Commentary: Optimize your finals prep

Commentary: Optimize your finals prep

Walk away from finals week with both an A and your sanity
Published: December 5, 2022

Once again, we find ourselves at that point in the semester when the work load seems like it’s closing in on us and our coffee intake has tripled. Time to put all that learning to the test— literally. But don’t worry, because there are plenty of remedies to not only survive finals week, but actually get through it with your sanity intact. With this being the first real set of finals for many of us post-pandemic, it is more important than ever to do everything we can to bring our best these closing weeks. Let’s get into some tips and tricks for finals!

Prep Time

Make sure you have all your materials separated for each class. Try dividing the notes you took into piles, folders or documents on your computer. This makes it easier to find things and you waste less time when trying to study. Sorting through your semester materials also helps jog your memory to the topics you may have forgotten about.

Next, pack a tote bag with all the essentials. You’ll need your chargers, headphones, notebooks, pens, highlighters, a bottle of water and a large comfy sweater. Maybe a cable knit if you really want to romanticize your studying.

Backpack with notebook and computer

Then make a list of what you want to get done each day: what assignment you want to start, which test you want to study for or which presentation you want to practice. Remember, be realistic and know yourself. Set a goal that won’t add more stress to your plate and do this day by day until finals are over. There is nothing more gratifying than crossing things off of your to-do list. Break down your assignments into smaller goals and give yourself those checkpoints and ample pats on the back.

The app Notion is a great (and free) tool for organizing and keeping track everything on your plate– both big due dates to keep in mind and small tasks you want to check off.

Now go to your mirror and give yourself three positive affirmations. Give yourself a pep talk to get motivated for studying. Let yourself know that even though it’s going to be a tough week, you are going to succeed. Sticky noted pieces of encouragement will help you love and trust yourself through the stress of the season.

Get into Your Study Zone

Drink some water with lemon. This may seem random, but studies show that lemon water can help wake you up and improve your brain function. Before you get to the actual grind, add this small self-care step to prep yourself for the work ahead.

Now it’s time to send out the group text. Text your roommates, classmates or your best buds to meet on campus at Schine or Bird Library. They’re struggling during this time too, and it’s always nice to be surrounded by others to help you out during finals week. Keep the conversations optimistic and revel in the support of your friends.

Time to find your spot. Pick a comfy area to unpack your things and get to work. Maybe a booth so you can occasionally get distracted by a basketball game in Schine, or the traditional four-person table. If you want a locale that accentuates the aesthetic of that cable knit, try the Hogwarts-esque Carnegie Library, or give a local coffee shop a try. Sometimes removing yourself from campus is the best way to clear your head and grind out the work.

Now that you all have gotten comfy and settled, it’s time to refer back to the to-do list you made earlier. This should tell you exactly where to start.

If you’re more of an independent worker, try using your headphones and putting on a Lofi playlist. This calming music will give you that work-and-peace balance. Here’s a playlist to get you started.

Try to study in increments of 20-30 minutes. In between, take time to zone out, grab a snack, or take a bathroom break. This will help you pace yourself while also allowing your brain to fully process the material it’s taking in.

Whatever you do, make sure you leave the studying at the study zone. When you go home, do something relaxing and fun. You can always pick up where you left off on another day. Don’t overwork yourself!

Show Finals who’s the Boss

Now that you’ve put all the time and energy into studying/prepping, it’s time to show how much it’s paid off. Repeat those positive affirmations before you go into your finals to motivate yourself.

Breathe! You’d be surprised how many students forget to do this. Take a deep breath in and a deep breath out.

Prioritize sleep. No amount of studying can compensate for a brain that is fried from sleep-deprivation. There are only so many hours in a day and so much your brain can absorb in a given period of time, so give yourself that extra hour of sleep.

The rest is up to you. Make yourself proud and show finals week who’s boss!

Those are a few tips and tricks on how not only to stay motivated through finals week, but survive during this stressful part of the semester. Finals won’t kill you, and they certainly do not have to define who you are and the trajectory of your life. Take these steps as a way to prioritize your own personal wellbeing, and look at your exams as a display of all you’ve learned rather than your demise. Go into finals week with a brand new attitude and let your new results flow in.