Finals week has officially begun on UNO’s campus. Running Dec. 4-11, with a “conflict day” scheduled for Dec. 12, this week promises to be filled with tests, papers, stress and plenty of opportunities to succeed greatly, or fall trying. As students begin to take on the week, it is important to step back from all the expectations and make a plan, one that will stand strong against the adversary. By doing this, students can prepare themselves for any twists that the week holds, and then leave for holiday break knowing that they did their absolute best, despite whatever odds may be stacked against them.
Although finals week relies heavily on students’ performance on a few choice days, the whole ordeal can be greatly improved by doing a little bit of organizational preparation before the first test is even administered. By creating a schedule, students can plan out the most efficient ways to spend their time and save themselves some stress in the process.
“What I think students need to do is they need to make a schedule, just for that week,” says UNO Writing Center Director and Instructor of English, Inge Fink. “Write in all the times when they have to go in and take exams, write down the due dates of exams or other things that are due, that they can submit online or by Moodle. [Students should] know when their exams are, and then they can write in study times.”
As Fink mentions, finals week differs from any other week of the academic year because students are no longer under the strict schedule of their professors’ syllabi; rather they are only required to show up for a few specific blocks of time. This leaves a lot of room for freedom, especially for students who are new to the college experience. It is important, however, to use this freedom wisely, not only on smart and efficient studying but also on healthy activities that will only benefit students’ work.
“There are three activities other than studying that you should be pursuing,” says Fink. “Sleep, eat and exercise. Everything else you should minimize. Phone time, turn your phone off during your study period. You can allow yourself a 10-minute break every hour or whatever [to] catch up. But after 10 minutes, you’re back to where you are. Or you can say all right I’m taking an hour off mid-afternoon to go exercise, or to take a nap. The idea that you eat good nutritious food [ is important]. I think that, because the teachers are no longer there to tell [students] what to do and by when, they flounder during exam week and then they just somehow hope that everything comes together at the last minute and often it does not.”
Even though it may seem obvious that it is important for students to eat, sleep and take care of themselves, it is dangerously easy to let the pressures of finals week overshadow the need to prioritize basic self-care. The goal, then, is not to waste time on empty social media scrolling, but instead to take meaningful and purposeful breaks in the name of one’s mental health and wellbeing. And when it comes to studying, it can be beneficial to avoid self-imposed academic isolation in favor of more collaborative work.
“Another thing that I found very helpful when I was going through finals was having a study buddy,” says Fink. “It’s just like [when] you have an exercise buddy who keeps you honest. A study buddy is someone who you can keep each other going for longer. If you really are committed to doing this, if you just goof off and start playing video games that’s not the idea, but I think a study buddy will be a good thing.”
Perhaps the most important thing to remember for finals week, though, is that while it may seem serious and scary and important, it is just an extension of the work that students have already been doing all semester. If they know the material and give themselves space to efficiently review it over the week, then finals week should be doable. And even in the worst-case scenario, they will survive to see the light of the next day.
“The thing is if you made it this far in the semester, and you’ve been doing all right in class, you have what it takes to get through the exam,” says Fink. “You just need to review the material. And you’re not going to die if one exam doesn’t go quite as well. I would not take this approach to all the exams and not care, but if somehow something goes wrong, this is not the end of the world. And the final exam is not the entire grade either. You should definitely take it seriously, but nobody’s going to shoot you at dawn if you get a D on a final, even if you get an F on a final. There are other grades in the class in addition to the final, so I would not worry about the results as much as I would worry about the process.”