Now that I have your attention, I'm sure it's no surprise to any of you just how challenging finals can be. My first two years of college, finals were the bane of my existence. I hated them. They were the one thing that would just push me over the edge. One day I'd be totally dedicated to studying and making flashcards, and then the next day all I'd do is lay in my bed and watch Netflix.
I mentioned earlier that this has been a year of change, and I haven't noticed it more than during midterms this year. Even though it's just the start of finals, I've already found that I'm going about this round of exams in a completely different manner. So, without further ado, here are some tips on how to make it through those last few weeks of the semester!
Friends from last year are probably going to laugh at this being the first thing on my list; I used to be notorious for poor planning. Nowadays, however, every day of my life is planned. (except for when I'm on vacation of course!) I can't stress enough how much planning in advance has helped me with finals this year. Starting to study a week before an exam rather than the night before an exam definitely has it's perks-- like not visiting Dunkin' Donuts at midnight because Starbucks is closed, and not staying up until 3 am studying for a 7:30 am exam. Having my weeks planned out in my beautiful Kate Spade agenda makes me feel so much more relaxed, and being prepared throughout the semester for classes really helped when it came time for midterms, and now, finals.
Sleep! Sleep! Sleep!
I am the biggest supporter of catching those zzz's. Thankfully, this semester none of my classes were early. One thing I noticed this semester was that when I finally started taking care of my sleep cycle, and stopped staying up until 1 am on my laptop and phone, getting up in the morning was so much easier. I am that girl who goes to bed at 10:30 in hopes that I'll have gotten enough sleep by the time 7 am rolls around. Granted, I don't get up at seven every day... but if I have to wake up earlier on some days, it's that much easier. Getting enough sleep has also helped me focus more in my first few classes of the day. If I didn't rest easy the night before a big test, I'd freeze. The night before an exam, put the flashcards down an hour before bed, cozy up with a cup of chamomile tea and a good book! You'll be snoozin' before you know it.
Take Study Breaks
I can only go an hour through studying without taking a break. For every hour I work, I give myself half an hour off. My favorite thing to do is watch an episode of The Mindy Project (I love Mindy Kaling, I think she's hilarious), but another thing I like to do if it's still light out is to take my dog around the neighborhood. The fresh air lifts my mood and helps me re-energize for yet another hour of flashcards. Plus, sometimes finals week is too hectic to hit the gym-- at least a walk is some kind of exercise!
Peanut butter toast, cheerios, eggs and an english muffin... So many people forget to eat a good breakfast in the morning! I'll never understand it. Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day, how anybody forgets it I am not sure. On exam days, I really try and go for something that will wake me up. My favorite thing to have is a gluten-free blueberry muffin (I make them with the King Arthur flour... so good!) with a banana or greek yogurt, and I almost always have a cup of coffee. The motto I live by is that a day without coffee is not a good day. If you're not a breakfast person, consider this. Studies have shown that eating breakfast can increase cognitive functions, and that those who eat breakfast perform better academically. Ditch the Pop-Tart and take some time to make a healthy breakfast on exam days!
If you're interested in learning more, check out this report from BreakfastFirst.
It sounds silly, but if you have time before the exam, take a few moments to just breathe. Yes, this may be the exam that makes or breaks your grade, but if you prepared well then everything will work out. Take it from someone who has had to retake a course (microeconomics...), it's not the end of the world. Chances are, you'll come back stronger if you don't do so well. The thing about college and exams is the idea that your whole life is riding on these four years, but in my time in school, I've found a person is so much more than their grades. Relax, take a deep breath, set pencil to paper (or scantron), and see what happens. As long as you worked as hard as you could, I'd say you've got nothing to fear, and nothing to regret.