For Freshmen. By Freshmen.
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Dec 03 2016
by Megan Cho

10 Upperclassmen Give Advice on Finals Week

By Megan Cho - Dec 03 2016

Finals week — also known as hell week or dead week — is rapidly creeping up on us…but the good news is that it’s the only thing standing between you and the holiday season. Taking finals in college can be a daunting experience, especially for freshmen who are about to take their first college finals. But it doesn’t have to be! Fresh U caught up with ten upperclassmen who gave their two cents on staying sane, healthy and calm during the finals week chaos.

On studying:

"When I study for a final, I start by filling in the holes in my understanding of the subject (we all know we zoned out during a lecture or two). Then I review my notes for the whole class by making a study guide. The last and more important step is to go through as many practice tests as you can! The more tricks you know about solving problems, the faster you can solve them on a test." – Mattie B., Princeton University ‘18
"I'm pretty sure time management is something everybody struggles with to some extent, and freshmen might feel overwhelmed by this, especially with the sudden independence they find themselves with. But I've learned that for me personally, keeping a to-do list to complete throughout the day really helps accelerate my productivity. And it doesn't hurt to take an occasional power nap just to keep your sanity levels in check; sometimes, even all the caffeine in the world can’t help. And a big one: READ UP ON THE MATERIAL BEFORE LECTURE. It makes learning easier when you’re exposed to the content twice: first when you tried teaching it to yourself and second when your professor explains the details to you. Plus, you’ll have the opportunity to ask the prof questions that you may have had while reading." – Dongjoo P., University of Colorado, Boulder ‘19
“Make sure to study a lot but also take study beaks because you can only study for so long! Also start good study habits and test yourself so you know you understand” – Jenny A., University of California, Los Angeles ‘19

Sleep vs. studying:

“I would just tell people to take deep breaths and to get enough sleep. Sleep is better than studying all night, at least for me.” – Meg R., Yale University ‘18
"Don't procrastinate until the last day and pull an all-nighter. It doesn't work for everyone. Start studying early and get some rest the night before the test. Also, if you do well on the finals, that's awesome, but if you don't do as well as you would have hoped, it's not the end of the world. Remember that while grades are definitely important, there's so many other aspects of your life deserve equal or more attention. Figure out how you could have done better and remember for next semester." –  Mike Z., New York University ‘19

A step-by-step guide:

"1) Get sleep. You will do better if you get some sleep than if you study all night and don’t get any. If you must study, get a minimum of four hours. 2) If you don’t know how to answer the first couple questions and start to panic, flip the test over and work from the back to the front. 3) Write down something for every problem, partial credit is better than no credit. 4) If problems are weighted differently and you are running out of time, do the ones with more weighting first, then if you start running out of time, refer to number three. 5) If you’re studying and stuff isn’t sticking or you get flustered, try doing a few jumping jacks, sit-ups, yoga poses, etc. to get your blood flowing and help retention and focus. 6) And finally remember to breathe, this time is tough for everyone, seek support and help from peers, friends, family and teachers. They all want you to succeed! You got this!" – Tabitha K., Colorado School of Mines ‘18

Advice for the big day:

"On the day of finals, try to eat some sort of breakfast even if you have an early exam. If your exam is later in the day, don’t oversleep as this can leave you feeling groggy. Don’t try to learn too much material right before. You probably won’t get much out of it and you’ll just freak yourself out. About an hour before the exam, try doing some light review (going over flashcards that you’ve already studied or reviewing notes). Make sure to get to your exam location early - you don’t want to be that person who is running across campus in a panic. Finally, try to relax. Listen to some music (classical preferably) and build up your confidence. After you’re done with finals, go treat yo’ self! You deserve it." – Ashleigh O., Middlebury College ‘17
"First of all, breathe. You are going to get through this! Next, sleep. Taking exams when your mind is fresh and you've gotten enough rest is much more pleasant than when you're running on ~3 hours of sleep. (Start studying early so that you don't feel pressured to cram the day/night before.) Finally, be explicit when showing your work or explaining your reasoning. Don't leave your conclusions/assumptions implicit; make them clear so that your grader has no choice but to give you the point(s)." – LiQian P., Princeton University ‘19

A note on cheating: 

"When I took my first finals in college, I was so stressed out and nervous. I had no idea what to expect and, honestly, I didn’t do very well. I thought I knew the material, but I really didn’t. I remember being so disappointed and discouraged. It was even more discouraging when I learned that a lot of people had cheated during the exam, which impacted everyone else since it was on a curve. As a senior looking back, let me just say… cheating isn’t really worth it. If you’re ever tempted to cheat, remember that at the end of the day, you’re just hurting yourself and your peers." – Christina H., Carleton College ‘17

And finally, never forget the real reason you’re taking finals:

“When you’re in the midst of finals, never forget the big picture - the end goal of why you’re there in the first place. These finals are meant to challenge you to make sure you are worthy of the degree you’re pursuing, which in the end will hopefully lead you to a career you’ll love. Envision where you want to be in 5 years, and realize that doing well on finals will help take you there. Now, back to studying.” – Natalie K., Colorado School of Mines ‘19

Just remember that finals are supposed to test your knowledge and give you an opportunity to showcase what you’ve learned. However, they are never the end-all be-all of your college experience. All these upperclassmen above have been in your shoes, so trust their experience and try implementing some of their tips! It will lead you to a much more productive, and maybe even enjoyable finals season. Good luck!

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Megan Cho - University of California, Los Angeles

Megan is a freshman at UCLA majoring in Global Studies. In High School, she was a member of the marching band and speech team. In addition to writing, she enjoys making pottery, photographing food, and writing modern calligraphy. Check out her minimalist-themed Instagram @meeegan_c

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