger, wiser, and hopefully, eager to continue your education journey. Have a great winter break! 

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