If you’re a first year, then you’re facing your first round of college finals in two weeks. Scary, right? The term “final” even sounds condemning.
So while I could write an article advising you on how to enjoy your winter break, I’ve chosen instead to advise you on how to get to your winter break and manage the perils of finals week successfully.
Just as there are nine levels of the hell of Dante’s “Inferno,” there are nine levels of finals week hell.
Level One is falling behind in classwork. Your thought process may go something like this: “It’s the last few classes of the term; missing a couple readings won’t hurt me.”
However, this is actually the worst time of the entire term to miss daily readings.
After nine weeks of classes, all the material covered so far is starting to weave together and build up to one, final overarching understanding of the course. Missing this crucial time is like missing the top to a pyramid.
Level Two is skipping class. The same mentality as for Level One applies here, but to a greater extent. Skipping or missing class cheats you of valuable learning time.
Also, you are missing time in which you can gauge your professor’s grading style. That is, by attending class and listening to your professors talk, you form a sense of what they are looking for and how they grade.
While you may think that missing a couple classes won’t hurt you at this point, in your absence your professor may give hints as to what kinds of questions will be on the final and how to answer them.
Additionally, if a professor sees you in class everyday, he or she is more prone to associate your face with the name on the final paper he or she is grading. Professors prefer committed, dedicated students. One way you can show your commitment is to attend class.
Level Three is studying 24/7 for your finals. Cramming your mind full of facts and data will not help you.
Budget your time between subjects and make sure to take breaks. Your mind needs to rest and process the information it has absorbed.
Level Four is not studying at all. Maybe you’ve been getting A’s so far in a class, so you think the final will be easy for you. There’s no reason to study since you clearly understand all the material.
However, cockiness won’t help you at all. At this point, you’ve only retained some of the knowledge you learned in the first few weeks of the term. Some of it has faded away or been replaced with new concepts.
Refresh your understanding of early topics, and form connections between earlier topics and topics you’ve recently covered. This will make the course material come full circle.
Level Five is failing to manage your time correctly and ending up with all your finals due on the same day or in very close proximity. Make lists and assign priorities so that you can narrow your focus and tackle major near-due assignments first.
Level Six is not seeking help. As daunting as finals week is, you don’t have to persevere alone. There are many resources you can access on campus for help — besides your professors, of course!
Many departments, such as Chemistry, Biology, Economics and Physics, have help centers where upper-class students are available to answer questions.
The Writing Center is a great resource to help you work through lab reports and papers.
Even contacting Minerva Mentors with questions on how to study or how to prioritize can help you plan your study schedule effectively.
Level Seven is not eating enough. As you attempt to review all the material you’ve learned in the past 10 weeks, your brain is going to be expending a lot of energy.
Make sure to keep your brain replenished healthily by eating all the food groups, but especially carbohydrates. Your daily intake should not be five cups of coffee, for instance.
Level Eight is not getting enough sleep. To process information properly, your brain needs approximately eight hours of sleep every night.
This helps to solidify the information you’ve taken in during the day. If you cut out some sleep time to study, you lose this valuable regeneration time.
Level Nine is the deepest and darkest of all the finals week hells: procrastination. Personally, this is where I fall.
Putting the majority of your work off until the last minute will bring all the other hells crashing down on top of you.
While it may feel better to ignore your anxiety about finals by avoiding them completely, this momentary gratification will actually cause you a lot of angst later on.
If there’s a class you’re very nervous about, start studying now. Study a little bit each day, giving yourself time to really go through the information.
This also allows you to recognize any questions you might have and seek out resources that may be unavailable during finals week, such as the help centers or your professors.
Following these tips will help you emerge from the hell of finals week unscathed. In the words of Douglas Adams, “Don’t panic!”
Take finals week one step at a time and you will do fantastically on all your exams.
Pace yourself and take care of your brain, and your brain will reward you with the A you’ve been seeking.