How to survive finals


The month of May is fast approaching – a time when spring has finally decided to stay, where hopeful students eagerly look towards summer break and for some the brighter prospect of graduation.  Then again, it is also a time that signifies the end of the semester – a time of high anxiety and lack of sleep. Term papers, projects, and finals seem to have snuck up on all of us students yet again while Professors like Tim Knautz have joked in lecture, “Now is the time that no one will know what sleeping means… You can recoup in the end of May.”

But is this good advice?

According to recent studies published in the January issue of Behavioral Sleep Medicine researchers found that students that regularly pull all-nighters to study tended to have lower GPAs than those that didn’t. In fact many students reported that studying all night was more of a social rite of passage rather than an issue of necessity. More accurately, the scholarship noted that even acute sleep deprivation can lead to decreased long term memory, decreased immune system responses, as well as weight gain, depression, and more anxiety.

But with exams and projects looming ever closer what is the alternative? Here are some helpful hints to help you get through the final stretch in a healthy way.

  1. Make a list: Every class has some sort of final project. Making a list early enough is a perfect way to time-manage, organize, and keep the stress in perspective. The best way to get organized is to write down every single thing you need to do — like meal eating, doing laundry, getting some sleep, going to class, and studying. Getting things scheduled also opens up opportunity for asking for help, which brings me to step 2.
  2. Don’t be afraid to ask for help: The Tutoring and Writing Centers on campus are perfect for scheduling those final edits for your paper or understanding concepts in math or science. Major advice though– don’t wait until the day before finals to ask for a tutor; it usually takes more than an hour to master a subject.  You can contact the Tutoring Center or the Writing Center for an appointment at 262-595-2044 or stop in at Wyllie D180. Another great option…
  3. Utilize a study group: This is not a requisite, but sometimes it is nice to work together knowing someone else is suffering the same study pains. These group sessions can be beneficial if working with similar resources and it offers valuable opportunity for peer editing– sharing is caring (as long as it’s not cheating!)  If these study sessions are in a peaceful/distraction free environment, such as UW-Parkside’s library which extends its hours for finals week, a study group can be an asset to productivity and keeping you motivated. For those who prefer to study solo there are still great study rooms and desk areas in the library as well as designated quiet places on campus for your crunch time needs.
  4. Eat and Drink Healthy: While you might not think this is the ideal time to go on the diet, the truth is eating healthy and keeping yourself hydrated with NON-caffeinated beverages will keep you alert longer and feeling better. No matter how tempting it is to forgo a meal for a vending machine bag of chips or cookies and power drinks chased with coffee, these options often are draining to the body. Fresh veggies, lean proteins, and complex carbs, accompanied by water will maintain your study mojo without the crash and burn. And finally…
  5. Take breaks and that means sleep! Your brain and body need a break. Take a few minutes every couple hours of studying to stretch, take a walk, or even meditate. It refocuses those blurry eyes to move on to the next subject or refresh a thesis. And sleep—oh the benefits of sleep! A good night’s rest is far better than feeling wasted after an all-nighter. It maintains your body’s health, keeps your mind clear and focused, and alleviates the intensity of anxiety.

These are just a few ideas for keeping a level head during this busy time. Remember this will all be over soon! If you feel like the stress is getting to you and you need to talk to someone call the Student Health and Counseling Center at 262-595-2366 to sign up for a session, or better yet contact the new dean of students, Cynthia Graham, to request the institution of stress-free zone massages and other goodies that several New York Universities, Oregon State, and even UW-Madison have set up for students during finals week. Happy studies!

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