Flickr user Penn State

Finals Week. The two words to throw any college student into a spiral of panic, exhaustion, and dread. It is definitely one of the biggest drags about college, but it’s something every student has to suffer through, the culmination of all their hard work and studies.

So how do you survive finals week? Especially when you know sweet, sweet break is just at the end of the stretch? The week won’t be easy, but it doesn’t have to be as miserable as you might think.

Plan Ahead

This is the key to having a smooth finals weeks. Plan ahead. And plan well. There are several steps to follow here.

  • Know the dates, times, and location of each class’ final
  • Write down each final on a calendar you can readily see
  • Find out what format each final will take
  • Nail down what material the finals will be testing

Create a Study Schedule

Once you’ve gathered all the necessary information, it’s time to block out a study schedule. You’ll have to determine which classes are worthy of more or less time than others. Chart out when you’ll study what—and you can go a step further by determining what specific material you’ll study in each session dedicated to a certain class.

Stick to your study schedule. Now, it’s ok to be flexible and move things around as need be, but study when you promised yourself you would study. Do. Not. Procrastinate. Putting things off will only heighten your stress levels.

Study Smart

It’s not enough to just sit down and re-read material, you have to engage. Flashcards, self-governed quizzes, or “teaching” another student in the same class are popular methods of study. Create mind-maps, color-code your notes, form study groups. Do what works best for you.

Take Breaks

Going full-tilt 24/7 is only going to lead to burnout. Instead, take strategic (and well-deserved) breaks every once in a while. Get up and stretch. Get a snack. Drink a glass of water. Watch a silly cat video. Text your mom. A brief mental break can help refresh, refocus, and even help you memorize things easier!

The Pomodoro method is a popular productivity tool. It suggests working for 25 minutes then taking a 5 minute break, working for another 25 minutes, another 5 break, and so on. On the fourth break, take more time—like a half hour or so. You can, of course, alter the timing of the method, or decide to take mini-breaks after each section of material conquered.

Take Care of Yourself

Pulling all-nighters and eating nothing but cold leftover pizza and Ramen for a week is only going to make you feel exhausted and sick. Don’t do it to yourself. Instead, eat healthy snacks, drink plenty of water, plan good meals, and get regular sleep.

It may feel like you “don’t have time for that” as your cramming, but trust me—you do. Your health is not to be overlooked during finals week. If you feel good, you’ll perform better. If you’re tired and sick, it’ll reflect in your test results. So take care of yourself, your GPA will thank you for the extra effort.

This also includes having a little fun now and then. Take a study break to go play with therapy puppies (most colleges bring in therapy dogs during finals week). Catch lunch with a friend. Go to the university-sponsored pancake breakfast. Watch a TV show. Even brief fun-breaks can help out and greatly lower your stress.

Good Luck

Winter break is the light at the end of the tunnel, keep pushing through and you’ll get there. You got this.

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