May 052005
Authors: Gavin McMeeking

On this, the last Friday before finals, those of you who are actually still going to classes may be searching in this fine publication for some guidance on passing your dreaded examinations.

Instead of giving you a bunch of crap about treating your body right, listening to Mozart and bringing a small toy with you to the test to boost your confidence, the only pearl of wisdom you'll receive from this veteran student is this: study.

Not that you will.

The human brain has an amazing capacity for creativity. Not only do we see evidence of this in such amazingly original shows like "Man Versus Beast" and "Man Versus Beast II," but also through the seeming limitless list of excuses, reasons for procrastination and outright lies one can tell oneself in order to justify the act of not studying: "I am too tired to study effectively," "My dog is looking at me funny and I think he needs to go to the vet," "I need to organize my notes first," "I've waited too long to study so there really isn't any point now," "I don't have any arms," or "I'll study after I clean the house because I need a clean place to study."

The studying process itself is at once both simple and excruciatingly complicated. First, there's the difficulty in finding a quiet place to get to work. Of course, this really isn't that difficult if you are seriously motivated. If you can't find any place of sanctuary in either the Morgan Library, residence hall study areas, city libraries, one of roughly six million coffee shops in Fort Collins alone, parks, bookstores, your dining room, the back yard, your bathroom, the library bathroom or the city library bathroom – you are pretty much stuck.

These places are often rapidly changing environments, so though you may find a secluded learning environment free from distraction, it may quickly turn into a cell phone-infested hellhole. Such an event not only gives you a good excuse to relocate, thus killing nearly an hour of study time, it also provides you with much needed exercise.

If, for some unspeakable reason, you accidentally find yourself without a good reason to study (as if) and in a location conducive to studying, you may feel at this point that you have no other option but to learn the course material.

Fear not. A number of non-productive options still remain. This includes such things as finding and organizing your notes, verifying the chapters and books that will be covered in the test, and my personal favorite, developing a study plan.

It is not too difficult to spend more time developing a study plan than actually studying. First off, you should include "develop study plan" as the first task of the study plan. Then simply write down all the topics that, under ideal circumstances, you would actually like to learn prior to the final.

Divide the amount of time that you would, hypothetically of course, spend studying each of these topics. Also include your well-deserved study breaks and the amount of time you will devote to these needed diversions. If needed, develop a study calendar incorporating these tasks with such other activities as sleep, meals and a few "wild card" times that can either be used for additional studying or, far more likely, additional screwing around.

I know this sounds a little overwhelming at first, but you will be amazed with your own capacity for not studying. I'm sure many of you out there are already very experienced non-studiers. Nevertheless, there is always room for improvement, for example, an additional "I need to get some coffee before I start doing this because I'll want one half way through this chapter and I don't want to be interrupted."

Finals week is a time for pushing your limits and finding out how all of the procrastination techniques you developed and practiced throughout the semester on homework, papers and midterm examinations will help you with the ultimate test of procrastination.

And remember, it isn't the end of the world if you accidentally learn something about your courses during the next couple weeks. For one thing, you'll probably forget it a few days after your examination is over. If an even worse thing happens and you do well on your exams, thus forcing you to graduate "early" in four years, you can always find other ways of getting a fifth year of tuition, fees, room and board out of your parents.

Just change majors. A radical shift is best to minimize the amount of course material from your old major that can be used as credit for your new major. I suggest going from something like art history to mechanical engineering or from journalism to English.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go "study" 18 holes of "physics." I've got a really nasty slice I need to correct before I can really focus on my Faulkner, and we don't even want to talk about my putting.

Gavin McMeeking is a graduate atmospheric science major. His column runs every Friday in the Collegian.

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

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