Dec 072009
Authors: Kevin Hollinshead

Finals start exactly two weeks from today. I will now give you time to let that soak in, hyperventilate, unleash profanities that would make Josh McDaniels blush or down a shot of Jack. Whatever helps you cope.

OK, now that you’re slightly calmer, fret not, for your friendly Collegian columnist has some tips on how to stay sane between now and Dec. 14. I’m not exactly a nose to the grindstone type of student, so if these work for me, I’m sure they’ll work for many of you. Freshmen should pay extra attention:

Go to every single remaining class. Since high school, I’ve been fairly up and down in terms of my performance on finals during a given semester. Last fall, I put off studying and didn’t increase my frequency of class attendance, so I was hardly surprised when I only got B’s and C’s on my finals, helping cement a lackluster 2.8 GPA. Last spring, I had perfect attendance over the last four weeks of classes, and I ended up actually boosting my GPA to a 3.6 on the strength of two finals.

Start studying now and carefully pick your locale. I’ve learned the value of studying for an extra 30 minutes a day now, versus cramming the night before at the library. One night last fall, I tried studying for six hours at the library, but ended up getting distracted by all the loud sorority girls that congregate there at this time of year. This led to me leaking information like an oversaturated sponge, thus underperforming on two finals. Last spring, I studied at home, where I could shut my door and totally immerse myself in my notes and books. I started studying in mid-April, so when finals week rolled around, I felt better going in.

Stop studying one hour before bedtime. Whenever I go to bed just after an intense study session, I usually struggle to fall asleep, worrying about whether my studying will be enough. Take an hour to hang out with friends, listen to music or do something else relaxing. Studies have shown that relaxation improves retention ability. In short, give your brain a break before going to bed.

Talk to your professors. Unless it is mathematically impossible for you to get below an A in a given class, do yourself a favor and take advantage of office hours to discuss your grade. If you’re struggling in a class, ask if there is any extra work you can do to bump up your grade. If your professor says no, just continue by asking what you can do to do well on the final. Regardless of whether he or she gives you extra credit, most professors love to see students take initiative like this. So if you end up straddling the fence between one grade or the other, they’ll remember that when deciding whether to give you the better grade.

Avoid pulling an all-nighter. While it may work for some people, it’s generally not a great idea. Sure, you may have absorbed an extra few questions’ worth of facts, but you’ll lose more than that just from pushing your sleep-deprived brain. No amount of caffeine can really compensate for brain fog, so try to get any sleep you can. I don’t feel much better sleeping for nine hours as opposed to five, but five feels worlds better than zero.

Above all, however, keep things in perspective. While I’m shooting for my first-ever 4.0, I take comfort in knowing that I have at least another semester to bolster my law school application. Especially true for freshmen, you have ample time to make up for a bad semester. Just don’t slack off too much now, or else you’ll find that your margin for error will get progressively smaller with each semester.

 Posted by at 3:34 am

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