In the weeks following Thanksgiving break, an ominous cloud of gloom descends upon campus that, though not visible like the overcast skies synonymous with Southern winters, is far more palpable and just as real. The SLC turns into a sort of refugee camp/hotel hybrid, everyone lives in sweatpants (I know you’re not showering) and an economic thesis could be written on pricing in the gray market for Vyvanse. All together, these symptoms are a direct result of finals week.
Although this phenomenon creates a sense of camaraderie among students like that felt by recruits at Parris Island, the obstacles are far less extreme and come in the form of procrastination or lost lecture notes. Yet, final exams are an important part of achieving our goals and can generate crippling stress. Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be that way. Until UGA sets up a puppy room, I recommend trying my method below.
My approach to concurrent exams evolved from my penchant for naps, especially when said naps allow delaying a project thanks to the ease of self-justification. This most often rears as deceptive, by telling myself it’s a way of charging up for knocking out my assignment in one inspiration-filled marathon that is only possible if I’m fully rested from a nap beforehand. It always sounds great at the time.
In this particular case, by over-sleeping for about two hours of my planned 45-minute afternoon nap, I managed to convert my body’s rhythms from a high quality metronome to something resembling Dubstep. I finished my project around 2, grabbed three hours of sleep and found myself wide-awake at 5am with energy that only a paradisiacal amount of not-enough-sleep can produce.
With my project submitted online and 2 days until my string of exams, I decided to skip my usual shower, grab a short run, and head to Earth Fare a little after their doors opened at 7. Pleased with my jump on the day, I filled my basket with eggs, fruit, some muffins, a cup of coffee and some sweets I could use as a study snack later. I confidently marched through the doors with a jaunty stride, not like the cheesy office walk-through movie directors love to show. You know, when the guy thinks he’s going to get a promotion and says “hello” to everyone he passes.
Once home, I prepared the “complete breakfast” that was always mentioned in the sugary cereal commercials of my childhood, a concept that the voiceover’s product was supposedly a part of. The most important meal of the day checked off my list, I completed the only real habit of my morning ritual, showering and doing something I never get to do: watch the Dan Patrick Show.
With a completely satisfying morning under my belt, I headed to the symbol of unfaltering academic rigor that is the Science Library and studied for the afternoon. I had enjoyed “me time” and therefore felt no urge to feed myself nibbles of dopamine by constantly checking Facebook or Instagram. I had knocked out my daily review of world news by thumbing through Twitter on my phone when watching my beloved Dan Patrick Show, so the excuse to open my laptop didn’t work either. I ended up covering a substantial amount of material in the afternoon, and continued this trend of relaxed productivity through the rest of the week, resulting in solid exam scores.
The point of this narrative is to discover the thinly veiled beauty that comes to the surface when spending majorit of the day doesn’t require attending lectures and labs. Wake up when your body should naturally, take each hour at your own pace, and don’t neglect yourself nutritionally. We poison ourselves with energy drinks and overdoses of espresso when we should actually relish in the extra time we have during finals week instead of lamenting it and undermining ourselves by incessantly posting on Facebook and Twitter. By creating a social media feedback loop, we miss out on the opportunity right at our feet to truly take the reins and knock exams out of the park!
Don’t fall victim to the pressure of what you think finals should be by socializing too much. Research has shown most students do better when studying alone, so avoid the incessant distraction of a group study room and review notes by yourself. At its core, education is a lonely, individual pursuit and there will be plenty of time to commiserate with friends immediately after. If all else fails and you find yourself staying up late, hide all clocks from yourself, sit at a comfortable desk, and work until you feel comfortable with the material, not to an arbitrary time limit.
I hope this advice finds you well through your academic pursuits. I also have an entire allegory involving Atlanta’s sports teams and final exams, but that can be saved until next semester.