It’s finally that time of the year: Thanksgiving is over and winter break is on the way. But we can’t have winter break without finals week first. For lots of freshmen, finals week is just that thing way in the future that professors mention the first week of class. But, big surprise here, finals week is just around the corner! If this is your first semester at school and you haven’t started studying and preparing for finals week yet, now is the perfect time to start. From someone who’s gone through their fair share of finals weeks, let me help you.
First, know when your finals are. Trust me, it’s not fun finding out the Saturday before finals week that your two hardest finals are Monday morning. Plan out your finals week in advance. Each class’s final should be listed on the syllabus with days and times. It will definitely help to know when your hardest and easiest finals are in the week so you can adjust and prioritize your studying time.
After knowing when your finals are, plan out your time until then. Organization is your best friend. Gather your class materials, print out those papers you forgot to print weeks ago, color code if that helps you, and figure out exactly what you need to study. Scrambling around last minute will only stress you out more, so make sure you’re organized from the get-go. Make to-do lists, grab a weekly or monthly planner, and write down everything you need to do and when you need to do it with your remaining time. Seeing your study plan will not only help manage your time, but it will motivate you to study, too.
Don’t save everything for dead week. For those who don’t know, dead week is the week before finals week. Appropriately named, this is the week when the partying has come to a (temporary) stop, papers are due, the studying and coffee are amped up, and the number one thing on everyone’s mind is finals. While dead week is a great time for studying and preparing for finals, it’s always better to start studying before this time. Let the end of dead week be your time to wrap up your studying, not start it.
Office hours are calling your name. If you still haven’t been to your professor’s office hours yet, that’s okay. It’s hard to do everything your first semester in college. There’s a good chance office hours will be more crowded because of finals, but don’t let that dissuade you. Last-minute questions, curriculum confusion, errors in the grade book, finals freak-out—whatever the problem may be, you still have a chance to fix it in office hours. Just please don’t go Thursday or Friday of dead week and ask your professor if there are any extra credit opportunities or a chance she or he will bump your grade up. If this is a legitimate concern of yours, don’t do it last minute—your professor will see through this.
Two heads are always better than one. Start planning those study groups now and make sure you get to the library early to snag a great group-study spot. Another good idea is creating a group or class study guide. If no one else has created one yet, be the person who sends a message to the class on Canvas and starts a finals review Google Doc. I’ve had professors endorse this idea in class before, so go for it! Combine a Google Doc with in-person group study sessions, and you are sure to ace that final!
Finally, don’t stress and don’t neglect your health. Did you end up waiting until the last minute? We’ve all been there. Or maybe you underestimated how much time you needed to study for one of your classes. If you find yourself in a situation like this, know that freaking out about it isn’t going to help. Use your stress to motivate you, but don’t let it overwhelm you (easier said than done, I know). Manage the time that you have left, know that you’re not the only one in this predicament, and try to get to your final early to ask some last-minute questions. During all this you need to stay healthy, too. Remember: a sleep-deprived brain and a rumbling stomach aren’t going to help you during your final exam, so get a good night’s sleep and make sure you eat. Be good to yourself. You’ll thank yourself after.
With all that being said, best of luck, Hoosiers! May you ace all your finals and have a wonderful winter break. We get to do it all again in the spring semester…happy studying!