How to survive finals

It’s that time of year again. Where college students across the nation attempt to cram all of the information they should have learned through out the semester. Where college students forgo sleep in an attempt to use all of their remaining time before their demise. Where college students flock to the library to try to find the best study table like people fighting over electronics during a Black Friday sale.

It’s finals week.

As a senior, you would think that I know how to prepare for finals – I should know what to expect and how to study. But even now, I’m still just as shocked and confused and scared.


Where did the semester go? Just yesterday I was moving into my college dorm and exploring the wonders that is Netflix. But with just one week left between me and my one month break, I need to prepare so I can be
 ready to head to battle. SO MUCH TO DO YET SO LITTLE TIME.

How do I prepare? Follow these five simple rules:

1. Sleep is your friend.

Though I have never pulled an all nighter, I can’t tell you how much I’ve tried to stay up late and wake up in the wee hours of the morning to cram those last few lectures in before an exam. But when I get to the exam, I’m groggy or so filled up with coffee that I can’t focus or I’m half asleep. THAT IS NOT OKAY.

What I learned over the years, and through guidance from my psychology textbook (see look, I did learn something from class), the brain works better if you get 6-8 hours of sleep. If you think about it, it’s not really a whole lot out of your day. Also, sleeping helps consolidate your memories, espeically if you were studying right before. So if you were trying to memorize the steps to the Citric Acid Cycle (there are eight, by the way) right before you go to bed and then sleep on it, you should be able to remember it more. I’ve even go so far as to dream about biochemistry. This is either really good or really sad. I’m going to go with the former so I don’t feel as bad about myself and my non-existent social life.

So instead of trying to turn into a zombie, just do everything earlier. Meaning, go to bed earlier (even if just for six hours, which is what I tend to do) so you can wake up earlier. You’ll be surprised with how much more time you have if you wake up earlier in the day after a good nights sleep!

2. Food is also your friend.

I tend to do this when I have a lot of work or get stressed. I skip meals and focus so much on work and give myself a headache. And the headache isn’t because of the ethical dilemma between physician assisted suicide and passive euthanasia (though, some of these philosophers have made pretty interesting claims for both) – it’s from running on empty.

Food is the fuel to our body. So how can we expect to run at high cognitive levels if we don’t provide ourselves with the energy we need, or at least with glucose so we can do glycolysis and other reactions to make ATP? It’s okay to get a quick snack and eat your meals – you need to! Eating doesn’t take away from your studying, it adds to it!

3. Stress is not your friend.

Now you must be thinking, how can I NOT stress out about these exams, I mean, they are only like half of my grade (or more) for each class. No big deal. Stress can be a good thing in moderation because it is like a sick form of motivation. If you stress out about something, that means you are thinking about it and thus you work towards getting rid of the stress (in this case, by studying). But if you overthink things and freak out about every little aspect of a class, you won’t be able to focus or get anything done. Or if you are like me, you stress out because you are not stressing out about an exam. Yeah… I don’t know either, don’t judge.

Just remember that if you have put in all of your effort and have honestly studied and worked hard, then you have nothing to worry about.

4. Your friends are your rock.

You aren’t the only person at your school taking finals. Your friends are taking them too. I’m not saying go out and have fun together (though a sushi and Starbucks run in the middle of the day is totally acceptable). Instead, use each other as a support system. Take for example Anna, my old roommate and basically sister. We go to the library together every weekend. Though we have no classes together, we still find ways to help each other. We quiz each other, help answer basic questions and make sure that we don’t fall into the dark holes of the Internet, which is easy to spot since the person is smiling and giggling when they are supposed to be studying for statistics.

I feel more accountable when Anna is with me because I don’t have the urge to wander off and do something random, like curl my hair for no reason at all. At the library, I find that I get more work done because not only am I away from the comfort of my room, but because I’m also being watched by a person I know will make me work, which I can’t be more grateful for.

5. It’s only one week.

Just remember that finals is only for a week. Winter break is literally less than a week away. All of those TV shows, fun outings and friends will still be there a week from now. So for one week, set those things as rewards for finishing hell week. Short breaks are fine, but you need to keep your eye on the prize.

If I study and work hard for just one week, I will get a whole month of Netflix and Taco Bell. That is literally what is pushing me to the end of the week. If I can just give up six more days in the library and focus on these three classes, I won’t have to feel guilty about the unhealthy amount of The Vampire Diaries I’m going to watch or the apple pies I’m going to eat. Because I worked hard and I deserve it.

So let’s go, friends! We can handle this! One week of hell is nothing compared to a month of happiness and calm.

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