By Jen Bradley, Class of ’13
What kind of a professor assigns and essay and a final exam? How long can it possibly take for a person to send me one small section of our presentation? Where did I put all those library books for my research? How am I supposed to enjoy a formal when I have all this work to do?
It’s that time again. The time when everyone is plagued by questions like these as their time management skills are put to the test. Forget the holiday season-it’s finals season.
Whether you are conquering finals for the first time as a freshman or exercising your senioritis as a Villanovan about to graduate, we all run into similar problems as we face blue books and blank laptop screens hoping that they somehow transform into something that captures our mastery of the course material. Below are some common problems encountered during finals season and some tips compiled to help you get through the week with the grade you deserve.
Time crunch: So you have five exams, a research paper and final presentations. How can you possibly put in enough time for each assignment and do well on everything in such a short amount of time? By starting early, of course.
If you have research papers, start to compile sources weeks in advance[w1] . (If you haven’t done this, take heart. The world is ending anyway.) Synthesizing all of your research and thinking of a topic often takes longer than writing the paper itself. Take the time to draft an outline for longer papers, and make use of the Writing Center. Go to your professor’s office hours. No one is a better judge of what your professor is looking for than…she is.
Break up your study time for exams. It can be difficult to focus on one subject and stay interested in it for an entire day. If you make a study guide or flash cards for one subject, hold off on reviewing it for later in the day or the next day to give yourself a break and to allow your brain repeated exposure to the material. If you rotate what you study, you also ensure that you look over everything everyday leading up to the exam, which is far more effective than cramming it all into one day.
Take the time to write out study guides because writing information down helps you remember it. When possible, make connections between the material you study and your life experiences. Personalizing information helps with committing information to memory and maximizes recall on test day.
For final presentations, make sure each group member does his or her share of the work. Do not leave your work to others and do not try to organize the entire presentation yourself. Simply doing your part does not waste your time or your groupmates’ time. Try and meet a few different times to check in on others’ progress. The day before the presentation, meet with your group to run through the presentation.
Study Space: It is nearly impossible to find an unoccupied, quiet nook of the university during finals week. If you need to be alone to focus, try to reserve a study room in Falvey or a classroom in another building through the Villanova website: http://www.villanova.edu/enroll/registrar/reservation/index.htm
If, on the other hand, you are inspired by other people’s motivation, find a quiet place where everyone will be studying, such as the third or fourth floor of the library. The studious environment may encourage you to conform and study as well, and it also eliminates distractions.
Writer’s block: It happens. It also seems conveniently to happen during finals season. Whether you need to write a short story or a final research paper, staring at a blank page can be overwhelming. If you are finding it difficult to begin an essay, typing out an article you read online or the start of one of your best essays can often help break the ice. Starting a paper is always the hardest part. If your writer’s block continues, take a break and listen to a new genre of music or start up conversation with a new, interesting person or someone you look up to. These novel exposures can help jumpstart creativity. You can also read over something you wrote in the past that you are proud of to remind yourself of what you are capable of producing. Just get your thoughts down and remember you can always go back and change anything.
Distraction and boredom: Sometimes the sheer difficulty and amount of information that you need to study can be extremely overwhelming. Set goals for yourself and stick to them. When you achieve a goal, reward yourself with some time for Facebook creeping or roommate socializing. DO NOT turn on the television. By doing so you are committing yourself to at least an hour of distraction since the desire to finish that Hallmark Christmas movie or “America’s Next Top Model” marathon will almost certainly outweigh your desire to study.
To minimize distractions, avoid cell phone use and distracting websites. You can ask your roommate to change all your social media passwords until you finish your work.
You may also be tempted to go to every single formal for every single organization. Be selective about the events you attend. This will save you time and money. After all, what college kid can afford to go to 10 different 30 dollar formals anyway? Try and remember somebody (whether your or someone else) is paying money for you to go to school and enrich your mind. Save the partying for the first week back next semester.
Make sure to get plenty of sleep. Not sleeping is proven to hinder your ability to remember what you studied that day.
Most of all, keep things in perspective. Finals week is only one week of a long college career. Try to avoid nervousness and remain positive. Aim to view finals as opportunities to show what you have learned, not as threats.