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November 13, 2010

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Well, it is that time again. Finals!   The most grueling part of being a college student.  A week packed with tests. You just finish one exam and you have to immediately start getting ready for another one.  Who thought this was a good idea!!!

Well, it is what it is and everyone has to go through the rigor of finals.   What is a student to do?!!  Well, here are some words of advice from someone (me) who has been involved with giving and taking a lot of finals and successfully getting through finals week (9 years of college BS through PhD and 17 years of teaching).

  • The most important thing is to start preparing now!  Good time management is key.  Map out every hour of every day from now to the end of finals.  Map out when you are going to work on specific tasks.  Focus your energy and time so you maximize your desired outcomes.  It doesn’t make sense to spend a large chunk of time on something that is only worth 5% of your grade at the expense of something else that is worth 25% of a course grade.   Expending great time and energy on a 1 credit course at the expense of a 4 credit course.  You have to use your time and energy wisely and it can take some time to map out a successful strategy.  The more prepared you are the more confident you will be.  The best cure for panic is planning and action.Calm and steady is the key.
  • Do as little cramming as possible!  Cramming promotes a lack of confidence, creates a frantic atmosphere, and only supports the lowest form of cognitive performance.  Remember, you have to actually learn this stuff if you hope to be successful in your chosen major.
  • Don’t stay overwhelmed. Yes, you will feel overwhelmed at times.  The important thing is to not let it zap your precious energy and time.  Take a deep breath, go for a short walk in the fresh air, and then get back to work.
  • Commiserating with friends can help.  Misery loves company and it is important to realize everyone is feeling just like you are (even professors).  Give and get encouragement and sympathy but don’t waste time moaning and complaining and dwelling on the negative.
  • Avoid avoidance behavior like choosing now to vacuum out the trunk of your car instead of writing the term paper or studying.
  • Take care of yourself.  Eat well.  Exercise.  Get sufficient sleep.   Don’t let finals throw you off your game!   You will be less successful if you are poorly nourished, sluggish, poorly rested.  Many students make the mistake of trying to compensate by getting jacked up on caffeine and other stimulants.  Athletes don’t eat junk, stop working out, and stop sleeping before a competition (at least not the ones who want to win).  You shouldn’t either.  In fact, these things become more important than ever.  You need a clear and rested mind to do your best in finals.
  • Studying with friends can be helpful or it can be useless, so be careful.  Study with others who are focused and on the task. Work to keep the group on task if they begin to stray into the world of chatting and inefficiency.  Also, study with others who you know have good study habits and are generally good students (good attendance, good notes, good grades).  Don’t get involved with those who are trying to make up for their bad study habits (poor attendance, cramming, poor class notes, not organized, etc).
  • When all is said and done, show up to your finals as relaxed and as calm as possible.  Panic, fret, and worry will only hurt your performance.  Take your time.  Be thoughtful.

I hope everyone does well on their finals.  If you want to meet with me to talk about finals or any other issue feel free to contact me to set up an appointment.


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