Preparing for my first ever college finals week

The last week of classes begins tomorrow, and then I’ll just have a few finals to complete before my first semester of college is finished. As a high school student, college finals week seemed profoundly intimidating, like an academic marathon, but so far I haven’t been too stressed about them.

Two of the classes I was enrolled in this semester ended months ago, so I only have finals for four classes. Not all finals are created equal, so this weekend I planned out what I have to do for each class.

If you are a college student trying to get organized, or a high school student curious about what to expect from finals week, here is how I organized all the information I need to know before finals week.

I organized my notes in my bullet journal, but if you like to have things digitally, a Google doc or Google sheet would work well.

For each class I wrote the date of the final, as well as how long I have to work on it, since it varies from class to class. In one class, I have an exam that starts exactly at 12:30pm, but for another final exam the test is open between 10am and 10pm, though I’ll only have two hours to take it once I open the test.

One of my finals is just an essay, and another is a combination of multiple elements, so I also wrote down what format each final is in.

I also wrote down which days I will spend studying for tests and drafting essays. Closer to finals week, I will block off specific time for preparing for finals on my Google calendar.

Luckily, I don’t have any cumulative exams, which has also relived some of my worries about finals week. I have one essay that encompasses the whole unit, but I can choose what I want to include to support my thesis. The tests I am taking in finals week only cover the most recent units of my classes. I noted what information will be covered for each of my finals as well.

Finally, I wrote my current grade in each class to remind myself of how I am positioned grades-wise before the final.

I originally wrote out all this information on a Google doc, which is fine if you want easy access to your notes online. However, I keep a bullet journal where I organize my school work, so I transferred these notes to physical paper, which helps me see what I need to do visually. I also left a portion of the paper blank so I can add any extra notes or tasks that come up later.

It can seem overwhelming to think about all the work you have to do, but I find that just breaking the tasks down and organizing them is an easy first step that can make the work ahead seem more manageable.

Good luck with your classes!

Lets talk gen eds

Before I started college, I’d learned that general education classes were something to dread. For some high school students around me, a lack of required gen eds is what drew them to certain private schools. When I started putting together my first semester schedule, I realized all the panic around gen eds was overdone and unnecessary. For each category of gen eds, there is a wide variety of options and I was able to find several classes I was genuinely interested in taking for nearly every category.

As this first semester winds down, I wanted to share my experience with the three general education classes I took this semester.

I am enrolled in AFAM 2267/HIST 2267 African American History to 1877 to fulfill my Diversity and Inclusion gen ed requirement of 3 hours. My professor, Dr. Ashely Howard, is wonderful. I wish I could actually interact with her in class, but I enjoy her asynchronous lectures. This class has given me a more complete and less sugar-coated understanding of slavery in this country than I received in junior high and high school. The discussions often focus on how history is told and how using sources from white slave owners has an influence on how we understand history. The content focuses on history from more than a century ago, but it has given me more information about how systemic racism and inequities Black people experience in this county began before the United States was even founded, and I’ve been able to connect that to modern events. 

I am also taking THTR 1401 Theatre & Society: Romantics & Rebels to fulfill my Historical Perspectives requirement. I love this class. Like Dr. Howard, I wish I was able to interact with Professor Kim Marra in-person, because she seems like a lovely person. She always brings an upbeat attitude to the online lectures and really seems to care about her students, despite not really knowing us. This class has been so fun for me because I’ve been able to learn about historical events and social movements by reading the plays that came out of a particular historical context. In the discussion section my class will talk about the gendered, racial, existential, and political issues presented in the piece, and the ways theatrical choices in casting, setting, lighting, wardrobe and acting style are used to communicate a message. As someone who enjoys theatre and musicals, this has been an engaging way to learn about history. Next semester I am hoping to take another theatre class, Comedy and Society, to fulfill the Values and Culture gen ed requirement. Some of my favorite plays we have read so far are “A Doll House” by Henrik Ibsen, “Trifles” by Susan Glaspell, “Machinal” by Sophie Treadwell, and “Fences” by August Wilson. 

Finally, I am taking CS 1020 Principles of Computing to fulfill my Quantitative or Formal Reasoning requirement. This class focuses on computer hardware, software, and developing basic skills with code, spreadsheets, and presentation programs. Quantitative and Formal Reasoning is the gen ed that also houses a lot of math classes. As someone who is uninterested in calculus and algebra, I was relieved that there were other ways to complete these gen ed hours. I’ll be honest, this class isn’t riveting. I prefer my other gen eds and my Media Uses and Effects course for my major more, because I am curious about social sciences and understanding human issues. Still, the work in this class has been manageable and I appreciate the chance to learn computing skills rather than solving arithmetic problems. Labs are due almost every week and there are easy to follow written instructions and tutorials that show you how to complete them step by step. You also have plenty of time to work ahead on the labs and they do not take long. Other graded work includes completion of virtual textbook readings and quizzes on the textbook material. 

I am far from finished with all my gen ed requirements, but so far they haven’t lived up to the reputation that proceeds them as a huge burden. I appreciate that requirements for different categories of gen eds force students to consider classes they might not have looked at otherwise. Any high school student who is worried about completing these classes should look through the gen ed catalogue. Hopefully you can find something of interest in each category.