By Sarah Wright
1. Make a Schedule
This seems basic, but it can be incredibly helpful to know for sure what's happening when. It's one thing to assume that you know when certain exams and deadlines are, but this can lead to confusion and mix-ups, and that's not going to help reduce your stress at all. If you don't already use an appointment book or calendar to keep track of your obligations, find a calendar or scheduling program and write down when all of your final assignments are due and exams are happening. You can even just write all the important dates down on a sheet of paper - just make sure you have a single, easy, quick reference so you know what to expect in the days and weeks ahead.
2. Make Lists
Even if you aren't big on making lists during the school year, lists can be really helpful during finals. Like schedules, lists can help reduce stress by removing the need to worry or wonder about what you need to do. Another plus of lists is that you get to check things off as you do them, which can feel satisfying.
3. Take Breaks
Sometimes, the best thing to do if you're feeling frustrated and overwhelmed is to walk away for a little bit. Take a walk, get a coffee with a friend, go to the gym - do something that isn't working for an hour or so and come back. You might be surprised by how re-energized you feel.
4. Eat Well
Do you want to be distracted by the rumbling in your stomach during an important final because you decided to skip breakfast and lunch? Probably not. Similarly, you probably don't want to feel headachy and sick because you decided that a candy bar was your best option for a pre-exam snack. Eating well during stressful times can help you feel fuller for longer, and can also prevent any physical discomfort from eating junk.
College students seem to love competing with each other over who is the biggest academic martyr. Why is it such a badge of honor to have written six papers in one night with no sleep? Instead of entering the college masochism rat race, why not buck the trend and opt to sleep instead of spending cracked-out, paranoid nights in the library? You'll probably be able to get more done in the morning after a good night's rest, anyway.
6. Get Started Early
Sure, it's fun to blow off some steam once classes are over, but partying all night right before finals week probably isn't the best strategy. That's not to say you shouldn't enjoy yourself at all - you can have a great time, but keep it in check so you can get started on studying and writing final papers before crunch time.
7. Partner Up
If you can focus on your work, studying with friends can be helpful. Research has shown that quizzing yourself before a test is one of the more effective ways of retaining information, so you may want to get some classmates together and have everyone make up mock test questions so you can grill each other.
8. Ask Questions
Know what you're getting into with a test or assignment well before the due date. Ask professors what's going to be covered on the test and if they have any suggestions for what your focus should be while studying. If you're confused about a paper prompt, or want to make sure your idea is in line with what the professor wants, don't hesitate to ask about it.
9. Look at Old Assignments
Going over old quizzes, midterms and papers can help raise your awareness of what to avoid doing, or what areas you need to brush up on. This can be way more helpful than just reading over all of the notes you took for the semester, because it can give you some direction and help you avoid making the same mistake twice.
If you're feeling completely overwhelmed by what you have to do, you might want to make an assessment and decide what needs the most of your time. For instance, if there's a class that you've been performing well in all semester, and you aren't too worried about your ability to do well on your final test or project, you might want to spend less time focusing on that than, say, a class that's been challenging for you all semester. Again, writing it down might help you feel less stressed.
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