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Tips for a healthy finals week

How to survive the semester's most tumultuous week.

Illustration+by+Miranda+Andrade-Ceja
Illustration by Miranda Andrade-Ceja

Illustration by Miranda Andrade-Ceja

Illustration by Miranda Andrade-Ceja

Michael Garcia, Staff Writer

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It’s 3:29 a.m. — if I go to bed now, I’ll get exactly three hours of sleep, which will give me two complete REM cycles. I can wake up at 6:30 a.m., shower, get ready and have some breakfast while driving. Wait, finals are coming up?

Skip the shower, I need get to class on time.

This is what it’s like for many students at the tail end of the semester. Late night study sessions and last minute assignments pile up and leave students fatigued. I especially feel for those who  cram at the end of a long night when they would much rather be drooling on their pillow.

Just how do you balance school, work and a social life? How can we survive finals?

Sacrifice — we must give something up for the other. Sure, I can go to that awesome party, but I’ll miss out on studying for my final exams. Which, in turn, will lead to me failing this semester’s classes — my GPA will drop — and I’ll lose my opportunity to receive financial aid. Then, I guess I’ll have no other choice but to drop out due to my inability to afford my tuition.

OK — I’m exaggerating here. As students, we do have to figure out what qualifies as a priority and what doesn’t. I’ll tell you now, passing your classes and graduating should be one of your top priorities, if it isn’t already. Let me start by saying one important tip to surviving this hectic week is to visualize and manage your responsibilities by writing them all out on a calendar. Sounds old school right? But seriously — it works.

It’s a lot easier saying no to a night of binge drinking and karaoke while you’re staring directly at a filled calendar with exam dates, assignment deadlines and registration reminders. Keep a physical calendar, or an electronic one if you’re a tech-obsessed millennial, to help with time management.

Time management truly is key to passing at least one of your finals.

Furthermore, instead of cramming the night before an important final, consider studying over the course of a few days — believe me, it sounds far-fetched, but it’s possible if you’re determined to pass. I’ve found that it’s easier to retain information this way, rather than having an intense study session the night before.

Cramming leads to staying up late, which leads to oversleeping which leads to getting to your class late and bombing your final.

I’m convinced that staying up all night is not the best way to prepare yourself for your final, especially if it’s a final presentation. You’ll be sleep-deprived, fumble your words, have trouble recalling what you’re supposed to say and get a sub-par grade.

If late night study sessions are your only option, there are some advantages. Because of the sense of urgency that typically comes with procrastinating, there are suddenly less distractions — and if you’re one to study in the library, it will be open 24 hours this week. Just don’t plan on camping out in there.

Studies show that studying before bed helps retain information better. Research from University of Notre Dame psychology professor Jessica Payne supports this. “Our study confirms that sleeping directly after learning something new is beneficial for memory,” Payne states in her research. Students will debate over whether it’s better to study day or night, so find your best fit.

Stop procrastinating. I enjoy dumb YouTube videos and “dank” memes as much as the next person, but by procrastinating, let’s face it — assignments stack up and people put themselves under an inordinate amount of stress.

Some people work great under pressure. I’m not one of them. Take enough time to complete assignments and start early. You’ll do a better job on them, be less stressed and have time to study for other classes and do more of the things you want to do — like looking at those memes.

Take a little time off and de-stress — not so much time that you completely neglect your assignments and have a bad time. Find that balance between doing what you have to and doing what you want.

Nobody wants to be that person that has a nervous breakdown or passes out. I know — I’ve been that person.

Several semesters ago, while waiting for the bus, I noticed my vision began to blur. I had to sit down or my face was definitely going to high-five the concrete. I went to a local convenience store and bought a couple of sugary drinks in an attempt stabilize my glucose levels.

To say the least, finals week can have a major impact on a student’s mental and physical well-being. 

So a few final thoughts — take advantage of professors and their detailed study guides online. Go over your notes during the days leading up to your final exams.

Record yourself reading your notes and play the audio back on your commute to school or on the way to class on the day of your final.

Moreover, seek assistance if you’re struggling. Talk to a friend and ask for some advice on how to manage studying for your finals. Even venting can be a good way to relieve some of the pressure if you’re feeling overwhelmed during this tumultuous week.

Take these tips into consideration and you might just have a better, less stress-filled time during finals. Ardently study for those exams and keep in mind: after this week, there’s a long, relaxing break waiting for you.

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