Famously the worst part of the semester, Finals Week crept up on me faster than you’d expect. While it technically starts tomorrow, the Sunday after the end of classes, I feel like I’ve been living in Finals Week for the better part of a month. You see, what they don’t tell you about finals is that not every class actually has one: my writing course had a portfolio due on the last day of classes, and both my biology courses this semester had a mixture of continuous exams, presentations, and final writing projects. It was a bit of a rough semester, but at least I won’t have any finals for those. Some classes will even have finals AHEAD of Finals Week: my Inorganic Chemistry final was during our last Tuesday class. The moral of the story? Finals Week is fake and even if you don’t have any finals, you will absolutely still experience the unhinged Finals Week energy.
If you’re feeling apprehensive from horror stories about big college exams, I’m here to assuage your doubts. Sure, it won’t be your favorite part of the semester, but you can absolutely get through it. Without further ado, I present my Top Five Tips for Surviving Finals. (And if I’m writing this blog post to procrastinate studying for Electromagnetism, shhhhh you didn’t hear that, and Tip #4 will disprove you anyway.)
Okay I know, it sounds obvious. But when you have four to five classes, all following the steady progression of one exam a month in September and October then BAM! an exam and a presentation and a paper at the end of November, finished off by a mid-December final, you need to plan or you might get avalanched. Spread out when you plan to work on Paper A vs Paper B, and read the prompts and make a game plan asap: there’s nothing as discouraging than scrambling for a week to get Paper A perfect by the deadline, only to discover that Paper B (due two days later) was actually the more difficult assignment. Protip: start a master list of all of your assignments and exams early in the semester when you get the syllabi, and regularly check it to see what’s coming up and what you should be preparing for.
Tip #2 – Take advantage of UR resources
While you might get caught off guard by finals, the University has seen thousands of students in your exact position, They’ve got it covered! From the Friday night tradition of Late Night Tradition before finals, to therapy dogs working overtime, to free coffee, study supplies, and snack carts, UR can provide. There’s a candy bowl in Q&i that gets filled up every hour, and all the libraries are open 24/7 for the entirety of Reading Week (study period) and finals, meaning you can be as nocturnal as you like. Pro tip: the libraries stay open until the very end of the semester, so if you feel like playing 4am Catan with your friends on that last night in the blue stacks, I won’t tell.
Tip #3 – Make time to socialize
In all likelihood, most of your time will go to studying or working on papers. But think of your friends! At the end of the semester you’ll all go your separate ways for break, and I’m tearing up just thinking about it. You all still need to eat, so send that text and meet up over dinner or coffee to commiserate and feel glad you’ve got each other. Many groups also make time for an end-of-semester event, whether that be a sorority date party, a potluck, a study break a cappella concert, or the theatre formal. Make the most of those few days without classes! You’ll go crazy if you try to spend the whole time in your notes.
Tip #4 – Don’t burn out
When stress is mounting, it’s tempting to throw yourself into work as fast and as much as possible. But Reading Week and finals season are more of an endurance game: you need to be able to relearn material for an exam on Wednesday, and still have the energy to write the paper due after on Friday. Stagger your tasks: while researching sources might not feel like an actual break from physics, it’s still a change of mental state and you’ll be able to go further into physics later. Also, giving yourself a little time to digest information and breathe is super helpful: send some mindless emails, set a ten-minute TikTok break, work on your blog post. Protip: Have some warm-up tasks ready to ease you into productivity. It can be anxiety-inducing to spend time away from your most pressing obligation, but you can get more done if you’ve already found that mental rhythm.
Tip #5 – Rest when it’s over
When my finals are done, I pack up in a daze, drive home, and spend the next four days sleeping 16 hours a night. College is exhausting, and with all the adrenaline and sleep debt you accumulate over the semester, you’ve got to take some time off. Take it easy, eat a lot, and don’t worry too much about next semester. You got through it once: you can do it again.