Preparing for Finals in Eight Steps

Yes, I get it. The absolute last thing you want to do right now is study for finals. You might be tired, maybe you didn’t have a spring break, and you just want it to be summer. But here is the deal, you made it this far, so finish strong. Start prepping for finals now.

  1. Know your finals schedule! You can’t successfully take finals if you don’t know when the test is. Mark it on your calendar right now, no excuses. Look up your finals schedule here.
  2. Get your notes together! I am guilty of taking notes on my computer for one class, by hand in another, and a mix of both for the rest of my classes. Now is time to organize all of your notes (chronological order of material covered will help a lot when you are studying).
  3. Use the printer! During virtual learning, it is easy to screenshot diagrams in a presentation and just stare at them. Print them out so you can mark them up while studying.
  4. Change your study spot! There is nothing worse than getting so used to your study spot so that you no longer can focus there. Change up your study spot, so you know when you are there that you are there to get work done.
  5. Take a break! Please do not burn yourself out. You may feel that way already, but that just means you need a break more than anyone. Go treat yourself to coffee, take a walk while it is nice, call your family or friends, read a book that is not related to coursework, or go play catch. Literally, do anything besides study… just for a bit. It will boost your mood so much, because you may need a break more than you think. Self-care is essential right now.
  6. Make a study schedule! Do you have a class that needs more studying than the others? Take this into account, but don’t devote all of your time to just one class per day. Since you also have assignments and projects due within these last few weeks, you need to be as organized as possible. Make a schedule to set aside time for your current classes and assignments, but also time to study for those looming finals.
  7. Prepare for summer! This is a great way to take a well-deserved break. Even though preparing for summer may seem like planning, it will get your mind off of school. What are you doing this summer? What to go on a trip? Plan it. Are you moving out of the dorms? Start packing. Are you getting ready for research? Prepare as much as you can and read the materials given to you.
  8. Work hard! Now that you are prepared, give it your best. Stick to that study schedule and spend quality time on material that seems harder to understand. Do not be scared to go to office hours for review, do some extra practice questions, or ask your classmates questions. Everyone is working towards finals. You are not alone, so do not make it seem like you are. Use your resources to give finals your all. Good luck, you will do great!

How to handle academic burnout

Hi there, if you’re reading this, I assume you are at that point in the semester where it feels like your academic workload is just too much. We have all been there, but how do you handle burnout as an upperclassman in high school, as a college student, or as anyone in the middle of a global pandemic? Maybe the following story and strategies will help you.

My story

I am a first-generation, and first-year college student from a very small town. Needless to say, if I wasn’t already lost coming to college, the pandemic surely set my confusion over the top. Not only was I coping from the loss of my senior year of high school, but I was also struggling with feeling like I was missing out on my first year of college. This combined with a college workload, trying to make friends, and holding a part-time job, lead me partially to burnout… not to mention the loss of spring break in the middle of the second semester.

But hey, we are all supposed to keep our heads up and move forward right? Students really don’t have time to take non-scheduled breaks, but that is exactly what I had to do. I got sick for about a month and a half in the middle of a semester with no spring break. I completely missed this time of schooling and was struggling to keep my head above the surface of my workload. How was I supposed to catch up? With looming midterms and a heavy workload on top of what I already had missed, I worked on school night and day for weeks thinking I was never going to catch up. I slowed down. I was experiencing burnout.

So how did I get back on top of things? How can you get past burnout? Consider these strategies.

Tips

Plan, plan, plan! Make yourself a schedule and stick to it. For example, say you are behind in a class by a chapter. Instead of trying to catch up ASAP, consider dividing that chapter into sections. Lots of textbooks do this already! Read a section or two extra in addition to your traditional workload per day. You won’t catch up right away, but you will not feel overwhelmed because you are getting your current work done while catching up segmentally.

Think about your routine. Do you go get coffee every morning? Do you workout at a certain time of the day? Let’s find some mood boosters for your routine, and don’t take this for granted, it has helped me the most! If you have a regularly scheduled part of your day that you look forward to, such as that morning coffee, evening workout, or even a nice hot shower, have you ever thought about setting it back an hour in time and working towards it as a reward? When you set back something you are looking forward to, you have time to flip around your schedule and start getting straight to work. Set mini-goals of what you want to accomplish, and when you start to feel bored, tired, or anxious, reach one more goal then take that well-deserved break you have postponed and have been looking forward to.

Find a shortcut. Time is crucial, you already know this. Shortcuts are a slippery slope, so don’t go crazy with this step. Do you spend a lot of time making your hair and/or makeup look good in the morning? Brush your hair quickly and throw on a hat or throw up your hair into a cute messy ponytail or bun. How much time do you spend on your phone or watching TV without realizing it? Save this as a reward and put away distractions. Do you study in an elaborate place far from your residence? Try something simple and closer. Do you spend a lot of time reading and watching extra material to understand concepts? Skip these for now and come back to them later when you have more time. You are in a time crunch, it is time to get a basic understanding now and a mastery understanding later.

Make a short to-do list. By all means, do not write out all of the assignments you have to do. This will overwhelm you so much. Instead, take it two or three days at a time. That way, when you cross off things you are accomplishing, it feels like you are making a larger difference in the workload you have.

Focus on your mental health. Burnout will get you down. But the feeling of being almost done with the semester and on top of your workload is exhilarating! Until then though, you can’t stay down in the dumps. Each night take some time to reward yourself by watching some Netflix or anything that brings you joy. Also, reflect on how much you accomplished.

You are dealing with a lot.

You are handling things in the best way you can.

Taking things one step at a time is better than no progress at all.

You are making strides to meet your goals.

You will get through this.

You have a plan.

You are taking time for yourself.

You are going to become a better person from this experience.

First Semester of College Reflection

Hello Hawkeyes,

I have officially finished my first semester of college, so what did I learn?

1.) College is what you make of it

Going to college just to go is not an experience. The fun you will remember is from the effort you make putting yourself out there for the world to see. Make friends, join clubs, attend campus events. But, whatever you do, just do something.

Goal for next semester: Attend more club events and talk to mentors more.

2.) Change up your study spot

Studying outside of your living space will help alleviate distractions. I study at the Iowa Memorial Union because of its proximity to me and because I can change up my study spot a lot within one building just by going to a different room.

Goal for next semester: Try studying somewhere new every week.

3.) Find friends that will hold you accountable

Friends will help keep you going in a social or school setting. Having friends that know you well enough to study, attend meetings, or work out with you will help in motivation and sticking to a schedule.

Goal for next semester: Branch out and find more people I have things in common with.

4.) Stay organized

College will keep you busy. Between classes, work, studying, eating, workouts, and meetings, you may not have much time for yourself. Keep an updated schedule and a clean room. This will allow you to know what you are doing, when, and where your stuff is.

Goal for next semester: Clean out my desk drawers and keep them clean!

5.) Set goals

Goals will keep you motivated with what you want the most. Be brave, daring, and work towards self-improvement. Setting an “outrageous” goal isn’t scary if you break it down step by step, so shoot for the stars.

Goal for next semester: Keep an updated goal sheet on my desk.

 

Self Care During Finals

Finals are stressful, but a lot of stress can be alleviated with self care. Are you taking care of yourself during this time?

Here are some things to keep in mind with finals approaching:

  • Take a break
      • You deserve it. You have made it through an entire semester during a pandemic. Don’t stress out studying now.
      • Watch some TV, go out to eat, hang out with some friends, or something else just get your mind off of school for awhile.
  • Treat yourself
      • Yes you need a break, but make your breaks beneficial for your health, too.
      • Take a long shower, use a face mask, or eat some junk food. The point is to do something nice for yourself that you don’t get to do often. Use this as a motivator during this stressful time.
  • Study
      • Of course you can’t prepare for finals without studying, but study with purpose.
      • Put your phone and any other distractions away.
      • Study for short periods of time with plenty of breaks, because the last thing you want to do is try and cram in information just to forget it by tomorrow.
      • Change up your scenery. Study somewhere where you feel comfortable, but try and get out this week to a spot where you know when you are there, you are there to study.
  • Sleep
      • Do not stay up late studying. You are going to want to be well rested for all of those tests you are preparing for.
      • Losing sleep means losing information. It will take longer to focus the more tired you become, so pick up the books when you are more well rested tomorrow, because they will still be there.
  • Stay healthy
      • If you go out in public to study, keep your mask on and wash your hands often.
      • Don’t forget to eat your meals and drink lots of water. I find myself lost in my studies and missing meal times, don’t let this happen to you during finals because you need all of the energy you can get.
      • Keep up your basic hygiene. Save time for the daily things: shower, brush your teeth, and comb your hair. The more you make this week normal, the easier it will seem.
      • Take off some steam at the gym. Even if it is just a short workout, it will get you up and moving out of your study spot for a while.
  • Take it one day at a time
      • I get that you are stressed and have a lot to do, but take a second to make a list of things that have to be done, and divide it into a daily agenda. This will help you stay task oriented.
      • Have confidence in yourself.
      • Stay positive, you just have a little bit of the semester left to go. Go Hawks!

Study Spots at the University of Iowa

Have you found your favorite study spot on campus yet? Looking to change things up a bit? Check out some of my favorite study spots below!