There’s almost nothing as ominous as the phrase “finals week.” Cue the thoughts of cramming, sleep deprivation, and high anxiety. The stress the two words can induce is almost universal among college students.
However, students can both survive and succeed during finals week as long as they prepare. Here are four tips to help students get ready for finals week.
1. Get Organized
Getting organized is a great way to feel in control before finals begin. College finals week doesn’t have to blindside students, forcing them into all-nighters and sleepovers in the library. There are a couple of things students can do to get set up for finals week.
Memorize Your Finals Schedule
The dates for finals week are usually available from the beginning of a semester. This may vary by school, but students can sometimes find their finals information in their syllabus.
Memorizing the schedule and writing it down will ensure that students don’t forget to study for any exams and can budget enough time for each test.
Make a Study Plan
Once students have their finals schedule memorized, they can start mapping out their study strategy. Students can base their study tips on which finals will require the most studying and the dates they occur.
It is recommended that students avoid long cram sessions. Studying ahead of time in shorter increments helps to retain information. This is why mapping out a study plan ahead of time can be helpful.
When making a plan, there are different strategies students can use. They can create a schedule based on the difficulty level of the tests, choosing to set aside more time to study for the finals that will be the most challenging for them.
They can also plan their schedule based on the order of their finals, saving more time later on to study for the last exams.
Having a plan can help students avoid cramming, spending too much time studying for one final over another, or forgetting to study for one altogether.
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2. Keep Your Body Healthy
As tempting as it is to stay in the library 24/7 living on ramen and coffee, staying physically healthy during finals week is important for bringing home those good grades.
Eating a balanced diet — yes, that means fruits and veggies too, before and during finals week — can help students stay focused and avoid getting sick during finals.
Drinking water is also a good idea when plotting to ace those finals. Dehydration can have many negative effects, like tiredness, headaches, reduced alertness, and diminished concentration, which could affect test performance. Even drinking water during an exam can lead to better performance.
Another important piece of staying healthy is getting enough sleep. It’s common to see students pulling all-nighters in the library during finals week, but a lack of sleep can result in a worse memory and therefore, an inability to remember what has been studied. Missing out on a full night’s sleep can be detrimental to students’ ability to pass their exams.
Exercising is also often deprioritized during finals week. Students are so focused on studying that it’s easy to skip that 30-minute workout. Exercise, though, needs to find a place in a hectic schedule because it will benefit a student during this stressful time. Exercise can both lower stress and maintain high-level brain functioning, leading to a better chance of crushing those exams.
3. Keep Your Mind Healthy
Maintaining good mental health during the school year may already be a challenge, but especially during finals week it’s important to pay attention to and take care of mental health.
Even students who don’t regularly have anxiety may experience it during finals week. There are many calming techniques available to ease anxiety, and each student should see what feels best. Here are a few techniques they can try.
• Breathing. There are tons of breathing techniques out there that can help with anxiety or stress. Students should look up a few simple ones and see what works best for them.
• Grounding. This is a technique where students focus on their senses, naming five things they can see, four things they can feel, three things they can hear, two things they can smell, and one thing they can taste. Doing this can reduce anxiety or panic and help students stay focused.
• Meditation. Taking up a daily meditation practice before studying and before exams start could help a person stay calm during stressful events. There are lots of meditation apps available as well as guided meditations online.
Another piece of maintaining mental health during finals week is taking breaks. Breaks are beneficial both for studying ability and mental health. Taking a break to do something enjoyable can decrease stress and keep a student’s mind in a good place.
Anyone experiencing high levels of anxiety can reach out to school counselors and see about making an appointment. Students may also benefit from talking about their stress with friends, family members, or professors. Leaning on a social support network during this stressful time may alleviate some of the nervousness that comes with finals week.
Lastly, students should ask for help if they need it. Most colleges have mental health services on campus.
4. Team Up
Students should remember that they’re not going through finals alone. They have a whole class of students struggling right alongside them. This can be a huge asset come finals week.
Instead of studying alone, students can form study groups.Study groups can help students be better prepared for finals. There may be some in the class who understand the material better and can teach it to others.
This helps both the student struggling and the student teaching. The struggling student gets new explanations for tricky material that may be easier to understand. The teaching student solidifies the material in their memory even more by explaining it to others.
Being in a study group can also help with accountability, so students are less likely to slack off and stop studying.
Those who need further support during finals week can visit their professors during office hours or consider getting a tutor. Professors want to see their students succeed, and though they can’t give answers to exam questions, they can help explain parts of the material that someone is struggling with.
No Pay, No Gain
Wait, so college students are paying to suffer through finals week? Technically, yes, because college costs money, of course, and even if the nightmare of finals week is still far off, it’s never too soon for students to start sorting out how they’re going to finance their entire college education.
There’s more than one resource available to students when it comes to funding college expenses. Here are a few, broken down in an easy-to-understand way.
Students already in college might be familiar with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, commonly known as the FAFSA.® Eligibility for undergraduates is usually based on parents’ income. Federal aid can come in the form of grants or loans. Grants usually don’t need to be repaid, but loans do.
Federal loans usually come with benefits that private loans don’t, such as income-driven repayments and lower fixed rates. It’s recommended that if students need to take out loans, they use federal loans before turning to private loans.
Is the FAFSA® one and done? Not at all. You must complete the application every year that you attend school if you hope to gain federal aid, and on time.
The world of scholarships is vast. Though it can take some digging to find scholarships that students are eligible for, it’s money that usually doesn’t need to be repaid.
Scholarships can be need based or merit based, with the eligibility requirements different for each one. Scholarships come from colleges, corporations, local community organizations, religious organizations, and more.
Students might want to check if their college has any information available on scholarships. Usually, schools have a scholarship office or information about scholarships at their financial aid office.
Private student loans are another way to help fund the college experience, when federal aid doesn’t cover all the bases, a student doesn’t qualify for federal aid, or someone has reached a limit on federal direct loans.
The eligibility for private student loans is usually based on a student’s income and credit history, or that of a cosigner. Each lender will have its own terms, including the interest rate and repayment methods, which merit research.
SoFi offers private student loans with attractive fixed or variable rates, no fees, and a quick online application.
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