Catalyst’s Declassified: Finals Survival Guide

Catalyst’s Declassified: Finals Survival Guide

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Photo credit: Jacob Wentz
Photo credit: Jacob Wentz

As the semester approaches its end, an air of tension seems to choke the campus. Deadlines are closing in, essays are piling up and, most unfortunately, finals are near.

Finals week is unfamiliar territory for first-year students like me. In order to prepare for exams, I reached out to the campus to hear what experienced students had to say.

Stay prepared

            It’s arguable that the most important part of finals week is ensuring that you are well-prepared for your exams; that’s what it’s all about, right? Many students have found that achieving a “satisfactory” rating comes easier with good organization and time management.

            “It’s important to begin preparing a few weeks in advance, whether by making a list of final project and papers or upcoming exams,” thesis student Blaise DeFranco wrote.

            “I found that laying out a fairly detailed study schedule […] for the week and a half leading up to exam week makes everything a lot more manageable,” thesis student Kayla Evens wrote.

            Outlines are particularly valuable when lengthy papers need to be written:

            “When I freeze up because I’m so filled with dread about writing a paper I find it helpful to just make my goal to write a bit of the outline,” third-year student Kira Thoenes wrote. “After that it pretty much writes itself because it’s more the anxiety over the paper that causes me stress than the paper itself.”

            When studying, one should stay focused and process information the best that they can.

            “The perfect state of mind for studying is one that is a) completely calm and void of distracting emotions, b) focused, and c) curious and interested,” third-year student Mimi Chenyao wrote.

Staying organized is one of the best ways to prepare for finals and to keep yourself balanced during the stressful last weeks of class.

“Cramming is not an efficient way of retaining information, and neither is pulling an all-nighter,” DeFranco wrote.

It is important to remember, however, that your health should come first.


Stay healthy

            Finals week is going to be stressful; for you, for me, for the whole campus. It is important that students handle their stress in ways best suited for them.

            “We are all in this together,” third-year student Keaton Hughes wrote.

It has been proven that stress can weaken the immune system and affect one’s biological balance. Students, therefore, should remember to love their bodies during this time.

“SLEEP at least four hours a night […] drink more water than coffee […] take walks, exercise, get fresh air […] don’t forget to shower and eat regularly,” thesis student Sarah Courson wrote.

“During breaks, drink at least half a bottle of water […] eat a healthy snack,” Chenyao wrote.

Because researchers have proven the correlation between stress and fewer natural killer cells, fewer immunity-boosting gamma interferon and fewer infection-fighting T-cells, students should be extra cautious about spreading germs and getting sick.

“Be sure you have Vitamin C supplements and other stuff to stave off the flu,” DeFranco wrote.

Stay relaxed

            Though there are basic ways that you can improve your physical health, your mental health is just as, if not more, important.  Finals week is going to be overwhelming at times, but don’t let it destroy you. There are things that you can do to stay relaxed and keep your mind balanced during this time.

            “The number one way to survive during finals is to recognize when you are beginning to feel too overwhelmed,” thesis student Amanda Gaudree wrote.

            “When I start panicking or worrying too much, I take a break. I go on a walk or snuggle my cat, even just taking 10 minutes out to center yourself can be really helpful.”

            Do not torture yourself! No human being can healthily focus on one thing without any sort of distraction! Breaks are necessary in keeping your sanity during finals week.

            “Try to study in hour-long periods and take 5-10 minute breaks in between,” Chenyao wrote. “And don’t use up the whole day if you don’t have to! I like studying in the morning, breaking for the rest of the day, and coming back to study more at night.”

Stay balanced

            Many students, myself included, can only study effectively when alone. To stay completely balanced, however, you should give yourself time to socialize with friends and do things that you are used to. There is a tendency to become a hermit during finals week, but this behavior can be detrimental.

            “Studying with classmates, friends, anyone you can commiserate with or who can support you really makes a huge difference in psyche,” DeFranco wrote.

            “Get hugs from friends (if you like)! Talk to others about their stress!” Thoenes exclaimed.

            Listening to music is more valuable than you think. Whether one is listening to white noise to facilitate studying or a loud jam to let the stress out, music can really help.

            “White noise keeps my head clearer so I can work without much distraction,” third-year Lena Santos wrote.

            “Anything with a beat – classical tends to keep me focused but typing to a dope beat is like an immediate second wind,” thesis student Andrew Blackowiak wrote.

            All in all, it’s important that you prepare yourself to do well on finals, but it’s more important that you keep yourself, mind and body balanced. Finals week is stressful, but there are many ways to tackle this stress effectively and end the semester with strong sats.

[information from and the forum]

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