The Procrastinator's Guide to College Finals


As a card-carrying procrastinator, you may believe that it's never too late to start any project, including studying for finals. The truth is, time waits for no one. Find out how to fool yourself into studying sooner and avoiding the pitfalls of procrastination.

The Costs of Procrastination

Procrastinators seem to march to the beat of their own drummers: Usually meandering, with a frantic burst of energy right before a deadline.

What are the costs for college students who procrastinate? Term papers are turned in terminally late after multiple extensions. Required reading requires two cups of triple macchiato and an all-nighter spent poring over The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. And a hellish week of desperate cramming right before finals leaves you exhausted and barely able to recall your own name when test time comes.

Here are six tips to help you slay your time-wasting behaviors and successfully study for your college finals.

Tip #1: Break it Down

Often, procrastinators feel overwhelmed, either by the difficulty of the material or the sheer volume of it. Before you have a breakdown, break down the study material for yourself.

Don't just arbitrarily break large amounts of information down into smaller chunks; use a strategy like color-coding your notes to help you identify the most important information you need to learn—and to find it easily when you're studying later.

Use apps to create a study plan for college finals.

Using apps like or 24me, pair a list of study topics with related resources on your phone. Whenever you find yourself with a few idle moments to spare, you can sneak in a little bit of study time.

Tip #2: Pad Your Schedule with Extra Time

Figure out how much time you have until finals and how much material you have to cover. If you've already organized or color-coded your notes, you'll get through this part of the plan quicker.

Be realistic about your time and existing obligations. A flexible study schedule will help you deal with last-minute changes without losing valuable time to prepare for your finals.

Pad your study time estimates by about 30%. If you think you'll need ten hours to study for your hardest subject, give yourself at least 13 hours of study time. Work through all your subjects and set study goals with matching time estimates for each.

Tip #3: Find Your Style

Discover your learning style and use it to your advantage as you figure out the best way to study.

Use study aids that suit your learning style.

Visual learners could benefit from more pictures, charts, and maps; auditory learners might make themselves a recording of their notes and listen, or simply read their notes aloud.

Tip #4: Make Peer Pressure Work for You

It's one thing to blow off your own study time in the hopes that you'll get to it later. When you work with a whole group of people, or even just a study partner, you're more likely to feel embarrassed if you aren't prepared. There's a greater chance you'll grit your teeth and get your studying done on time, just so you won't let others down or be isolated from the group.

Procrastinators can take the pressure off themselves by using positive peer pressure. Reach out to your classmates to form study groups and use the momentum of peer pressure to spur you on to studying earlier for your finals.

Tip #5: Get Your Study Game On

Harness the compelling power of games to take the drudgery out of studying for finals. This article from the Oxford Royale Academy suggests approaching your studies with a sense of creativity and rewarding yourself when you meet your study goals.

To make studying for finals even more like a video game, use an app like Habitica to track your study progress. You can crush your study demons, get swag for your avatar, and even compete with friends as you progress toward success at your college finals.

Study together for college finals.

If you like to kick it old school with non-electronic games, get together with friends for ''Finals Trivia Nights.'' Play against each other to see who has mastered the study materials.

Tip #6: Indulge Your Inner Procrastinator

There's nothing like that last-minute rush of adrenaline, when a deadline is breathing down your neck. Your heart beats faster, your senses seem sharper, and your mind is clearer than that time you had a Red Bull with an espresso chaser.

If you feel like you won't be successful without some last-minute cramming, then indulge your inner procrastinator. As long as you've been studying steadily all along, you can enjoy that last hurrah of a blood-pumping, breathtaking cramming session.

For more practical tips to make the most of your study time, check out's study skills guides for college students. And for help with specific subjects, choose from over 70,000 lessons that will keep your interest and make time fly—in a good way.

By Michelle Baumgartner
December 2018
college finals

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