Simple steps help students get through finals

By Jessica Schuh

Finals week is quickly approaching, and students are preparing for the exams and papers that mark the end of the semester. Students can face increased stress because of the heavy workload and the conclusion of the semester, but there are steps they can take to make these last weeks less hectic and more productive.

There are ways to avoid procrastination, study more effectively and avoid stress during finals, said Dr. Linda Cox, director of the Counseling Center at the University.

Setting up a study routine, such as studying in the same spot while listening to the same music, will help students be more productive and will create associations that tell the mind and body it’s time to study, Cox said.

Emily McKee, junior in LAS, usually studies at Grainger library because it’s quiet, she said.

“Everyone there is studying, so there are not distractions,” McKee said.

Cox said studying in smaller amounts, such as reading a specific amount of pages instead of the whole book, can help students prevent procrastination.

“Then it doesn’t seem so overwhelming,” she said.

Taking small breaks from studying or writing in intervals will help students work better and avoid stress, she added.

“You definitely have to take breaks and not spend the entire week studying or you’ll go crazy,” McKee said. “It’s good just to get out sometimes too.”

Carrie Lamanna, associate director of Writers’ Workshop, also said breaks are important while working on a paper and warned students not to try to write it all in one night. It is reasonable to take a break with a friend and do something fun for a little while.

“If you’re old enough, go have a beer,” Lamanna said. “If you sit in front of a computer screen (too long), writer’s block sets in.”

Lamanna also recommended that students talk to someone else about their paper and ask them to look it over.

“Even if the person is not necessarily an expert writer … that person can give feedback as a reader,” she said.

She encouraged students to talk to their instructors about any problems or confusion they encounter while working on a paper.

Cox also emphasized the importance of time management. Planning ahead and setting aside time to complete a task will also reduce stress, she said.

“Be realistic about what you can get done in one day,” Cox said.

Jennifer Meeker, freshman in LAS, has already started preparing for finals and plans on studying “10 times” as much as she would for a regular exam. She said she is trying to study ahead of time to avoid cramming for her exams at the end.

“I know they’re going to be a lot harder than high school finals,” Meeker said.

Removing any distractions helps keep students focused and avoid procrastination, Cox said.

“Hide the remote control, or put a table cloth over the TV,” Cox said.

Students should also try to shut down their e-mail and turn off their phones. Cox advised students living in residence halls or sorority and fraternity houses to put up “do not disturb” signs on their door to let others know they are studying.

Getting enough sleep and avoiding too much caffeine or alcohol will help students perform best.

“No matter how stressed or how busy you are, try to get an essential amount of sleep,” Cox said.

She said at least six hours of sleep each night is necessary.

“If you find the time, a little bit of physical exercise is important,” she said.

She also recommended maintaining a balanced diet during studying and test taking; but because it’s unlikely most students will, Cox stressed the importance of taking vitamins to make up for the loss of nutrients.

If students do experience stress during the end of the semester, Cox said self-talk can help. Reminding yourself finals are temporary can be comforting in times of high stress.

“It can seem like this stressful period will last forever,” she said.

Talking to friends or roommates about the stressful feelings can also help.

“If a person is feeling really overwhelmed or stressed, it’s important to reach out,” she said. “We don’t need to isolate ourselves when we’re stressed,” Cox said.

Students may want to go to the Counseling Center if they are having difficulty coping and the activities that usually help them relieve stress are not working. The counselors talk to students, give them support and give them tips to deal with the stress, she said.

She recommended that people call to make an appointment in the morning because the center is busy around the end of the semester. If students are experiencing a crisis, they should tell the center when they call and they will be able to have a walk-in appointment that day.

Staff at the Writers’ Workshop can help students writing a paper in any discipline and at any stage in the writing process. They can also help students with writing answers to take home exams but cannot give them the answers. Lamanna recommended students make appointments as soon as possible because time slots are filling up quickly.