Ah, December. A time for holiday cheer, family togetherness, and present unwrapping. Or if you’re a college student, stress, panic and an impending sense of doom. That’s right–finals are coming.
Now is probably about the time that a sense of dread sets in as you realize you’re prepared for exactly none of your exams. And let’s be real, this feeling probably won’t leave you until you walk out of your last class of this semester. But in the meantime, as you attempt to cram knowledge into your brain everywhere from the dining hall to the library to a random bench, you can at least be prepared for your new nomadic lifestyle. After all, no one has time to walk all the back to your dorm because you forget something when you’re in the middle of an intense study session. Ahead are eight items you need to have in your backpack at all times during finals season!
1. Study Supplies
First, let’s get the basics out of the way: Don’t be that person who has to ask others for a pen, pencil or piece of paper. If you don’t already have these items (and several backups) in your bag, what are you doing? But more than just the essentials, finals week is a great time to buy those fancy highlighters or expensive stationery you’ve been eyeing at the campus bookstore. Frivolous? Maybe during the rest of the year. But during finals week? Anything that gets you slightly more excited about studying is a necessity. Consider it an early Christmas present to yourself–your grades will thank you later.
The most crucial of all items. Your daily routine probably already includes stuffing your chargers into your backpack before you head out in the morning, but in case not, get used to it. Phone chargers, laptop chargers, tablet chargers, the works. Nothing’s worse than having your laptop die just as you get a burst of inspiration when writing your final essay. It’s a good idea to invest in some portable chargers too, because believe me, all the seats next to outlets in the library will be occupied 24/7.
3. Healthy Snacks (and some treats, too!)
The cafeteria is a wonderful place, but it isn’t exactly as conducive for studying as the quiet floor of the library. However, you can’t forgo eating altogether—your brain needs food to function properly. Make sure your backpack is always stocked with a variety of snacks sure to keep you awake and alert, like almonds, fruit and your favorite bars. And be sure to treat yourself for your hard work! Dark chocolate, which improves your memory and focus, is the perfect reward for finishing a chapter review.
The stress of finals takes an undeniable toll on your health, and many students will fall prone to illness during this time of year. While finals might want to make you puke metaphorically, puking literally is whole new level of torture. Protect yourself from the germ-incubators of sealed libraries and dorms—where sick students have been holed up studying—with some Vitamin C. Not only is adding Emergen-C to your water a good way to boost your immune system, it’s a good reminder to stay hydrated and ensure that your water intake doesn’t fall to the wayside.
5. Phone Numbers
Speaking of physical health, your mental health is just as important. While it’s normal to feel stressed during finals, you should never truly feel like it’s life-or-death. In the end, it really is just a test. Worst case scenario, you retake the class. But you can’t retake your health.
Most schools recognize that this is a trying time for students, and have hotlines and/or in-person services available to help. Some schools offer text lines open 24/7, so you can chat with a counselor anytime, anywhere. Even if your school doesn’t have a mental health hotline, your geographic area most certainly does. On a notecard, write down the numbers of your school’s hotlines, your city’s hotlines and the numbers of trusted family or friends. Then, stick this card somewhere secure but prominent, such as your binder cover. While you may not end up using these numbers, it’s crucial to know that support is always available.
If your school is anything like mine, it’s probably sweltering in one classroom, freezing in another and a whole other temperature entirely when you step outside. But you should be comfortably dressed for whatever location you might studying in. Any arrangement of clothing goes– this is finals week, not fashion week. As the winter chill sets in, make sure you’ve got a wide range of layers packed in your bag: everything from scarves, hats, mittens and jackets, to short sleeves for when the thermostat has finally been cranked up.
Bonus: Though it’s not strictly an article of clothing, a fuzzy blanket is invaluable for swaddling yourself in during those late-night study sessions. Though you’re tragically far from your bed, at least you can bring a bit of its comfort with you.
7. A Physical Game
Brain breaks are essential when marathoning your studies. And no, your breaks shouldn’t consist of “five” minutes of scrolling through Instagram that actually turns into an hour by the time you look up. Stay away from the black hole that is your phone and give your eyes a rest from staring at an electronic screen. By packing a hacky sack or similar object, you can give both your brain and body some much-needed revitalization. Think about it—when’s the last time you stood up?
8. A Set of Thank-You Cards
When you show up to the last session of office hours after ghosting the whole semester, you don’t want to walk in empty-handed. From the professor who reiterated a concept just for you, to the friend who sent their notes for a class period you missed, there are plenty of people who deserve some gratitude. Show some appreciation to the library staff who clearly saw the look of desperation in your eyes and helped you locate that last source you needed for your research support. Keeping a set of thank-you cards on hand will enable you to write a quick message to whoever’s helped you out—and make it more likely that they’ll be willing to do the same next time finals come around.
And when you finish your last final, one of those cards belongs to you. Take a moment to thank yourself for taking your education seriously and putting this much effort into studying. Then take a deep breath, dump your backpack and enjoy your much-deserved winter break!
Lead Image Credit: Unsplash