Saturday, December 14, 2013

10 Tips for Surviving Finals

Maybe this post is a little late to help this semester, but maybe you're already thinking, "Next semester will be better. Next semester I'll sleep more, eat better, etc." If so, this is the post for you! A few ideas on how to relax, study efficiently, and, hopefully, be a little happier and healthier when you get home for break. 

1) Make like Hermione and create a plan and start early. Finals start in two weeks? Set aside a simple one hour per day to finals prep. That could add up to 12 hours of studying (assuming a 6 day study week--that gives you a "freebie") over a period of time which is perhaps more effective than you might thin. That's before finals week even strikes. In addition to that kind of plan (Which should include which classes you tackle which days), make a plan for finals week that include several hours of studying, but also leaves time for other things. 

2) Organize everything BEFORE your reading days. During that early study time? Take a few minutes for each class and make sure all your notes and other papers are in the same place (preferably a binder) and in some logical order. By doing this early, you'll have plenty of time to track down profs or other students for anything you're missing before everyone else's stress levels rise, too. 

3) No one's joking around when they say you should sleep. You're making your plans early. PLAN SLEEP. And don't mess around about getting it. 8 hours is best, but if you're worried about that, 7 is still way better than 4 or 5, or less. You will think more clearly on rest than caffine, and you'll be less mean by the end of the week too. ;-)

4) Eat. Eat well. Let's assume a few scenarios: If you're a meal person, value that time. Set aside a little extra time for meals: don't take your books, just enjoy the break. More of a grazer? Plan what you have on hand: make sure your snackage include proteins, fruits, veggies, carbs. Don't end up stealing easy mac from your roomie or buying chex mix from the vending machine. Remember this, too: You are stressed. You will want comfort food. Think that through, too. It's better to, say, buy dark chocolate or your own thing of ice cream and have a limited quantity than to go in hunt of comfort every night when you get frustrated with your homework. 

5) Exercise. Even if you just go for a twenty minute walk a time or two per day. Go to the gym, a jog, ride a bike. Something, anything. And, most importantly, don't take any homework. Eating and exercise are no homework zones. Give your brain a break and restore it and the rest of your body with good nutrients and getting up and moving. 

Okay, you've been planning and preparing. You have schedules drawn up, snackage stocked up, and classes are about to end. Reading days and finals are eminent. 

6) If you've been following the early study plan (so your stuff is already well under control) and you live close enough, take a reading day and go home. See your family; see your friends. They're a huge part of why you're so anxious for the break, so take some of the edge off and get some time with them. If you don't live close enough to go home for a day, take a day to do something with friends at school. Take a day trip, go hiking, even just do dinner and a movie. Give yourself a taste of break long enough to defrag. 

7) Don't study until bedtime. In addition to taking periodic breaks during the study stretch (which we all know is important), stop studying at least an hour before you're due to crash. Take an hour to shower and do your own fun stuff--read, draw, knit, whatever. Unwind. You don't want to fall asleep with equations or random facts parading through your head. That's miserable. Again, defrag. 

8) Speaking of showers, take them. Regularly. Daily. Don't be one of those grubby, I-got-hit-by-a-bus students. Gross. Bathe, brush your teeth, wear real clothes (at least jeans and a sweater or something), put on your make up, shave. You get the idea. You will feel better and focus better if you're confident and clean. 

9) Don't cram right before each test. That would be a great time to exercise and then shower. Go in to your test fresh. 

10) CELEBRATE after every test. Go to Starbucks for your next study session, eat some of that chocolate, pop a balloon. Something to give closer to each step CELEBRATE at the end, too. Plan that ahead of time so you can count down and look forward to it. (This semester, I'm spending the afternoon at Barnes and Noble reading Atlas Shrugged and drinking coffee, then going out for dinner and a movie with the Hubster. So much motivation!)

There. These are common sense things, but they will make a difference. I haven't been very good about this in the past, and I don't really remember the few days following finals for most of my college experience. I was often feverish and beyond exhausted. Finally, I got sick of feeling like that, and I'm trying to prevent it this semester. 

Here's a sample schedule, assuming one exam on this particular day.
7- Up, breakfast
8- Emails, social media, general getting things ready for the day
9- Gym
10- Shower/Dress
11- Study for Exam B (The following day's exam)
12- Review for Exam A (this day's exam)
1- Lunch/ Other non-studying necessities
4- Break
5- Study for Exam B
6- Dinner
7- Study (for Exam B or other subsequent exams)
8- Study
9- Study/ Other necessities
10- Wind down

Notice that this gives 6 potential study hours in just one day! That should be more than enough time, especially if you use it effectively. AND you won't be crazy by the end. :-) 

Adventure well; Live fully.

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