Written by Hannah Mladenovich
Finals week is one of the most dreaded times of year for nearly all students. Regardless of your major, school, or class schedule–finals often lead to high amounts of stress and a constant feeling of being overwhelmed. Not only is this time challenging, but it can also lead to issues relating to increased mental health concerns, unhealthy eating habits, inconsistent lifestyle changes, and an overall decrease in everyday wellness.
Unfortunately, we can’t take the finals for you…but we can help you implement daily practices to ensure that your finals week doesn’t take as harsh of a toll on you mentally and physically. Here at ZYN, we reached out to two local college students to see how they take on finals week and the best practices they have learned along the way to help them succeed both in and out of the classroom.
We interviewed Maddi (Senior) and Finley (Junior), who both currently study at Marquette University, to see how they take on Finals week and the advice they have to help others do the same.
Q: During Finals Week, What is Your Biggest Challenge When Studying?
Maddi: “I would have to say staying motivated and focused would definitely be the hardest thing for me. Especially with being a second semester senior, it is easy to get sidetracked. So, keeping my head in the game and not allowing the stress to get to me would be the hardest part.”
Finley: “I love going on social media way too much, so staying focused would definitely be a challenge for me. Every 5 minutes I end up on Instagram or Facebook. I need to stop taking so many breaks in between studying!”
Q: As a College Student, What Are Some Things You Do to Help Stay Motivated and Focused?
Maddi: “I would have to say looking towards my friends and roommates and watching how they stay motivated, keeps me motivated. Not in an unhealthy competition way, but as role models. Having people around that are doing similar things to you and are just as driven to succeed has really helped me a lot.”Finley: “I always designate my time to include something fun. After I finish an assignment or finish my studying, I like to have something to look forward to. So, having a movie night with my friends or going to the gym and getting a workout in–I like to structure something fun in between to keep me motivated and break up the intensity of studying.”
Q: How Do You Best Stay Organized When Juggling Multiple Classes?
Maddi: “I write everything down. I have a sticky note tab open on my laptop at all times that has all of my assignments and responsibilities. Having my tasks in front of me helps to ensure that I see it every day and am kept organized and on time.”
Finley: “Like Maddie, I also have the sticky notes app on my laptop which I color-code based on my classes. For me, there is an adrenaline rush when I cross something off. A big motivator is when I get to cross off assignments or projects off my list.”
Q: Do You Believe That Mental Illness Plays a Role During Finals Week? How So?
Maddi: “Definitely. I think that it plays a part in general throughout your academic career, but especially during finals, it’s heightened. Naturally, during this time–there is more studying, more work involved, and the results have more of an impact on your overall grade. With all of this going on, I think it is definitely very overwhelming to anyone’s mental health just due to the sheer amount of stress that comes from it.”
Finley: “Oh, for sure. It flares up so easily during finals week, especially if you already suffer from mental illness. You’re stressed, your friends are stressed, so the environment is a little less supportive and interactive because everyone has their own stuff to deal with. If you already struggle with anxiety or depression, that really flares up when stress is added to the picture regardless of where it comes from. Especially in an environment like college where everyone has their own stuff to do and your support system becomes more focused on themselves, iIt can be very hard.”
Q: As a Junior and Senior, What Have You Learned Throughout the Various Semesters to Help You Get Through Midterms and Finals?
Maddi: “I have learned to start preparing in advance. Don’t wait until the last minute or the week of to start studying or working on your final projects. This will help you to take breaks in between. Going back to the mental health discussion that we just had, it is important to have time for yourself and relax.”
Finley: “I always remember that midterms and finals are just the one step away from the really fun stuff. Midterms are super stressful, but once you are done, you get that one week off for spring break. Same thing with finals, once it is done you have summer break to have fun and relax. If you push yourself just a little more, there is a good reward at the end of it all!
You also have to make sure that your studying is structured. In order to be successful, it should be a part of your normal routine. Prepping early on is way more effective than waiting until the night before or the week before.”
Q: What Would You Say is The Hardest Obstacle Leading Up to Finals Week?
Maddi: “I think just knowing that you have a hard week coming up is the hardest part. It is kind of like the pre-anxiety of knowing that you have finals and a lot of projects to do which is why I think the preparation is so key to finals week in general. It helps to alleviate that stress going into it, and knowing that you are prepared helps a lot.”
Finley: “The things you have to do before it. It is not just one final; you usually have 4-5 other classes that you have to balance which can get in the way of your one class. There is never just one thing you are working on, there are always multiple things you are juggling. I think always having a barrier is the hardest part leading up to finals week because it is not just the final, you have so many other things and classes to get there. This can be a good thing because once finals week comes around you won’t have that much to do, but you are never quite done until your last final is done.”
Q: Do You Think Diet and Exercise Play a Role In Adding To/Relieving Stress? How So?
Maddi: “Yes, absolutely. I think that when you are exercising it gives you the personal time to clear your head and not think about your other responsibilities. You just focus on the task at hand, and afterwards you feel a lot more energized and have those endorphins to help expand on that positive mindset.”
Finley: “Most definitely. I know a lot of people don’t nourish themselves in the way they should because they don’t have time or are too stressed. So, they end up not eating or just finding something quick to eat which can add to the levels of stress and diminish their wellbeing. Time also contributes to lack of movement or physical activity which can also play a negative overall role to their health and wellness.”
Q: What is One Piece of Advice You Would Give to Fellow Students to Help Them Manage Stress From Your Experience?
Maddi: “Integrating exercise and self-care are the most important, in my opinion. Obviously preparation and studying are important, but making sure that your mind is in the right place will get you a lot further because you will be able to be more focused when it is time to be focused. Your body will be prepared as well which is also key. Taking the time to make sure your body and mind are healthy will help you perform better in the long run.”
Finley: “You really have to structure your time. It can be difficult because you want to do other things and have fun, but you need to make sure that you are setting your priorities and getting things that need to be done, completed first. I always set priority lists, so the closer the due dates, the higher the priority and vice versa. Once you are done with your higher priorities, you can cross it off the list and keep working your way down.
I also think that recognizing burnout is huge. You need sleep, food, nourishment, and rest–so making sure that you are taking that time for yourself throughout is important, too.”
Q: How Can Students Best Prepare for Finals? What is Your Advice on Getting in the Right Mindset?
Maddi: “My biggest recommendation would be to not set your expectations too high. Set up realistic goals for yourself and even if you don’t hit all of those goals, don’t be too hard on yourself. Always remember to reward yourself when you do hit those goals because that reward is going to make you want to continue to push yourself in the future which will create a very good habit.
Finley: “In the best way possible, you just have to do it. Just get started and power through. Keep in mind that once you are done, you’re done for the semester or for the week which will feel really good. Once you turn in that final project or exam, it is such a rewarding experience.”
Q: Do You Have Any Final Thoughts, Comments, or Advice That You Would Like to Share?
Maddi: “Always remember to nourish your mind and your body. That should always be your top priority above the stress of studying. Getting good grades is important, but making sure that you are happy, healthy, and okay will always beat one grade.
Finley: “Really listen to yourself and your body. You are very important and you’re doing a great job! Sometimes people aren’t always going to tell you that, but remember that you have people around you who do support you. If you need help, always reach out, but nourish yourself in any way possible and be your own biggest cheerleader.”
Maddi--Senior Marquette University Finley--Junior Marquette University