This is my last month as a sophomore. Yes, I know it’s not very dramatic; I’m not graduating or starting a new chapter of my life or anything of that tear-inducing, life-changing sort. But I am terrified. This designates that I will have finished half of my undergraduate college experience and will have to start preparing for internships, jobs, career choices, and post-undergraduate plans. That’s all extremely scary to me, so rather than thinking about that, I think I’ll just focus on something a little less scary – finals.
We’re in the middle of reading days. And right after that we have finals after finals after finals. Whether that means staying up all night to finish a 15 page paper or trying to figure out whether to tackle Orgo first or Physics or Chemistry, one of the biggest parts of finals is learning how to best prepare for these essential two weeks.
So rather than being like our buddy Spongebob here, here are some tips on how to organize yourself for finals so you’re not staring at a blank word document for five hours straight and calling it “progress”.
- Calendar Calendar Calendar.
I cannot emphasize how near and dear I hold Google Calendar to my heart. I have all of my finals color-coded red so I know right away when a final is while final papers, group project submissions, or review sessions are different colors so I can look at it super quickly and know what to expect. I also have a physical desk calendar with important dates on it as well, and that may seem a little excessive, but when I sit down at my desk ready to prop open my laptop and binge-watch Gilmore Girls, my little calendar on my desk menacingly mocks me. So I stop, hide my laptop, and pull out my Management textbook instead.
2. Don’t try to tackle everything together.
You will just end up looking like the above picture. Instead, using your newly picked-up organizational skills via your calendar, divide your week and divide your day into sections. Maybe designate the first reading day to studying your hardest subject and figure out your weaknesses in that topic so you can hone in on those areas later. Break up the next day into working on a paper or a project, taking a mid-day break, and then studying from a textbook. Change it up a little so you’re not just staring at a book the whole day, but make sure you have a plan, and more importantly, make sure you stick to that plan.
3. Change up the scenery.
Freshman year, I used to think that if I exiled myself into my dorm’s silent lounge for the entire day, I would be my most productive. Boy, was I wrong. Rather than focusing for hours straight, I would start counting the holes in the ceiling or wonder how many years the carpet had been there. Being in a monotonous room for hours just made me unfocused and desperate to leave, so my mind would always be elsewhere. So I started switching up my study places. First of all, I chose to leave the dorm because it was so close to my bed, to my friends, and to my food: all very tempting distractions. I ended up studying often at Sage Library, the Zimmerli Art Museum, and Starbucks. Starbucks was a clear winner for me because I am someone who cannot study in complete silence; I need a little bit of bustle. And coffee. If you’ve met me, you know my blood is mostly composed of caffeine.
But try out new places, ask your friends for suggestions, and see what kind of environment works best for you. Some people need to be in complete silence when working–for that I recommend finding a library on your campus or even going home for the weekend/week to study. But if you need a little bit of noise, find a coffee store or go to the dining hall. I personally studied for every Physics exam at Livingston Dining Hall, with a calculator in one hand and a burger in the other. No regrets.
4. If available, take practice tests.
If your professor has given you practice tests or you have quizzes in a class or even if you were able to keep your old exams, I highly recommend going through them. Not only will they help you figure out what to expect, but they will let you hone in on your weak spots so you’ll know how to manage spending your time.
5. Get plenty of rest.
All-nighters are not a study technique. Look up any article or any study done on all-nighters and they will all tell you the same thing: they’re not effective. In fact, your brain retains information best when sleeping. So get sleep, stay hydrated, and don’t hurt your body. If you follow all of the tips above, pulling an all-nighter should not even be an option.
With that, I wish you all the best of luck as we approach the last of our finals. You can do this, I believe in you!